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Editors: 3 questions to help you find the right one

Okay, so you’ve written your masterpiece, your 80K-word novel, your 40K novella, or something in between. It’s all shiny and pretty and you need to find an editor to make it even shinier. We talked a little bit about the different types of edits in the How Much Does it Cost post, so if you need a quick refresher on developmental edits, line edits and proofreading, check out that post. The question now is, how do I find an editor? Do I really need one?

 

Finding an Editor

One of the main reasons people tend to look down on self-published works is the quality of the writing. In the early days of self-publishing on Amazon, anyone could just put up their first draft, slap on a cover and hey, published! Then the entrepreneurial writers came along and made a business out of it, producing works polished enough to compete with trade publishing. However, the bad name still lingers—and you still do see some sloppy first drafts up for sale.

A traditionally published book is often pared down and polished until it shines. Sometimes, honestly, a self-pubbed book is sent out when it’s just merely gleaming. That’s often a big difference to readers—and yet, it’s an easy mistake to avoid. As we said in our very first post:

“Self-publishing isn’t about doing away with the gatekeepers. It’s about making yourself your own gatekeeper. Releasing a book that isn’t quite ready or good enough will harm your career as you’ll put off any potential readers. Before you self-publish, please be sure that your book is the best that it can be, not according to your own standards, but in accordance with worldwide publishing standards.”

Actually, let’s amend that: before you send your work ANYWHERE, make sure your work is the best that it can be. Because if it’s not that great, the agent/publisher isn’t going to take you on either.

So with all the freelance editors out there, how are you going to find the right one for you? Here are three questions to ask that will help you pick the right one.

 

Editors: 3 Questions to help you find the right one

1. What are your weaknesses?

It’s not nice to talk about weaknesses, but sometimes you need to. If you’re great at story plots but not so great at grammar, you’re better off looking for someone who’s more of a line editor. If your language skills are awesome but your plot and story development are meh, you should be looking for an editor whose strengths are in developmental edits.

Ultimately, every writer needs both, but when you’re hiring an editor, you should really concentrate on finding someone who can help shore up your weaknesses.

 

2. Does the editor understand your vision?

Everyone has agendas. Even you. You probably have a specific vision for your story and what you’re trying to achieve with it. And sometimes the vision your editor has for your story is going to be… different.

The most important thing about a good editor is that they understand what you are trying to do as a writer and then work with you to achieve that through your work. So if you’re aiming to write The Great Malaysian Novel using Malaysian English, you’re not going to work very well with an editor who insists on italicising every local term or correcting everything according to the Queen’s English.

 

3. Do you get along with the editor?

This doesn’t really have anything to do with your writing, your writing style, or your work. It’s to do with personality. You could have found a really great editor with really great pointers on how to improve your work, but if everything they say or the way they say it makes you bristle with annoyance, your partnership isn’t going to last very long. Either you’ll get upset, or they’ll get upset, and then one of you will up and leave.

 

So like that how?

What you need to do (and I’m sure the editor you’re scouting will want too) is a test edit. This could be a page or a chapter of your work, something relatively short and not time-consuming. This will give the editor a feel of your work and what you’re trying to achieve. You’ll also get a taste of how the editor works and what kind of comments they give (and how they give it).

From there, both of you can evaluate if your partnership will be mutually beneficial (and you wouldn’t mind paying money for their services) or if you should continue looking for someone else.

Remember that the editing process is a partnership. Not everything your editor says is correct, and not everything you want to do actually works. Finding the right editor is like finding the right dance partner: you need to trust each other to take the lead at different points in the process.

 


 

If you’re looking for an editor, consider Teaspoon Publishing’s Services. We’re nice, we don’t bite, and we specialise in fiction. 🙂

Organising an online book launch

In recent months, we’ve personally been getting several queries about book blog tours and online book launches. After typing up email summaries several times, we’ve decided to just compile all those emails into one post about organising an online book launch!

organising online book launches

There are several ways to do an online book tour, but most of them have to do with bloggers. Bloggers are your friends, if you still know anyone who blogs (you’ll probably find some on KLBAC).

Organising an online book tour/launch is as easy as asking all your family, friends, and random strangers on the internet to host you during launch week (or any random dates you think up). It’s also as difficult as planning launch materials, coordinating dates with the bloggers, or maybe hosting a live Facebook event. There’s a lot of coordinating and networking to do, so it may be best to leave it in the hands of the professionals!

If you’re considering an online book launch, here are several standard posts to consider.

The Cover Reveal

The cover reveal is like a pre-release drip, where you share the cover of the upcoming book plus basic details. This post works best if there are existing fans who are excited about the series, and if there is an ability to pre-order the book. At the bare minimum, post materials should include:

  1. the shiny new book cover (duh!),
  2. the book blurb/description,
  3. pre-order links (you gotta channel that excitement somewhere), and
  4. pre-order sales or promotional announcements (e.g. discounted price for pre-orders, exclusive goodies, additional bonus material, previews, etc)

The Launch Post

Usually posted on the day the book goes on sale, this is a general announcement to say hey the book is now out! Post materials usually include the following:

  1. the book cover,
  2. the book blurb/description,
  3. buy links,
  4. launch promo/sales announcements, if any (e.g if the launch price is only valid for a period before it goes up, discounts on earlier books, etc),
  5. author bio,
  6. author picture,
  7. tour graphics/banner, if any (mainly because pictures make it easier to share & garner interest), and
  8. an excerpt or preview (not too long, preferably an exciting hook from the book).

A Review Post

Reviews would usually be posted on or about the launch week/month. If they’re posted before the launch, resharing these posts will help you build more organic buzz as this is what others are saying about the book instead of you just announcing BUY MY BOOK. Reviews have the most impact 2 weeks before (if you take pre-orders) and 6 weeks after the actual release date (crunch time for a new release).

Review posts are slightly trickier because you need to send a review copy (digital or otherwise) to the reviewer hopefully one to two months before the launch so that they have the time to read and write the review. It’s also tricky because there’s always the chance that the reviewer might not like the book! If you can, politely request the reviewer to also post their reviews to Amazon & Goodreads when your book is available.

Post materials should include:

  1. a review copy to be sent to the reviewer/blogger 1 – 2 months before launch (they shouldn’t be sharing this with anyone else), and
  2. Everything from the launch post (the blogger can then decide what they want to add to the post)

Guest Posts

A guest post is usually an opportunity for you to talk about your writing and/or your book. Some bloggers have a theme for their blog, others keep it open to the authors. If a blogger offers/agrees to host you, check with them if they have a specific topic in mind and if they have word count limits. Post materials would generally include:

  1. A guest post of about 500 – 800 words, and
  2. Everything from the launch post (the blogger can then decide what they want to add to the post)

Author/Character Interviews

This is just a bit of fun to get to know the author better. You can predraft a generic interview with FAQ-type things, but most bloggers would have their own questions to ask the author. Just make sure you have everything from the launch post on hand (especially your book cover and buy links)!

Facebook Live Events

Got a Facebook Page? Schedule a launch event where you invite all the fans on your page, and your newsletter, and random Facebook strangers to listen to you ramble about your book! Some launches use the live facebook video (which can be a scary thing) whilst others use frequent posts concentrated around a few hours on the web. This is a great way to interact with fans (and friends), give out some freebies, or con them into buying your book.

 

Book launches and blog tours can be exciting things… or they can be super dead. It really depends on who’s on your team and who’s excited enough to share your books (and about you) on social media! It’s also really cheap to organise if you’ve already organised your materials, can work out some graphics on Canva, and can work out a simple spreadsheet to coordinate who’s posting what when. Make sure you also share their posts on YOUR social media!

 

Publishing on Smashwords: Meatgrinder and other functions

In our second instalment on publishing on Smashwords, let’s get to through the icky stuff first: The Meatgrinder. Smashwords has a free style guide you can download here, where founder Mark Coker gives you several ways to format your book, but by far the easiest and the most effective way is what he calls the Nuclear Method.

Meatgrinder and other Smashwords functions

Here are the quick steps to formatting for Meatgrinder:

  1. Copy all your text and paste into notepad.
  2. Open a new Word document.
  3. Cut everything from notepad and paste into the new word doc. This ensures that there’s no weird formatting left over from whatever Word did in your last document.
  4. Highlight all your text and add in your first paragraph indent. DO NOT TAB FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. If you’re not sure what that means, it should look like that bit circled in Word.Indenting a paragraph
  5. Go through your text and
    • add all your italics/bold/underline (if any) back into the text. This extra step, while annoying, also helps you proofread your book one last time. And because you’re not focusing on the words per se, it helps you pick out random typos that you’ve probably glossed over because you’ve read it too many times.
    • Add in page breaks after each chapter.
  6. Format your chapter titles and save them as bookmarks.
  7. Add in your front matter. We have a standard template front matter that we just paste in and change details.
  8. Create your table of contents (“TOC”). This is the most annoying part because, to make sure it works right, you have to do a manual one. DO NOT ON ANY ACCOUNT USE WORD’S AUTO TOC. You’re just giving yourself more trouble. What you do is list down all your chapter titles. Remember the bookmarks you saved in #6? Yeah, now you link those bookmarks here.Sample Table of Contents and bookmarks
  9. Add your end matter. Again, create a standard template that you can paste in and change details. This usually includes other books you’ve written, an about you, and a nice “please review” request!

So this means I won’t get any Meatgrinder errors?

The most frequent cause of errors, by far, is caused by hyperlinks, because Word likes to add them in randomly. We know. It has caused us pain many many many times.

This is what it looks like:

Random hidden bookmarks

These bookmarks tend to pop up like ghosts. Like you could look at it in one version and it appears to be clean, but if you deselect and then select hidden bookmarks, they suddenly jump out at you. You just have to patiently delete them one by one, because there is no “delete all button.”

What you want is a clean file like the picture below, or the one under #8, which only shows the bookmarks you’ve created and which are linked to your TOC.

Clean bookmarks look like this

The second most frequent culprit in Meatgrinder errors is your line spacing. If you cut and paste your text to a new Word doc, this usually won’t cause any troubles. But just to be sure, your line spacing should show “0” or “Single” everywhere otherwise your epub might have some weird spacing issues.

Clean spacing

Still too difficult? We’re more than happy to format this for you!

Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s head to the cool stuff about Smashwords!

Global Pricing

If you’re worried about how fluctuations in USD will affect the price of your book, Smashwords gives you a global price lock to fix the prices in foreign currency.

Global pricing for Smashwords

Just go to “global pricing” on your dashboard, and then “Add lock”.

Series Manager

Got a series? No worries. Match them all here. Way better than having to email back and forth with Amazon to get it done.

 

Premium Distribution

One of the things that Smashwords has going for it is that it is both a retailer AND a distributor/aggregator. If you want to check (or control) where your book is being sold, head to the channel manager.

Once you’re approved for the Premium Catalog, you can head over to the Channel Manager to decide where you want Smashwords to distribute your ebook to.

We usually just opt out of shipping to Amazon because there are some weird conditions as to when Smashwords will actually be able to distribute to them (after a thousand copies sold or something?). It’s also easier to just upload directly on Amazon, especially with Kindle Create.

Coupons!

This is by far the one feature we wish every other platform would also offer. Want to give someone a discount? Or have a sale specifically for a small group of people? Smashwords lets you create discount coupon codes that you can limit or privately distribute instead of having a store-wide sale for the whole world.

 

What’s your experience with Smashwords been like?

Did you have a terrible time? Do you love the platform? Do you have any tips or queries? Let us know!

Publishing on Smashwords: A Step-by-Step Guide

Publishing on Smashwords: A Step-by-Step GuideSmashwords was launched in 2008, and whilst it isn’t quite as big as Amazon or the “big 5“, it’s still a pretty established e-book retailer. The main thing that goes for it is the fact that it is both a retailer and an aggregator. Meaning, once you upload your book onto the site, it can help you distribute your ebook to almost all the top five retailers (except Amazon) as well as other e-book sites and libraries.

One of the main reasons Smashwords didn’t take off as much as it could have was because of their conversion system called the Meatgrinder. To get your ebook on Smashwords in the past, you needed to upload a formatted Word doc and get it processed through the dreaded Meatgrinder for conversion into the various supported file types, like epub and mobi (Kindle). Because the Meatgrinder was so finicky, many people just gave up after receiving multiple error messages. That bad will has kind of followed it since, although the Meatgrinder has been simplified quite a lot and it’s much easier to use. You can also directly upload an epub file now, so that’s a bigger plus.

Still, if you want to really know what formatting an ebook is about, Smashwords is the way to know the ins and outs, with some hair pulling along the way. But at least after that, you’ll be like eh, every other formatting is easy peasy. We’ll talk about that in the next post, though.

First, we’ll walk you through the Smashwords dashboard and how to upload your book.

The Smashwords Dashboard

Smashwords dashboard

There’s a lot to see here, but we’ll mainly be looking at “Publish” and Metadata Management in this post.

Clicking Publish will bring you to the uploading page, but first:

Publish Your Book

The rest of the process is pretty similar to how you would publish on Amazon or E-Sentral.

Basic Book Information

1. Title and Release Date

Smashwords: Title and Release Date

The good part of making your book a preorder is that you’ll be able to streamline the release of your book across all platforms, taking into account Smashwords’ review process (usually 1 to 2 days) and the distribution process (usually between 3 to 5 business days). Readers can preorder the book as and when it’s distributed. However, because Smashwords is weird, the site itself doesn’t actually let readers preorder. It just creates the book page and tells you when the release date will be.

2. Book Synopsis/Description

Smashwords requires a short description but also lets you put in a longer one for their site.

To write one, think about the books you’ve read and what made you decide to read it. Oftentimes, the cover attracts our attention, but it’s the description of the story that sells it to us.

The main points to consider are:

  • what is this book about?
  • who is it for/who will like it?

3. Language

I love the Commonwealth/International option because not everyone writes like the Brits. Or like the Americans either. At any rate, Smashwords accepts a whole range of languages, including Chinese!

Money stuff

4. Pricing

One good thing about Smashwords (we think many good things about Smashwords) is that they offer a very comprehensive breakdown of your expected earnings so that you don’t get caught unawares. In this case, this “billing fee” projected is the Paypal charge per shopping cart, which will fluctuate depending on how many books a reader purchases at the same time. Take note that this pricing is before any withholding tax. Before Smashwords releases your earnings to you, they’ll still handover the 30% US Withholding tax, so you’ll only get 70% of that $0.56 earnings per book.

The “Let my readers determine the price” option sounds super cool but makes your book ineligible for distribution to most other platforms, so use with caution.

5. Sampling

This is the standard across all platforms.

Categorisation


Smashwords allows you to choose up to two categories.


Smashwords has an adult filter that users can turn off/on so that erotica will not be displayed to minors and to users who do not want to read that kind of content.

Similar to “keywords” on Amazon KDP, tags are search terms that relate to your book! Start typing in your keywords (they can be phrases) and you’ll find lists of common terms that others on the site are using. You’ll also find a lot of these terms have been misspelt.

The Actual Book

6. Book formats

Who uses PalmDoc and LRF nowadays? Do those devices even still work? But hey, if it allows older readers to read your book, why not? One thing to note about Smashwords is that once someone purchases a book, they can download it in multiple formats, including PDF, AND allows for reading online (html version) so it’s not the safest platform for anti-piracy. But if you link that with their old-school very un-snazzy website, you kind of realise that they’re pretty much trying to cater to older users of the internet who maybe don’t want to upgrade or can’t be bothered to get new fancy tech anymore.

7. Book Cover

Oh finally! Smashwords has a 1400 pixels width minimum, so make sure you take that into account. They also need the Author Name to match your metadata (the name you’re publishing under). Not doing this will increase your chances of your book being rejected during the manual review.

8. Your Manuscript

Ah, the formatted manuscript. As mentioned, they need a formatted .doc file (not even .docx!) or an epub. Note that the epub comes with a lot of caveats. But we’ll get to the actual formatting of the manuscript in our next post, because frankly, this one is too long already.

Publish!

Agree to all the legal stuff and publish!

As a publisher account, we can create “ghost accounts” for people we publish for, which is how we set up your Smashwords account and book for you before we transfer it over to your account. As an individual user, you won’t have this option.

And then you wait…

First, for the automated conversion.

Yay number 1: Book page is up. This page will load automatically once it’s done. 

Yay number 2: Autovetter and epub check passed! This will appear in your email.

Now you can HEAVE A SIGH OF RELIEF. 90% of the time, if you pass the autovetter and epub check, there won’t be any problems with your file during the manual review.

ISBN

You’ll be getting a few emails now, one of which will tell you that you haven’t got an ISBN! You’ll be able to fix this in the ISBN Manager under Metadata Management.

You can get your own ISBN from PNM, or you can get one from Smashwords. Either way, you’ll see that once you click +Assign an ISBN.


Once all that is done, you should see your book on your dashboard:

The Pending Review refers to the manual review as to whether the book can be shipped out to the “Premium Catalog” (i.e. other retailers and libraries. If you do an immediate release, your book will already be available on the Smashwords site. As mentioned before, it usually takes one to two days for approval, and then three to five business days for distribution.

Either way, you’ll have a pretty book page you can share now.

Note that this is what it looks like when you’re logged in. No one else can see all the information about sales and downloads, nor will they be able to download the full versions unless they’ve purchased the book. They will be able to get the first 20% sample though, so that they can check out if they want to buy it.

There’s a bunch more cool stuff to talk about Smashwords, but we’ll save that for another time. This includes global pricing and coupons!

Until next time.

I’ve written a novel… now what?

The question most people ask after NaNoWriMo is: Now What? Sometimes that question means ‘what do I do with this 50K novel I’ve written?’ Sometimes it’s ‘I didn’t finish my novel, what do I do now?’

The answer to both is: keep writing.

I've written a novel... now what?

Just because you’ve finished one month of writing doesn’t mean that you just stop there. Because whilst the point of NaNoWriMo is to have written a novel, if you’re serious about writing, you can’t just only write for one month of the year. You’ve got to make it consistent—and that’s the real point.

You can think of it this way:

Isi Tersurat: write 50K in a month… win!

Isi Tersirat: create a writing schedule (daily/weekly/monthly) that works for you so that you’re on track to be a serious full-time novelist… win! Remember what we said in this post?

But practically…

  • If you haven’t finished your novel yet (whether or not you hit 50K), keep going. You’ve already started your novel, you might as well finish it.
  • If you’ve already finished your novel (whether or not it was 50K), now’s the time to take a step back and look at it with a critical editing eye.

The Easy Yes/No Questions:

  1. Does the story have a solid beginning, middle and ending?
  2. Does the plot make sense?
  3. Is this story worth telling/something you really want to share?
  4. Are you satisfied with it as it stands?

If you answered yes to all four, then you can start working on editing and polishing it into something for others to see.

If you answered no to ANY of the above, then it’s time for rewrites!

What’s rewriting?

Rewriting is when you pull your novel to pieces and then put it together again to make it better.

You’re addressing all the questions above, making sure that your story has a good plot that makes sense and is complete in itself. It may also mean you need to restructure the whole thing if you write anything like we do, haphazardly jumping from scene to scene, up and down the timeline.

When you’ve finally come to the point where you’re satisfied with your story, or where you don’t know how else you can make it better, that’s when you workshop it or bring it to a critique group.

And will be the next post.

For now, here’s a short article on rewriting:

Creating an EPUB via Scrivener

One of the downsides of publishing on E-Sentral and Google Play is the fact that you have to create and upload your own epub file. Other platforms, including Amazon and Smashwords, allow you to upload a Word file (.doc or .docx) and does the conversion for you.

What’s an epub?

EPUB is an e-book file format which is used on most platforms, including smartphones, tablets, computers and e-readers. It’s HTML based so even if you don’t have a specific e-reader on your computer, you should be able to open it in most browsers.

How do I create an epub?

We don’t know the specifics of how exactly you’d code an epub, but here’s the easy version using Scrivener.

Organise your chapters into folders.

Create Folders

Organising your chapters into folders will tell Scrivener where your actual chapter breaks are. In the screenshot, you’ll see that sometimes we put in several text files into the same folder. These are in-chapter breaks.

Update your front matter files.

This includes adding your cover picture (which can be done by dragging the picture file into the folder, creating a title page (as above) and a copyright page (per below).

 

Add your back matter.

add back matter

We usually add this to the end of the Manuscript itself, as there aren’t any pre-formatted folders for Back Matter. Back matter, as said previously, would include information about your other works or how to contact you via email or social media.

 

Compile your file.

Under “File”, you’ll find the compile function. There are several steps to this:

a) Select e-book format (with or without parts). This will tell Scrivener that you want to create an epub.

b) Select the cover file you previously added to the front matter folder.

c) Update your metadata.

d) Click compile!

 

Check your final files.

Now that everything is done, open your brand-new epub file to test that everything looks like it’s supposed to. You can also run it through this checker to make sure there are no errors.

And you have an epub file to upload to E-Sentral and Google Play!

 


 

If you have problems creating an epub file, or you don’t own a copy of Scrivener, check out our publishing hub. We’ll be able to create an epub file for you for as low as RM120.

Applying for an ISBN from PNM

Applying for an ISBN from PNMGetting an ISBN from Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia (PNM) is really easy—and it’s free! Whilst many ebook distributors/aggregators provide free ISBNs and/or have their own tracking system (eg: ASIN on Amazon and GGKey on Google Play), E-Sentral does not. They require you to apply for one from PNM, as we mentioned in our post on publishing on E-Sentral.

What’s an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique number associated with your book. An ISBN is assigned to each edition (except reprintings) of a book, which means that your e-book, paperback and hardcover would all need a different ISBN. If you want a quick reference, pick up the nearest book, turn to the back and look at the barcode. There will be a 13-digit number (or 10, if the book is super old)—that’s the ISBN!

Why do I need one?

The quick and easy answer is that it’s the simplest way to track and catalogue your books. For print, it’s how the cashier can ring up your sale quickly, by scanning the barcode. Like we mentioned earlier, some online retailers have their own tracking system and do not require an ISBN, but you can also link an ISBN to books sold on those platforms if you wish to. They (meaning Amazon and Google Play) can get away with is mainly because they’re big enough.

If you’re going through a distributor or aggregator such as Smashwords or D2D, you will need an ISBN because it’s a requirement to distribute to sales channels such as Kobo, Apple, and Overdrive.

Do I need a different ISBN for each of my different ebook formats?

According to best practices, each sellable format of your book should have a unique ISBN. Which means that your ISBN on E-Sentral should be different from the one on Smashwords (but this would be the same for all platforms that Smashwords distributes to since they only distribute the epub version).

Confused?

Don’t worry. Just take it that each place you upload to BY YOURSELF probably needs a different ISBN. If you’re not the one uploading it personally, then the distributor or aggregator you use will kau tim that for you.

Okay, so how do I get an ISBN from PNM?

You need two things: a printer and a scanner. (Well, and a laptop, and internet access, and paper, but who’s counting?)

First of all, go to this page on PNM: http://www.pnm.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/18

That’s where you’ll get all the technical info we’re skipping over and the forms you need.

Download and fill Borang 1

Screenshot of Borang 1

Borang 1 is the application to be a publisher.

  • If you’re applying as an individual, you’ll need to scan your IC for them.
  • If you’ve opened a company/sole proprietorship, you’ll need to scan your Borang D plus the Pemilik printout from SSM that shows you are the owner.

The most difficult questions to answer (hah) are these:

Screenshot of Borang 1, section 2

Don’t worry. You can totally guess for #3. It’s “expectation”, after all.

Next, download and fill Borang 2

Screenshot of Borang 2Borang 2 is the actual application for the ISBN. For this one, you need to state the print shop (if you’re printing the book) or the website (if it’s an ebook).

You’ll need to send them the copyright page and the cover of the book with your form.

For first time applicants, leave the Publisher Identity section blank—the officer processing your form will fill it up for you. If you’ve applied before, you’ll need to fill this in based on the Publisher ID PNM gave you on your first application.

Screenshot of Borang 2, section B

If you’re printing your book, you’ll need to add in the printer’s name. If you’re publishing it as an ebook, you fill in the website, e.g. E-Sentral.com.my, Amazon.com, etc.

You’ll need to provide an estimated publishing date. Please do yourself a favour and don’t put it too soon—just in case anything goes wrong. You can also just fill in the month you target to publish it, instead of an exact date. Why? Because you have to submit your published book/ebook within 30 days of that date… and if something goes wrong and it’s terribly delayed, you can be fined up to RM3K!

Email everything to PNM

Once you have everything ready, email them to isbn@pnm.gov.my.

Well, you can go old-school and fax it over, but we’re guessing most of you don’t have a fax machine anymore (we don’t!). OR if you live near to the library, you can also walk/drive over and hand deliver your forms.

And you’re done!

Other things to note:

  • Only apply for a publisher ID and your ISBN when you’re almost ready to publish your book. We tried registering as a publisher without registering for any ISBNs yet (because we hadn’t yet compiled the info) but the officer asked us for the Borang 2 at the same time in order to process the Borang 1.
  • After the first application and registration as a publisher, you only need to submit Borang 2 for subsequent ISBN applications.
  • Processing usually takes about 3 – 5 working days.
  • Once you have your ISBN, you can proceed to upload to E-Sentral or print your books!
  • Remember that you’ll have to submit 5 copies of your print book or 2 CDs of your e-book to PNM within 30 days of publication. (Yes, CDs. THAT IS CORRECT.)

Let us know if you have more questions on applying for an ISBN with PNM!

Publishing on E-Sentral: A Step-by-Step Guide

Publishing on E-SentralNow that you know how to publish on Amazon, it’s time to learn how to publish on E-Sentral.

In our last post, we talked briefly about self-publishing strategies between KU (Amazon-exclusive) and Wide (primarily for the International market)—so what better way to put that into practice than to figure out how E-Sentral, the biggest e-book retailer in Malaysia, works?

We figured this also would be the best time to walk you through how to publish on E-Sentral since we’re in the midst of uploading A Still, Small Voice.

 

What is E-sentral?

E-Sentral is the largest e-book repository in Southeast Asia, founded by our very own Malaysians in 2011! Granted, the main market seems to be Malay and Indonesian books, including school books. Still, it doesn’t hurt to test it out since even the big international e-book distributors/aggregators tout that “we distribute to E-Sentral!” (Be proud of Malaysia, kan?)

It has 3 main bases: Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. The platform itself offers a “studio” for you to craft your ebooks, but since we’re already using Scrivener to create our epubs, we didn’t take up the extra option.

Several things to note about publishing on E-Sentral before we walk you through the (very) simple steps:

  1. It doesn’t have great category options for fiction, unlike Amazon or Smashwords.
  2. It only sells books in epub format—no PDF, no html—and uses DRM so it can only be read on their dedicated e-reader (which you can download for free). This basically means you’re publishing into a closed market. That’s alright since they don’t require exclusive rights.
  3. It only accepts payment via debit or credit card—and only Malaysian cards at that, at least on the Malaysian portal. We’re assuming the Singaporean and Indonesian portals will accept credit cards from their respective countries.
  4. It has its own e-library system, similar to Overdrive.

What you need to publish on E-Sentral:

  1. Epub file
  2. Cover file
  3. ISBN

How to publish on E-Sentral

Publishing on E-Sentral is actually really, really easy. You probably don’t even need this step-by-step guide, but it’s here just in case you want to have a look before deciding if you’d like to create a publisher account. They’ve also just upgraded their interface so everything looks pretty snazzy right now!

Basic book details

Basic Book Details

1. Fill in the title of your book.

2. Fill in your author name.

3. Fill in your selling price in RM. The system will use this price to set prices in other currencies. If you don’t like the price they’ve converted it to (or you want to price differently in different markets) you can manually change it. You’ll note here that most of the currencies offered are for Southeast Asian countries. (Currency not shown in print screen: Vietnam Dong.)

4. Enter your e-ISBN. Unlike other publishing platforms, E-Sentral does not offer free ISBNs. Instead, you have to obtain your own ISBN from Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia.

5. Fill in your book synopsis/blurb.

6. Stare at the categories and laugh. Pick what best fits your book. As mentioned earlier, there aren’t many categories for fiction, unless you’re writing in “major” categories like Romance or Chick-Lit… or maybe Children.

7. Next you can choose a release date. If you don’t choose one, it will release once it’s been processed.

8. We don’t really know why they have “Language” and “Content type”, which seem to refer to the same thing, but as you can tell, E-Sentral does BM and Mandarin, which aren’t always options in, say, Amazon. We’re also not sure why “Music” is a content type, but ok.

9. The “Tag” option works, as far as we can tell, like what Amazon’s “keyword” section. Enter in all the words you’d like related to your book here. In this case, we figured it’s a great place to note that A Still, Small Voice is a short story, fairy tale, and fantasy.

10. Imprint is the “who’s publishing this” section, so we put Teaspoon Publishing in this space. If you don’t have a publishing house or if you’re self-publishing it under your own name, you can leave it blank.

Library Purchase Programme

You’ll actually need to sign an extra agreement to participate in this programme, so don’t worry if it doesn’t appear on your upload page! It’s not set to appear unless you’ve already subscribed to the library programme. This works something like Overdrive, where if you subscribe to it, the library can purchase a copy of your book to lend to their patrons. As you can see, you can set a special price for libraries, whether higher or lower than your normal selling price.

Uploading your books

The final step is to upload your epub file and your cover file. It’s a drag and drop function, so that’s fairly easy.

Several things to note about uploading:

  1. Although the upload e-book box says it accepts files up to 100 MB, it often hangs if the file is more than 2MB. So try to get the smallest sized file possible!
  2. If this doesn’t work, try using the bulk upload option.
  3. All the other platforms I’ve seen will provide an automatic preview file (usually 10% – 20% of the ebook). E-Sentral doesn’t. If you want to provide a preview (or Look Inside as Amazon puts it), you’ll have to create a separate epub with the exact amount of content that you want your potential readers to see.

Once you click submit, it will tell you that your submission has been uploaded, or it will give you a warning if there’s anything missing or wrong.

If you’re the kin cheong type, you can check on the status under the “submission status” tab.

That’s basically it!

We’re pretty sure you have two questions now:

  1. How do I create an epub?
  2. How do I get an e-ISBN?

We’ll cover that soon!

 

KU or Wide? Considerations for Malaysian Self-Publishers

KU or Wide?

One of the first dilemmas most self-publishers face is whether to go KU or Wide, or rather, should they sell exclusively on Amazon or try to sell on every publishing platform? There are pros and cons to both—as well as successful authors on both divides—so it’s not so much a debate on the right way to sell, but rather a question of what your personal preferences and goals are.

Still, when we started this post, we began to wonder if it’s really relevant because we’re Malaysians. OBVIOUSLY, if we want to sell ebooks to Malaysians, we need to go wide—otherwise, how would Malaysians get their hands on our ebooks? Then we figured that we might as well explain what KU or Wide is and how it impacts you so that you can make an informed decision.

 

So, first of all, what is KU?

Or, what do we mean when we say KU or Wide?

The term, as used here, is actually a misnomer. KU stands for Kindle Unlimited, which is the end user’s (i.e. reader) subscription service. What you, as the author, sign up for is KDP Select.

 

KDP Select? What’s that?

Remember #14 in our Step-by-step Guide to Publishing on Amazon?

Yeah, this whole post is about whether you should tick that button or not.

When you sign up for KDP Select, you’re basically going exclusive at Amazon for a minimum block of 90 days, which is automatically renewed until you opt out of the renewal. “Exclusive” here means that you cannot sell your ebook anywhere else, even your own website. This doesn’t affect print though, so you can still print your book and sell that on your website.

 

Why would I want to do that?

First of all, signing up for Select automatically enrols your book into Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). This means that thousands of subscribers (maybe more) have access to your books for a flat rate whilst you get PAID for what they read. (More on that at the end of the post.)

Secondly, you get to choose between free days or countdown promotions, which are pretty nifty promotional tools that non-select publishers don’t get.

You’ll also get 70% royalties in some markets (Japan, India, Brazil, Mexico) which normally only pays 35% royalties.

 

Why is KU a good thing?

The good thing about KU is that borrowers can read your entire catalogue for cheap to them, whilst paying you. Bigger plus point: you also get paid for however much the borrowers read of your book—even if they hated it and stopped after like page 20. The rate per page may seem small, but if you’re great at marketing, it may add up to a lot.

By locking yourself in to the Amazon ecosystem, you also get to take advantage of all the special selling tools Amazon has (as mentioned above), which helps with visibility, ranking, and ultimately sales.

 

So why the whole KU or Wide debate?

The problem here is the “Amazon exclusive” clause. Because Amazon does not have a Malaysian (or international, bar a select few) market presence*, this creates an additional barrier to making sales in Malaysia (or internationally, in general). Those who really want to buy your ebook internationally in places without an Amazon market* will have to jump through the usual hoops (VPN, gift cards, etc) to get it—and they’ll only do it if they’re already diehard fans. The casual reader or potential readers will just see “not available in your region” (if they even look at the Amazon page) and move on.

And let me reiterate, you can’t sell your ebook anywhere else, even on your own webpage, if you’re on KDP Select. Doing that will get all your books pulled from Amazon and your account might be banned/blacklisted.

 

Should I just go wide then?

Personally, we think you should. But that depends on your goals too. If you’re trying to tap into the American market and/or you write in genres with very avid readers, it might work to your benefit to go KU. If you’re hoping to sell internationally, or you write in a genre that doesn’t do so well with borrows, you should probably plan on going wide.

We found these questions on this KU board very helpful.

Questions to ask when deciding between going KU or Wide

The questions (and answers) are:

  • Do you want to quickly earn back the cost of the production of the book? Yes = try KU
  • Do you live in the US and/or is your book geared towards US readers? Yes = go in KU
  • Do you want to build a loyal reader base who will buy all your books? Yes = go wide
  • Do you expect your books will have international appeal? Yes = go wide

Other advice on the web:

Susan Kaye Quinn, who’s this really amazing and generous author (we learnt a lot about self-publishing from her), suggests an all-in approach. Whichever way you choose, commit all your books to it so that you can work the advantages of either approach. Don’t try to go half-half, because you might end up frustrating readers.

What we understand from this is that if you have half your books in KU and half not (you need to opt in by book), your KU readers can’t read all your books and they might be stopped from continuing because they’d have to spend more to buy non-KU books above their monthly subscription fee. On the converse side, international readers who have purchased your book, say on Kobo or Smashwords, might be trying to find another book of yours to read—and if it’s in KU, they might not be able to get it at all.

She also says this in defence of KU:

‘KU readers are often people with limited incomes and a voracious love of reading. These people would normally go to the library or used bookstores to feed their habit, but often those things aren’t even available. KU allows them to have the bright spot of reading in their lives, even though they can’t afford to buy all those books. … the indie market has a lot of bargain shoppers in it, not just because they’re “cheap” but because they legit just don’t have the money.’

So, in this case, KU works in your favour if you write in a very popular genre with a lot of avid/binge readers.

Susan’s articles: KU Vs Wide and KU vs Wide Benefits for Readers

 

Another big name in self-publishing, David Gaughran also espouses the all-in approach, with the point that success in either approach is mainly due to differences in marketing styles and systems:

‘…as soon as you contrast the authors who have been successful in KU with those who have been successful wide: they are two very different approaches. … Some people are succeeding though—both those who are in KU, and those who are wide, and what I’m seeing is that it’s usually people who are all in with whatever distribution model they have decided upon.’

Based on his analysis, because the Kindle store is algorithm-driven, big monthly blasts and advertising works well to boost sales. However, most of the other online platforms are often curated, or human-driven, which works better with a slow and steady, drip approach. There isn’t one answer (we agree) and he suggests that you’ll need to experiment to find out what’s best for you and your books.

David Gaughran’s article: A Tale of Two Marketing Systems

 

Bringing it back to the Malaysian context, Teaspoon Publishing’s founder, Anna Tan, wrote back in 2016:

Going Amazon Exclusive is not for everyone

There are a lot of tips on how to use KDP Select to your best advantage and head up the Amazon bestsellers list by keeping everything exclusive to the Amazon ecosystem. Which is good, if your audience is primarily in America, but not so good if you want to reach the international market.

In my case, since my primary fanbase (aka family and friends) generally do not have access to buying on Amazon, keeping it exclusive to Amazon, whilst it might help sales a little due to the free days and internal Amazon algorithms, will only hurt me in the long run. Because it’s friends who recommend to friends and word-of-mouth that counts, yes? Even with my international appeal (at least according to blogger’s stats), cutting out 25% – 50% of my audience by not selling it in a place they can access is just bad business sense. But well, this really depends on your audience or intended audience.

Anna Tan’s article: Things I Have Learnt About Self-Publishing As A Non-American (aka Amazon Hates Me)

 

So should I go KU or Wide?

We really can’t decide this for you, but here are some simple steps to use to decide.

  1. Think about your goals and your books (genre, market). Also look back at the questions above!
  2. Figure out what marketing strategy you can cope with. Do you like complex marketing plans and frenetic energy or do you need something simpler?
  3. Choose whether to go KU or Wide based on #1 and #2
  4. Draw out a marketing and selling plan and stick with it!
  5. If it doesn’t work, start from #1 again.**

* This might seem confusing because you can shop on Amazon and get things shipped to Malaysia. But you’re purchasing as a Malaysian on the American website. They allow that for goods which require physical shipping but usually not for digital products, especially ebooks.

** “Doesn’t work” needs an evaluation period of at least six months to a year. Don’t try something for one month, get frustrated and give up.

 


More info on KU and KOLL

Kindle Unlimited (KU) is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want. It’s like Netflix, for ebooks! With Kindle Unlimited, customers can read as many books as they like and keep them as long as they want for a monthly subscription fee (up to 10 titles at a time). They don’t need to be Amazon Prime members. This is available for users in US, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, India, Japan, and Australia.

The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) allows Amazon Prime members to borrow one book per month for free from the collection or “library”. They can only keep one book at a time for a long as they want. This is available to Prime members in US, UK, Germany, France and Japan.

KDP Select authors get paid for KU and KOLL based on page reads, to a maximum of 3,000 pages per title per customer. Every time a unique customer reads pages in your book for the first time, you will be eligible for royalties. If the same customer re-reads pages of your book, this won’t earn you any additional royalties.

Formula: Monthly KDP Select Global Fund / total pages read for the month * pages read of YOUR BOOK.

 

Further Reading:

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2018/05/selling-out-going-wide-or-going-exclusive-to-amazon/
https://selfpublishingadvice.org/going-wide-ebook-distribution/
https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/08/30/exclusivity/
https://www.standoutbooks.com/amazon-kdp-select/
https://justpublishingadvice.com/whats-the-difference-between-kdp-and-kdp-select/
https://justpublishingadvice.com/should-i-enroll-in-amazon-kindle-kdp-select/

Publishing on Amazon: Other Important Matters

Publishing on Amazon: Other Important MattersWe covered how to publish your ebook on Amazon KDP in detail in our last post. But the big question everyone wants to know is this: HOW DO I GET PAID?

You gotta have several things first before you start seeing any money:

  1. Sales
  2. A US bank account
  3. A W-8BEN

Amazon pays royalties “approximately 60 days following the end of the calendar month during which the sales were made.” This means two months after the month in which you sold your books, so if you made any sales in January, you’ll probably receive your money at the end of March/beginning of April.

Yay, money! Right? Unfortunately, as a Malaysian, it’s not that easy. You’d wish that you could just enter your bank account number and see the money roll in. Nope.

The first we can’t help you with. Sorry. For the other two, here are some general tips on how to get set up.

 

Update your Author/Publisher Information

Go to your account (the link on the top right-hand corner) and fill up your publisher information.

 

Amazon Account: Author Info Screenshot

Full name here is your official name, according to your IC. This is NOT your pen name. This information will not be shown to the public anywhere—it’s only for finance use.

I’m pretty sure you know how to fill in your own address so…

Getting Paid

If you’re a super patient person (or you don’t have a bank account with any of the recognised marketplaces), you’ll have to wait for a cheque. Which will only be paid AFTER you reach $100 in the respective marketplace. Note that this is AFTER applicable tax withholding too. Meaning, you’ll need to get about $143.00 in royalties in the US Kindle Store before you’ll get a cheque ($143.00 – 30% = $100.10).

Amazon payment thresholds (screenshot)
Screenshot from https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200641050

And no, Amazon does not pay out through Paypal, so that’s not an option.

What IS an option (and the one we’re currently using) is Payoneer (referral link). What Payoneer does is it sets you up with a US bank account (and others, but you mainly only need US) so that you can opt for payment via direct debit/EFT. Enter the bank details given by your Payoneer account into Amazon and voila, you’re getting monthly royalty payments*!

Tax Information

Malaysia does NOT have a tax treaty with USA, so all your royalties is subject to a 30% withholding tax. What you need to do is fill up the W-8BEN, which is a very simple document.

W-8BEN screenshot
This is what it looks like.

Some websites will ask you to download the form, fill and upload, others (like Amazon) allows you to fill it directly on the site. Most of the stuff is self-evident, but here are the parts you’ll probably have questions about:

W-8BEN extract

#5 – Leave this blank. The SSN (Social Security Number) is only applicable if you live and work in the US (which, if you’re reading this, you’re probably not) and the ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) is only applicable if you’re paying taxes in the US (which, if you’re based in Malaysia, you’re probably not). You CAN apply for an ITIN, but we can’t give you any advise you on that.

#6 – Fill in your Malaysian tax number here (usually SGxxxxxxxxx). If you don’t have a tax number because you’re not taxable yet, you should write “not legally required.”

#7 – Leave this blank. This is usually if you have some funky tax arrangements, which if you’re just trying to self-publish an ebook, you likely don’t.

W-8BEN extract

Leave this whole section blank because Malaysia doesn’t have a tax treaty or any special rates to claim. 🙁 You have to pay that 30% withholding, okay? (Not happy? Take it up with the gomen.)

Right! So now this is filled up, sit back, relax, and wait for your money to roll in*!

More questions? Ask away! We’ll dig up some answers for you.

 

*Assuming you’re making some sales la har. 😉