Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey


Self publishing guide

Self-Publishing Stardom – How You Can Do It Too

Would you like:

30,000 books sold in 3 years

Over 200,000 books in the hands of readers

70% of book sales paid straight into your bank account (monthly – not twice a year)

Your books in libraries, book shops, on the Internet, shared and talked about in book groups, reviewed by top book bloggers and in magazines …?

In addition to this I’ve got:

9 books published – 6 novels & 3 non-fiction – and 3 more on the way this year (at least), and,

Loads of loyal, happy readers; a growing email list; and an industry standing that is increasing all the time.

KDP earnings report 2015 sample
Sample of KDP earnings report

The Great News …

Does this add up to self-publishing stardom? Well, it’s all relative, isn’t it? Not the dizzy heights of the likes of Bella Andre and Hugh Howey, but in three short years this writing career of mine has been one that many a traditionally published author would have been happy with, I’m sure.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I’d like all that too,” the great news is – You can! You can do it right now, today – you don’t have to wait for anyone to give you the green light. Self-publishing is the great leveler – it really is for everyone. If you’ve written a book, or are in the process of writing a book, and if you want that book to get in the hands of readers, you’re almost there.

And Better News!

If you feel a little overwhelmed, the even better news is that The Writers’ Workshop and myself have developed a unique, exclusive online course that gives you one-to-one, step-by-step guidance for your personal self-publishing journey. Together with a small group of enthusiastic learners you will build your skills and learn insider-knowledge to get your author career off to a flying start. Find out more about the course here. This is the kind of stuff you cannot find on the Internet! (And includes a lot of hand-holding by me should you need it.) The next start date is on the 5th January so there’s still time to sign up if getting your book into print is one of your 2016 new year resolutions! (If that’s too soon for you there are other start dates throughout the year – check out the course page for more details.) We are only in the early stages of sharing our hopes and fears prior to the course beginning and we’d love to welcome you on board if you’re ready to take the plunge and invest in yourself right now.

Video clip SP course
A clip from one of the course videos – just some of the exclusive content I’ve developed for this 4 week, information-packed course.

Now For The Bad News …

Oh, wait – there is no bad news! It used to be that the sting in the tail of self-publishing was that ‘indie’ authors weren’t taken seriously (at best), or were ridiculed and excluded and sworn at and … Well, you get the idea. But look how things have changed. Readers don’t care, and most of the time can’t tell the difference anyway, and the publishing industry regularly reaches out to try and sign self-published authors, who often as not say, No, thank you very much, I’d like to keep my royalties to myself and my creative freedom intact. As for me, I’ve got BIGGGGG plans for 2016 – and I can’t wait to keep on sharing my journey with you.


Coming in October: A Brand New Self-Publishing Course In Conjunction With Writers’ Workshop

I’m so excited to announce the new course I’ll be running for Writers’ Workshop in October – check it out below …

self pub image

I’ve been working on this for months now, and it’s just gone live on the Writers’ Workshop site so it’s time for me to start shouting about it! The four week course is designed for writers of fiction and non-fiction, whatever stage of the writing or publishing process you are at, and it takes you through everything you need to know step-by-step. And I’ll be there every step of the way to guide you and hold your virtual hand through the entire process!

You all know how passionate I am about professional self-publishing, and how committed to convincing the rest of the world to take self-publishing seriously. The move from Writers’ Workshop to include this course in their prospectus is a massive step! And their decision to give me the job of heading it up is something I’m incredibly proud of.

So, if you’re thinking of self-publishing, this is the course for you!

self pub image 2

Typesetting Your Book In Word

There was a discussion recently on a closed Facebook forum for members of the Alliance of Independent Authors as to whether it was possible to typeset your own book, or whether you should pay someone else to do it for you. What was interesting was how many indie authors admitted this was the one area they wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, despite having a ‘do it yourself’ attitude to most self-publishing tasks. Then there were the die-hard enthusiasts like me, claiming it is easy – all it takes is a little knowledge of Word and a willingness to devote yourself to the detail.

Having just finished typesetting Murder at the Maples ready for print, I’ve produced the following guide to typesetting your own book in Word. You can also download my template, which is ready for you to drop your own text, title and name straight into. This template is set to the same size and other parameters as my books – 5×8 inch trim size, generous margins and line spacing – but you can adapt it to suit. What’s perhaps most useful is that some of the hard work is done for you, for example getting the page numbering to start at 1 on what is, in effect, page 7 was something that took me quite a while to work out!

Feel free to ask questions about the guide or template in the comments box below, and I’ll update this guide as and when I learn new ways to improve the template or the process. Happy typesetting!

Typesetting MatM
Screenshot from typesetting Murder at the Maples. I really love this process – it’s so satisfying!

Step 1

First of all you’ll need to open the template. Click here to download it. Also open your final, proofread, perfect version of your book. You REALLY do not want to be making any text changes after typesetting your book, so don’t even think about doing this until it’s as perfect as you can get it.

Check the initial settings are correct by going to Page Layout and clicking on the arrow for Page Setup

Page set up

Above you can see the settings for margins and orientation. If you want to alter your existing Word doc instead of using a template, you can use these settings as a guide. Don’t forget Mirror Margins. This is what will make your recto and verso pages sit together as mirror images. Don’t know what recto and verso mean? Read on.

Page set up Paper

The next tab shows you the settings for Paper. This is where you’ll need to change the size if you are not going for a 5 x 8 inch trim. Ignore the other options here.

The final dialogue is for Layout. The template will have the following settings:

Header: 0.8cm, Footer: 0.6cm, Vertical alignment: Top

Un-check different first page if it’s checked.

You’ve now got your document set up as a book. Yippee! Now it needs some text.

Step 2

Ignore the title pages for now and go to first page of the text of novel (numbered page 1 in the template, with Chapter 1 at the top) and copy and paste your text into here from your proofread master copy.

Select all the body text (but not preliminary title pages, so you’ll have to do this manually and not with Select-All) and choose the font you wish to use for your book. I use Sabon, which can be downloaded, along with many other professional fonts, at Dafont. Don’t worry if your book has different fonts or styles within the text – changing the font should not lose any italic or bold formatting (although we will check this later), and you can change specific sections on your final check-through.

With all the body text selected, click on the arrow for Paragraph in the top toolbar.

Paragraph set up Indents & Spacing

As in the image above, you might find the alignment changes to something like Centered – you don’t want this, so change it now to Justified. Outline level should be Body Text, and then follow the settings in the box above.  Indentation, none. Don’t add space between paragraphs should be unchecked.

Under line spacing, select multiple and type 1.04 in the ‘At’ box. NB: Play around with this to find the line spacing you like for the font you are using. For Sabon, my personal favourite, 1.04 works well but it may not be as effective for other fonts.

Paragraph set up Line & Page Breaks

For Line and Page Breaks, only click Don’t Hyphenate, leave Widow and Orphan control unchecked. You will do this manually, but if Word does it for you, you won’t have even text on each page. Trust me!

Now you should have all your body text in the right font, with the right margins and line spacing. Next go through each chapter and define the styles for different paragraphs. For example, the first paragraph of each chapter should have no indentation, so I use a style I’ve called ‘First Para’. Defining styles is beyond my scope in this post, but it’s really easy and if you search on YouTube you’ll find loads of short tutorial videos. I define styles for Body text – which has an indented first line, but is otherwise the same as First Para – and Breaks (for those 3 stars you placed between sections) and also a style for my chapter headings which tells the next line of text to start a certain distance beneath the heading. This saves me having to do lots of carriage returns – I can simply click on the chapter heading and choose ‘Chapter’ from the Styles box (under Home tab), and Word automatically shifts the text around and formats the chapter heading to whatever font size and format I’ve set. If you’re really stuck, here’s my quick tip:

Put the first chapter title into the style you like, select it, then right click on it and go to Styles and choose ‘Save Selection as New Quick Style’. Give it a name, like Chapter Heading. Do the same for the first paragraph (no indent) and second, or body, paragraphs. Now these new styles should show up in the box called Styles, and you can simply select your text and choose the new style.

NB: A word about styles and consistency. Many people think typesetting your own work is really difficult, but clearly it isn’t. What it takes is a small amount of knowledge of Word (or whichever software you are using) and the willingness to spend time making it uniform. Using styles means that if you suddenly decide to make your chapter headings a bit bigger, or make them all italic, all you have to do is modify the Chapter Heading style once. That’s right – once only, and all the chapter headings in your document will change. If you choose to ignore using styles you’re making a lot more work for yourself and run the risk of not having a consistent design flowing all the way through your book.

Step 3

Now it’s time for the fine-tuning. With your master document open alongside, double check all italics and bold text are intact. Check for windows and orphans – basically just words left alone on one page at the end of paragraphs or sections – and adjust as necessary. If you want drop capitals at the start of your chapters, select the first letter, click on the Insert tab, and you’ll see the button for Drop Cap right there. Easy!

Step 4

Once you’ve been through the manuscript and made sure it looks the way you want it to, turn your attention to the prelims. These are the pages at the front of the book before the main body begins. Remember that the first page appears on the right (recto) and then next page is on the back of this (verso). It’s customary to have your prelims as follows:

First page: Title and author

Reverse of this: Copyright (there is a sample copyright on the template)

Third page: Repeat of title and author with publisher or imprint

Reverse of this: Blank or ‘also by this author’ or reviews/praise.

Fifth page: Dedication, if including

Reverse of this page: Blank

Seventh page: Chapter One or Prologue, numbered as page 1.

Don’t forget to add end-matter too. An Acknowledgements page is included in the template, but you can have any number of material at the end of your book: also by this author lists; an excerpt of your next book; notes on the text; or book-club questions. Can’t Live Without was all about a list, and at the end of the book I printed a blank ‘Write Your Own Can’t Live Without List’ section, which I thought was kind of fun. Remember every extra page will eat into your profit, though, so don’t get carried away!

Step 5

That’s pretty much it, to be honest. Once you’re happy with the layout, save your document as a pdf ‘standard for publishing online and printing’. View the pdf in the Two Up layout, so you can see what the printed book will look like with the recto and verso pages together. See how the margins allow for the gutter in the centre of the book so you can read the text nicely without having to break the spine? Make sure the numbering works, check chapter headings are consistent – well, you know what to do. Check, check and double-check. And then check again. When you’re happy, you have the interior file for uploading to CreateSpace or Lightning Source, or whoever you’re printing with. Good luck!

Self-Publishing Guide Step 4: Your Timetable For Success

In Step 3 we looked at budgeting, and talked about what you can expect to pay to self-publish your book, and how soon you should expect to break even – and, more importantly, break into profit! Today it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty, and come up with a workable plan to make sure you don’t miss out any important parts of the process.

I did all this wrong the first time. I didn’t buy my ISBNs ahead of time, so I had to pay more for them to be rushed through (I’d set a publication date and I was loath to miss it). I didn’t list it on Nielsen’s early enough either, so the information didn’t filter through in time for it to show on Amazon etc by the launch date. I didn’t realise that I wouldn’t be able to get my paperback cover sorted until I knew the exact number of pages after typesetting, so that was a last minute rush too! And I failed to do a ‘soft-launch’ of the ebook – more about that in a bit.

Now I have a super-duper spreadsheet with all the timescales laid down, and from this I can see what I should be doing and when. Your timescales will be different to mine – some writers will need to start listing information while they are at the editing stage, others may be happy to wait until their book is proofread and ready to go. Really it depends on your own deadlines – but what you must do is be sure to set a date for your launch that is achievable! And the following information will help you do just that.

Lead Times – Paperback

So, let’s assume you are going through the usual process of planning, writing, and editing your manuscript. If this is your first ever venture into publication, I’d wait until you are ready to send your work off for final proofreading before starting the publishing process detailed below. Nine times out of ten you will find stuff you want to change even at this stage, and everything takes longer than you expect. There’s nothing worse than telling all your friends and family that you are launching on a particular date, and then feeling the horrible pressure as that date approaches and you’re not … quite … ready. Argghhh!

If you’ve done it all before, you’ll likely have a better idea of how long the final editing stages will take you, and you can start planning the process accordingly. Let’s start with the task that needs to be completed first, and work our way up to launch date from there.

Launch minus 8 weeks –  Buy ISBNS. Only necessary if you are planning a print version and want your own publishing name listed as the publisher of record. In the UK at the time of writing, ISBNs are available in batches of 10 priced at £126. Click here for more information and to order. Takes about 2 weeks for the list to come through – and you need this before you can register with Nielsen.

NB: If you are publishing a paperback with CreateSpace you can use their free ISBN (the publisher of record will be CreateSpace). Ebooks also need ISBNs, but Amazon assign their own ASIN, and Kobo will also let you use a free one. If uploading via a distributer like Smashwords you can also use a free ISBN. This is a major expense, so think carefully whether you really need them. I bought them because I was printing via Lightning Source, but for my next book I’m moving to CreateSpace so they may well be redundant!

Launch minus 8 weeks – Source Cover Design. You will want to start using your cover image as soon as possible to build pre-launch interest. It’s also nice to upload the cover to your Nielsen listing (see below), but this can be added later. Allow a couple of weeks for your cover to be completed. Although the designer will no doubt be able to produce something a lot faster than that, if you are paying for a couple of rounds of changes this will take time. If you have a really popular/busy designer you’d like to use, remember to book them up in advance! It’s a good idea to ask for the ebook cover first (you’re doing an ebook as well, right?). This is the most time-consuming part for the designer, and once you are happy with the main cover image, the back and spine can be designed to fit. Anyway, by this point you will have to be ready to provide a title and brief synopsis. A blurb is even better, but this can be added at paperback template stage (see below).

The cover of Can’t Live Without was a collaborative effort – sourcing the right photo took ages!

Launch minus 8 weeks – Beta Readers. The other thing to do around about now is get your book out to some Beta Readers. These are wonderful people who will read your book pre-publication and let you know if there’s anything that doesn’t work so well – great for the wider view that an editor may lack. And if you’ve done all your own editing then Beta Readers are essential. You don’t want to be putting your book up for sale when the only people who’ve read it are you and perhaps a member of your family. Get other opinions – it’s better to find out about holes or inconsistencies now, and not from reviewers on Amazon (who can be very cutting indeed). How to find Beta Readers? Just ask. On your blog, on Facebook, on Twitter – try to get at least 6 and a wide cross section. By the way, if you just said I don’t have a blog, Facebook or Twitter account you need to go back about ten steps and set them up!

Launch minus 6 weeks – Notify Nielsen. Again, only for print books, but it’s worth notifying Nielsen as this is the database bookshops, wholesalers and eretailers like Amazon pick up their information from. For a basic listing you need the ISBN (see above), meta data (publisher, title, author, category etc), list price, trim size and number of pages. Nielsen listings are managed via their portal PubWeb – it’s really easy to use.

A note on number of pages: If you are scheduling this before typesetting your book it will be hard to know exactly how many pages it might be for paperback. As a rough guide, a 5 x 8 inch paperback at 260 pages contains a 70,000 word novel. Obviously if you choose a large typeface, larger or smaller trim size (book size) the pagination will be different. You can always change this data later.

A note on CreateSpace: If you are using CreateSpace’s free ISBN you won’t be able to list with Nielsen until you start the process of uploading your book to CreateSpace. You can get around this by uploading a file you don’t intend to use, get the assigned ISBN, then simply replace the file with the real one when the time comes. Just don’t press publish!  

Launch minus 6 weeks – Advance Information Sheet & Marketing Materials. If you are planning to try and get stocked in bookshops, you need to send out AI. Ideally you’d send it 2 to 3 months before, but you can’t send it until you’ve got the ISBN. For a great example of an AI sheet see here. It’s also a great idea to order any marketing materials around about now. Think bookmarks and postcards – places like VistaPrint are cheap, but they charge a lot for quicker delivery, so you can save money on postage by ordering in plenty of time.

Launch minus 6 weeks – Proofreading. So, you’ve got your manuscript back from the Beta Readers and made any necessary changes. Now it’s time to get it proofread. This is non-negotiable, to be honest. Get. It. Proofread. Expect this to take from 1 to 2 weeks.

pen and ink

Launch minus 5 weeks – Blurb. While the book is with the proofreader, work on your blurb. Take your time over this – it’s the product description on Amazon and the stuff that will go on the back cover. Make it sing.

Launch minus 4 weeks – Typesetting. Once you’ve had your book proofed, and made any necessary changes, you have your master copy. Don’t make any other changes to it after it’s been proofread! Don’t suddenly decide to change a character’s name, or anything else. I see this so many times and it drives me insane. It’s really easy to avoid – just don’t send the thing to the proofreader until you are 100% happy with it. Okay, end of rant. Now is the time to typeset it for print. Coming up next time is my template for doing this easily in Word – anyone can do it, and you can save a packet and make your book look amazing. Once it’s typeset you’ll have the number of pages and you can pop that in your cover template calculator and get the spine width. Check out CreateSpace’s cover template and spine calculator – it’s brilliant.

NB: If you are producing an ebook, you can format for Kindle and epub at the same time, albeit in different programmes. More on this below.

Launch minus 4 weeks – Paperback Cover. As soon as you have the spine width and cover template – with barcode including ISBN (don’t worry, CreateSpace or Lightning Source produce this template for you), send it to your cover designer so they can produce the final paperback cover. Remember this needs to be a pdf, not a jpeg (the ebook cover will be a jpeg), and must be in CMYK, not RGB. If you don’t know what that means you cannot do your own cover. Also remember bleed. Ditto comment above it’s that foreign to you.

Launch minus 3 weeks – Upload Files to Printer. We’ll go with CreateSpace here, as the lead times are slightly longer than if you are using Lightning Source. That’s only because of shipping times to the UK (I’m in the UK, which is why this guide is written from that perspective, but of course the information here is universal). You’ll need to upload an interior file (pdf) and an exterior, or cover, file (also pdf, see above). CreateSpace have a brilliant online proofing widget, but if it’s your first book, or your first time with CS, or you just want to be doubly sure it’s perfect, order a physical proof copy to be sent out.

Launch minus 2 weeks – Approve Proof and Order Author Copies. Wow, we’re getting so close now! Once you’re happy with the proof (you can make changes and upload a new file to CreateSpace for free – Lightning Source have a fee), you should order your author copies for your launch party etc. Remember we are allowing for shipping times here – LS in the UK are super fast, so this can be done later if necessary. But there’s another difference to take into account, covered next …

Such a brilliant feeling when your box of books arrives!

Launch minus 1 week – Publish. This is the moment. You are basically clicking a button and telling your printer that it’s fine to start distributing to Amazon and elsewhere. Once you’ve done this, people will be able to order a copy of your book when it shows up for sale.

CreateSpace: Once you approve your copy and click publish, your book will show up on the Amazon sites very quickly, usually in a day or possibly up to three days.

Lightning Source: It takes longer – sometimes much longer. Once you approve your title with LS it goes into their distribution network, but this takes a while to filter through. My first title printed via LS showed up for sale on Amazon in 2 weeks; my second took nearly 2 months! This, by the way, is one of the reasons I’m moving to CreateSpace next time. But LS do have lots of benefits. There are other posts on the blog about this, so I won’t go into it now.

So, give yourself plenty of time to get your book available before your big launch. The same goes for the ebook, of course, but that’s a lot easier. Let’s look at that next.

Lead Times – Ebooks

If you are publishing both a paperback and an ebook, and want them to hit the market at the same time, you can incorporate this timetable into the one above. With my first title I did the ebook first, then worked on the paperback; with my second I got them both out at exactly the same time. The second way was much more stressful! In future I’ll probably do the ebook-followed-by-paperback model, but each route has its benefits and downsides.

A note on ISBNs: Remember that ebooks also need ISBNs, but Amazon assign their own ASIN, and Kobo will also let you use a free one. If uploading via a distributer like Smashwords you can also use a free ISBN.

Let’s assume you’ve decided to use Beta Readers, and already had your book back from them, and made any changes based on their feedback. Okay, so …

Launch minus 4 weeks – Proofreading. As above. Get. It. Proofed.

Launch minus 4 weeks – Cover Design. Also as above. The ebook cover should come to you as a jpeg and be the right size/ratio for Amazon and other eretailers (1:6 is a good ratio to aim for). Get the cover right. It needs to work as a thumbnail – i.e. really small! Study your genre, and try to get it fitting the genre, but not copying. Fresh, but recognisable. Tricky, but that’s what you’re paying for, right? Expect to pay from £50 up for a cover.

Tiny, but still striking!

Launch minus 3 weeks – Write blurb. As above. Also start thinking about categories. This applies to paperback listings on Amazon too – choose the best categories, and remember that if you are publishing via Amazon’s KDP interface, you can only choose 2 categories.

Launch minus 2 weeks – Formatting for Kindle, epub and others. This is called formatting because it is distinct from typesetting. Formatting is harder, and should be done by a professional if possible. Ebook text is reflowable – readers can change the font size and orientation, and will be reading your book on so many different types of ereader it’s impossible to be too precious about how it will appear. Simple and user-friendly is the way to go. There are conventions which should not be broken – for fiction you should have the first line of a paragraph not indented, subsequent paragraphs indented and no line breaks between paragraphs, for example. A new chapter should start on a new page.

Nepotism Time! My brother-in-law, Bryan Hamilton, offers a brilliant ebook formatting service, starting from only £50! Save yourself the nightmare and contact him.

Launch minus 1 week – Upload to KDP. And other eretailers if you are planning on opting out of Amazon’s Select programme. You’ll need your interior file – a mobi for Amazon, epub for others – and the cover. This only takes half an hour or so to do, it’s very easy, but it’s still best to do it a good week ahead of the launch for a number of reasons. 1: You can check it’s all working properly by downloading it yourself. 2: It gives you time to refine categories and your product description. (Use Amazon’s Author Central US for this, wherever you’re based – it has more options.) 3: It allows you to do a ‘soft launch’.

Soft Launch

Phew, bet you’re exhausted after reading all that, but there’s just one more thing I want to talk about. Launching softly, or quietly, a couple of days ahead of your official launch is a great idea. Not only can you check the stuff mentioned above, you can also get some good early reviews, which will show up on Amazon and encourage new readers. Who do you get these reviews from? Well, not friends and family, obviously. No, they come from your Beta Readers. Ask nicely, and your early readers will no doubt be happy to post a review. You can also stagger sales a bit for extra exposure in Amazon’s rankings – but that’s a topic for another post!

Next time: Self-Publishing Guide Step 5: Typesetting in Word/Formatting for Kindle Explained.

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