Format a Book with Word: Why Self-Publishing Online Makes Sense

By Colin Dunbar


The first question an aspiring author asks: Should I go the traditional or self-publishing route?

This is a brief overview of the traditional publishing industry. In this area the world has changed drastically over the past 10 years or so. The Big 5 publishers are cautious to take a risk on an unknown author (as the saying goes, “it’s nothing personal, it’s just business” ☺). And publishing is big business. Going the traditional route means you need time (mostly a lot of time) to find an agent who is interested enough in your book, and then it’s time to find a publisher who is prepared take a risk on you and publish your book. This can take years.

In comparison to self-publishing, income from having your book traditionally publishing is usually measly (not considering the rare exceptions). And the exception is if you write the next Harry Potter or 50 Shades blockbuster, but it’s not practical to base a career on something like that happening.

Dana Beth Weinberg, at the 2015 Digital Book World conference offered example comparison numbers between traditional publishing and self-publishing. She compared an author writing four novellas, of 25,000 words each (self-published). The other example was for an author writing a novel of 100,000 words (traditionally published). Both of these authors would take about the same time to write their respective book(s).

For example purposes, Weinberg had both authors having 3,000 fans. Following the traditional route, the author would make about $5,242 (provided she received an advance of between $3,000 and $4,999, and ebook royalty of 25%). The author going the self-published route would make $24,480 (based on Amazon’s royalty of 70%, on the ebook sales).

We have to remember, that today in both the traditional and self-published route, the author needs to promote themselves actively. “Like it or not, it’s nowhere near a given that a new author will be provided the necessary marketing and promotional muscle to find those readers. Only top-of-the-list authors are commending this kind of support nowadays.”

I think you will see that the self-publishing route can be a lot more beneficial than the traditional publishing route, but what about self-publishing offline compared to online?

Self-Publishing Online

First and foremost, with self-publishing you have more control over the entire process of getting your book out to market. You do not need to worry about any gate-keepers (i.e. literary agents). The biggest benefit of self-publishing online is probably the speed at which you can have your book available for sale: you write it, upload it to an online publisher and your book is available (that’s the fast and furious summary). Naturally, there are other elements, but essentially that’s what happens.

In this blog you have everything you need to self-publish your book ready and uploaded to the three main online publishers: CreateSpace (hard copy at Amazon), Kindle (Amazon), and Smashwords (multiple online retailers); in addition you can create a PDF ebook (sold from your site, through PayPal or Gumroad).

After your book is available for sale online, you need to focus on the promotion and marketing of it (that’s a book on its own, but the book version of this blogged book will have a load of resources included). Part of your promotion should be an author website, a blog, social media – it’s all about building your loyal fan base (and you would need to do that if went the traditional route as well). Having a fan base of loyal fans will be beneficial.

Self-publishing online means you have no hassles with physical stock. Unlike when using vanity publishers, where you need to order a minimum quantity of books (that often end up stacked in the garage), costing a few thousand dollars. You also have the option of easily catering for readers’ choice of the type of book they like to read: hard copy or ebook (yes, there are many who still prefer the old fashioned paper book), and as such you broaden your chances of increased sales – you don’t leave any money on the table.

The costs of self-publishing online is minimal, in fact the actual uploading and publishing of your book is free. The three online publishers I cover in this blog do not charge any upfront fees. You receive royalties on every copy of your book that is sold.

Which format first?

There are self-published authors that release only a Kindle ebook, some only publish at Smashwords, and a few only publish a PDF ebook. On the rare occasion, a few self-published authors also release a hard copy version of their book.

My question is: Why leave money on the table?

I suggest releasing your hard copy, Kindle, and Smashwords versions of your book simultaneously. The time needed to format and design all three versions is negligible considering the benefits.

For purposes of this blog, I am going to cover the versions in the following order:

  1. Kindle ebook
  2. Smashwords ebook, and
  3. Hard copy (CreateSpace).

Starting with the next post, we will look at uploading your book’s file to Kindle Digital Publishing at Amazon.

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