Paths to Publication–Part 1

by Tosh McIntosh

In December, 2017 fellow NIPer Lolly Walter sent me a document titled “Paths to Publication,” with the following request:

“My main reason for writing is that I’m refreshing my memory about book self-publication. I want to make sure I understand the process and am not missing any important information. I’ve made a brief overview outline, and I’d appreciate it if you could take a look if I’m missing anything major or have made an error.”

Here is the document with an outline of what’s needed for self-publication with my comments inserted in red:


  1. WordPress
  2. Wix

Ready copy:

  1. Mobi or Epub file for ebook You don’t have to convert the DOC(x) MS to digital format yourself, but in either case, following the formatting guides is essential. Mobi is Amazon’s proprietary eBook format, Epub is for all others. The decision of whether to offer an Epub and when in relation to publishing the Mobi is a multi-faceted subject, too lengthy to cover here.
  2. Not enough to convert – must format, too
    1. Free conversion tools
    2. Calibre Can also do Epub.
    3. Sigil (for Epub) Probably better for Epub, allows easier revisions.
    4. Formatting notes:
      1. Put at back: table of contents, other works, mailing list sign-up, links to website and social media, polite note requesting reviews, acknowledgements, about the author This doesn’t reflect the most common front and back matter organization. The table of contents is another lengthy topic.
      2. Perhaps put a blurb up front to catch readers coming back to a work after an extended time away from it. I’ve never heard of this.
    5. PDF for print on demand (one for book and one for cover)
      1. com (also says it can format for Epub and Mobi) Don’t know anything about the website. InDesign and Scrivener can also do eBook conversions.
    6. Cover must be: Disagree with the word “must.”
      1. Simple. Readers should be able to tell what kind of book it is, genre, and (a sense of the) tone. (Friedlander 2012)
      2. One striking image
      3. Readable at all sizes
      4. Look good on a low-res mobile device
      5. Look good in B/W, grayscale, low- and high-res, full size, thumbnail
      6. Hire a professional This list of “must” haves is bogus in my opinion.


  1.  Print-on-Demand
    1. Can order books at unit cost + shipping – nice to have for sale at events/speaking engagements Always good to have some available, but any print book bought by you and sold to anyone else won’t be considered an Amazon “Verified Purchase” for review purposes. There are ways to maneuver around this limitation.
    2.  Services
      1. Ingram Spark Another multi-faceted topic.
          1. (about $60 per title as of 2/6/17)
          2. Useful for non-Amazon online retailers Don’t think this is necessarily true. Amazon’s expanded distribution lists CreateSpace produced POD titles in a host of retailers, including libraries if you publish with a CS ISBN.
          3. Requires purchase of ISBN from Bowker (1 @ $125, 10 @ $295)
          4. Provides no editing, production, or design help
      2. CreateSpace
          1. No upfront fees
          2. Useful to distribute books directly to Amazon It’s the only way to sell print editions on Amazon.
          3. You can buy formatting services
      3. Mix of Both
      4. If having your book in brick and mortar stores is a priority – be sure to use Ingram Spark, set the discount at 55%, and allow returns. This is industry standard. (Friedman 2017) Putting an indie-published book in a brick and mortar bookstore is almost impossible.
  2.  E-book
    1. Be in it for the long haul. Sales snowball over time. (Friedman, Start Here: How to Self-Publish Your Book 2015) Sales can also skyrocket at the beginning and then taper way off over time. To sustain requires multiple books.
    2. Direct distribution
      1. Better Profits
      2. More Control
      3. Access to marketing tools (but not always)
      4. Direct access points
        1. Kindle EDP Never heard of EDP. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) isn’t a sales outlet. It’s the publisher for Mobi eBooks sold on Amazon and rendered on Kindles and with Kindle Apps
        2. Apple
        3. Kobo
        4. Nook These last three publish epubs only. Publishing direct with them is a real hassle, different formatting guidelines, passing an ePub check, etc. One file uploaded to Smashwords can be distributed to them. Smashwords takes a cut of each book sold, but sales through any of these outlets will be minimal at best, and they don’t offer any promotional help.
    3. Ebook distribution service
      1. Lower Profits
      2. Centralized Management of titles
      3. Access to Markets unavailable to self-distributors
      4. Tools for Marketing and optimization of sales (maybe)
      5. Services
        1.  Smashwords
            1. Access to libraries
        2. Draft2Digital
        3. Pronoun
    4. Mix of the two


  1. Amazon Page
  2. Website
  3. Social Media – A way to build connections, not sell directly
    1. Twitter
    2. Facebook
    3. Tumblr

Maximizing Sales:

This topic is complicated and requires a multi-layered approach.

  1. One Amazon strategy: varying price between $.99 and $2.99. The former is to generate volume and visibility, the latter to generate profit.
  2. Carefully choose Kindle categories This is a shell game that authors play to improve ranking, along with keywords and manipulating the popularity lists.

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