Let me start by saying that – despite the ongoing Covid restrictions – I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

I did, thank you very much for asking.  ?

I took a couple of weeks off work and spent the time productively.

Since I got the final draft of HUNTERS finished – and the esteemed @Nikki_Twisted helped me edit it to within an inch of its life – I’ve been on a deadline. The release date is set for March 17, 2021. (Edit – The book is now out for sale! YAY!)


In order to meet that release date, the book needed to be ready to go.  Which meant a bunch of things had to happen, including:

  • Sorting out my cover
  • Formatting the interior text
  • Get the book set up with the print-houses

Now, there’s more to it than that, but I wanted to cover these three things specifically because it’s been a true nightmare, and I found that there’s very little guidance out there to help steer you on the right path. (Actually, I’ll correct that… There is a lot of guidance out there, it’s just not all in one convenient place!)

So, now with the benefit of having been through the process, here’s some information that might help anyone reading this if they’re pursuing self-publishing, just as I am.

If you’re not a writer looking to publish your work indie-style, then this may not be the blog post for you. I promise I’ll put up a far more entertaining one next week!

As an FYI here…  The aforementioned @Nikki_Twisted is going through the same process at the moment. Her debut novel, ‘Acts of Closure’, is getting ready for a launch about a month before ‘Hunters’, and we’ve been scratching each other’s backs to help get ready. She’s been editing and correcting all my awful grammar, and I’ve been formatting her book and sorting out the cover layouts. It’s very much a symbiotic relationship!  ?

It has involved a fair amount of mutually pulling our hair out in frustration, too. But here are the lessons we’ve learned in our little journey. Hopefully what we’ve discovered will help you guys out, too.

1 – Querying vs Self-Publishing

Okay, I’m not giving up on the fact that I’d love to get my book published traditionally. I’d love an agent and the possibility of a HBO Max or Amazon Prime series (or Netflix, but on there it would probably just get cancelled after a season!).

But I have a very specific vision for The Ballad of the Songbird, and I want to see it done my way. I want FULL creative control of it. I also don’t want the book(s) tied up in the traditional system for months or years.

Thus, I have decided to go the indie route and publish it myself.

2 – ISBNs

Okay, so if you’re going to publish a book, you NEED an ISBN number.

What’s more, you need it for EVERY different type of book you’re about to publish.

I’m doing HUNTERS in Paperback, Hardback AND eBook, meaning I need 3 ISBN numbers. If I do an audio-book in the future, that’ll need one, too. The print companies (I’ll talk about those next) will provide you with ISBN numbers if you’d like them to, but be warned…going that way traps you into their particular avenue of distribution. i.e. If you let Amazon provide your ISBN, you can ONLY distribute via Amazon.

I bought my own. That way I can happily travel my book between print companies.

Here’s the rub…  They’re not cheap if you buy them individually. In the UK, a single ISBN number costs £89* (*costs accurate as at the time of this blog. Might have changed by the time you read this!)

However, you can by 10 ISBN’s for £164 – a massively lower £16.40 each.

So, the lesson here is…buy in bulk.

‘The Ballad of the Songbird’ saga is planned at 7 books.  That would be 21 ISBNs (if I’m excluding audio-books at this point) and buying them one at a time would cost me am eye-watering £1869!  Buying the 10 ISBN’s for £164 keeps me going for the next 2 books at a fraction of the cost.

3 – Who to print with?

To do this, I’m going through the process with both IngramSpark and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Both have their pros and cons.

They’re a little more expensive than Amazon (i.e. the costs to print the book) and a MAJOR downside is the fact that you have to pay for any changes you want to make to your documents if you find a problem AFTER you’ve already uploaded them.

(So, after uploading them and then ordering my first proof copy, I found that two of my chapter headings were wrong and needed to be changed. So I amended them. I also changed the gutter settings – more on that later – which meant a new cover had to be created as the page count had changed slightly. This cost me $50 to upload the amended files!!)

That being said, it’s relatively straightforward creating the interior files and the cover files for IS, as long as you have the right software – more on that in a mo!

The big PLUS for IS – for me at least – is that they allow you to publish your book in hardback, which I desperately want! The wrap around cover art for HUNTERS (painted by the amazing Marlena Mozgawa) is begging to be a hardback dust cover. It’s how my book is meant to be.

IS also offer more options in trim size, etc.

I’m only using IS for paperback and hardback books.  No eBook from them.

Well, I have to say that A/KDP was much easier to set up than IS.

They also allow you to upload and amend your master-files as often as you like without charging, which is a MASSIVE benefit. (Can’t stress this enough!  HUGE!!!) It also helps considerably that they have a ‘Previewer’ that helps you get your files set up right, something which IS doesn’t do anywhere near as well. The fact that you can’t really preview your book AND the fact that it charges you for the privilege of fixing the problems you do find is a really big negative for IS. Honestly, the issue I DID find that needed me to upload a new file to IS, I actually found over in the Amazon KDP previewer…make of that what you will.  LOL

With that in mind, I’d suggest that if you ARE going to go with both companies, then do your Amazon file set up first.

4 – Use the print company creation tools, or go it alone?

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky!

Nikki and I initially looked at the IS book creation tools. They’re web-based and pretty easy to use…BUT they’re really limited on allowing your book to have some creative flourish. Especially around chapter headings and fonts. This was especially true for Nikki’s book which required 4 different fonts internally.

More importantly, the IS creation tool is NOT set up to allow you to easily put a prologue…

…which was a big issue as both Nikki’s book and my own have prologues. As you can see by the snippets above, we both wanted very different looks. Plus, Nikki wanted drop-caps on her first paragraphs.

So, after (a great deal of) experimenting with that, we decided to go our own way and format our books EXACTLY the way we wanted them in MS Word.

Now, this did require some research and experimentation.

We had to find fonts to use (ones that are in the public domain or are licensable for commercial use) and figure out what the settings in the document needed to be. It’s not easy, but I think in the long run, the books will look better for it, and I’m excited to see how they turned out.

Okay, so I’m going to end part 1 here…as you’ve had A LOT of stuff to read through there. Tune in next week for part 2!

Love and Books

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  1. MarieE

    Wow! That was interesting but I’ll admit I got lost a few times! It sounds like it’s a bit of trial and error this first time around. I’m sure by book 2, you’ll be a pro. It’s great that you have someone to go through this with.

    • J. Ashburn

      I figured it would take some technical know-how and the patience to figure out each platform, but it sounds more complicated and costly than I expected. I will pass along Jon’s tip about uploading the book into KDP first and checking the formatting there since it’s free to make changes. That’s a good tip!

  2. AV Wilder

    Jon, I believe you made the right decision with going it alone. The Ballad of the Songbird has been your baby since the beginning and honestly, you’ve already done much of the work that a publisher would do anyway. Why share the spoils of your labor, right?

    I wish Nikki Heat a successful launch as well! It’s great that you guys cheer each other on.

    • Nikki Anderson

      Thank you for the support, AV!

      Sadly, 99.9% of the time, publishers don’t do very much to promote their authors. I don’t understand it. Why make the investment and then not go the distance? But there’s a reason why most first-time authors get about $5,000 at signing. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? After all the blood, sweat, and tears we’ve poured into this, it’s a pittance. And with a trad contract, we wouldn’t see another dime until they recouped all of their cost plus that five grand. Which doesn’t happen a lot of the time.

      It’s important to keep in mind, too, that this isn’t really about the money. It’s about sharing these stories that mean so much to us. But if the big publishing corporations are like most other companies and they care so much about their almighty bottom line, they’re sure not doing much to advance it for themselves or the authors who sign with them.

      • Jon Ford

        Couldn’t agree more, Nikki!
        The saga of Gayle Knightley and co has been a labour of love for me since day one. A story I’ve had in my head for going on 6 years now. I always wanted to commit the saga to paper so that I have something I leave behind when I’m gone. It’s not about the money for me (though it would be great if I could make a little moolah too!) ;P

  3. Blairs

    Wow… just wow…
    No really, what a project this sounds like. You fought your way through writing and perfecting the book. Now you are choosing to fight your way through self-publishing the book. I say BRAVO… it sure sounds like quite the adventure.
    I hope that you will be a pro when you finish book 1, and that the other 6 books are simple after.

    • Jon Ford

      Thanks, Blairs.
      I have to admit, that going through this whole process with Nikki as my partner along the way has been a HUGE learning curve. Both of us have leant ‘expertise’ in the areas we’re good at. I have a background in graphic design and formatting, so I’ve handled that side of things for both of us. Nikki has a knack for language and marketing so has been invaluable helping me on that side of things.
      I think we’ve both learnt a lot of lessons that will pay dividends when we move on to the second (and subsequent) books in both our sagas.
      With that in mind… go check out Nikki’s website at: https://ntanderson.com/
      She’s written a great first novel too. If you like adult romance, she’s ya girl! 😀

  4. Kevin Patrick

    Great article, Jon. Defo lot’s of useful information for someone only starting on a similar journey! .

    • Jon Ford

      And I’ll keep on posting more hints and tips as I discover them! I want people who are new to the world of indie-publishing to maybe find a really dumbed down roadmap to how to do it here.
      And I’m just the dummy to write it! 😀

  5. Now I wish I’d known that 6×9 is perfect for a book on your hands and not 8×11 if it’s not a text book! ???

    • Jon Ford

      You live and learn! LOL
      I went with the 5″x8″ for my paperback, I just kinda liked the size when I was looking at all the other books in my library. I went with 6″x9″ for the Hardback, so it’s a little bigger.
      I’d had a chat with Anna Mocikat though, and she said she thought 6″x9″ is the standard size for a US paperback.
      At the end of the day, I think it’s just personal preference. Same with the finish and the page colour (I went matt finish, and cream pages!)

  6. mdnghtscribe

    Jon, do you use computer software or browser extensions to check your grammar as you go along? I know you have a professional editor, but I thought you might use something before your draft gets to that stage.

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