An Overview Of Self Publishing Options for Fiction
By Tom Seest
It’s a very daunting process to think of yourself as an author of a fiction novel. In the past, men and women have had to approach agents for acceptance and gone through the traditional publishing route, which often involved years of trial and error, as well as a lot of disappointment.
However, self-publishing has come a long way, and it no longer requires you to have a great deal of out-of-pocket expenses and long wait times. Thanks to platforms like Amazon and others, you can self-publish with very little money upfront, allowing your talent and creativity to pave the road for your success as an indie author.
If you are not yet familiar with the self-publishing process, there are a few things you want to know in advance so that you can consider all of your options and formulate a strategy for your publishing process.
Below, you will find eight of the most common and important things people are often concerned about when it comes to publishing their own books online, regardless of the genre.
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Table Of Contents
- Why You Should Consider Self-Publishing Over Traditional Publishing
- Do You Need to Copyright Your Work?
- How to Choose the Right Publishing Platform for Fiction
- How to Price Fiction on Self-Publishing Platforms
- How to Attract a Targeted Audience with the Right Cover
- How to Market Your Fiction Novel After It’s Published
- How to Keep Track of Success as an Author
- How to Deal with Negative Reviews from Readers
For most soon-to-be authors, the most difficult decision is whether or not they should pursue an indie career or take the traditional route. There is a measure of prestige associated with traditional publishing, knowing that an agent and a publishing house have accepted your manuscript and determined that you are worthy of their support.
However, many authors are taking the indie route because of its profitability and level of control, among other things. Both options have their own pros and cons associated with them.
Previously, we talked about the time frame involved in using an agent and publisher. With self-publishing, you can be free from deadlines, which can be beneficial and detrimental on its own.
You also don’t have to wait for anyone else’s schedule. You can write a book in a week and have it live for your audience if you want to, whereas a traditional publishing schedule may take years.
The control that you have over the entire process – from the cover that you choose to the way your book is formatted, the blurb it uses, and any edits that are required, is all up to you and no one else.
There’s also the money aspect of it all. When you are self-publishing, you have the opportunity to earn 70% of every sale on a platform like Amazon. Traditional publishers have to take a higher cut because of all of the people that are involved in the sale of your book at every level, leaving you with very little in the end.
Because you will be publishing on your own, you will be wearing a lot of hats and doing all of the heavy lifting on your own, including working with cover designers and publishing platforms if you have any issues that need to be resolved.
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You may be wondering whether or not you need to copyright your work when it comes to self-publishing. Indie authors are split on this issue. You will find some that say you don’t have to do this and others who highly recommend it.
In self-publishing, you have to be aware that sometimes there will be unscrupulous individuals who will take your book and republish it as their own. Therefore, having a registered copyright to protect your work and prevent your account from being shut down on sites like Amazon can be very helpful in protecting your profits.
This is an easy process that you can do online through the Copyright Office website. Once you have obtained your copyright, you want to put a notice inside your book so that those who may be considered theft of your work will reconsider.
This is not a requirement in order for you to self-publish your work. You can also go back and copyright it at a different point in time if you determine that you want to make that decision at a later date.
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So which publishing platform should you choose when it comes to getting your fiction in front of readers? While Amazon is one of the main distribution platforms for many new indie authors, it’s not the only option.
The reason many fiction writers choose this platform is that it’s a household name and they have a big reach. You can also self-publish on Barnes and Noble using their Nook platform and on other platforms as well.
There are some tools that you can use that will distribute your book for you, helping take it wide on various platforms. Or you can do this individually, going to each platform and uploading the files, and setting it up on your own so that you retain more of the royalties.
There are benefits and disadvantages to going wide or staying solely within Amazon. For example, you might get extra promotion opportunities within Amazon itself that you wouldn’t get if you weren’t in their KDP Select program.
If you start out in Amazon’s program and decide you made the wrong decision later, you can always go wide after 90 days and unenroll from their program so that you can publish on other platforms, too.
Regardless of which platform(s) you choose to use, you need to learn the process for uploading files and setting up your listings. Sometimes, they will change things slightly so that the process evolves into something a little different than what you may read online, but they often have updated tutorials on the platform itself to guide you.
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Another question indie authors often have is about how to price their fiction. If you are pricing it at $2.99 or higher, you will be able to earn 70% commission on Amazon’s Kindle program – and if it is priced under that, you will earn 35%.
Besides the platform percentages, you want to price your book according to how it will perform best in the marketplace. If you price it too low, your target audience may think it’s not worth reading.
However, you also don’t want to price it too high so that they avoid it. You should base your pricing on the length of your book, the common market price for that genre and length, and the royalty that you want to earn.
If your book is really a short story or novella, you might want to price it less than $2.99, but if it is a full-length novel of over 40,000 words, you can begin increasing the price to something more significant.
If you take time to produce a book that has an amazing cover and world maps inside for your fiction world, and you have invested in having it professionally edited and formatted, you might want to bump up the price a bit more.
Go through the top-selling books in your fiction genre and see how people are pricing both their eBook version and their print version. Take into consideration the brand of the author, the length of the book, and its quality.
As a self-published indie author, you have the ability to test different price points at anytime that you want to. You can use specific deals to see if you get a flood of sales, lower the price slightly or raise it to see if it makes an impact on your overall earnings.
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Covers are your first impression with your target audience. If you do not have a cover that is well suited to your fiction genre, people will not feel as if it is a good fit for what they like to read.
Unfortunately, many indie authors try to cut corners and save money by creating their own cover, and it never quite looks as good as the ones that are created by professional graphic designers.
If you need to save money on a cover but want a professional one made, you can look for pre-made covers that sell at a slight discount from what a custom cover would cost you.
On your cover, you want to highlight both the name of your book and your author’s name so that you are branding both to your target audience. You also want to make sure that your cover not only looks good in full screen but also as a thumbnail on a platform like Amazon.
Once the writing process is complete and you have published your book on one or more platforms, how do you market it to the public? You definitely don’t want to simply hope that people find your book and buy it.
You want to have a marketing plan in place to target specific people who would be interested in reading your fiction. You can use social media to harness your audience and promote your book to them on sites like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and elsewhere.
You can also collaborate with other indie authors so that you offer mutual support to one another and help increase your reader base. In addition to these ideas, you can always use the built-in marketing tools that Amazon and other platforms offer, or you can invest in paid ads on Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
As an indie author, you need to make sure that you are keeping track of everything that you are doing. You want to track and understand how your book is performing in terms of sales and rankings.
The platforms that you are using will have a dashboard that gives you all of this data, and you can see how certain marketing tactics have performed for you, which month is a good (or bad) month for sales in your genre, and so on.
You also need to keep track of your outgoing expenses for things like editing, graphic design, and anything else that you spend money on for your fiction publishing efforts so that you’re making a profit from your career.
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Negative reviews are part and parcel of being an author. You have to have thick skin and understand that your writing won’t be suitable for everyone. Just as everyone has individual tastes in food, fashion, and entertainment, they will like or dislike your book.
You do need to monitor your reviews to see if there’s a consensus about something you need to correct going forward. For example, if readers are complaining about typos or plot holes, this is something you need to listen to and fix.
But if someone simply doesn’t like your writing style or the story that you have put forth, let it go. This is not a personal attack on you; it’s just a reader’s opinion based on what their personal preferences are and nothing more.
Don’t respond to the attack. You want to remain professional and not soil your reputation by getting into arguments with readers. You also don’t want to delete someone’s negative review just to try to make your book look better because every author in existence has negative reviews about their books.
Being an indie author comes with many fantastic opportunities as well as burdens. If you feel that you have a creative talent to tell a story that someone will want to hear, but you don’t want to go through the long, drawn-out process of traditional publishing, take the plunge and see how self-publishing can work for you.
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