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New book release: A Still, Small Voice

A Still Small Voice cover

On her eighteenth birthday, Hono is to be crowned Queen of the City of Winter but the Dragon disrupts the coronation ceremony with a peculiar cry:

Listen. Listen. Listen!

There is one more task to free the City of Winter of all enchantment—and Hono must listen carefully for it.


Anna Tan’s new short story A Still, Small Voice released today! Head over to the Books page to purchase your copy.

Want it directly on your e-reader? Links to direct retailers are available on Anna’s website.

 

 

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

We covered how to publish your ebook on 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.

 

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).

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.

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:

#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.

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. 😉

Publishing on Amazon: A Step-by-Step Guide

Publishing on Amazon is really easy. Promise. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you do just that. Feel free to skip points that are obvious to you and jump to items you’re not sure about. And if you have any questions, just ask!

The absolute minimum you need to start publishing on Amazon:

  1. an Amazon KDP account
  2. a completed (or almost completed) book
  3. a book cover
  4. a book description

Everything else you can figure out on the way.

1. Register an account

To publish ebooks on Amazon, you have to register an account at http://kdp.amazon.com. For obvious (or not so obvious) reasons*, it’s best to create a separate publishing account from your normal purchasing/reviewing account.

*Obvious reasons being that Amazon has some kind of anti-competitive (?) rule in place where they discourage authors from reviewing books by other authors because they subscribe to the traditional-publishing-as-competition model instead of the new collaborative-indie-publishing model.

For now, click Kindle eBook and we’ll get started—we’ll look at creating a Paperback in a future post.

E-BOOK DETAILS

2. Language & Title


The default language is English. Amazon currently supports various languages, but not Chinese or Malay, unfortunately. If you write in Malay or Mandarin, check out publishing on E-Sentral.

Next, enter your book title. We’re taking these screenshots while setting up a pre-order for A Still, Small Voice, so you can see where stuff goes.

You don’t need to have a sub-title, but if you do, add that in the second line.

3. Series & edition

Only fill this section if you’re publishing a series. In our case, A Still, Small Voice is #4 in the North series, so we’ve filled in those details.

You can usually ignore Edition Number, unless you’ve made major changes to your ebook and are uploading a new version.

If you’ve just made minor changes, e.g. to fix typos, this doesn’t count as a new “edition.”

4. Author and contributors


This is where you enter your pen name (if you use a one) and any co-authors or contributors. A point to note is that the primary author that appears here must be the same as the name on your cover! In this sample, we acknowledge the cover designer of A Still, Small Voice. It’s “optional” but it’s a nice thing to do. Please do credit anyone who has contributed substantially to your book.

5. Description


Also known as your book blurb or back copy, this is the description of your book. Go to any Amazon book page or turn to the back of a paperback and you’ll find examples of what to write in your description. This short section (KDP allows you 4,000 characters—not words, characters) is what will help you sell your book. To write one, think about the books you’ve browsed 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?

For more tips, check out these articles:

6. Publishing rights

This is basically to confirm that you wrote it and you have the right to publish it. If you’ve sold your book to some big publisher (yay you!) you probably don’t have the publishing rights to put it up on Amazon on your own anymore unless you negotiated that as part of your contract. (Your publisher will probably be looking into publishing their own ebooks that may or may not be on Amazon.) But since you’re looking at this as a guide to self-publishing, it’s probably safe to say you own all your publishing rights. Unless you stole your book from someone else (don’t do that).

7. Keywords & Categories


Think of all the words that you would associate with your book. Are there themes that you cover/address? These are what will be tagged to your book as “search words”. This means that if someone were to search for “short story about Dragons” A Still, Small Voice would most likely come up in the search.

Categories tell Amazon where to put your book. You can only select two, but Amazon will eventually sort them into more relevant categories or you can email them later to request specific categories.

8. Age range

This is mainly helpful if the books you’re writing are targeted at children, or if your books are adult-only. We usually leave this blank since it’s optional. If you do know the minimum age range and/or reading level (which you can estimate using Word), you can update it.

9. Release date


If you’re filling up this page with your book and cover ready, go ahead and select “I’m ready to release my book now.” This means that once you’ve uploaded everything and the book has passed Amazon’s automatic checks, then your ebook will be available for sale instantly*!

* usually within 1-5 business days

Even if you have everything ready, you don’t have to release your book immediately. You can set a release date (up to 90 days in the future) to allow you to work on things like marketing and promotion before your book goes live. You’ll also be able to direct people to the Amazon book page so that your fans can pre-order your book.

You DO need a manuscript file to upload, so uploading one that’s near-final is always the best option. A good time to set up a pre-order page is when your book is about 90% done. Meaning, you’re probably just proof-reading it for the hundredth time or making final tweaks. Try not to do upload a book that is still undergoing heavy revisions because if you don’t update your file before the final date shown, your placeholder file is going to be sent out to your fans and that could potentially be disastrous.

A note to remember: Pre-order customers always pay the lowest price, so be fairly confident about your selling price before you set up a pre-order.

AND NOW YOU’RE FINALLY DONE WITH THE EBOOK DETAILS PAGE!!
Give yourself a pat on the back and get a nice drink before moving on to the next page. This is where you get to the formatting and fiddly stuff.

E-BOOK CONTENT

10. Formatting your manuscript

First step: DRM yes or no?

We prefer NO, because we tend to switch platforms! This is really up to your preference. Some people think that DRM helps stop piracy, but our opinion is that if people are desperate enough, they’re going to pirate anyway.

So FORMATTING. Got your manuscript ready? Great!

We’re using Microsoft Word in this sample because it’s the most common software.

A) Front matter

 
This is all the stuff you usually find in the front of a book: title page, publisher, year published, license notes, etc.

You can create something fancy and elaborate like the stuff in a paperback. The simplified version shown here was adapted from the Smashwords guide and has worked for the past few years, so it’s an easy option.

B) Body/text


Remember that you’re formatting for ebook, so whatever fancy stuff you do, it’s 90% going to be overriden by the reader’s Kindle settings. I use a standard 12 point Times New Roman with a 0.3” first line indent with 0 line spacing and no spaces before/after paragraphs. This gives you a nice tight look.

C) Chapter headings


Format your chapter headings using a “headings” style as this simplifies the process of getting your Table of Contents up. I assure you this is 100% easier than Smashwords, so be grateful! Just set your chapter title (in this series, we use roman numerals, but your chapter headings could be anything you want) to the Heading 1 style and make any stylistic adjustments you wish (we centre, bold, and TNR it) then copy the format to all your chapter headings.

D) Chapter breaks


Use the page break function to separate your chapters. DON’T use multiple paragraph breaks! Multiple paragraphs will probably not be read/recognised by Kindle so all your chapters will appear mushed up into one super long chapter instead of starting on a new page/section each time.

E) Back matter

Your back matter will likely expand over time.


We like to leave a little reminder for the reader to leave a review, but this isn’t necessary.

As a first-time author, the very basic you need is an “About the Author” section where you can link your webpage or other social media that you want to direct readers to.

Once you’ve built a backlist, you can add them into your back matter so that if readers like your book, they can go and look for other stuff you’ve written.

Don’t forget to format the headings of your front and back matter as “Heading 1” too!

F) Table of Contents (TOC)


Now that you have everything in place, it’s time to set up your Table of Contents. Go to Reference>>Table of Contents>>Custom Table of Contents.

Untick “show page numbers” because page numbers are irrelevant to ebooks. Once it’s in the Kindle, the page numbers will change according to the reader’s settings. What you DO want is that the TOC is clickable so that they can jump ahead to chapters if they wish.

Make sure that everything you want to appear on the TOC appears—if they don’t, you’ll have to check that you’ve formatted all the chapter titles/headings as “Heading 1”.

Additional reading: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200645680

Okay, so Kindle has this snazzy new Kindle Create (KC) program that we have yet to try, so we’re going to test it out for this demo. Note: We deleted the TOC for this demo as it seems that this is where the formatting steps diverge.


Right. Uploaded the manuscript. It asked if we wanted to do a bunch of stuff, which was obviously yes.

Awesome. KC found all our headings and created a TOC! It doesn’t appear to be inserted in the text though, unlike the Word document.


Hmmm with these clickable format buttons, we’re able to define a copyright page, splitting it off from the Title Page. Looks alright…

We didn’t format mid-chapter separators in the Word file but Kindle Create has you a standard separator format. If you missed out any chapter titles or quotes, you can use this to define them too. Nice.


Ooh, Drop Caps. It looks like A Still, Small Voice might feature drop caps just because of this function. Ha. We didn’t test the “poetry” function because this ebook doesn’t have any.


Autosave reminders. Good job.

This pic was already in the word format and this is how it appears when converted over.


We tried reuploaded this picture to see how it works. KC only accepts pics in jpg.

KC has a handy previewer.

Oooooo themes! Not really necessary, but fun. Also, this is where you get a prettier ebook than just formatting in Word, I guess.


When you click publish, Kindle Create saves a separate file to upload on the site, same as if you upload the Word doc.

Verdict: Not really necessary, but it’s easy enough to use. And kinda pretty.

11. Cover

Covers are uber important and we recommend that you hire a cover designer to make you a pretty one. We’ve already commissioned a cover for A Still, Small Voice but it’s not ready yet, so we decided to play around with the cover creator to show you how it works.

If you really don’t have money to commission a cover, this is a cheap way to do a passable cover, but the templates are used so often that it does not distinguish your book from the millions out there. It also smacks of you being an amateur and a cheapskate. Not what you want. You want to do a professional book, right?

 

We decided not to upload a picture as we had none readily available. These were the options provided.

 

These templates are easily customiseable so just pick the options that appeal to you the most.

One great plus point with the cover creator is that if you have a picture/illustration/graphic you absolutely want to use on your cover but don’t have photoediting software, these templates help you add on the important text, such as your title and author name in the appropriate places without having to tear your hair out. 🙂 A minor downside is that the font options are kinda limited, so you have to live with what they offer.

12. ISBN and publisher


I tend not to get ISBNs for Amazon, but rely on their ASIN instead. It really doesn’t make a difference because most people don’t trace ebooks/Kindle books by ISBN anyway.

Enter a publisher name if you have one. If you don’t, just leave it blank.

13. Review your book


Now you’ve filled up everything on this page, make sure you review your file to see that everything looks good. For some reason, we’re not allowed to download the file (using Kindle Creator file) but it looks all right on the online previewer.


Ah, as suspected, you can download a preview file if you use a Word upload. This is useful if you want to use the preview file as review copies, but not for anything else.

*breathe a sigh of relief*
You’re done with the most difficult part.
Once you’re happy with your file (or you can live with it in its current format because you just want to set up the pre-order page and continue fiddling with it later) then you can proceed to the next page. The actual selling part.

EBOOK PRICING

14. KDP select

 

If you enrol in KDP select, you can’t sell your ebook anywhere else online, including your own website. Do not recommend. Then again, we’re biased to the “Going Wide” philosophy. Choose this if it fits your marketing strategy. We’ll talk about the whole KU vs Wide in another post.

15. Territories


This is where you want to and can sell the book. The obvious choice is “worldwide” unless you have reasons why you only want to limit your books to certain markets/regions.

16. Pricing


Pricing Support is another new function and a useful one at that! (Pronoun used to have something similar to this).

Because this is a short story and we’re pricing it at $0.99, the only royalty rate we can use is 35%. If you’re selling a full-length novel or even a novella, consider setting your price between $2.99 and $4.99 to get 70% royalties. You can set it above $4.99, but that usually decreases your chance of selling your ebook, unless you’re very famous.

Amazon autoconverts the prices in other marketplaces based on their current exchange rates, so you don’t really need to fiddle with international pricing unless you really, really want to.

17. Final bits!

These last two are optional.

We’re not opting for matchbook price because we’re not doing a print version of this short story. How matchbook works is if you sell a paperback on Amazon for, say, $9.99 and your ebook at $3.99, you can set up this option where someone buying the paperback can get a copy of the ebook as well at a discounted price you set (between 0 (free) to $2.99).

Kindle Lending allows the person who purchases the book to “lend” the ebook to a friend, like how you can lend a paperback you purchased to a friend.

AAANNNDDD that’s the end. Now you click “Submit for Preorder” or “Publish” and then wait for your book to appear online!

You’re probably as exhausted as we are right now, so we’ll wait until our next post to talk about the other technical bits of publishing in Amazon, including payments and tax.

Til then!

So where should I publish? (Part 2)

In our last post, we looked at the top five ebook retailers plus Malaysia’s own e-sentral. These retailers allow you to upload and publish your books directly with them—but this requires you to work out six different ways to format your ebook and enter the related information six times. To streamline this process, we use an aggregator—which distributes your ebooks to the selected retailers and online libraries.

Here are three aggregators we’ve personally used or know Malaysians who have used them:

Smashwords 

Smashwords is one of the first indie publishing platforms which serves both as a retailer in its own right and as a distributor/aggregator. It distributes to a long list of retailers including Kobo, iBooks and Nook. Where it doesn’t distribute to is Google Play and Amazon. Amazon is technically on the list, but your books aren’t actually distributed via Smashwords unless you’ve sold more than $2k worth of books on Smashwords.

Royalties:

85% of net sales* on books sold in the Smashwords store, 60% of list price for books sold by other retailers.

*Net sales is the amount after transaction fees (if any) and affiliate cut (if any).

The good stuff:

  • Smashwords sells internationally, and since it’s been around for more than a decade, it’s pretty established in the market.
  • Books are sold in several formats, including epub, mobi (Kindle) and PDF, so it caters to readers on all major platforms/readers.
  • Payment is made via Paypal on a monthly basis so you’ll get paid every month! Even if you only earn like a dollar.
  • Uploading is via .doc file. Or you can upload via epub file if you’ve managed to make one somewhere else.
  • Smashwords has a coupon system so you can put individual books on sale or you can create a special coupon code for your readers instead of generally lowering your prices.
  • You can set your price to 0 (free) so it’s an easy way to give your books away for free.
  • Provides free ISBN
  • You can control pricing in other currencies

The bad stuff:

  • Uploading to Smashwords via .doc—which initially sounds easy enough—is often quite finicky due to their proprietary conversion software known as the Meatgrinder. It requires very stringent formatting and even experienced formatters sometimes face stupid, annoying problems with the upload so you have to be very patient. (Or hire us!)
  • Formatting is limited—the Meatgrinder doesn’t like too many pictures or lists or tabs or tables, so it’s really only good for fiction that doesn’t need any of that stuff.
  • The pre-order option isn’t exactly a pre-order: it creates the book page with all the relevant details but doesn’t allow orders until the on-sale date itself.
  • It’s still a US site, so you still need to fill up the US tax form (W8-BEN) and pay the 30% withholding tax.
  • Readers can only review books they bought from the site.

What does this mean for you?

Publishing on Smashwords is a steep investment in terms of time and the payoff may not be that great. We use it mainly because it’s a legacy platform at this point—we’re so used to having it there that it feels weird not to. 🙂

 

Draft2Digital (D2D) 

D2D is one of the most well-known aggregators out there. It doesn’t have its own sales platform but distributes to a long list of retailers including Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Nook. It doesn’t yet distribute to Google Play but they’re currently “in talks”.

Royalties:

D2D takes 10% of the retail price, or approx 15% of net royalties. Royalties depend on the individual retailers.

The good stuff:

  • It’s very easy to use and doesn’t require any special formatting skills, as long as your chapter markers are consistent.
  • Uploading is via any Word file (or Word readable file).
  • Also helps generate end matter.
  • Provides free ISBN.
  • Converts your book into epub, mobi (Kindle) and PDF, so it caters to readers on all major platforms/readers.
  • You can set your price to 0 (free) except on Amazon so it’s an easy way to give your books away for free.
  • You can control pricing in other currencies.

The bad stuff:

  • It’s still a US site, so you still need to fill up the US tax form (W8-BEN) and pay the 30% withholding tax.

What does this mean for you?

For a tech noob, D2D looks like the best replacement for Smashwords. There’s a lot of overlap between the sites they distribute to, so unless you really want to sell on Smashwords itself, D2D is a pretty good replacement.

 

StreetLib 

Streetlib posits itself as “a one-stop solution for independent publishing”. It certainly offers a lot of options and has segregated its options into six overall categories: write, publish, print, sell, read and market. They have an impressive list of retailers that they distribute to, including all of the top five ebook retailers AND e-sentral.

Royalties:

StreetLib takes 10% of the list price. Royalties depend on the individual retailer. Using the wholesale model, you get 60% of your list price

The good stuff:

  • You can either upload as an epub or create an epub using their free “write” service.
  • The Write service lets you either upload an existing word document (slightly buggy) or cut and paste from your file into their system. It’s quite intuitive to use and offers several standard styles to choose from.
  • There is an option to create your own ebook store, which takes away the hassle of creating your own website.
  • Provides free ISBN.
  • Payment via Paypal is available. Set up for payment allows you to list Malaysia so there is a possibility that a W8-BEN is not required (we haven’t tested this yet).

The bad stuff:

  • The Write function is separate from the Publish function—and there is no automatic flow—so you need to download the epub file and then re-upload it to sell, which was frankly a little confusing.
  • The Help & FAQ section wasn’t exactly very helpful in figuring this out, so experimentation was needed.

What does this mean for you?

Our experience of using Streetlib was basically that the best part is the Write option. Everything else is slightly confusing and frankly a little annoying. However, the list of retailers they distribute to is impressive, so it might be worth the effort.

 

Additional reading:

There are a lot of things to think about when deciding how to publish your e-book. If you want to discuss the best options for your book, contact us for a one-on-one consult.

Let us know if you have any specific questions and we’ll try to answer them!

So where should I publish? (Part 1)

Now that you’ve decided to self-publish, the next question is: where should I publish?

Here’s a quick look at the top 5 ebook retailers and how accessible it is to Malaysians.

Amazon

Amazon Kindle is undoubtedly the biggest player in the world at the moment, but especially in the United States of America. As much as some publishers hate Amazon and its near-monopoly, it’s still a publishing heavyweight that is ignored only at your (publishing) peril. Most self-publishing success stories are geared around aggressive marketing strategies on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

For Malaysians, the downside to publishing on Amazon is really that as simple as it is to publish, the average Malaysian is not going to be able to buy your book from Amazon because there is no actual Malaysian Amazon market. Most Malaysian who buy and download from Amazon either do so with a US-linked account, via gift cards, or through a VPN (and a fake US address). And frankly, only very dedicated readers are going to bother with this.

The other downside is that your royalties are subject to a 30% withholding tax because Malaysia does not currently have a tax treaty with the USA. You’ll also need a US bank account (or a bank account in one of the countries Amazon has a presence in) to receive your royalties via direct debit; without this, you’ll need to accumulate a total of $100 sales in each respective currency in order to receive a cheque.

What does this mean for you?

Publish on Amazon, by all means, but don’t expect to grow much of a local following from it. You’ll be mainly targetting the US/international market. Also, unless you use a banking service such as Payoneer, it might take an extremely long time to receive royalties.

Your best bet is to distribute to Amazon via an aggregator, which we’ll talk about in our next post.

 

Google Play

Google Play’s sales of books are apparently pretty low in the US. However, reports seem to show that it has a bigger worldwide market share and is still considered one of the big 5 online publishing platforms. Back when I had an organised book page via Pronoun (as opposed to my haphazard website now), half my sales were from Google Play so don’t let the poor reports from the US discourage you.

Malaysia is on the list of markets where Google Play is accepting new publishers. To open a publishing account, you fill up a form and wait for them to approve you. Uploading to Google Play requires a little technical know-how—they only accept uploads in ePub format so you’ll either have to figure out how to create an ePub file, or pay someone to do it for you. AND because you’re registering directly as a Malaysian account, royalty payments can be made directly to your local bank account and there is no withholding tax.

Google Play doesn’t play well with aggregators, so this is one you might want to upload on your own.

What does this mean for you?

Whilst Google Play isn’t quite as big on the ebook front as Amazon, it’s easily accessible by anyone in Malaysia with a smartphone. Also, no hassle with filling up US tax forms or figuring out how to actually get your royalties! You should register for a publishing account as not many aggregators distribute to Google Play.

 

Kobo

Kobo (also known as Rakuten Kobo) is another popular ebook site. The plus side about Kobo is that they sell internationally, so it’s accessible to Malaysians. We can’t comment on the publishing side of it as we don’t upload directly to Kobo—we usually distribute to Kobo via Smashwords, or previously, the now-defunct Pronoun.

What does this mean for you?

Whilst we can’t comment about selling on Kobo independently, quite a few aggregators include Kobo in their list of platforms. We’d list this as a must-have, seeing that it sells internationally, including to Malaysia.

 

Apple

iBooks is accessible to all Apple users worldwide. This means that anyone who has an iTunes account in the world can buy your book. Unfortunately, most people only associate iTunes with music, so their book market isn’t as huge as it could be.

iTunes is also horrendously glitchy when trying to find the actual LINK of the book to share, so we don’t use it much. Case in point: the link above points you to Anna’s author page because there is no actual link to an iBooks store. Links to iTunes also force you to open the iTunes player (and often tells us that we don’t have one even when we do) and all purchases need to be in-app, so we don’t really favour them as a buyer. Still, it works for those who do everything on their iPhones or iPads.

Again, we can’t comment on the publishing side of it as we don’t directly upload to Apple/iBooks.

What does this mean for you?

Whilst we can’t comment about selling on iTunes independently, quite a few aggregators include Apple in their list of platforms. We’d list this as a must-have, mainly because it’s Apple.

 

Nook (Barnes & Noble)

Barnes and Noble as been rumoured to be closing down for something close to the last five years, so it seems like they’re a little troubled. All the same, it’s still considered one of the big 5 in ebook retailing. On the surface, Barnes and Noble appears to be accessible internationally, until you get to the payment page—where they require a US credit card to purchase. So no, they’re not actually available to the average Malaysian.

Again, we can’t comment on the publishing side of it as we don’t upload directly to Nook/Barnes and Noble.

What does this mean for you?

Whilst I can’t comment about selling on Nook independently, quite a few aggregators include Barnes and Noble in their list of platforms. We’d list this as “Not really required, but eh, why not?” at this point of time.

 

Bonus!

e-sentral

Malaysia has its very own e-book platform! Obviously, it’s not part of the top five e-book retailers in the world, but it’s been around since 2010 so it’s worth looking into. E-sentral caters to the Southeast Asian market, primarily Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia and is open to publishing in English, Malay, and Chinese.

We can’t comment much on the platform as a whole at this point since we’ve only just started trying to upload to the site, but our experience at this moment is as follows:

  • You’ll need to upload your file in epub format
  • Larger files seem to be buggy to upload
  • You can upload your ebooks individually or in batches, which is great if you have a back catalogue
  • Processing of the files/uploads takes a while. We uploaded a batch of 5 ebooks on 7 June and the files have yet to be processed. Or something
  • You need to apply for your own e-ISBN from PNM which is an additional step that’s normally not required by other platforms.
  • No foreign withholding tax or bank hassles.

What does this mean for you?

Malaysia boleh! But other than that, it’s a good way to try to build your local readership. We’ll let you know how this goes once we actually get our books on sale.

 

We’ve looked at the top five e-book retailers (plus e-sentral) but, as mentioned, we also sell through to these platforms via aggregators. Our next post will look at the various aggregators/distributors such as Smashwords and Draft2Digital, how they work, and whether they’re worth using. If you have tips to share, let us know in the comments.

Til next time!


P/S Here are some additional posts that you might find helpful:

Two things to consider when choosing a publishing strategy

Whilst most self-publishing companies in Malaysia focus on print services, Teaspoon Publishing focuses on the e-book and online print-on-demand (POD) market. There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing one or the other—or deciding to do both.

Here are a couple of questions to consider when choosing your publishing strategy:

1. What is your intended market?

Where and to whom you intend to sell your book is a major factor in what your publishing strategy should look like.

Local market

The Malaysian book market is still heavily reliant on print. As much as e-book sales have started to take off amongst avid readers in Malaysia, the general market mostly prefers to buy tangible goods. Most casual readers still like browsing before buying, so if you’re trying to convert casual readers into customers, this is the best way to drive interest. Having something physical to sell also helps you get in the door at sales and meet-and-greet events such as Art for Grabs, Hin Bus Pop Up Market, and the Malaysian Writers Fest.

Pricing is also a deciding factor. Local portals such as MPH and GerakBudaya have attempted to sell e-books, but pricing an e-book at almost the same price (or even higher) than a print book defeats the purpose of offering an alternate digital version. Look at e-book prices on e-Sentral to figure out what’s the best price for your e-book.

Reminder to readers: purchases of ebooks are also eligible for tax deductions so don’t forget to save those receipts!

Suggested strategy: A mix of online and print.

International market

Obviously, if you’re trying to penetrate the international market, e-book is the way to go. However, if print is important to your readership, providing online print options via POD (through Amazon/Createspace, Lulu, or Ingramspark) would be a cheaper and hassle-free option as compared to printing the books physically in Malaysia and shipping them out to your customers.

Suggested strategy: 100% online with POD options.

Other considerations: Age group/readership

The way your intended market prefers to read is also a factor in whether your book sells or not.

Children’s books—especially those targeted for young/beginning readers—still need to be in print. MG and YA books can go either way. Whilst teen readers are digital natives, access and funds to purchase e-books are often controlled by their parents, even if they own an e-reader. General fiction aimed for adult readers (whatever the genre) sells well either in print or e-book—though the market seems to prefer e-books for new/indie authors and print for established/traditionally published authors. Various genres also lend themselves to better e-book sales than print. Non-fiction and textbooks still sell better in print.

Here are some examples of how genre affects e-book and online print sales, from the authorearnings.com report for Jan 2018. For more info, head over to authorearnings.com.

screenshot from authorearnings.com
screenshot from authorearnings.com

Suggested strategy: Study sales trends for your genre to decide what’s best for your book.

 

2. How much can you afford to spend?

Traditional publishers still dominate publishing because they have the funds. Printing isn’t cheap—and it’s much cheaper to print in bulk than in the small quantities that a self-publisher can afford. Let’s not even talk about where and how you can store the thousands (or hopefully only hundreds) of books you’ve just printed—or how to get it distributed.

Focusing on the e-book market first helps you to minimise upfront costs and hopefully earn back what you’ve paid for covers and editing before you splurge on a print run that may or may not succeed. And if you’re able to tell people that your book is popular online (look at all these reviews!) that might even be an additional selling point when you promote your book to live audiences.

Crowdfunding for a print run might also be a good option to explore.

Suggested strategy: Plan a small print run if you have funds, then use that to direct buyers to your online store/e-book retailer of choice.

These two questions are the very basics to ask when deciding when and how to self-publish your book. What else have you considered when choosing your publishing strategy? Do you have any other important considerations that might help other new authors?

How much does it cost to self-publish?

Now that we’ve covered how long it takes to self-publish a book, how much does it actually cost?

Let’s take a look at what we’ve covered so far:

1. Writing
Unless you’re paying someone to ghostwrite for you, you shouldn’t have any expenditure here. Well, maybe about RM100 or so for paper, pens, and printer ink. But if you want to be that nit-picky, you can count the cost of electricity, internet, food, water, etc.
Expected cost: NIL

2. Editing
Editing costs depend on the type and level of editing required. Here are the various types of editing, in suggested sequence:

Developmental editing

This looks at the overall big picture of your novel. How strong is your plot? Is there a plot hole big enough to drive a car through? Is there enough tension? Are there any slow, boring parts? Does your story make sense? Is backstory a problem (either too much or too little)? How can we improve and polish this story until it’s not just ‘good’, but ‘exceptional’? It’s pretty hard to find developmental editing here in Malaysia, but the numbers we’re seeing online estimate anything from USD1,000–USD6,000.
What we do have in place of this, are writing mentors, foremost of which is Gina Yap Lai Yoong. Hang about the Malaysian Writers Community and/or Twitter to see when some of our writers are looking to pick up new mentees! Most of these come at no cost to you, other than putting in the hard work and probably belanja-ing your mentor to dinner once in a while. An alternative is to find a critique group or beta readers that have great story sense that you can trust to give you honest feedback.

Line editing

A line editor goes into the nitty-gritty of the manuscript, focusing their red pen on everything from specific words, to sentences, to paragraphs, to chapters. They look at strengthening your work in terms of style, flow, structure, and readability, besides the usual correction for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and other basic/common language mistakes. Do your sentences flow well? Is your POV consistent? Do you flop between tenses? They may also help pick up obvious continuity issues—do you say A in Chapter 1 but then change it to B in Chapter 8?—though they won’t be going into the plot development itself. Line editing for a 50,000-word novel would range between RM3,000 to RM5,000 here at Teaspoon Publishing.

Proofreading

This is your final line of defence! At this stage, you’re pretty much just catching typos, concentrating on spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as other basic/common language mistakes. Proofreading for a 50,000-word novel ranges from RM2,000 to RM4,000 here at Teaspoon Publishing.

Some people tend to skimp on editing and jump right into just a quick proofread or do nothing at all. This isn’t really advisable, even if you’re an editor yourself, because it’s hard to find your own mistakes. It’s also really, really hard to tell if there are continuity issues or if things are confusing in your own manuscript because you know everything in your head. However, what’s in your head may not have all made it out onto the page in a way that others can understand.
If you’re really cheapskate (or you have really good friends), one way to save on this is to do a barter trade with your writer/editor friends, like I’ll edit your manuscript if you’ll edit mine. The results may not be really the best unless both of you are professional editors.
Expected cost: RM2,000 – RM5,000

3. Cover Design
A premade cover sourced online could cost about USD40 – USD80. An original cover could cost between USD100 – USD500, or more. We’ve paid between RM400 – RM750 for our covers. We recommend looking up Charis Loke Illustration and Magpie Designs!
Expected cost: RM150 – RM750

4. Formatting
Frankly, it’s not that difficult to format your own books—but it IS time-consuming, time that could be better spent writing your new book or doing marketing (ha). At Teaspoon Publishing, formatting generally costs RM60 per ebook format and RM100 for print layout (text only).
Expected cost: RM60 – RM280

5. a) Online publishing
The various platforms / distributors mostly take a cut of sales, generally between 30% – 50%. At the $0.99 – $2.98 price point on Amazon, they take a cut of 65% (I.e. you get 35% royalties on sales).
Expected cost: NIL.

5. b) Printing
Printing costs depend on bulk. If you’re only printing 100 – 200 copies, you might want to check out these print-on-demand (POD) and/or book printing services:

Please note that we have not dealt with these services personally, but they have been referred to us or recommended on forums.
The higher quantity you print, the cheaper it is per copy.
OR, you can skip doing a local print run altogether and do POD with Lulu / CreateSpace / Ingram Spark. With this service, readers around the world can buy a physical copy of your book and have it shipped directly to their doorstep. You won’t have to pay anything upfront – the printing cost is taken out of the sales price & royalty paid to you. You can also print small batches of your book at their author price (cost of book + small markup for the printer)—but shipping from overseas is often the expensive bit.
Expected cost: ???

6. Distribution (for print)
This doesn’t appear in the timeline for self-publishing, but it’s a cost that you might want to consider if you want wider distribution if you decide to print your book. Most independent bookstores will ask you for a 30% – 40% “discount” on your retail price. This means that for every book you sell at RM20, they’ll pay you RM14 (30% discount) or RM12 (40% discount). This is how bookshops make their profits.
However, getting into chain bookstores (MPH, Popular, Times, Kinokuniya, Borders) normally needs you to have a distributor/agent. The only options we’ve come across so far are Inspiration Hub (30% royalty) and GerakBudaya (approx 55% discount). You’ll have to decide for yourself if this is cost you’re ready and willing to bear.
Expected cost: ???

All in all, self-publishing an ebook may cost you between RM2,200 – RM6,000—and that’s not even including print! Yet 90% of this cost is from that one step you really shouldn’t skip: editing.

 


 

At Teaspoon Publishing, we believe in empowering authors to take control of their career. If you need a boost on your journey, check out our Publishing Hub to see how we can help!