Where will you sell your book?

So, your manuscript is finished. You've polished it until it shines and you've had it edited. How do you get it published? Where do you get it published?

First, you have to decide what kind of a book you want to publish. Do you want a print book or an e-book, or both? What's your budget?

I've found that my e-books outsell my print books by more than a thousand to one, so my focus is always on getting the digital book out there first. If the publisher still holds the print rights, such as with Where Danger Hides and Rooted in Danger, there's no immediate need to create a print version. Some of my back list titles are still hanging around in print if people want to dig a little. If rights on those "out of print" books have reverted to me, I might make some changes, (such as making sure there are no longer 3 characters named Hank) but the differences are relatively minor. I've added a prologue to one, put back scenes I've cut in others, but it's still basically the same book.

To take that file on your hard drive and turn it into a book isn't really that difficult. Since I had no budget with my first book, I went the do-it-myself route. I started writing well into the electronic submission age, so all my manuscripts were Word docs. It was a matter of reformatting to comply with the specific guidelines of each publisher. My first indie title was a backlist book, When Danger Calls, which the publisher had remaindered. At that time, J.A. Konrath was breaking ground with indie publishing, so I decided I'd give it a try. I had a couple hundred of those remaindered hard-cover books in my basement, but even at 60% off, they weren't selling.

I started with Smashwords, which at the time was one of the only places to get your books anywhere but Amazon, and since they distribute to so many other stores, it made sense to try them first. They have a style guide which is so basic, even I didn't have to follow every single step. You should know about margins, and paragraphing—but if you don't, it's all there. There are people who've blogged their step-by-step system for formatting. And if you're still intimidated, there are people who will format your book for you—for a fee, and I again remind you to shop around and get references.

It takes me about half a day to format my Word docs from my backlist titles to the specs required of the e-stores (the first one took me about 2 days). When I'm writing an original title now, I know the formatting rules, and I use them for my manuscript, which saves a lot of "find/replace" when I'm done.

Now that there are so many places that allow authors to upload independently, you will have to pay attention to some style differences in formatting—page breaks, section breaks, chapters, etc. But as indie publishing grows, these sites are also getting better about walking authors through their specific requirements.

Another tool you can use is the free program, Calibre, which converts your files to most of the formats the e-stores use. You'll need to save your file as filtered html, but you don't need to know diddly about html to use it. You simply click 'save as' and choose 'filtered html' as the format choice from Word (I assume Macs can do it, too).

This isn't a seminar on formatting, so I'm not going to go into specific details. It's not too hard to learn, and you have to decide whether it's worth your time to do it, or your money to pay someone else to do it. A lot of freelance editors will offer this as a service.

Another critical thing to remember is front matter and back matter. You'll need variations for each e-store (but you can create the files and then copy and paste the different versions). It's not cool to promote Barnes & Noble in the Amazon store. They'll probably kick your book out if you do.

Not specific to indie books, but something inherent in all e-books is that you can create hot links. In a traditional book, you'll often see blurbs, snippets, or chapters from another book by the author. In an e-book, you can do that as well, but you can also link directly to your book's page in that store (note my warning above) or to your website.

You can also go back and change a book. If you have a new book coming out, you can add information about it to a previous book, and then republish it. It won't change things for people who have already bought your older book(s), but anyone coming in from that point on will now have those links.

Of course, if you link to your blog or email, and then they change, they'll be wrong in the book unless you fix them. Is it worth it? I haven't done it for all my books. If they get to my old blog, that will tell them where my new one is, so I don't feel it's urgent.

Where can you publish? I publish directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords—which then distributes to Sony, Apple & Diesel. Apple allows direct publishing, but their rules are stricter, and you have to use a Mac.

Sales? For me, it's a toss-up between Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Everyone's mileage varies. And you have to be patient. It takes time to find readers.

For print, l use Create Space. It's free unless you want their expanded distribution, which I don't because I think it's misleading. Yes, bookstores CAN order your books if you use the expanded distribution, but odds are slim that they will. Plus if you do that, you're going to have to charge a higher price for your books, and my philosophy is that until I'm a household name, people don't want to spend a lot of money on my books. My Create Space books sell for $10.99, which is close enough to my main competition in print, Mass Market Paperback that I hope people won't think I'm overpriced.

There are other options such as Lulu and Lightning Source, but since I've had no personal experience with them, I can't speak to cost or ease of production.

Formatting for print is different, and it takes longer. Where e-books "flow" and change depending on individual reading devices and reader settings, print books are static. You'll have to deal with headers, footers, justification, page numbering, and a lot of other details if you want it to look like traditionally published print books, but unless there are specific questions, I'm not going into a blow-by-blow description. Again, there are lots of websites and blogs that will tell you how to do it. Or, as always, you can pay someone.

I hope these little "lectures" have been helpful. I'll be around for the rest of the month to answer questions, but this is my last 'official' post.

Thanks – and I hope you'll come find me on the web. I don't receive any compensation for these lectures, so if you've enjoyed them, I hope you'll check out my books. Also, you can "like" my author page at Facebook, sign up for my newsletter (I give stuff away exclusively there each quarter), visit my blog, find me on Twitter – all the usual places. Plus I'm part of a new venture for readers called "Booklover's Bench" where a group of authors will be having monthly contests and other rewards for our readers.