Self-publishing at a glance

There are three main ways that you can self-publish your book:

  • in print
  • as an (electronic) e-book
  • as an audio book

For now, this info blog focuses on how to self-publish in print or e-book format using the ‘DIY’ method based on my own experience.

Self-publishing involves quite a steep learning curve but with the range of free templates and help available, it is perfectly possible to do most of the legwork yourself.  At the same time, there are some fabulous and reasonably priced freelancers out there who you can call on to check your files at the last minute if you run into trouble and I’ll include info on this at the relevant points.

Self-publishing in print

In the early days of self-publishing (‘vanity publishing’) aspiring authors would pay a vanity publishing company to create and publish their work.  This was not only costly, but would very often leave the author with a stock of books to try to sell once friends and family had been exhausted.  Happily for today’s authors there is another way – which is using ‘Print on demand’.

As its name suggests, with ‘print on demand’ your book gets printed after the customer places an order. This is made possible by digital printing, which has none of the set-up costs and high volume print-run requirements associated with traditional printing in order to make it economically viable.

Digital printing on demand is music to the self-publisher’s ears because orders as small as a single book can be fulfilled without affecting your retail price.  You can read about the popular print on demand options here.

Self-publishing e-books

As well as, or instead of, self-publishing in print, you can choose to self-publish electronic books – formatted for the Kindle, Kobo and other e-readers.  E-books can be downloaded instantly across all borders, which makes them an attractive proposition for both buyer and seller. In addition, the royalties that authors can earn on e-books are significantly higher when compared with a print equivalent. You can read about self-publishing to Kindle and other e-book formats here.

Audio books / podcasts  (Updated June 2014)

There are clearly enormous potential markets for audio books, including:

  • children
  • those who are visually impaired
  • walkers and runners
  • commuters and holiday travellers
  • unable to read due to illness
  • anyone else too busy to find the time to sit down and read!

I’m keen to make The Secret Lake available as an audio book but until I find time to research this area properly and try it out, you might want to look at the links below. The first three links offer great insights into how to take advantage of the ACX self-publishing platform to create audio books and distribute them via Audible, which is an Amazon company. The last three links are for simpler ways to produce your book in audio. If anyone would like to suggest additional links to add here please email me.

An early recording of The Secret Lake on YouTube

Back in November 2012 I created a YouTube reading of the first three chapters of The Secret Lake using Garage Band and iMovie on my iMac. I definitely read too quickly and it’s a bit ‘hissy’ but it’s worth taking a listen to see just what you can do from your office at home! I will blog on how I did this  at some stage (famous last words!) – but it was really a case of playing around with Garage Band and iMovie until I worked it out. For a simple marketing tool it’s worth investigating.  Here is the link – please do share with your children age 7/8-11!

Karen Inglis reading Chapters 1-3 of The Secret Lake

15 Responses to Self-publishing at a glance

  1. Amina Vierk says:

    Hi Karen
    I’ve found your article very genuine and interesting, thank you! I’m at present in a slight ‘Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell’ state with pink wine in my case, so i’m quite pleased i’m able to write this note to you. You sound really genuine and sincere.
    I write because some years ago, i wrote a lot of short stories, then went to live abroad and didn’t do anything about them. They’re of mixed genres. Would i be able to publish them on Kindle? Are these popular? I once had a very good response from a Women’s magazine asking me to produce more of their particular market brand for them to consider this one story i sent them.
    I’d love to know if Kindle is appropriate for short stories: some paranormal, some of ‘deja vue’, some very here and now of conflict and resolution. I’m afraid i’ve not written for about 5 years but yearn to!
    Thank you in advance for reading my note and hopefully for a response.
    God Bless. Amina Vierk

  2. kareninglis says:

    Hi Amina

    As far as I’m aware you can publish whatever length story you wish on Kindle.

    After a quick Google I’ve found someone who has self-published short stories:

    If you look at the comments you will also see that he links to info on formatting (though I would not recommend trying to do the formatting yourself unless you really understand HTML and are very tech savvy!) :

    And this info on Kindle Singles may be of interest (but 10,000 words is probably too long for you?)

    How you price it will probably be trickiest, but maybe you could start with a free one and see how it goes… I think the best thing is to Google around ‘short stories on Kindle’ and read some blogs and see what others are doing! One comment I just spotted re short stories says: “it’s a good idea to state in the book’s description on Amazon how many pages the book contains. Just to head off customer anger. ;-)” – ie if your book is only a few pages and you’re asking someone go pay even a modest price they may not notice this in the book details which Amazon automatically inserts re no of pages – so make sure it’s mentioned in the book description. I suppose another idea might be to bundle several stories into a collection.

    Best of luck and sorry I can’t be of more specific help :)

  3. ItchyFootMum says:

    Just a note to thank you for sharing what you have learnt about self-publishing so willingly for others of us who are picking our way through this newly-discovered jungle! I am delighted to hear that this route is giving you a direct route to your readers. Hope things continue to develop well for you. Good wishes.

  4. kareninglis says:

    Many thanks! Best of luck to you on your self-pub journey. Have you joined the Alliance of Independent Authors? You’ll get some great support/tips through them. I’d have loved that resource when I first started out on this! All the best, Karen

  5. Mark Parish says:

    Hi Karen
    Just a quick message to say thank you for your kind assistance a good few months back.. It has been a challenging process but our first book “Pugalugs – The Beginning” is now complete and is available on Amazon and our website. Your site provided such an array of information without which we would probably still be working on getting the book into print. Our official book launch is on 24th January at a local book store and our second book is now being illustrated…. so we just need to get out there and sell sell sell now!
    Thanks again and Best Wishes

    Mark :-)

  6. Hi Karen
    Just a few words to say that I have found your site very informative. I self published on Amazon nearly 12 months ago via a third party, whom I paid for the preparation. Sales however have been disappointing particularly as the third party had stated that my first children’s novel deserved to do well, no criticism of them is intended here. I have just complete book two in the series & I am currently working on book three. I did feel like giving up at one stage until I saw your site and way forward, daunting though it is. I am not the best person in world at selling me! or my books. But your advice on here does give me some hope.
    Many Thanks Karen.

    • kareninglis says:

      Many thanks, Graham — and I’m glad you’ve found it useful. The key with children’s books is really to get out there and meet your audience I think! You can also sell online but far fewer books as marketing is all indirect. Very best of luck all the same! Karen

  7. Mark Parish says:

    Hi Graham / Karen

    Our publishing adventure started back in 2013 and our first book was launched in January this year… we are busy promoting our third book (I say we because my wife writes and I publish…. and we promote together) “Trick or Treat” for the Halloween Season. The advice Karen set out on her website was invaluable to us because there is so much to learn. Our third book has been a dream to publish with all the new found knowledge and experience of the first 2 books. We are currently looking to sign deals with the main distributors and this is taking time but sales have been good given the interaction we have had with the schools.

    We targeted every single local school (over 60 of them) and prepared a sales letter with some promotional material and a copy of the book. We then literally walked into the reception of the schools and spoke to whoever we could leaving our “sales” material with them. It was like going fishing… we knew if we left our bait in enough places eventually we would get a bite! Sure enough we did and we did our first “Author, Publisher, Character Visit” (my wife and I take the dogs into the schools who are the characters of the books) for World Book day earlier this year. Since then, as the word spread we have visited nearly 30 schools which has allowed us to “target” exactly the right market. The Pugs now get recognised wherever they go when the children spot them!

    We also spoke to the library service who were delighted to help and organised the “Pugalugs on Tour” events whereby we are visiting all of the libraries in the borough to promote the books.

    Every time we do an event with the schools or libraries we prepare a press release and send it to the local papers. If its a library visit, we contact the council press office and they usually send a photographer and do the press release for us which gives us fantastic coverage as they send the press release out to 100’s of media outlets up and down the country – not just locally…. for free!

    Because of the press release material, we were then contacted by BBC Radio to do an interview with the Pugs which gave us more exposure and this led to us being contacted by British Home Stores and Tesco Stores to do books signing events – we are now negotiating with them to supply our books to them. Most of the local “independent” books shops have also been very supportive and have invited us in to do book signing events which again gives great coverage.

    It is just a case of being active – the more the better as things tend to spin off other things as you gain momentum. Keren is right when she says you cant rely on the internet to sell your book – we set up a lovely website etc etc etc but have found it pretty slow moving even though we do lots of promotional work on facebook and twitter etc. We still have a long way to go and have lots of hard work to get through…. and above all, we are still learning but I hope the above gives you an insight as to what we have been doing to achieve sales that perhaps you could try (if you haven’t already). Above it all, without Karen’s website we would probably still be trying to get book 1 printed… so once again, MANY THANKS Karen :-) !!

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Mark — thanks for leaving this inspiring and detailed comment for others to see — and *huge congratulations* on your efforts and successes! Very well deserved! And as for getting onto BBC and being approached by Tesco and BHS, well that is incredible. Do keep us updated! I’ve recently been contacted by someone about recommending a PR professional to help with sales but my advice is that with children you need to get out and meet your audience if you’re to sell in any numbers — and, as you have found out, it can then take off from there. (Out of interest, where in the UK are you based?)

      Karen :-)

  8. Mark Parish says:

    Hi Karen

    Many thanks for your kind comments :-) We have been very busy – it has been hard work but we have definitely made progress. Yes it is very difficult to target the children’s book market outside of the schools because the kids themselves cant really access social media – you have to get right in front of them and get them excited about your product. We are lucky that we have a “sub-market” for our books which is the “Pug Community” so we can target the adult market to a certain degree on social media…. but even then, it isn’t very effective. One thing that does work very well is when we do a book signing at a local book shop (or BHS etc) is we have posters made up to advertise the events and fliers to give out – so we can physically target mums with kids and they tend to be that curious to see what is happening that they pop in and then buy a book :-)

    We are based up in St Helens (Merseyside) which means geographically we are well placed to cover Liverpool, Manchester and surrounding areas. We have found most people have been very supportive…. you just have to ask to get involved and be prepared to invest lots of time (usually for free) to get your returns. Many schools now place orders for at least 10 copies of each book (30 books) and in some schools we can sell over 100 copies to the children at the events we do.

    If you are ever up this way drop me a line as I would be lovely to meet you… and I’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date with how things are going in the world of Pugalugs as we move forward… I receive updates from your website whenever something is posted :-)

    All the best


    • kareninglis says:

      All sounds brilliant, Mark — and this is exactly the kind of approach I take with school events or bookshop signngs — freebies and handouts etc. On which note I assume you will have seen my recent post on using Crossword Puzzles to promote your children’s books ?– probably not right for your target age group but it’s the principle of thinking outside the box about how you can help spread the word about your book that counts. (My husband and both sons are die-hard Liverpool supporters and I did make it to a match there once! But I’ve never been to Manchester and it’s long been on my list to visit – I’ll be sure to get in touch if I’m up that way!)

    • kareninglis says:

      BTW I just tweeted your comment if you’re on twitter…more PR for you :-)

  9. Mark Parish says:

    Hi Karen

    That’s great thanks… yes we are on twitter so have re-tweeted :-) Yes we were very interested to read your post about the crosswords! We have done some word searches for the library visits but hadn’t thought about crosswords… we have just created one from the site you mentioned in your post… fantastic!!!

    Thanks again Karen and yes please do get in touch if you are ever up this way… Manchester is fantastic at Christmas – they have amazing Christmas Markets :-)

    Best wishes


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