You’ve got your manuscript, so now what? Before committing to big distribution, try these quick and easy ways to publish while you finesse your book with great editing and design. You won’t even need to buy an ISBN number. If you’re not quite ready for prime time, beta publishing is a great way to get reader feedback and reviews, too.
You can quickly publish beta books, books in progress, serials, subscriptions, and series with Leanpub, updating your readers automatically when the book is updated. You can also pay a co-author automatically, or set up a donation to a cause. Your book is created using simple markup language, then uploaded to a connected Dropbox folder along with images and other assets. Since it lives in the cloud you can make it available to trusted editors, collaborators and assistants who can edit and replace files. A publisher page holds common assets like a publisher verso page, copyright message, company logo, and other elements that can be applied to more than one book. Take advantage of pay-what-you-want pricing by setting a minimum and suggested price, such as $4.99–$10.99, or even higher.
Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks, delivering to ebook retailers, app stores, and libraries. They take 15% of net sales and PayPal takes a 35¢ transaction fee. Upload your properly-formatted Word document under 10MB in size (excludes image-heavy ebooks). They offer a free formatting guide that shows you how to apply Word styles correctly. Or if you already have a beautiful custom-designed EPUB file you can upload that. Smashwords provides distribution to all the big online ebooks stores, app stores and libraries, plus they have a series publishing tool, a coupon generator, their own storefront, a pre-order tool, and they are always innovating to provide more features. But you don’t have to distribute with them right away, just sell or give away review copies via their bookstore by publishing only to their Standard Catalog.
CreateSpace is Amazon’s print-on-demand book creation and distribution program and if you want your print book to be in the Amazon.com store (and eventually, you do!) you should upload your PDF files here. Setup is free and they take a reasonable percentage of sales. But you don’t have to distribute to Amazon yet. You can keep your CreateSpace book private, order copies to proofread and to get a hands-on look at your cover design. Edit and re-upload for free as often as you want. The next step is to sell in the CreateSpace store without committing to Amazon distribution until you’re ready. (By the way, CreateSpace will assign a free ISBN to your book, but once you go with distribution to Amazon you should use your own.)
Blurb is a full color book print and ebook creation service that will print your POD or offset print book to sell in their store and to distribute when you’re ready. Their BookWright tool creates fixed-format EPUB files at the same time you’re building your print book, which is pretty awesome but they lock you into their distribution service with their tools which is the price you pay for them making it really simple for you. However, you can buy your PDF and EPUB files for a reasonable price if you want to print and distribute elsewhere. Meantime, sell in the Blurb store and test your book until it’s perfect. Then decide if you want them to handle getting your book out there using their fulfillment service and distribution to Amazon and the Ingram distribution network.
Libiro is a beautiful ebook store launched about a year ago by a UK-based indie author and a graphic designer. They only sell EPUB & PDFs by self-published authors and take 20% of net sales. Your book will need to go through a short approval process to make sure it’s of good quality. They aim to be a destination bookstore and so they don’t provide distribution elsewhere.
Gumroad is an online store that lets customers buy from their site and it also provides widgets to embed in your site. You can even allow fans to pre-order your product. As with crowdfunding platforms, buyer’s cards are charged on the release date and content is auto-delivered. For existing products, simply upload and sell your digital files – up to 4 GB – or create an order form for selling physical objects. Integrated Facebook and Twitter encourages sharing with customer networks. You get customer data and 95% royalty minus a 25¢ transaction fee.
Selz, like Gumroad, supplies you with a widget you can embed on your website so customers can buy direct, without leaving your site. Basically it’s an online store in a widget for digital downloads, print book orders and other physical objects. It’s easy to use and very friendly to customers, and a great alternative to PayPal. As with Gumroad, you get customer data and 95% royalty minus a 25¢ transaction fee.
I’ve long used Scribd to share stories and beta-launch books. Basically it’s a document sharing site that lets you sell or give away your stories, excerpts, and ebooks in PDF and document formats. There’s lots of platform-building potential here as commenting, social media and sharing widgets are everywhere. It’s free to join and their take is 20% of sales plus a 25¢ transaction fee.
Screwpulp is a startup company whose ebook store offers you a way to get your new book rated. By giving away the initial copies of the book you get a mention on social media and a star rating. Readers get their first book for free, and when they want another free book from the site, they have to rate the last book they read. The site gives more weight to reviews by reliable, frequent readers. The founders say that this can build your fan base quickly and create buzz around your work. As demand for the book goes up so does the price, in one dollar increments. There’s a 90 day minimum (non-exclusive) commitment and you get 75% royalty and, of course, the author ratings.
Create your EPUB, MOBI and PDF in the cloud with BackTypo, a free book creation tool by Narcissus, an Italian ebook distribution company. It’s dead easy, fast, and it lets you fool around a bit with fonts and colors without getting complicated. Just download your book to distribute as you wish.
Upload your EPUB file and distribute free copies of your books to your fans. They can claim it in EPUB, MOBI or PDF. You can give away freebies with Smashwords, Selz or Gumroad but Instafreebie is just for promotional giveaways. Think platform building, beta readers, advance reader copies, crowdfunding rewards, incentives and thank you’s to social media followers.
All of these quick ways to test, publish and sell your book are non-exclusive, which means you can use them all if you want to. And they are smart ways to publish, too, because they allow you to finesse your book, build platform and your fan base before you commit to big distribution.
Confused about ebook aggregation, print book distribution, and ISBN numbers? Get clarification at Book Aggregators and Distributors: A Short Primer.
About the Author
Carla King is an adventure travel author who has self-published since 1994. With a background in technical writing she was perfectly poised to use the internet as a publishing platform and, in 1995, O’Reilly & Associates invited her to publish a realtime online travelogue from her journey around the USA on a cranky Russian sidecar motorcycle. The American Borders Motorcycle Misadventures is the earliest example of a realtime travel “blog” on the net, though the term hadn’t yet been coined. In the mid-2000’s Carla started teaching authors how to write for the web, build websites and manage their businesses from the road. In 2010 she co-founded Self-Pub Boot Camp, an educational series of books and workshops that gathers experts in every aspect of publishing to help indie authors navigate their publishing journeys. She writes for PBS MediaShift and is a popular presenter at writing conferences and business events, focusing on new tools and innovative ways to publish and market books, magazines and multimedia. Find out more about Carla and the programs she offers at SelfPubBootCamp.com.
Carla King’s Self-Pub Boot Camp gives you access to a team of self-publishing professionals that provide you with the information you need about every aspect of publishing. Download the program to your desktop or your mobile device and get all your self-publishing questions answered, including the questions you didn’t know to ask yet. Lifetime membership in a private group ensures you’ll always be connected and kept up-to-date on new publishing opportunities, marketing tips, and discounts on services from editors to designers, photographers to book promotion professionals. You’ll be inspired, enlightened and empowered, guaranteed!
Did you miss How to Write a Short Book FAST? You can still take the course!
No worries! If you missed the webinar portion of my new mini-course, How to Write a Short Book FAST!, which was held on Oct. 15. You can still register for the online mini-course. The webinar was recorded, and you can watch the replay and then participate in the second part of the course, a Q&A that happens on Oct. 29. If you would like to learn more about the variety of short-book structures you might try, how to write them quickly, how to use them to increase your income, and, in the process, get inspired with numerous ideas for short nonfiction books you could write (and use to become an authorpreneur), click here to learn more and to register. It’s not to late to learn how to write your short book fast!
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