In Part 1 and Part 2 we learned how to write our story, establish an author brand and publish our book.
Now we just need to get the book into the eager hands of our waiting readers!
Choosing an eBook Distributor
You can find eBook distributors in South Africa, such as Little White Bakkie, eReads South Africa and Publisher.co.za, but a wider audience can be reached by using the international sites listed below, which allow you to publish and distribute your eBooks. If you have decided against hiring a professional eBook formatter, remember when choosing an eBook distributor to look at what options they offer to help you professionally format your eBook.
a. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing: with all the advantages of a big company, KDP now allows an author to directly convert to MOBI, the Amazon only file format. There are also informative and useful KDP forums and communities, with people willing to help a newbie along at no cost. Royalties are fair and regularly paid, although only by cheque if you do not have a USA bank account.
b. Smashwords: Have their own free formatter, and distribute to those international sites that don’t allow international authors, such as Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple’s iBooks and Kobo. But the Smashwords “meatgrinder” is difficult, although the site does offer the facility to do special promotions and offer free book coupons.
c. Draft2Digital: Similar to Smashwords, but much easier to use. Also distribute to Nook, Apple and Kobo, and currently seeking distribution agreements with other major on-line eBook retailers. You can upload an already formatted ePub file, or you can use their free conversion tool for simply formatted books.
d. XinXii: Calling themselves “Europe's leading indie eBook publishing and distribution platform”, XinXii offers distribution to the usual US websites but also to a large number of European and other on-line bookstores. They also offer coupon codes for free review copies.
e. PublishGreen: Offering eBook publishing and/or eBook distribution, they convert PDF’s to EPUBs and offer book cover design, editing and marketing packages. If you look in the side bar, they also offer a download called The Basics of eBook Publishing. There’s upfront costs involved, so review your PublishGreen choices carefully
f. There’s also Google Books, Scribd, BookBaby and many others available. Choose the eBook publisher that is right for you.
Once you’ve chosen your distributor you’ll have to follow specific steps to load your book into their catalogue. Each publisher/distributor has easy-to-follow guidelines dealing with (order may differ per site):
a. Creating an author/publisher profile
b. Adding your book details (such as the book blurb, ISBN and publisher imprint)
c. Uploading/converting your book content
d. Uploading your book’s cover
e. Choosing a category for your book (eg crime fiction)
f. Previewing the finished product
g. Setting pricing
h. Choosing distribution channels
i. Going “live” on sales channels
Marketing your Book
Industry experts say that being a published author consists of 15% writing and publishing and 85% marketing. Developing a marketing strategy is vital, even if that strategy consists of keeping marketing to a minimum. Ultimately, all the marketing in the world won’t sell your book if it’s not something that the readers want to read. Your number one marketing strategy must be to write your books. After that you can decide which of the many on-line marketing tools to use. Here are a few to get you started:
a. Book Trailer:
i. Having a book trailer to promote your book is a quick and effective way to raise awareness.
ii. I make my own book trailers (you can view them here)
iii. You can read how I did it in my article 12 Easy Steps to Making a Book Trailer which was published on The Book Designer.
b. Social Media:
i. You must at least have a “home” where readers who google your name can find out where to buy your books, for example, a website, a blog, a facebook author page, a Google+ page and a Who’s Who profile.
ii. It’s advisable to use the same author brand (separate accounts for your publishing imprint and author name, if you have both) across all the social media sites, so that readers can find you on their own favourite social media site.
iii. I have an account with as many social media sites as possible but I’m most active on Twitter as that suits my personality.
iv. I visit the other social media sites occasionally, but I do make sure that my author details are always up to date.
v. Here’s a great article on 10 Social Media Marketing Musts
c.On-line Book Clubs:
i. Goodreads, BookLikes, Shelfari and LibraryThing offer two levels of benefits.
ii. Firstly, you can connect with real readers, not just other writers. The caution here is that these are reader social media sites and they quickly take offence at authors who use the sites purely for book promotion. So interact with others as a reader, and be interesting enough that they voluntarily decide to follow you as an author.
iii. Secondly, you can use these sites for book giveaways (to get reviews) and for advertising.
iv. As soon as you publish a new book, remember to go to these reader sites and load your book’s information (also called metadata.) A reader is giving up enough time to post a review – they may not go to the trouble if they have to spend even more time finding and loading all the metadata of your book.
d. Book Blog Tours:
i. An efficient way of garnering reviews and getting your book exposed to readers.
ii. Make sure the blog tour you choose has participants who read your type of book.
iii. For a (usually) small fee, book blog tours are offered by FabulousityReads in South Africa and other blog tours overseas
e. Guest Blog Posts:
i. Find blogs that have good followings, study their topics and write an article.
ii. Pitch it to them in a professional manner. If the post is accepted, it’s great exposure. If not, you still have an article for your own blog/website.
iii. This takes time and effort, but you gain writing experience and brand exposure.
iv. Interact with other bloggers and if asked to do guest posts, carefully consider if the blog is in line with your author brand and target audience before accepting the guest spot. Once accepted, honour that commitment and submit the guest post when promised.
f. Offer Free Samples:
i. There are two types of free samples you can offer to promote your books.
ii. Full copies of your books sent for free to people who undertake to review them. Understand that when they accept the book for review it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will either read it or post a review about it.
iii. Distribution sites usually require that you offer a free sample of your book for potential readers to download before buying the whole book.
iv. When you’re loading your eBook file to the distribution site, you will be able to allocate the amount of pages you offer as a free sample.
v. Some sites may have a minimum % of text that must be offered for free. Remember in Part 1 I spoke of backmatter? To make full use of your chance to bag a reader, make sure your sample only includes the text of the book (e.g for a novel the first chapter or for non-fiction a list of contents and some text.
vi. You will also need to decide whether to apply Digital Rights Management (DRM) to your eBooks.
vi. You will also need to decide whether to apply Digital Rights Management (DRM) to your eBooks.
Royalties and Taxes
The royalty % that you earn from the eBook distributor will be based on your price. Each distributor has their own terms so before choosing your distributor, carefully examine the terms and conditions around royalty payments.
If you use an American distributor such as Amazon, Draft2Digital or Smashwords, you’ll have to apply for an ITIN from the Internal Revenue Services. You can read my articles on this topic here to find out more about the process of obtaining an ITIN and submitting a W8-BEN form to avoid paying 30% withholding taxes in the USA.
Are you already registered with SARS (South African Revenue Services) for your day job? If not, once you start earning reasonable royalties, you’ll have to register as a taxpayer with SARS.
Keeping up to Date
The most exciting aspect of being an independent author is the freedom and flexibility this route offers an author.
The most daunting aspect is how quickly everything changes and the overwhelming amount of information and misinformation that’s available to the independent author.
As an independent author, responsible for all aspects of your book, you need to find the balance between these two extremes.
Keep up to date with the independent publishing industry, check your sources to make sure the information is valid and find the point where you can comfortably balance the different elements of successfully publishing an eBook with your everyday life.
Managing your Expectations
Publishing your own book is, as you’ve seen, not for sissies! At every stage of the process – from the writing to the royalties - your dream will, at times, seem impossible. In my Letter to a Young Writer I explain why it’s important to overcome these doubts and write anyway.
The biggest challenge in publishing your own book is keeping your expectations realistic.
If you begin your journey to becoming a published author with the expectation of a lot of hard work to gain even the smallest victory, then anything extra (like becoming a best-seller) is a cause for celebration. If you start off with the expectation of retiring off the proceeds of your first book, there’s a greater chance that you’ll be disappointed.
Ultimately, publishing your own eBook is about finding satisfaction in a personal dream fulfilled. Your eBook may be one-in-a-million-eBooks for sale, but you -- as an author who had the courage to follow your dream and publish your own eBook -- you are a one-in-a-million shining star: you are A Published Author.
You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 1 here
You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 2 here