How to self publish

I spent the last week working out how to self publish my Colour Physics FAQ. This is not a post about colour but I thought it would be useful to document my experience; in case I forget šŸ™‚ and in case it helps anyone else. It’s not rocket science but it turned out to be a bit more complicated than I thought.

Perhaps the most important thing about publishing is to have content. You need to have something that at least one other person – though hopefully more, if it’s going to be worth the effort – will want to read. I am lucky – I have something called the Colour Physics FAQ which I have been writing since 1996 and which I know quite a lot of people like to read. Currently it is offline, looking for a new home, so I decided to look at various publishing routes to make it available again, to learn the ropes of self publishing for bigger projects in the future, and also to maybe earn a few squids in the process. Before I start, I should say that my content is in the form of a Microsoft Word document and I am working on a Mac. So that’s my starting point.

I started by looking at e-books. There are various platforms to choose from of course. I did some research and quickly realised Amazon Kindle would be a great place to start. Of course, I also considered Apple but I have read that the process with Apple is a lot more complicated and I can believe this after my experience a year or so ago of launching an app for the iPhone. So let me start by describing how I got my FAQ onto the Amazon Kindle platform.

The first thing you need to do is register on https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin. This is simple and painless. You need to create a new project and enter a name. For me, it was Frequently Asked Questions About Colour Physics. There are options to say whether the book is part of a series or has an edition number. None of this applied so I just left them blank. You need to add a description. This is what people see in the Kindle store. For my project I wrote:

What is colour? How does colour vision work? Why is the sky blue? What is the colour spectrum? The answers to these and many other related questions about colour physics are each provided in a short and easy-to-understand form. Will delight and entertain colour professionals and curious members of the public.

What is additive colour mixing?

Additive colour mixing refers to the mixing of different (coloured) lights and can be easily demonstrated by the superposition of lights (known as primaries) on a white projection screen. When this is done using red, green, and blue primaries, the colours yellow, cyan, and magenta are produced where two of the primaries overlap. Where all three primaries overlap the sensation of white is produced if the spectral distributions and intensities of the three primaries are carefully chosen.

Additivity is not a special property of any particular set of three primaries. The range of colours that can be matched with any three primaries is called the gamut of those primaries.

One often reads that the primaries are pure and cannot be matched from other colours. This is not true. If one uses three primaries such as red, green and blue it is true that none of the primaries can be matched by mixtures of the other two or by mixtures of any other colours in the gamut of the primary system. However, one could select colours outside the gamut of the system which when mixed together could match the primaries.

It turns out that no three real primaries can be chosen so that their gamut includes all possible colours. If the primaries are chosen to be red, green, and blue, however, a very large number of colours can be matched. Red, green, and blue are therefore usually the colours of the primaries in an additive colour reproduction system such as colour television.

You then have to say who the author is, what the publication date is, and, if you have one, what the ISBN number is. I didn’t bother with an ISBN number for the ebook (but more on ISBN numbers later). You also need to say who your target audience is. For this you have to choose from certain categories – I selected Textiles & Polymer and Color Theory. The book addresses colour physics mainly from a textile perspective so the first category seemed a good idea. You then have to verify that you own the publishing rights to the content and upload a cover. (There is an option not to upload a book cover if your main file already contains one.) For my cover I created a png file that I designed myself. You can see it on this page, if you are interested.

The final step in this part is to upload your document. Actually, the Amazon Kindle site recommends that you use WORD to write the document and then convert it to Web Page, Filtered (*HTM & *HTML) format. I didn’t do this and I think it may have been a mistake. I decided to create an epub document and upload this. To create the epub document I downloaded some free somewhere called Calibre. Downloading and using calibre was quite easy. You need to save your WORD file as an rtf file, add it to Calibre, and then convert it to epub. I did this and uploaded the file. It seemed to work just fine. However, I am not entirely convinced I have everything right. In the next week I may have a go at uploading the format recommended by Amazon Kindle. I can’t be sure how my ebook looks because I don’t have a kindle. But I know I have made some mistakes here (something I am prone to because I am too impetuous). I am pretty sure my greek symbols are not displaying properly and I don’t know if I have an active table of contents. Even if I do, the page numbers I used in my automatically created TOCs in WORD are meaningless. The kindle allows the user to change font size and so the page numbers are not relevant at all. Ebooks flow much more fluidly as documents than do, say, physical books. There is a previewer that allows you to get a good idea of how your ebook will look on a Kindle; this is why I don’t think my table of contents are working well. I didn’t use any images in this ebook. There are some issues with using images because many ebook devices do not support colour images yet. I would recommend anyone else to read this help page before deciding how to format their ebook for the Amazon Kindle.

Having uploaded your book you then have to select pricing etc. The first step is to confirm you want Worldwide rights – seemed like a good idea so I selected this option. Then you need to set the price. You can choose a 70% royalty or a 30% royalty. You can only choose the 70% level if your book is less than $10. I chose this option and set the price to $5.99. Prices for UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain were set automatically based on my dollar price (you can over-ride this).

There are a couple of other options. One is to allow Kindle lending – this means that someone who has bought the book can can transfer it to a friend’s kindle for a short time (14 days, I think, during which time they cannot access it themselves). I decided to allow Kindle lending. It would be mean not to. There is also an option for KDP Select. I didn’t fully understand what this was about – I am still confused – and so I did not choose this option.

You also have to give your bank account details to allow you to be paid. You can choose the currency to be paid in. I chose UK pounds for all of the sites that allowed this – the US site did not allow it. You have to be paid in dollars by amazon usa and you need a dollar account for this. I don’t have one so opted to be paid by cheque (they will send me a cheque if my royalties trigger the $100 threshold for a cheque). There is no mention of tax so I don’t know how that is going to work.

Finally you click submit and you have the guys at amazon look over your files and come back and say everything is ok. This takes about 10 hours. The men from del monte said everything was fine and I was live! After that I made a small change to the price (having had second thoughts) and that took another 10 hours (but I think the first submission stayed live whilst the changes took time to take effect), and then I made a small change to the book file itself and that took another 10 hours. Part of the reason I had to do this was I was learning as I went along (that was my aim, of course). For my next project, now that I know all the required steps, I can work out everything that I need to before I start the upload process.

That was it. Not too painful at all and the upload webpage guides you through quite well. I am not entirely satisfied with what I have produced but it is live and you can see the final project here.

I took a day or so off, and then decided I would like to explore making the Colour Physics FAQ available as a physical book. For this I have used CreateSpace. You need to create an account. One of the nice things about this process is that CreateSpace creates an ISBN number for you. In my case it was

ISBN-13: 978-1470101534
ISBN-10: 147010153X

You can provide your own ISBN if you have one but this seemed to be the easiest option for me. Once set though, the ISBN is locked. It cannot be changed. The preferred format to upload your content (which they refer to as interior) is pdf which suits me quite fine. However, they provide WORD templates for the book size you select. I chose 6″ by 9″ (which they said was the most popular option – so why argue?) and downloaded the template. This was a little frustrating as anyone who has ever worked with a WORD template will know. But probably would not have been anywhere near as difficult had I not been simultaneously trying to look after my little boy (three years old). I created the pdf and uploaded it.

You then have to provide a cover. Again, you can do this yourself and upload a pdf file if you wish or you can use their cover design software. I decided to do the latter and within 10 minutes I had produced this:

I then had to set pricing. I chose $11.99 for my book. The royalty per book was automatically calculated as $5.04 from Amazon and $7.44 from CreateSpace eStore. I don’t know why they are different but urge you to choose to buy from CreateSpace eStore if you were thinking of buying it. Distribution to Amazon and CreateSpace eStore is free (essentially because it is print on demand there I think). However, you can pay to have the book available to bookstores, other on-line outlets, and university libraries. It seems to be a one-off cost of $25. I did not explore it. I will be interested in this for more substantial projects I plan in the future. But for now, I am happy with the standard distribution channels.

It seems like the only option to be paid is by cheque (for which there is an $8 fee – of course). I don’t have a dollar account. But there is even worse news. Amazon will deduct 30% tax. I don’t know if the royalties quoted above are before this deduction or after it. Either way, it is apparent I am not going to become a millionaire from this project. I can stop the 30% tax being deducted. But I have to get something called a TIN (US Tax Identification Number) which I do by filling in IRS Form SS-4. I downloaded this form. It looks horrific and when I have completed it (if I ever do) I need to send it by snail mail to the IRS in America and then wait …. I guess this is done once though, that is, for each person rather than for each project. So it probably is worth doing in the long run if I am planning further publications, which I am.

So that’s it. My CreateSpace book is currently in review and I expect it to go live later today.

One thought on “How to self publish

  1. Finally completed the book on CreateSpace. But before it goes on sale you have to order a physical copy of the book for review. It’s not expensive (about $3) but the postage is about $12 and it takes six weeks to arrive. There are quicker, but much more expensive, postal options. So now I have to wait …. for a long time.

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