In Part Three, I talked about finally deciding to publish The Field. Here, I’ll discuss some of the technical aspects of self-publishing.
There is a lot of other extra information that is important to have on hand as you go through the process: a short description of your book, a long description of your book, and metadata keywords.
They use this information on websites like Amazon, Apple Books, and Barnes & Noble. Some use the short version of your novel’s description; others use the longer version. Think of either as the blurb you would want on the back of your novel if it were a hardcover or paperback.
Metadata are keywords that Amazon and other sites use to categorize your novel based on its content. That way, people looking for books about the topic you have written about will likely have it pop up when they search. Once Book Baby has these three things, they tweak them to make them for better search optimization on the various sites.
In its most basic terms, metadata is data about data. A novel is filled with data, and Amazon and other sites use data (keywords) based on the data in the novel to categorize your book and ensure that when specific terms or phrases are searched, your novel pops up.
If you wish to change these in the future for your novel, you can. It takes about 24 hours for the changes to occur on Amazon.
Now, on to pricing. Since it was my first novel, I didn’t want to charge a crazy amount, but I also wanted to make sure that I could make some money off each sale. I decided on the lowest amount that gets you a maximum return on Amazon: $2.99. At this price, I get 70% of the sale, and Amazon gets 30%. Any lower, and I get 35%. $2.99 seemed like a fair price since it is affordable for an eBook, and my main goal was to get people to download and read the book.
As I waited for the first proofs of my eBook, I knew I had to create a platform for people to learn about my book, so I created a website using www.wordpress.com. I started with a pretty basic and bland theme and format but eventually took the time to make it my own. I opted for the business website option, which costs a bit more but gives you more freedom and options with your design.
Back to the eBook, the nice thing about Book Baby (and I’m sure other self-publishing sites do it, too) is that they constantly email you to let you know the progress of your book. You can also check the status of your project on their website as well. I was very excited to get the email announcing that my proofs were ready for me to view. I will confess that when I opened the file for the first time and started to go through the pages, I jumped up and down (I really did this, I’m not lying). It was exciting to finally see what I had written converted into a format for others to read and enjoy on their tablets or phones.
That part completed and approved, I had to wait for the book’s official release on Amazon and other sites to move on to the next step: reviews.
Readers’ Favorite (https://readersfavorite.com) is a site that works with Book Baby and allows you to do many helpful things with your book. You can sign up for their Press Release program, you can participate in their Book Exchange Program, and have your book reviewed. Now, you have to pay for the reviews, but I found this was a helpful way to get new eyes on my book and to get some legitimate reviews to use on my Amazon page and website. I paid for three reviews, having no clue what I would get.
About a week later, I got all three reviews back, and they were all very positive, five-star reviews! But, being a skeptic about things, I did some digging to find other reviews written by these particular reviewers, and they weren’t just handing out five-star reviews across the board. That added to the legitimacy of their reviews, which was a good thing!
The Field by Ian Dawson was officially launched as an eBook on July 4, 2018, and I was pretty excited. But how could I get others to buy the book besides my family, friends, and co-workers? In a word: Publicity.
With Book Baby, you can sign up for a marketing consultation with Smith Publicity, which is exactly what I did. Having a Young Adult novel to sell is great, but you need to get people – especially young people – interested and buying the book. I had two one-hour consultations, and I learned a whole heck of a lot! A few of the key takeaways were:
- You need to have a social media presence;
- You need to have an Author Photo;
- You should have hard copies of your book to send out for potential reviews and interviews.
Well, guess what? I didn’t have any of these! Like I said in the first post of this series, I had run away from social media in 2016, so I had no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, none of it (I didn’t even have a dating profile up!). I knew it was time to extricate myself from the wilderness and rejoin the masses on social media.
I also had no current pics of myself to use for my website or profiles. Luckily, I knew a co-worker who was a photographer, and I asked him if he could take some photos of me for my Author Photo. We took a whole bunch of photos, and by a vote of my co-workers, we landed on my official Author Photo.
The biggest hurdle was the lack of paperback books to send out. I knew it was a good idea for many reasons: a lot of kids don’t have access to tablets and phones 24/7; many of my co-workers wanted paperbacks instead of the eBook; a lot of my relatives didn’t have tablets or phones to read the book on and would prefer a hard copy. Hm. There seemed to be a demand for paperbacks, something I had not realized.
With the paperback, I set up a call with one of the Book Baby people to go through all the details of making a paperback a reality. We hashed through book size, page count, page color, whether I would need a cover or provide my own, and many other questions.
After the call, I emailed Steven Novak, and he got to work on the paperback’s cover. I think it turned out great!
I went through the familiar steps on Book Baby’s website, but the nice thing was since it was just a new version of the same book, I didn’t have to deal with as much technical stuff. When I got the proofs for the paperback, I jumped up and down even higher this time. They looked AMAZING! I had been unsure of the whole process before I got the proofs, but the final product was fantastic!
All the pieces were in place. I had ordered some copies and was awaiting their arrival. I got an email from Book Baby that the four 22-pound boxes of books had been shipped. I was glad, for the sake of not getting a hernia, that they were in four separate boxes.
Then on Friday, September 7, 2018, the boxes arrived. I hefted them into the apartment and opened the first box. From inside the box, staring back at me, was my novel, The Field by Ian Dawson. It was a profound moment. I took the top copy out and flipped through it.
I was officially a published author.
It had been fifteen years since my abduction that had led to the writing of The Field, and now I had a completed eBook and paperback to show to the world.
In Part Five, I’ll wrap things up and talk about what I learned from the experience and what I’ll do differently in the future.