If you’re looking to publish a book, you’ll need to know how book publishing works, so you can make informed decisions. First you’ll need to know what publishing options are available, so if you aren’t aware of all the options, take a look at my article How to Get a Book Published.
If you take the self-publishing route or try for a hybrid publisher who gives you some control of your book’s publication – like AIA Publishing – you’re what’s known as an independent author. It’s vital that independent authors thoroughly understand the basics of how book publishing works. This is not only for your own edification, but also because dodgy operators in the publishing world take advantage of those without knowledge of—yes, you guessed it—how book publishing works!
If you decide to self-publish, you’ll need to do a lot of research to understand all the details of successfully publishing a book. But no matter which route to publication you take, even if it’s the traditional route (good luck with that), it’s best you know at least the basics of how book publishing works. So read on.
Hopefully you all know that a book must be comprehensively edited and proofread before publication. Only after that should a book proceed to publication.
Unless your book is being published by a mainstream publisher, you’ll also need a professionally designed book cover and a well-written engaging description of your book that will inspire potential readers to read it!
The basics – ebooks and print on demand
Most books are published in both paperback and ebook forms. Ebooks that appear on Amazon have been uploaded to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Ebooks appearing on Nook, Kobo, Apple and so on have either had their files uploaded to ebook distributors like Draft2Digital or Smashwords or they’ve been uploaded directly to the store’s own ebook publishing platform.
Small publishers and self-publishers mostly have their books printed by print-on-demand services (POD). POD printers only print books when someone orders one or more, either through a store, or by order from the publisher. The alternative is offset printing, which prints runs of many thousands of books at a time. Mainstream publishers and old-style vanity publishers use offset printing.
POD has three main benefits: the author doesn’t have to store thousands of books in their garage and then sell and distribute them all themselves, the book store doesn’t have to have them on hand, and there is no wastage. Offset printing wastes huge amounts of resources when unsold books are shredded. The only downside is that POD books are more expensive to print, and so can’t be sold as cheaply. But the difference isn’t huge.
There are two main options for POD publishing: Ingram Spark (Lightning Source’s option for small and self-publishers) and KDP Print (Amazon’s self-publishing print service.) Amazon distributes the books they publish. Ingram (the world’s largest book distributor) distributes Ingram Spark’s (IS) books.
KDP Print books are printed in either the USA or the UK. IS books are printed in Australia, the USA and the UK. Authors who live in Australia or New Zealand need to use IS so they can order books directly from the printer in Melbourne and avoid the international postage they would otherwise have to pay to have it shipped from a KDPP printer.
IS automatically makes books they publish available in all bookstores worldwide. They will be listed in internet stores and can be ordered through physical stores. KDPP books are only available in Amazon stores, unless the publisher selects the expanded distribution option, but that distribution isn’t as wide as Ingram’s.
No matter whether the book is printed by IS or KDPP it won’t automatically appear on a shelf in a physical bookstore. The owner of the store has to have a reason to order it in – usually in response to a local author’s request. They have deals with the major book publishers to stock their books, and they have limited space and hundreds of thousands of books to choose from.
Publishers buy ISBN numbers for their books so they can be found by that number on international data bases. There should be a different ISBN for a print edition and an ebook edition. Amazon doesn’t require an ISBN for an ebook and it will assign one to any print book you publish directly with them through KDPP. IS requires you to purchase your own. They vary in cost depending on how many you buy at a time, and different countries have different providers of ISBNs.
Draft2Digital and Smashwords assign free ISBNs for ebooks loaded to their platforms, but on the data bases they will be listed as the publisher. If you want to be listed as the publisher, you have to buy your own. Of course, publishers and self-publishing service providers handle all this for you.
More on how ebook publishing works
- To publish an ebook, you will need an ebook cover file in jpeg form and an ebook file. The book cover will need to match the dimensions required by Amazon and other publishers. Do not create your own book cover unless you are a graphic artist with the skills required to do a good job. You may think what you create looks fine, but believe me, a few years down the track when you’ve finally realised that you really do need to pay a professional for a cover that will actually sell your book, you’ll look back at your efforts and see just how bad it is.
- Most ereaders use epub files. You upload these files to ebook distributors like Kindle Direct Publishing, Draft2Digital and Smashwords. They take a cut in your royalties.
- Kindle ereaders use mobi files. So if you want to drag an ebook onto a Kindle via a USB cable, you’ll need a mobi file. But you still upload an epub file to KDP. They convert it into a mobi file.
- Draft2Digital, Smashwords and other ebook publishing platforms distribute to all the main ebook stores and sometimes libraries as well. But the best returns and ease of publication come from using KDP (for Kindle books only) and either Draft2Digital or Smashwords (for Nook, Apple, Google books and Kobo).
- Ingram Spark have an ebook service, but it’s not recommended as they take more royalties than the options above.
- If you live in the USA you can also direct publish to Barnes and Noble. If you have a Mac, you can also direct publish to Apple, and anyone can direct publish to Kobo, but the two platforms mentioned above will publish to all these places, and more, for you. They will take a %, of course, but it’s a one-stop shop and it’s simple.
- Publishing an ebook requires the publisher to create an account with the platform(s) of their choice, set up payment details, then upload the book file (.epub) and the cover file (jpeg). You will also be asked for a blurb or description like on the back cover of a book, some keywords to help people search for your book, and the names of the categories in which your book belongs. You’ll also be asked to set a price.
More on how POD book publishing works
No matter which POD printer you use, you will need an interior file and a cover file in pdf form. IS has detailed specifications required for their pdfs, and unless you’re a graphic artist, you’re likely to find it all a bit daunting. It’s steep learning curve if you want to create your own files. And if you don’t use a professional, you’re likely to find that, at least some of the time, they don’t meet the requirements. Then you have to work out what is wrong and do it all again. Often issues can only be solved by stripping the original word file of all its formatting and starting from scratch. There are many book design services around these days, and I think they’re well worth paying for because they’ll save you the headache of trying to learn how to do it and then get it right!
For both services, you’ll need to get a template specifically for your book’s dimensions and page count on which to create the cover. Creating a print book cover is not for the amateur, you really do need to get a professional to do it for you.
After that it’s a matter of setting up an account and learning what you need to know in order to upload the files.
So there you are; that’s how book publishing works.
If self-publishing sounds like too much effort
If you want the benefits of self-publishing, but the learning curve looks too steep, you don’t have to do it all yourself. If you’d like to have your book selected for publishing—thus proving the quality of your book and avoiding the self-publishing stigma—while also having the freedom, control and high royalties of a self-publisher, then consider submitting your book to a hybrid publisher like AIA Publishing. The other alternative is a self-publishing service provider. Both will do everything needed to publish your book or help you to do it yourself.
But be careful who you approach to help you publish. Do your research. Read reviews. The publishing industry is full of sharks just waiting to take chunks out of the fresh meat of new authors looking to publish. Get recommendations from respected sources like The Alliance of Independent Authors. (If you plan to self-publish, then I advise you to join them.) Their partner members have all been vetted for their commitment to ethics. I’m one of them, and so is AIA Publishing.
Most people think that money is the best currency. Personally, I think integrity is. Do you want a publisher or service providers who are most interested in making lots of money for themselves or ones who are most concerned with helping you to publish a book of which you can be proud?
If you like stories with action, romance and a contemplative element, you’ll enjoy my fiction, so take a look in my bookshop before you go.
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Elements of Active Prose image by Rose Newland.