Frequently Asked Questions:
People ask me questions about self-publishing all the time. I thought I would keep a running list of my answers to the most frequently asked questions. My answers are purely my own opinion, so take it or leave it. My intention here is to help answer questions you might have about the process, so if you have a question about self-publishing that you think I might be able to answer, please feel free to contact me through my blog or website.
Do I need my own publishing company in order to self-publish?
No. Having your own company is not a requirement. I personally started my own LLC so that I could use my publishing company’s name as my publisher on my books. I felt that it would give my books a slightly more professional look. Also, creating my own publishing company was a decision I made with my accountant. You need to look at your own situation and goals and make the decision about whether starting your own publishing company is right for you.
Should I purchase the Copyright to my novel?
Only you can answer this question. An author automatically owns the copyright to his/her work when they write it. Additional copyright protection is not necessary in order to self-publish, but only you can decide whether that extra expense is important to you. I am not a legal advisor, so of course, this is just my opinion, but I feel that the automatic copyright is sufficient for my needs.
Do I need an ISBN for my book?
The two largest ebook stores do not require an ISBN. However, if you plan to publish in the Apple store or the Sony store, you will have to have an ISBN. Smashwords will provide those ISBN’s for free if you list them as your publisher, or you can purchase an ISBN from them for $10. Another option is to buy your own ISBN numbers through the Library of Congress.
Should I enable DRM (digital rights management) encryption on my ebooks?
This is an option you will be given when you upload to the various ebook stores. Kindle says this about DRM:
DRM (Digital Rights Management) is intended to inhibit unauthorized distribution of the Kindle file of your book. Some authors want to encourage readers to share their work, and choose not to have DRM applied to their book. If you choose DRM, customers will still be able to lend the book to another user for a short period, and can also purchase the book as a gift for another user from the Kindle store.
Important: Once you publish your book, you cannot change its DRM setting.
If you want to limit the sharing of your book, you might want to enable drm on your ebook. Personally, I believe that DRM is more of a pain for people who buy your book legally than it is a deterrent for people who want to obtain your book illegally. That’s why I choose not to enable DRM on my ebooks. Also, I don’t get bothered when my books show up at a torrent site or when people share my books with their friends. Word of mouth is very powerful, so even if one person got my book for free, there’s a good chance that if they liked it, they will tell other people about it. Many authors completely disagree with me on that, and that’s okay. It’s your career. Your decision. This is just another example of how self-publishing gives you more control over your own career.
How can I find bloggers and sites to review my book?
There are a few blog searches out there, but I found them extremely time consuming. When I started looking for book bloggers and reviewers who would be willing to review self-published ebooks, I went for a simpler approach. I chose a few ebooks in my genre that were self-published, then googled for them along with the word “review”. For example, one of my favorite YA self-published ebooks is Susan Bischoff’s Hush Money. I googled for “Susan Bischoff Hush Money Review” and a list of links came up. Many were book bloggers and review sites who had reviewed her books. I took the time to look through these blogs to decide if my book might be a good fit for their site, then followed the instructions on their website for submitting a review.
As a side note, remember to always be nice to book bloggers! They can make a huge impact in your sales numbers. Think of them as a digital word-of-mouth hub. It’s polite to follow their blog, leave comments if you like some of their reviews, and always be nice and professional when emailing them, even if (horror!) they did not like your book.
Why did you price your first book at $0.99?
The young adult genre is packed with talented Indie authors who have published their books at $0.99. Due to the early adoption and dynamic nature of this particular market, readers in this genre have gotten used to looking for new authors at this low price point. I felt that it was incredibly important to establish a name for myself early, even if it meant receiving a lower royalty rate on my first few books. A $0.99 ebook is an impulse buy. It doesn’t take much convincing to get a reader to pay a dollar for a book that looks interesting. I wanted my first few books to be an easy decision for readers, introducing them to my work with little risk on their part.
Self-publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. I am building a career for myself by building a readership and a fanbase. Research your genre to see what other Indie authors are charging for their books. This might give you a good idea of how much readers in that genre expect to pay for a new Indie author’s book.
How will people find my books?
Magic! Well, sort of. It’s amazing how little marketing it takes to become a successful Indie author. Of course, promotion can only help. You know that part in Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner hears the voice saying, “If you build it, they will come.”? If you write a great book, readers will find you.
A few ways to help expedite the process are to make sure you have: 1) A great book cover 2)An interesting title 3) A “hook” in your book’s description 4) Another book 5) And another book after that. Being active on the web helps a lot too. Twitter, facebook, goodreads, anywhere you can connect with fans is good. Did you know that Amazon and Barnes & Noble have forums for their ereader users? Readers in these forums often ASK Indie authors to post about their books. Free advertising! You can also participate in discussions on books you like to read. People will begin to see your name and your book in your signature, which is also a type of free advertising.
There are a million ways to connect with readers and promote your books online without spending a dime. However, in my opinion, the single most guaranteed way to build a successful career as an Indie author is by writing more books. The more quality books you have on your virtual bookshelves, the more successful you will be.
Why is everyone else selling more ebooks than I am?
This is not the healthiest question in the world. It is easy to become obsessed with the success of other authors around you, but sometimes envy can be crippling. There will always be someone selling more. Someone will always have a higher Amazon sales rank (unless, of course, you’re number 1 in the Kindle store. In which case, NO ONE is selling more ebooks than you). Take a step back. Study what other authors are doing and try to learn from it.
Are they putting out six books a year? Do they already have a large backlist of books? Are their covers bright or eye-catching? What makes them catch your attention? Do they use a cover model that is striking in some way? What do their book descriptions look like? Be as objective as possible when you look at other authors and be careful not to get discouraged if your sales are not as high as someone else. Learn what you can from successful authors and be willing to experiment with your own price, book covers, and descriptions. Most importantly – keep writing.