Getting there was... interesting... to say the least. But at least I learned a few things, so the next time I self-publish a book, I'll have a better idea what to do. Here's a few things I figured out.
- CreateSpace doesn't have any easy way to set up pre-orders or pre-releases. As soon as I approved the proof copy, it was live on their e-store and on Amazon less than an hour later, ready for sale. A full week earlier than I'd intended.
- It's hard to plan a release date when your Expanded Distribution isn't consistent. When I set up the title in CreateSpace, I selected not only Amazon, but other distributors as well (Barnes and Noble, for example). Almost a week later now, and it still doesn't show up for purchase in any of the expanded channels. It will, eventually, but I have no way to know when that will be. It also doesn't help that CS doesn't update you when it is ready on those other channels, so I just have to keep checking. Not a big deal, just something I wan't expecting.
- As they say in the Boy Scouts, "be prepared". As soon as I announced a release date, I had requests for signed copies. Since I use a POD distributor, that makes a lead time for any copies I order. Hence, it takes nearly two weeks to get copies in, signed, and out to the people who paid for them. Something else I didn't factor in.
- In connection to that, some reviewers want print copies instead of digital ones. Since I have to order them, that adds time I could be using to send them out.
- Listing on Amazon isn't flawless. Supposedly, if you have a paperback and Kindle edition, they'll automatically link up within 24-48 hours. That didn't happen. It wasn't a big deal to get it done, mind you, just something I hadn't considered.
- Apple takes forever. I used Draft2Digital for submission to B&N nook, Kobo, and iBooks. I set it up for pre-order (which I can do with all digital editions, just not the paperback), and within a couple of days had confirmation that it was up on nook and Kobo. Apple iBooks? Still waiting. And the wait time isn't consistent with them, either, so I have no idea when it'll be up. The hope is that once it goes live at midnight tonight, it'll propagate, but I have no way to know for sure. That's annoying.
- Have a marketing plan ready BEFORE releasing. Even if it's just where to send review copies, life gets so much easier when you know how to promote it. This time, I waited until it was out to start working on that; I won't be making the same mistake again.
All of this can be attributed to it being my first time doing this, so I'm not freaking out about it. It just means that next time, I'll have a better idea of how to do things, and in what order. And even with the issues, it's finally out there. I have fulfilled my dream of getting a book published. I've held it in my hands, and I won't lie, I giggled as I opened the box it shipped in.
So I'm living proof it can be done. I won't say done successfully, because time will be the one to tell on that one, but I pulled it off. If anyone's curious how it was done, here's what I used:
- The cover was designed using Creative Commons License images from freeimages.com and pixabay.com, a commercial friendly font, a template from CreateSpace, and GIMP. Oh, and a LOT of time learning how to put it together.
- Paperback formatting was done in MS Word. There's tutorials all over the net, but the bottom line is: learn to use the Styles bar. It will save your life here.
- I lucked out and had someone volunteer to do the eBook formatting for me, but it was done using Sigil to build it, and Calibre to convert it to Amazon's preferred format.
- As you probably figured out, I went through CreateSpace for the paperback printing and distribution, as well as the ISBN registration. It takes some learning, but it's not that bad, and the books have looked awesome so far. Just wish the offered a pre-order option...
- For Kindle, I went direct through Kindle Direct Publishing. It was a one-page form for the book information, and a second page for pricing and distribution, and that was it. Extremely easy, just make sure you format according to their guidelines.
- To get everywhere else digitally, I used Draft2Digital. They were also pretty easy to use, though I can't speak to royalty distribution yet. I'll update once I know.
Notice something about that list? It's all freely available. Sure, you can pay at almost every step of the way to get packages and the like, but if you're not afraid to do the work yourself, you can do it at no charge. That said, allocate some money for print proofs, ARCs (Advance Reading Copies), final copies for signing, and some money for postage. Set up a PayPal account to collect payments for signed editions, and it might not be a bad idea to look into pricing for marketing, if you don't know what to do on your own.
Oh, and cross your fingers. Hard work will take you a long way, but it doesn't hurt to have some good breaks along the journey!