I self-published my first full-length novel, Heritage Lost, Dec. 6, 2019. Technically, the paperback on Amazon went live in late November after I was overzealous with my clicking . . . oops. It has definitely been a learning experience that was a lot different from my experience of publishing short stories via KDP — for one thing, you’re dealing with twice the formatting. For writers interested in self-publishing, I thought I’d share a bit about my experience and the pathway I took. In the future, I’ll probably also share a post about what I would do differently if I had the opportunity. There are quite a few things.
KDP and Ingram Spark Combo
For this release, a KDP and Ingram Spark combination was used.
I took the saying about never putting all of your eggs in one basket very seriously. Platforms can shut down, rules can change, and accounts can be locked — fairly or unjustifiably. If you only have your stories on one platform and one of those three things happens, poof! you’re gone. Your readers can no longer find your works and you are missing out on profit while facing the challenge of rebuilding. Having a secondary source for your book’s printing prevents it from disappearing.
With that said, I’m still a part of KDP’s Kindle Unlimited program, which means while my paperback is available at different retailers, my e-book is exclusively available on Amazon. I did this because I’m building my readership and KU allows me to cast a wider net; some of these readers might never had picked up my book otherwise. The program has also been highly recommended by other indie authors.
As far as quality, I’ve been pleased with both the KDP and Ingram Spark print jobs. I only wish the Ingram Spark website was more user-friendly, but all in all, I’d recommend both companies.
My Own Imprint And ISBNs
Once the decision to self-publish was made, I decided to create my own imprint. I settled on Far-Flung Press, with the tagline, “Wherever the road takes you,” to encapsulate the range of genres I hope to publish one day, though predominantly sci-fi and fantasy. I designed the logo myself, dusting off the cobwebs of one of my professional writing courses. This was done in Adobe Illustrator, with the aim to keep it simple: a stylized planet (a nod to sci-fi) and a feather quill (symbolizing not only writing but also the fantasy genre). Despite its simplicity, I did struggle a bit with the approach at first before having my eureka moment and its five or so lines.
Logo and imprint name squared away, I purchased ISBNs in its name. This was far and away the most expensive part of my self-publishing endeavor. I opted for the 10 ISBNs for $295 — it is by far the best bargain, especially if you have multiple books in the pipework. I calculate that it will get me halfway through my Heritage Lost series unless I branch out into audiobooks. The move to purchase ISBNs boiled down to having the desire for full control of my books. Ingram Spark also helped make that decision as it requires authors to provide their own, whereas Amazon/KDP will provide them — but then you are ceding some control.
The cover was a commissioned painting, and it was the next most expensive part of self-publishing. While I created my own covers for my short stories (from a profitability standpoint, most works of short fiction have a snowflake’s chance in hell of making back the expense of a cover), I didn’t feel comfortable tackling a paperback. Additionally, while I can draw and digitally paint crows, other animals, etc., I suck at people, and I really felt this cover needed people on it.
Expense-wise, this was the second greatest expenditure. However, I know the cover was on the low range of what other writers have paid out.
This was another element tackled on a DIY basis. One of my biggest goals was sticking to a shoestring budget while not compromising on quality. I struggled over what program I would use to create the interior of the paperback, trying to stir up my memory of InDesign, but I got discouraged. Surprisingly, I ended up using Microsoft Word, taking advantage of features that I didn’t know the program could do. I owe my interior to Vivien Reis’s wonderful YouTube tutorial. She is a lifesaver! The only thing that is missing in the tutorial is adjusting the gutters so the page lines up perfectly in KDP and, by extension, Ingram Spark.
I am incredibly pleased with how the interior format turned out, especially since I manually eliminated all orphans and widows, which, let me tell you, took forever! Chapter images and section break images allowed for a more custom professional look.
Microsoft Word was also used to create the e-book file. It was not as time-consuming as the paperback formatting process. It isn’t very flashy and I had to say farewell to drop caps because no matter what I did, I could not get the formatting to stick. But even with their absence, I am content with the results.
Having an editor was a must in addition to having a variety of alpha and beta readers. I also lined up a proofreader to try and get as many goofs that had made it through the entire process. There are always goofs. Always. Heck, even the Big Five will have them. However, always take the extra mile to turn out a quality product. Indie writers are under a massive microscope so always put your best foot forward.
So, this was my method, and it allowed me to stay well within my budget. Now into March, I am confident in breaking even and maybe even turning a profit, though it might not truly happen until I can get more books in the Heritage Lost Series out.
7 thoughts on “So I self-published: What that journey was like”
Fine post! Really enjoyed your recounting of the publishing process.
It’s been a while since I last self-pubbed. I had forgotten some of these niggling details. But I do remember enjoying working through the process. I am definitely considering going wide next time. Do you mind sharing with us who you used for your cover art?
Hi Lissa, I definitely feel a lot of satisifaction self-publishing, especially when the interior format came together. As for the cover art, I used Maria Freed aka MissChibiArtist, https://www.misschibiartist.com/. She was great to work with and I love her style.
Wonderful post! I’ve been hoping to use Ingram spark (eventually, hah), and this is a really good checklist of things for me to think through. Outside of the outright costs that you listed like ISBN and covers, are there any “hidden” costs you’ve found?
Hi TGM, I definitely recommend giving Ingram Sparks a go. It hasn’t generated as many sales as Amazon has for me, but I like have that secondary option for people to use if they want it (I know some people have moral reasons not to shop on Amazon). As far as other costs, make sure you have you have your manuscript as polished as you can before adding it to Ingram Spark as it does charge for each revision you upload; however, you can catch free revision upload deals with them from time to time, If you are a member of Alliance of Independent Authors, the last time I checked, you can get such fees waved. That might be a membership you will want to pursue; at the moment, I haven’t as I want to be more establish beforehand and break even on my expenses, but it is definitely on my list in the future. A lot of other potential costs will vary on how you approach the editing process, whether you’re doing the whole shebang: structural editing, line editing, and proofreading, or just focusing on line editing and proofreading, or another combo. Also factor in advertising. I’ve dabbled with Facebook ads to meh results; however, other indie authors I know have done EXTREMELY well with them. They’ve also used the Amazon ad services, but those are priced out of my range at the moment. The pandemic has made me batten down the hatches just in case. There are other services that you can use as an indie author like BookBub, Goodreads giveaways, etc. that you could spend money on, but really, they aren’t must-haves, just options to consider.
Thank you for the information!! I feel like it can be hard to find this kind of advice at times, and I love to hear all the different suggestions people have.
Good cheer to you!