Home > General > From Pen to Print…One self-publishers guide.

From Pen to Print…One self-publishers guide.

I thought I’d take the time to jot down my experience of getting my book from pen to print.

It’s been a rocky road, frustrating and sometimes infuriating, but you work round things to get stuff done.

I haven’t found an agent, or indeed a publisher, but that hasn’t stopped me, so I decided to self-publish and play the big boys at their own game.

Write your story. 

My best advice is don’t write longhand, if you can use a computer, a tablet, a smart phone anything other than pen and paper. Transferring this data to PC later is doubling up your work and is tiresome, and you have only one copy, if that was lost, the next masterpiece is lost with it, whereas with a PC you can use a cloud based service for storing your data.

Trust me, I wrote 30-40% of my book by hand in a noisy Karaoke bar, that wasn’t the problem, typing it up afterward was.


So many times I’ve seen poorly formatted documents. For the record a manuscript should be Double Spaced, 12 point, Times New Roman, Courier New, or other suitable font, and keep it simple. A search of the internet will yield examples to follow. My biggest tip…a comma comes after speech like this: “Yes, I know,” said John. My biggest bugbear is a full stop, and we all do it. It’s how we’ve been taught from childhood. full stops are no good here. Another tip is to use curly quotes.

Edit, edit, edit.

Often a self-publisher cannot afford a professional editor to edit their work, so you take your chances that you got it right. I would say you must edit, then edit, and edit again. Don’t be tempted to push your work out there before it is ready. I made this mistake, and now my eBook is on a second revision. Note: Some print on demand printers have a maximum page count, 700 for the ones I use, so be prepared to trim some of your work. For certain a 200,000 word manuscript is unlikely to fit.

Find someone to proof read your work.

It doesn’t matter who it is, just be sure you trust their judgement. Find someone who has an interest in your genre, ask them to critique your work, offer suggestions for improvements, but most of all ask them to note these down, so that you may refer back to them. Your mum is great, but mums are predisposed to declare anything their child does is without doubt the best thing ever. So maybe not the best choice. My mother did read it and pointed out all my mistakes bless her, so for me it was a good choice.

Find an agent.

Now before you rush off and self-publish, give the professionals a chance, obtain a copy of the Writers & Artists Yearbook 20XX. It is chock full of agents and publishers. Try the agents first, then publishers…but don’t be disheartened when you get the standard line: “It’s not for us. This business is subjective…” or, the worst, “No thanks.” Let these rejections wash over you, somebody somewhere may say yes, and if not then self-publish.
But you might ask, how long should I wait? Well that’s entirely up to you, there’s no saying you can’t self-publish and still look for representation. Who knows your sales figures may impress an agent enough to consider you.

Okay so you’ve exhausted all options, or not, but you’ve decided to self publish. The burning question is how the hell do you go about it.

Before you do anything…

If you plan to use a US based service like Createspace, Lulu, Amazon, or indeed Apple, you will need a US Tax ID supplied by the IRS.  More info here: Amazon’s Tax ID info

Don’t forget to inform your tax office in your country that you are earning…

I’m going to run through the options I chose.
I needed a way to organise my thoughts, ideas and manuscript, and then be able to publish it in varied formats. I turned to Scrivener as my solution. The customer service is second to none, the software chock full of features, and best of all it allows me to export my data to all the popular formats, such as Mobi, eBook, Word, RTF etc. This is valuable as a Mobi file (Kindle) can be directly uploaded to Amazon, and be on sale within 12 hours.
Kindle eBook – Kindle Direct Publishing
It’s free, with two options for royalties. 35% or 70%. I chose 35%, so that I was able to publish elsewhere, taking 70% royalties ties you to Amazon only.
You sign up, gather your mobi file and any cover image you’ve created (if you haven’t got one then Amazon can assign you a default image).

Be careful when it comes to KDP Select, the service that allows a select customer to borrow your book as you would in  library. It ties you exclusively to Amazon for 90 days, and it auto enrols you for a further 90 days, unless you turn this off. If you want to sell via Nook, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, you can’t until your 90 days is up. In my own experience, I’ve only had one borrow in 90 days, so I’m turning this feature off and I’m not looking back. To my chagrin, Amazon get a lot of return for little output.

iBooks from Apple – iTunes Connect 
This is the main area where you can download Apple’s own iTunes content producer and uploader, needed to send you eBook to them. It’s a little tricky, but straightforward to use when you get the hang of it. You will be telling the uploader what the name of your book is, its ISBN, the price etc. And then tell it the location of your eBook/Cover files and upload. Before all this, however, check your ePUB is valid with this handy validator.

iBooks do a lot to ensure your book meets all requirements, and take less that Amazon in return, yes you jump through more hoops, having to buy an ISBN, but hopefully that keep the trash that it clogging the fantasy isle out of the directory.
But first you need to apply for an account with them. iTunes Connect Apply This can take some time to be approved. If you are successfully approved, then  you’re good to go right? Wrong, you cannot proceed without an ISBN.
What is an ISBN?
An ISBN is a unique International Standard Book Number. It identifies the publisher and the book. An ISBN is required for each publication you have. In my situation I needed 5 ISBNs for Destiny of the Wulf.
1 X Paperback
1 X Hardback
1 X eBook for readers such as the Nook
1 X ePub for Apple iBooks (I didn’t use Lulu for this)
1 X Mobi for Amazon Kindle
Where can I get an ISBN?
ISBN’s are available from your countries agency. In the UK this is Nielsen ISBN Agency 
You must apply in writing, post or fax, and my recommendation is to purchase 10 ISBNs. This ran to £118, and the wait time is 10 days.
Why do I need 10 you ask.
The simple answer is that I used 5 for one book, and if I need to make a change in any one of them, i.e. produce a Second Edition, then you may need to use another. Note: you cannot use the same ISBN for paperback as well as an eBook.
Owning your own ISBN gives you the flexibility as the publisher to use any print on demand publisher, eBook distributor you choose, and frees you from being tied to a single entity.
Now that you have your ISBNs you can assign an ISBN to each publication, such as a paperback, or Apple ePub(lication).
Lulu Print on Demand publishing – Lulu
Createspace Print on Demand publishing – Createspace 
There are dozens of print on demand houses, who will print your book for you literally on demand, the prices will of course be slightly inflated in comaprison what a regular publisher can offer, but you get your book your way.
The above houses are two I use.
I find Createspace slightly cheaper than Lulu, but their shipping is pricey and slow, and it can take 48 hours for them to check your book is suitable for print at which point you need to order a paperback proof, wait, verify it is suitable for print and then tell Createspace you want your book to go global, which includes linked via Amazon (Since Createspace is an Amazon company). But wait, they have two options when it comes to distribution, and the returns aren’t great, the publisher taking the lion share. For extended distribution it’s £25, and that lists you globally with retailer directories. Note: you don’t need an ISBN with Createspace, they will provide you one, but are then tied to them.
I find Lulu, despite a few cents dearer, to have qualities that Createspace do not. For example, hardback book printing, cheaper and faster shipping, and distribution of your ebook to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple if you don’t want to do it yourself. They also have two options when it comes to distribution, and the returns are better, yet the publisher takes the lion share. For extended distribution it’s £75, and that lists you globally with retailer directories.
It’s entirely up to you who you choose, but I have gone Lulu for everything except Kindle and iBooks.
You think its over?
Not by any means is it over. You need to promote, promote and promote some more, get your friends to promote via Facebook, Twitter, whatever it takes. But you won’t succeed without advertising, and if you’re on a budget, then that’s difficult.
I won’t bore you with marketing ideas, that the job of the internet, suffice it to say, without it you’re not going to sell more than a handful…reality bites, so get out there and succeed.
To summarise, it has been a headache at times. You automatically think I’ve written it, the hard work has finished. Well now you know it isn’t. It’s very hard work, and leaves little time to focus on writing. So do yourself a favour, write the best damned synopsis and submission letter you can to a prospective agent, who know you may get lucky.
Now get those fingers clicking and buy my book The Aduramis Chronicles: Destiny of the Wulf. 
(Also available on Kindle in other countries)

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