OELN — Self-Publishing

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What Self-Publishing Service Should I Use?

There are quite a few now, aren’t there? They can be attractive to first-time publishers, and I’ll admit I used one until I felt comfortable enough striking out on my own. But I feel that unless you specifically want the benefits of a service, doing it all from scratch gives you more control over your final product.

There are two different kinds of services: Push-Button and Concierge:


These are places like Smashwords and Draft2Digital. They have their own marketplaces on their sites, and they give the option to push your e-book to different retailers like Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc. These are attractive features, and if you use their tutorials and follow their formatting guidelines they do 90% of the work for you. Plus, they are free or only take a small portion of your sales as compensation. You can see why they appeal to first-timers, right? The only thing they don’t do is handle physical copies!


As the name implies, sites like Bookbaby and Lulu will offer a customized experience, tailoring the publishing process to your needs. This can be a great comfort to a first-timer, but it can cost as much as its moniker implies. They distribute to multiple retailers just like the push-button places, but they also handle physical copies. Your cost of doing business with them often includes personal help with a professional assigned to you and your book. These sites also offer editing and other services, [Like cover design] which can be included in the initial cost or offered as part of a package deal.

Or… doing it from scratch

This is my preferred method–and while difficult–it lets you have the most control of what sites your book shows up on, how much royalty you get from sales, and how your book looks. For more information on things like how to format a manuscript, and how to convert a manuscript to an e-book then check it for errors, you should head over to my guide called Adventures in Self-Publishing.

As a Self-Published Author in a Niche Market, How Do I Avoid Being Scammed by a Shady Service?

Oh, this is a doozy of a question. The rule of thumb is “if it sounds too good to be true, then it is“. If a service seeks you out, they are more than likely to be a scam. If they request money from you on top of that–run the other direction!

But most importantly, do your research! Find them online and see what they are offering, and what they have done. There is a “company” that came to my attention recently that targets OELN authors. They get them to offer their LN under their company imprint, and assure them that they will get lots of sales from the thousands of people who go on their site every day. They don’t ask for payment–which tends to relax people’s guard–but they don’t do anything else, either. They take an author’s LN, and they put it up for sale under their imprint account on sites like Amazon, Kobo, etc. Because they are controlling the sale of the book, they are most likely skimming a portion off the author’s profits. They don’t edit your story, provide art, or offer anything in the way of marketing; when you publish through a traditional publisher, the imprint handles those things for you.

Their “thousands of accounts” promise is a lie, the users on the site are mostly inactive dummy accounts to fluff the numbers and the only active members are the accounts of authors that have been tricked into working with them, hoping for sales. If you go to their site and look around with a critical eye you can see all the red flags: unprofessional, low-quality logo, cookie cutter webhost template with hardly any changes, OELNs for sale with poor editing and/or cover design, and translated light novels put out by professional companies set up as if they belong to the imprint, but sneakily using a referral url to claim a portion of the sale. I spoke with several OELN authors who were either approached by them or have “worked” with them in the past, and most of them felt my assessment of the “company” was spot on. Don’t fall for things like this–you can easily do everything they “offer” to do by yourself! [And get all the profits you deserve!]

Should I Create a Physical Copy or Only an E-Book?

When you’re first starting out, an e-book is more than enough. After that starts gaining popularity, then you can begin work on any physical copies you’d like to offer.

Should I Create My Own Imprint?

You don’t have to, but it does help your book seem more professional–even if you just get lazy and call it “Your Name Here Publishing“. If you don’t have your own imprint then when you are asked to fill out the name of the publisher on forms, you can just use your own name or pen name.

Should I Make Social Media Accounts?

Yes! Social media is a fantastic [and free] marketing tool! As long as you don’t only use them to spam “Buy my book!” all day long, you’ll garner a following of devoted fans who came for your writing, but stayed for your witty day-to-day insights or the funny pictures you post. [Remember to put links to your social media pages in the back matter of your books!]

And Finally, What About Marketing?

Marketing is a difficult topic that I have already covered in depth here and here. But in a nutshell…

  • Yes, you should market your book.
  • Yes, it works.
  • Yes, you can do it cheaply without sacrificing quality.
  • Yes, it’s hard, but it is incredibly useful in helping you find your audience so it is worth the hassle!
  • Yes, I promise it works.

This brings us to the end of the guide!  I hope you found this information useful, and are no longer confused or in the dark about writing an OELN. This guide was inspired by questions I get from aspiring OELN authors, so if your question or concern wasn’t addressed here then feel free to contact me! You can always send me a message about it on Facebook or Twitter. [Though admittedly I think I answer my Facebook messages a little faster than my Twitter ones, heh.] Who knows? I might add your question to the guide so that others can benefit from it too!

Thank you for reading!

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