Self-Publishing FAQs

This list of self-publishing FAQs will be added to periodically. Have a question not answered below? Contact me at casey@ConciergeSelfPublishing.com. We’re dedicated to helping self-publishers make the best decisions possible.

Why does my formatted e-book look different from my formatted print book?

How do I get my books on Barnes & Noble (or Kobo, or iTunes or …)?

Should I do Amazon only or distribute my book more widely?

What is Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)?

What is the difference between Amazon KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace) and IngramSpark?

How do I get my book into physical bookstores?

 

Why does my formatted e-book look different from my formatted print book?

For people who are used to and understand print books, the e-book world can be confusing. Print books look the same whether they are in an independent bookstore or a chain. Print books look the same no matter who is reading them. Authors can determine the size, the font, and a thousand other details for their print book and it’s all the same.

Not so e-books. The author has little or no control over how an e-book looks.

It will definitely NOT look like the print book. There is little point in doing a fancy layout, although distributors, like Draft2Digital, are beginning to add features to their software that will allow you to do a drop capital at the start of a chapter or pretty flourishes between sections.

There are several factors that influence how an ebook looks in a reader’s hands. The reader has control over many of them.

  1. The software used to convert the document from a word-processing document (usually Microsoft Word) into an electronic format used by e-books (.mobi or .epub). Amazon’s software is different from Draft2Digital which is different from iBooks, etc. They create different spacing, different breaks, and have different fonts available.
  2. A reader can access their book on everything from a phone to a desktop.
  3. A reader can change the size of the font.
  4. A reader can change the font.

Basically, e-book readers are more interested in story than presentation.

At Concierge Self-Publishing, we create our e-book input documents (the formatted Word document) as simply as possible. This assures a clean transition through the software and ease of manipulation for the user.

Our formatted e-book will rarely, if ever, look like the print book.

What is Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)?

KDP (kdp.amazon.com) is the self-publishing platform for Amazon e-books. (While they also do print books through that medium, we do not recommend that method at this time.)
In order to publish through KDP, you need to set up an account, including entering payment and tax information, before you can publish.

Once your manuscript and cover are formatted in the required way, you upload them to this platform. You will also need to enter metadata (title, series, description, keywords, categories, price, etc.) and make certain selections about KDP-linked programs, such as Kindle Unlimited (KU).

KDP then formats the book for its various kindle versions and publishes it to your selected Amazon country platforms.

How do I get my books on Barnes & Noble (or Kobo, or iTunes or …)?

Putting your e-book on Amazon KDP only gets your book on Amazon.com and its various country iterations (UK, Canada, etc.). In order to distribute your book more widely, you will also need to put your book up on the other online shopping sites one of two ways.

  1. You can publish your book at each book’s site individually. For example, you can get an account on Kobo (www.kobo.com/publishers) and follow their instructions to upload it there.
  2. You can use one of the two sites that will distribute your book widely to most of the other platforms. (Google Play is the current exception.) We find Draft2Digital (www.draft2digital.com) the easiest to use, but Smashwords (www.smashwords.com) will also perform the same service.

Each has their pros and cons, so review their features before making your final decision.

Should I do Amazon-only publishing or distribute my book more widely?

There is a constant debate among self-publishers about whether pursuing an Amazon-only strategy or distributing more widely is a better financial strategy. Part of this is driven by Amazon as they continually fiddle with their algorithm of paying authors for “pages read.” If an author goes exclusively with Amazon through the KDP Select program, their books are placed in Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service. The author is paid a percentage of pages read. How much depends on Amazon’s current algorithm.

The other concern about an Amazon-only strategy is the unequal footing of the largest online retailer vs. everyone else. Currently, Jeff Bezos is the richest man in modern history.

What is the difference between Amazon KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace) and IngramSpark?

Both Amazon KDP Print and IngramSpark are print on demand publishers. The each publish to multiple platforms. They differ in how they approach print-on-demand publishing and their fees. IngramSpark requires an up-front fee to “publish” a book as well as a percentage of royalties. Many physical bookstores order their books from IngramSpark. We have found the IngramSpark process much less intuitive and more labor intensive than Amazon KDP Print, which is why we prefer the latter platform.

One other caution with IngramSpark is that they will charge for any changes you wish to make to your book, for example, a typo or an update as you uncover new research. Amazon KDP Print does not.

However, there are a limitations to Amazon KDP Print, as well as a few glitches our clients have discovered as the transition between CreateSpace and Amazon KDP Print occurs.

One is the limitation of the types of books Amazon KDP Print will create. For example, they do not create hardbacks.

The second is some issues with payment. Apparently Amazon outsourced the royalties to a third party and there has been some delay in payment as of this writing (January 2019). However, we believe Amazon will straighten this out.

We are waiting for the new system to gel to see how everything Amazon shakes out. Then we will update this FAQ page.

How do I get my book into physical bookstores?

Physical bookstores want a discount off the price of a book of about 50 percent. So if your book is listed at $12, they want to buy it for $6. Many independent bookstores will allow you to hand sell your book to them. In that case, you get a stack from your printer or print-on-demand (POD) publisher at cost, then resell them to the independent bookstores. They will resell them at a signing or shelve them for resale, depending on the manager of the bookstore and its policies. (We’ll get to chain stores, like Barnes & Noble, in a minute.)

Alternatively, bookstores can by books from book catalogs such as the Ingram catalog and Baker and Tayler (B&T). When publishing with CreateSpace, you can check the box that allows CreateSpace to (eventually) get your book in these catalogs. However, after everyone in the chain takes their discounts, the physical bookstore is only able to get a discount of about 25 percent, which isn’t acceptable. To avoid this limited discount, publishers need to publish directly with LightningSource or IngramSpark. (This article has an excellent, detailed layout of exactly how this all works: http://www.newselfpublishing.com/CreateSpaceEDC.html.)

The final fly in the ointment is the issue of returns. It should come as no surprise that bookstores don’t sell all the books they order. They have limited shelf space. So what happens when boxes of new releases come in? They send the old, unsold books back to the place they got them for a reimbursement. They want what they paid for the book, no matter how bad a condition it is in.
They can only do that if the printer says the book is “returnable.” CreateSpace doesn’t take returns. Ingramspark and LightningSource will allow you to mark a book “returnable.” If the returns happen, the refund to the bookstore, as well as shipping and handling costs, will be charged to you. (Here is an explanation of how IngramSpark handles returns: https://help.ingramspark.com/hc/en-us/articles/209072526-How-Returns-Work)

Bottom line? Listing a book with IngramSpark or LightningSource and marking it as returnable will give you a better chance (not a guarantee) of getting into chain bookstores and some independents. However, if your books don’t sell, you take the financial hit of the return. Only you can decide if the risk is worth the opportunity.