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18 strategies for successful self-publishing

Maximize your readership – and your profits – with these key steps.

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6. Format your book correctly

The interior of your book can look amateurish or professional based on how it is formatted. This step in crucial in the process and is key to the book’s success. But until you do it a few times, the process can feel extremely tedious. (Hang in there, it does get easier.) Print books require a PDF file to be uploaded to platforms, whereas eBooks allow for a few options (DOC, EPUB, or MOBI file). The challenge with formatting is usually in the eBook files, not print ones, simply because there are so many different types of devices people use to read their books, such as phones, tablets, and computers. The file must adapt to each device, and that’s where formatting problems tend to arise.

One incredibly easy option for formatting both eBooks and print books is Vellum, which generates all the different files for you once you upload your Microsoft Word document. You do have to go through and make minor adjustments, but the viewer panel allows you to see exactly how the final version will look in each of the formats.  The downside is it is only available for Macs, but it is definitely worth the investment if you are a Mac owner. For PC users, don’t fret: There are options for you as well, such as these free tools available at:

If you are experiencing problems with the formatting or simply don’t want to deal with it, you can always hire someone to do this step for you.

7. Understand eBook and POD platforms

The two main formats for publishing your book are print and eBook. One option is to hire a traditional printing company and stock your own inventory. With this approach, you are responsible for buying a minimum amount (typically 250-1,000 copies) as well as shipping charges. But that’s not an author’s only option: Print on Demand (POD) technology has changed the self-publishing game entirely because with POD, you don’t have to keep an inventory of books. If you upload your files to a place like KDP or IngramSpark, when someone orders your book, it is printed and sent directly to the customer. These companies handle printing and shipping directly, leaving you more time to focus on writing and marketing. EBooks work the same way, except instead of a print book being sent, a digital file is sent that can be read on an eReader, phone, tablet, or computer.

KDP and IngramSpark are the primary platforms used for POD. KDP is free to upload to, and IngramSpark charges $49. These platforms are also available for eBooks, but there are other options as well. You can go directly to Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo and set up an account with each. Or you could use an eBook distributor like Draft2Digital or BookBaby, where you upload your file at no cost, and they make the book available on all eBook platforms, including libraries and other subscription services. They take a small percentage from each sale, and the rest of the money goes to you.

8.Research ISBN options

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is the number that identifies the title and also the publisher to be contacted for ordering purposes. Furthermore, the different formats of a specific title, such as the hardcover, eBook and audiobook, each need their own unique ISBN number as well.  KDP offers them for free but identifies KDP as the publisher and can only be used on its platform (AKA Amazon). IngramSpark offers them at a discount for $85 but identifies you as the publisher. If you want your book to be available through both of these platforms, then you need your own ISBN. If you plan to publish more than one book and have them available on Amazon, through bookstores and libraries, the best option is to get your ISBNs directly through Bowker. Authors can purchase an individual ISBN for $125 or 10 for $295. These ISBNs do not expire and allow you to be identified as the publisher. Bowker (bowker.com) is the only company designated to sell these individual ISBNs (IngramSpark works with Bowker to offer the discounted ISBN numbers), so do not be tempted by any other company offering to sell ISBNs to authors.

9. Weigh the benefits of KDP…

When it’s time to publish and make your book available to the world, decide if you want your eBook to be distributed wide (which means worldwide through various platforms) or go with KDP Select on Amazon. By choosing KDP Select, you agree to sell your eBook exclusively through KDP for 90 days. During this time, you cannot have it available on any other platforms (Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive…). The advantages of this program are the option to offer a Countdown Deal and a Free Book Promotion (for a limited time) on Amazon. Your book will also be available through Kindle Unlimited (KU). With this program, readers pay a monthly subscription and have unlimited access to all the KU titles. You are committed to KDP Select for 90 days, and after that, you can decide to continue or stop. 

10. …Versus launching on all platforms

The other option for publishing is “going wide,” which means you have your eBook available on as many platforms as possible. Your book will still be available on Amazon, but it also opens your options to library markets and other subscription-based models besides KU and provides a wider worldwide reach. More markets mean the potential for more readers. The approach also provides other opportunities for promotions. When you go wide, you don’t have the option to run the two types of KDP promotions mentioned earlier, although you do control the price and can change it at any time. Going wide allows for promotions through other platforms like Kobo and Draft2Digital.

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