ABC of self-publishing

Overview and introduction

Here is my ABC of self-publishing.

It is my story on why and how I became an author, publishing two books: “Toxic Capitalism” and “Laugh And Get Wiser”.

ABC of self-publishing

late nights… trying hard…

The first book was done through a “Vanity Press Company”, a bad experience that led me to go “indie” and do self-publishing totally myself. That required mastering a software “SCRIVENER” and enrolling as an author with Amazon.

See the challenges I encountered and how I succeeded to publish on Kindle and in print. It took me three extended stays in a nice hotel in Phuket to find the right and motivating environment.

There are three very different roads to publishing: the traditional publishing companies, the vanity press and self-publishing (such as through Amazon, the giant in that field).

Read all details in these posts, as a guide to publish YOUR book. And learn the jargon of this business. Consider it your ABC of self-publishing.

Why self-publishing

See: https://www.damulu.com/2019/01/03/why-self-publishing/
Topics covered:
– Why I write;
– Why choose self-publishing;
– The 3 challenges when publishing your book;
– Some good books and websites to learn the details.

How to self-publish

See: https://www.damulu.com/2019/01/03/how-to-self-publish/
Topics covered:
– Why to become an “indie” and how;
– The three choices explained: traditional publishing houses; the vanity press; do it yourself (read: go the indie road).

The giant of self-publishing

See: https://www.damulu.com/2019/01/03/the-giant-of-self-publishing/
Topics covered:
– Why Amazon?
– The first step to publish on Amazon: you need to register as an author.
– The challenges I met to register as an author, being in China.
– Can you publish a book in Chinese on Amazon? Supported languages.
– Why not use Amazon China?
– Uploading my Kindle e-book on Amazon: challenges I met.
– My books are on Amazon!
– Does Amazon ship to China?

Using Scrivener

See: https://www.damulu.com/2019/01/06/using-scrivener/
Topics covered:
– What is Scrivener software?
– How to learn it, the way I did.
– Why a print version is the first step.
– Amazon Kindle: you need a Table of Content.
– How to get your book in print?

How I wrote my books

See: https://www.damulu.com/2019/01/06/how-i-wrote-my-books/
Topics covered:
– Everybody and every book is different
– My first book “Toxic Capitalism”: using MS Word and deliver the file to a “vanity press”.
– Running away from my normal environment.

Using external help when going indie

See: https://www.damulu.com/2019/01/09/using-external-help-when-going-indie/
Topics covered:
– Using external help when going indie is mandatory for two tasks: the cover design and professional editing.
– Why you need to finish first the format of the print version.
– How I did the cover page in two outsourcing steps.
– For my second book I did exceptionally not use an external editor: why?
– How much did my book cost to get it published in e-book and print?

More considerations on writing and Amazon

See: https://www.damulu.com/2019/01/10/more-considerations-on-writing-and-amazon/
Topics covered:
– Are you focused in your genre? Building a following.
– Amazon and shipping.
– Amazon world-wide shops are not connected.
– BISAC codes: what they are and why it did not help me with Amazon.
– Publishing in Chinese.

How to Write a Book in The Bookworm

Rotaract talk

This time I gave a talk on how to write a book in The Bookworm, on 11 March 2019.
We were far over twenty people, mostly Rotaractors but also one more Rotarian and others who were interested in the topic.
This time I had nearly one hour to cover the topic and to answer many questions. A longer version than the talk in Rotary.

The Bookworm

The well-known book shop, meeting spot and restaurant in Sanlitun is the center of literary and other events in Beijing. We were lucky to basically have the whole room for us.
Rotaract meetings are now mostly held there on Monday evenings, 8 pm.
See: http://beijingbookworm.com/

Self-publishing in Rotary Beijing

Rotary lunch 29 January 2019

As a Rotarian I told my story on self-publishing in Rotary Beijing on why and how I became an author, publishing two books: “Toxic Capitalism” and “Laugh And Get Wiser”.
The first book was done through a “Vanity Press Company”, a bad experience that led me to go “indie” and do self-publishing totally myself. That required mastering a software called “SCRIVENER” and enrolling as an author with Amazon. I shared the challenges I encountered and how I succeeded to self-publish on Kindle and in print.
It took me three extended stays in a nice hotel in Phuket to find the right and motivating environment. I explained the three very different roads to publishing: the traditional publishing companies, the vanity press and self-publishing (such as through Amazon, the giant in that field).

Our lunch

I am member of the Rotary Club of Beijing, the first club established in Beijing. Read here about its history. The language used is English.

As usual we had lunch in the Beijing Kempinski hotel. As I complained the December birthday members never get the birthday cake, I was asked to cut it also… As we had only one table I simply sat down to talk.

The full story

During the lunch I only gave a quick overview.

For a full overview and my version of the ABC of self-publishing see the overview here.where you also find the explanation of the jargon such as vanity press, indie, and Scrivener.

More considerations on writing and Amazon

Focused?

When considering writing books, some more considerations on writing and Amazon.

To be successful, authors should build a “following”. That however requires to focus on and remain in a specific type of literature: e.g. fiction, romance, philosophy, name it. The more focused, the better.

My case is pretty hopeless as all books have nothing in common and I am working in more than one genre. “Toxic Capitalism” is a comprehensive study of environmental issues; “Laugh and Get Wiser” is a collection of (English) jokes; the next book will be a political manifesto. While the third book will use some of the themes of the first one, the three definitely have a different audience. A possible fourth book might be a collection of professional experiences; the other titles are still too far away to put a sticker on it.

dreaming of big sales?

The idea is that  when readers like your book they might want more of the same. So in my case, pretty hopeless…

Amazon can be a bit “complicated”

As mentioned earlier my book “Laugh and Get Wiser” has a mention for me that it does not ship to Beijing. It actually does…

Some of my friends complain that when searching for it on Amazon UK it somehow gives strange feedback, like “Exclusive for UK clients” – it is widely available on all Amazon sites (except China of course).

The comments posted on Amazon sites are disconnected. If a friend posts a comment of my book on Amazon Italy it does only stay there and does not appear on Amazon USA. That is bad for the author as it gives an incomplete picture of what readers said about the book. Also, the author has to register on each Amazon site separately to introduce himself even if the book is available on that site. In my case till now I registered on the USA and UK sites.

The shipping charges vary considerably. I made shipments to Indianapolis, Brussels, Beijing: the cost is pretty different and goes up in that order.
If I sell hard copies myself, taking advantage of the special discount as the author (very reasonable indeed!) those sales do not appear in the Amazon overview. I sell to a bookstore in Beijing and to many friends who insist on a signed hard copy.

BISAC codes

One miscalculation: before uploading “Laugh and Get Wiser” I studied in detail the BISAC codes – the codes for the book genre, e.g.:

HUM018000   HUMOR / Form / Puns & Wordplay
HUM008000   HUMOR / Topic / Adult
HUM019000   HUMOR / Topic / Language

I thought defining focused BISAC codes was essential to the Kindle listing. I even registered as a member on their website, so I could have access to all details:
“The BISAC Subject Headings List, also known as the BISAC Subject Codes List, is a standard used by many companies throughout the supply chain to categorize books based on topical content. The Subject Heading applied to a book can determine where the work is shelved in a brick and mortar store or the genre(s) under which it can be searched for in an internal database.”
See the website:
BOOK INDUSTRY STUDY GROUP https://bisg.org/page/BISACSubjectCodes

Well, disappointed when I entered all my data for my book “Laugh and Get Wiser”. Nowhere to be found were the BISAC codes and the choice offered by Amazon was way too general. I still need to understand this…

Publishing in Chinese

As said in an earlier post Amazon does not accept books in Chinese. Guidelines are not always obvious. See the languages accepted for Kindle:
https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200673300

However an English book that contains Chinese characters seems to work… But one can’t publish a Chinese book.
An alternative: Smashwords ignores (Amazon) limitations by allowing all authors from around the world and who have never heard of Steve Jobs to have the same reach. Another alternative to Smashwords would be the Draft2Digital platform.
As my wife is ready to publish her Chinese book, it is a challenge right now.

Yes we are a family of writers, each in a different world. Those are our first books. In both cases, not the best of experiences. See: http://www.damulu.com/2017/04/17/the-book-about-sun-bingwen/

Using external help when going indie

 

The two musts

Using external help when going indie is mandatory for two tasks: the cover design and professional editing. Also, pay the right price to avoid having crappy results.
In Beijing I could not find the proper services but an Internet search produced good leads.

Cover page

For the cover design I had to use a two-step process.
I wanted to use a cartoon of a bar scene according to my specifications. After some search I finally ended up on a great platform where cartoonists offer their services and clients like me can call for quotes. It is called fiverr.com.
All exchange and payment is done through the website. That went very well and the cost was very reasonable.

Once I had the cartoon I searched for a cover design company to do the cover for the e-book and the covers for the print (front, back and spine). To choose a company and ask for a quote I used another website: Writers’ Cafe on kBoards: https://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,60.0.html

There I communicated directly with the companies.
Very happy with the design company I ended up working. For the front cover I provided the cartoon and the text; for the back cover I provided the picture and the text. The company then did the design and it took only one slight revision to have the end product.

The end result

See the pictures of the front and back covers, and the spine.

As explained in earlier post (https://www.damulu.com/2019/01/06/using-scrivener/), you need to have the estimate of the number of pages so the cover design company can make the proper size for the spine. See also the inside where I adjusted margins and headings in MS Word.

Both cartoonist and design company are quoted in my book.

Professional editing

I did however not use an editor. The reason: the language of “jokes” is not your Shakespeare type. So to avoid having endless arguments with an editor I did myself the review of the text, trying as much as possible to clean up the obvious wrong spelling, grammar and vocabulary all while preserving the juicy aspects of the jokes: how the Irish talk, among others. It was a painstaking job to verify some rather weird words and define a uniform formatting and spelling. For the non-jokes parts (very little) I asked some native English speakers for corrections.
For my book no. 3 I will however definitely require an editor.

The cost

So, how much did it cost to get my book of jokes written and published?

– Scrivener + cartoon design + cover design: total a little over US$500
– My weeks of staying in a nice Phuket hotel: difficult to give a correct estimate as it was also somehow a very enjoyable time… Guess yourself…
– Amazon: zero cost.