Self-Publishing Experience

Welcome back to the Creative Life Adventure.

I’ve posted previously about the novel I’ve written and decided to self-publish. For anyone who might be considering this, I thought I would share some of my experience. This is by no means a comprehensive self-publishing guide, just a collection of my own thoughts and experiences that you may find helpful.

For this project, I wanted both a paperback and digital version. I used Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for the ebook. I went with KDP because I published an ebook via this route last year and felt the process was simple and straightforward. KDP also offers a paperback publishing service. However, after browsing through discussion forums and reading about the experiences of others, I chose instead to use CreateSpace print-on-demand (POD) service for the paperback. CreateSpace is a division of Amazon, but I’ve read that they have a better grasp on the POD process than KDP.

Sample pages from the proof copy of the novel Moral Compass by the author
The proof copy of my novel from CreateSpace

There are some steps in common for each version of the book. I still wanted it to be the best product I can make it without allowing the project to drag on forever. I can always revisit a writing project and find ways to improve it. At some point I will think of a scene or a line of dialogue that I wish I had included in the book. But I also wanted my book to see the light of day. (See my previous post on deciding when a work is complete for more thoughts on this.)

Regardless, I lost count of how many times I read through the manuscript. I read for content, spelling, grammar, dialogue, and for style and formatting issues. There were endless decisions to make, from the font style (I chose Garamond) and size, to whether or not you need a table of contents (I did not), to spelling choices such as “grey” vs “gray.”

Reading your own work is not enough, however. I also asked my wife to read it on two separate occasions. My wife is a college English professor, so she can read fiction with a more critical eye than the average reader. Whoever it is, you must have at least one other person read your manuscript, especially if you plan to self-publish. Someone you trust to give you honest feedback and who understands who your target reader is. You may even decide to hire a professional editor. This is your mark on the world, you want to make it count.

Moral Compass book cover by Bradley Bravard
A nearly final version of the cover

Both KDP and CreateSpace offer cover templates. I had a specific cover design in mine so I designed the cover myself. This may or may not prove to be a good idea, but I am happy with the final result. Because I’m a photography enthusiast I already had photo-editing software. If you don’t have the right tools and expertise, it might make more fiscal sense to hire a graphic designer.

Preparing the paperback version via CreateSpace was the most interesting part for me. This is something I had never done before and it’s exciting to end up with a tangible product from your work. Again, there are a lot decisions to make. For example, there are many articles out there about the pros and cons of different ISBN options – CreateSpace offers a free ISBN and this worked fine for my purpose.

Figuring out the trim size of the book took a couple of iterations. The initial size recommended by CreateSpace was 6″ x 9″. Once I received my proof copy (and you MUST order a proof copy if you go this route, trust me), I compared it to softcover books on my own bookshelf. It turned out that I preferred a size of 5.25″ x 8″. Changing the trim size at this stage is not a trivial matter – it requires some reformatting of the manuscript and revising the cover. The final manuscript was uploaded as a PDF file. The cover also had to be uploaded as a PDF and that took some effort.

Stack of paperback books, including 2 different sizes of the novel Moral Compass by the author
Consider the company you want to keep – this is why I changed the trim size from 6″ x 9″ (bottom) to 5.25″ x 8″ (second from bottom)

Receiving the proof copy took less than a week. I have to admit, it was exciting to receive the final product! I think in the early days of POD there were sometimes issues with print quality and paper quality. I’m very happy with the quality of the proof copy from CreateSpace. I did notice that the second proof copy I received, at the smaller trim size, had a slight pinkish tinge to the cover. It’s actually more noticeable in the photo above – in real life it’s barely noticeable. I’ve read that the company has printing presses in different locations and printings can have slight variations depending on where it was actually printed. As for customer service, I contacted CreateSpace customer service once via e-mail. The issue resolved itself but I had a response from them within 24 hours.

I’ve just given an overview of the process. There are a lot of other decisions, such as pricing, distribution channels, etc. If you are self-publishing for the first time, you will want to research each step and make the decision that seems best for you. Don’t rush and consult multiple sources. If you are considering CreateSpace, I can only say that so far I’ve been very happy with their service and the quality of their product.

Next time, my experience with KDP and the digital version of my novel.

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