There’s no doubt that self publishing is a big undertaking. After all, in traditional publishing, there may be as many as 13 departments! And that’s on top of the most important role–yours–the author.
So, I’ve gathered some of the common questions I get from participants in my online course, Publish and Sell Your Ebooks, to share the answers here.
1. What’s the difference between a Self Publisher and an Indie Publisher?
Nothing. They’re just two terms that describe people who are paying to publish their own books, rather than publishing through traditional channels.
2. If I self publish just on Amazon, is Amazon my publisher?
No. You’re the publisher and Amazon is the online ebookstore, or retailer, that you’re selling your book through. You hold all of the rights to your book and make all of the decisions about how it will be created and sold. If you work with a traditional publisher, you sign a contract giving them the rights to control your manuscript.
3. If I self publish with Amazon, can I sell my ebooks anywhere else?
Amazon has two publishing programs: KDP and KDP Select. If you sign up with KDP, you’re free to publish anywhere else you wish. That can be on your own website, or through distributors such as Smashwords, Draft2Digital (D2D), or BookBaby. These are the paths that I cover in Publish and Sell Your Ebooks, so the ones that I provide you with requirements and links to everything you need to know to use their services.
If you sign up for KDP Select, you’re exclusive to Amazon with your ebook. You can’t sell it anywhere else, even from your own website unless you join Amazon’s affiliate marketing program. There is an option, however, if you work through BookBaby (it’s an upfront paid service, not a free service operating on commission sales), to publish wide and use KDP Select. Amazon provides additional features if you choose KDP Select to help you earn income and promote your ebook.
4. Does Amazon get the rights to my ebook when I self publish with them?
You retain all of your intellectual property rights when you sign up for Amazon’s KDP or KDP Select service. Likewise with the distributors covered in Publish and Sell Your Ebooks. With all of them, you’re a business using their distribution services to reach people interested in buying your ebooks. Your ebook is your product, the same as if you were selling widgets made of wood, instead of a book in an electronic format.
5. Can I republish my out of print books from traditional publishers as ebooks on Amazon and elsewhere?
You must own the rights to publish with Amazon and other ebook retailers and distributors. When you published with a traditional publisher, you agreed that they would hold/control specific rights, so you must have the right to publish your book in electronic or digital format in order to self publish an ebook. Amazon has a detailed fact sheet on intellectual property rights that you’ll find useful to determine if you can self publish in ebook format.
6. How long does it take to publish my ebook?
As they say, it takes as long as it takes. There are many, many variables when it comes to book publishing, many dependent on the number of pages in the book, illustrations, if there are any, and the author/publisher’s experience with the software they’re using. I can format a book in less than a day, so once I’ve decided it’s in its final version after edits, the book is only a couple of days away from publication.
7. Do I have to type my book out?
Yes, your book needs to be in a digital format in order to self-publish. None of the services will type it for you. However, you can hire typing services through Fiverr, to do it. Or, you may find a friend or family member willing to type the book for you.
8. Do I need a computer to self publish an ebook?
A computer (laptop or desktop) will likely be the easiest way to self publish your ebook, but you can use a mobile device, such as a tablet, to get your ebook into an acceptable format.
9. What kind of software do I need to create my ebook?
To self-publish to reach all markets, all you need is a word processor. There are many options for both PC and Mac users, so you’ll have lots of choices. You can even use free word processors, like LibreOffice, or online tools like Google Docs.
If you can convert your book to Microsoft’s Word’s original file format—that’s .doc, you’ll have the most options. However, depending on the publishing path you select, the .docx file can also work. If you’re planning to stay exclusive to Amazon, you can also use their proprietary software, Kindle Create, instead of a word processor.
10. How much will it cost me to self publish my ebook?
The short answer is that you can self publish for no monetary investment. The long answer is that it depends on your personal inventory of skills how much self publishing will cost.
If you need to hire an editor, illustrator or cover artist, formatter, or publicist, the costs can range from very little to a lot. I provide you with many resources in my course, Publish and Sell Your Ebooks, to help you find low cost options if you need help.
11. Can I self publish my nonfiction book that’s about 1500 words long?
Amazon originally set a standard of 2500 words for books for the adult market. While, the number is no longer published on Amazon’s website, it’s still a good guideline to follow. Otherwise, your book could be rejected. You’ll also find other booksellers and distributors will accept that page length. I’ve never found guidelines for children’s illustrated nonfiction.
12. Can I publish my novel that’s 300,000 words long on Amazon?
Ebooks can be any length you wish, although certainly the category of the book has an impact on what readers expect and look for. While conducting your market research, pay special attention to the word count of the books you examine in the categories where your book fits.
Kindlepreneur did some research on 15 fiction ebook categories on Amazon and found that best sellers ranged from over 300,000 words to just over 100,000 words. They determined that a book had to be at least 90,000 words to be a best seller in the categories/genres examined.
13. Will I be charged for any ebook over 200 pages when I publish it?
No, e-publishers don’t charge for anything over 200 pages. If you’ve heard that someone is paying extra for length, then likely they’ve hired a formatter. So, it’s the person/business hired that’s charging extra. Here, for example, is a list of formatters in the Smashwords list:
14. Will I have to give bookstores like Amazon, and distributors, like Smashwords, my personal information?
Yes. In order to fulfill legal obligations, bookstores like Amazon.com, and distributors, like Smashwords, must track your income and report it at tax time. So, you’ll need to do an online tax interview when you upload your ebook to sell it.
All of the questions will be similar, so you can review the tax interview at Amazon to see what you’ll need to have ready.
15. Should I get a Tax ID/W-8BEN number before uploading a book?
Everyone should already have a Tax ID in order to file income tax in the country where they live, or even to access programs such as Disability payments. In the US, you’d likely use an SSN, and in Canada, you’d use an SIN.
Only non-US citizens uploading to Amazon.com (or Smashwords) will file a W-8BEN form, and it’s provided during your tax interview. Note that you can’t be paid until you do a tax interview at the organization where you upload your ebook, whether that’s Amazon or a distributor.
16. Can I use PayPal to get paid?
You don’t have choices in how you’ll be paid in many places. Smashwords, for example, is PayPal only. Ebook retailers and distributors that do offer options will likely have different payment thresholds for payments, so you’ll select the one you find most appealing: Amazon and D2D (scroll to the last paragraph).
17. What’s a payment threshold?
A payment threshold is the amount of money that must be earned before the retailer or distributor issues a payment. Kobo for example has a $50 threshold. So if your book sales commissions there only ever reach $49.99, you never get paid.
However, if you distributed to Kobo through Smashwords (pays quarterly through PayPal) or D2D (pays monthly if you use PayPal), you’d get paid even if you only earned $.05 instead of $50 at the scheduled payment period.
18. When you publish with more than one service, such as Amazon and Smashwords, do all of them know how many books are sold and how much money I made?
The only companies privy to your sales records are the specific ones you’re dealing with. So, while Amazon may send $X to Draft2Digital (D2D) for your monthly royalties, they have no way of knowing how many $$$ you earned from any other channel distributed to by D2D. If you didn’t sign up with Smashwords they don’t know you exist.
19. Will a traditional publisher pick my ebook up after it’s published on Amazon?
If you want a traditional publisher, self publishing your own ebook isn’t typically the way to get there. Traditional publishers also sell ebooks, audiobooks, etc. and with their “in” box of unsolicited manuscripts overflowing, they’re mostly not interested in your already-published book.
The only other side to this is that if your book gets popular as an ebook and you sell a hundred thousand copies or so, an agent or traditional publisher may be interested, but of course then you have to give up your rights and they’ll sell their own version as an ebook.
20. How much money will I make self publishing an ebook?
It’s impossible to predict how much money any specific book will earn over its lifetime, whether you’re looking at print books or ebooks. However, some categories of books are definitely better sellers than others.
Currently, according to the latest free K-Lytics report, the best selling categories, in order, are: Romance; Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense; Science Fiction & Fantasy; Children’s eBooks.
The four categories of the 30 analyzed on the report with the least sales are: Engineering & Transportation; Computers & Technology; Travel; Law.
You can get detailed information break-downs on income potential for many categories and subcategories from the K-Lytics Special Reports (not free–note that I will earn a small commission if you purchase one of these reports) or their more detailed monthly reports. I’ve been relying on these reports for years.
Or, you can purchase Publisher Rocket (I will also earn a small commission here if you purchase) for a one-time fee. It’s an amazing resource that gives you income for thousands of different keywords on Amazon, as well as the categories. I use it monthly to check what keywords are doing the best for my books, to make sure I catch all the trends.
One thing is sure when it comes to income from ebooks, which is that they must look professional to make it to the top. With over 6 million Amazon Kindle ebooks, there’s a lot of competition out there.
You can give your book a better chance for success and income by learning the ins and outs of publishing. If your public library offers Gale courses, they may pay your registration for you in Publish and Sell Your Ebooks. Just check their catalog. Or, your local college may offer Publish and Sell Your Ebooks. Either way, I’ll be in class to answer all your questions and guide you through the publishing process.