Colin Dunbar

"With passion, patience, and persistence, anything is possible."

Self-Publishing FAQs

By Colin Dunbar

Q: What should I self-publish, hard copy or ebook?

A: Ebooks (especially Kindle ebooks) are growing in popularity almost on a daily basis. Ebooks are actually outselling hard copy books at Amazon.

Nevertheless, there are still people who like real (paper) books, and there's no reason to leave money on the table. Having your book available in all the formats (ebook, hard copy, and ePub) can be to your benefit.

Ultimately it's your choice. Before deciding on what versions you will publish your book in, you should be aware of the restrictions with each, e.g. Kindle doesn't render color images (except in the latest version of the device), color in hard copy books can raise the price of the book, etc.

Whenever I self-publish a book, I use CreateSpace (hard copy), Kindle, and ePub (Smashwords).

Q: Where can I self-publish?

A: The first option is offline. You will need to find an offline Print-On-Demand (POD) printer, and determine what they offer. When considering the offline route, keep in mind that you will need to order a minimum quantity of books, and this can be costly. In addition you will then have physical stock that you need to store somewhere.

The other option is online. For example, you can have your hard copy book printed through CreateSpace, and then have it available at Amazon.

You can also self-publish your ebook online. This you can then sell from your site through PayPal, eJunkie, Gumroad, or ClickBank. You can also publish your book as a Kindle ebook, and this will then be available at Amazon. Lastly, you can publish your book as an ePub through Smashwords.

There are also other online publishers, but they are smaller than Amazon and Smashwords.

Q: What does it cost to self-publish my book?

A: For the actual publishing (i.e. uploading your book) of your book through an online publisher, like CreateSpace, there is no cost. If you don't have the skills or the time, there can be costs for the book design, cover design, buying ISBNs, editing, etc. Ultimately, you will want to create a professional book, and therefore the decision to outsource these services is entirely up to you.

If there is just one cost you should budget for, it would be editing.

Q: How much should I charge for my book?

A: The number 1 deciding factor for this is determined by the topic/subject of your book.

For hard copy books, there is a real cost for printing, and then you need to add your profit to that. The best way to determine your price is to check what other books similar to yours are selling for. Having color in the interior of your book will make a difference on the cost, and as such, the retail price will be higher. For example, a 6" x 9" 100-page book, published at CreateSpace, with black-and-white interior will cost $2.15 each, while the same book with full color interior will cost $7.85.

For an ebook there is no real (material) cost, and the price will be determined by the topic/subject of the book.

Q: Should I give my ebook away for free?

A: This naturally mainly applies to ebooks (although many authors offer free hard copy books, where the reader pay for postage). Giving away your book for free can be an effective promotional tool. Many new authors do this to get their name known. Actually, even established authors do this, for example, Seth Godin encourages this. Jeff Goins has also done this.

Ultimately, it is completely up to you.

For hard copy books, it is natural to send free copies to reviewers.

Q: When my book is published, do I need to market it?

A: Yes. Yes. Yes. The publishing world has changed. Even if you have you book published by a traditional publisher, you will still need to market your book and promote yourself. As a self-published author this is even more important. Never stop marketing.

Q: When should I start marketing my book?

A: You can never start marketing too early. Get onto forums and offer advice using the subject matter of your book. Guest post at blogs. Use social media. Start a newsletter. Do whatever you can to get your name (and where possible, the title of your book) out there. A word of caution... be careful not to over-extend yourself - marketing can take a lot of time (and this will be time away from writing your book).

This is what Seth Godin says: "The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you'll need later."

Q: Should I have a blog?

A: It really depends on your time availability. For a blog to be successful, you need to post regularly and often (weekly at the very least). Another important thing about a blog is that your blog posts need to be interesting. If you have the time available, it can help with the marketing of your book, and you as an author.

Q: Must I have my book edited?

A: Yes. Yes. Yes. Over the years I've received books that were clearly not edited, and sadly this reflects an amateur and "don't care" attitude from the author. If you're working on a tight budget, this is one task that you should really, really consider having done professionally.

Q: How do I decide on the cover design?

A: We're all familiar with the saying, "You can't judge a book by its cover." When it comes to your book, that is absolutely not true. The cover can be the deciding factor to buy your book. Your cover should be eye-catching, and reflect what the book is about.

Q: Should I design my cover?

A: If you have the graphic design skills, yes, go ahead and design your cover. Keep in mind that your cover must reflect a professional image and that it can be the deciding factor on whether someone buys your book or not. This is especially true online. If you feel you don't have the graphic design skills, rather hire a graphic designer to design your cover.

Q: Do I need to register my copyright?

A: A literary work is copyright as soon as it is written. You can register your copyright as this offers better protection should any legal matters arise.

Q: Should I get reviews of my book?

A: Yes. Reviews are a great marketing tool. When asking for a review, do it right and you will receive positive feedback from the reviewer.

Q: Should I respond to any reviews I get?

A: I don't recommend it.

Q: What do I do if I get a bad review?

A: Grow a thick skin and move on. People are entitled to their opinions, and one person will rave about your book, while another will give a bad review. It's impossible to please everyone.

Q: What's the best way to handle mails from readers (fans)?

A: Always reply when someone contacts you. If it's a question, answer it as complete as you can. Be helpful, polite, and above all, honest.

Q: Should I publish my book with color images inside, or black and white?

A: With hard copy books, using color in the book will influence the cost, and as a result, the selling price. For example, a 6" x 9" 100-page book, published at CreateSpace, with black-and-white interior will cost $2.15 each, while the same book with full color interior will cost $7.85.

Only the latest Kindle devices can display color images - the older models (up to Kindle 4) only display gray scale images.

With PDF ebooks the only concern you have is the file size. If it's too large, it will affect the download speed (some online sellers have a limit on the file size for ebooks).

Q: Should I have the interior pages of my book designed by a book designer, or can I do it myself in Word?

A: You no doubt want a professional book. If you have the know-how and the time, then you certainly can design your book yourself. If you don't, then rather let a professional book designer do it.

Q: Do you think I should watermark my own photos with my site's URL?

A: If it doesn't intrude into the photo, then there's nothing wrong with it. Also, if you have images of a "general" nature, i.e. that others can use for their purposes, then adding a watermark may be a good idea.

Q: Can I use photos from flickr and give credit?

A: In most cases, yes, you can do that. Always check the terms of the owner of the photo before using it, even from stock photo sites.

Q: What are the most popularly used ebook formats?

A: PDF is still the most popular ebook format - it can be read on PC and Mac, and you can create a PDF directly from Word and OpenOffice. Kindle is also very popular.

Q: Should I place links back to my website from inside the book for more information about specific topics which I've already covered on the website?

A: Most of my clients do this. I've not found anything as to whether this is a hindrance or a benefit for readers.

Q: Is a Table of Contents and an Index the same thing?

A: A Table of Contents is found at the front of the book, and usually lists the Chapters within the book. An Index (referred to as an Alphabetical Index) is found at the back of the book, and lists specific items in the book.

Q: Is there any reason to create an Alphabetical Index?

A: An Alphabetical Index is used in hard copy books (they can be beneficial if the reader prints an ebook). An index is usually only found in a non-fiction book, and is there to make it easier for your reader.

Q: Is a Foreword page the same as a Preface page?

A: A Foreword is usually written by someone other than the author, while the Preface is written by the author.

Q: What is an acceptable image file size? Is there any maximum image size?

A: Image file sizes will have an effect on the file size of the ebook, therefore I don't recommend using very large image file sizes. Images in the 300-400 KB size are usually suitable.

Q: What is copyediting?

A: "Copy editing (also written as copy-editing or copyediting, and sometimes abbreviated to ce) is the work that an editor does to improve the formatting, style and accuracy of text. Unlike general editing, copy editing might not involve changing the substance of the text." Wikipedia

A copyediting service generally covers the following:

  • Proofreading
  • Check for sentence & paragraph length
  • Check for readability (i.e. does it sound right)
  • Check references (where applicable)
  • Check links within the text
  • Check captions (where applicable)
  • Check suitability of headlines (make recommendations, if applicable)

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