Back in the day, if you wanted to publish your book, you’d have to spend countless hours writing and refining your query letter, personalizing it to fit specific literary agents’ tastes, and sending it out over and over and over again (often without any sort of response). You would pin your hopes and dreams on an agent or editor—or more likely their intern or assistant—who may have been having a bad day when they read your book and decided to venture no further than the first 10 pages.
Traditional publishing has even more pitfalls now than it used to. With the advent of the Internet and social media, agents and publishers now expect authors to already have ample followings online before being signed. This allows the publishing houses to avoid spending money on promoting authors’ books. Luckily, the Internet and social media are also what allow new authors to break free of this system. Now you can choose to become an indie author and self-publish, and it can often be done online in five minutes or less.
Here are 4 ways how to publish a book online for free and get paid for it, as well as some of the pros and cons of each option.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing—more commonly known as Amazon KDP—is one of the most popular platforms for authors to self-publish their books. It’s a fantastic option for a writer with a manuscript that is already completed and polished. Amazon KDP is definitely for you if you’ve always dreamed of holding a physical copy of your novel.
- Amazon offers exposure to a large audience
- The self-publishing process is quick, easy, and straightforward
- You can publish an ebook and/or a paperback book
- You receive anywhere from 30-70% of the profits from your book (as opposed to the 10-20% you would likely get with a traditional publisher)
- While Amazon doesn’t charge a fee to self-publish, you will need to spend some cash on your cover design and formatting if you want a professional-looking book that will stand out in the crowd
- You need to publish a few books with Amazon before the site will really start promoting your work
- Feedback will mainly come in the form of reviews, which doesn’t do much to foster a sense of community amongst your readers
While Amazon KDP is hugely popular when it comes to completed books, Wattpad is perhaps the best-loved platform for posting works in progress. Authors on the site have caught the attention of major publishers and movie studios. If you still hope for a crack at traditional publishing later down the line but also want to enjoy the feedback and community of self-publishing, Wattpad could be a great fit for you.
- It’s extremely simple to set up an account and publish your first chapter
- Considering the site’s popularity, your work will be exposed to a large number of readers
- Readers are not only able to comment on every chapter, but every paragraph, which will provide you with a goldmine of feedback
- Wattpad holds the Watty Awards each year, which gives writers of various genres the chance to win a social media kit, promotional opportunities across the site and app, a Wattys Winner Badge for your story, and several other fantastic perks
- You have to complete a story of at least 50,000 words and become a Wattpad Star before you can start writing Paid Stories
- The popularity of the site can be a double-edged sword—while there are lots of readers, there are also lots of writers, and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd
- The text editor doesn’t have a lot of formatting options or a spelling/grammar checker, so you’ll probably want to copy and paste from something like Google Docs or Microsoft Word
Unlike Amazon KDP and Wattpad, who have both been around for over a decade, Fictionate.Me is a new kid on the block. It offers the opportunity to post your novel chapter by chapter as you write it, and you can also earn cash along the way. If you’re interested in posting as you write but also want to make money off your story as soon as possible, Fictionate could be just the right home for your story.
- Apart from a 2.9%+30¢ charge from the site’s payment provider, you get to keep all of the profits from your story
- Readers can “heart” and comment on their favorite stories, fostering a sense of community
- Since the site has a smaller pool of writers, your story will have more space to shine
- Me is great about promoting its stories on the site’s blog and across social media
- The site’s interface is a bit clunky to navigate
- Since this is a newer site, the audience is smaller
- Copying and pasting from another document can come with formatting issues, so you may want to download Grammarly and write your novel directly into the text editor with this platform
If you’re looking for something a little closer to traditional publishing but still want to escape the gatekeepers, Inkshares is an interesting publishing option you might want to investigate. Inkshares is a publisher that will edit, design, print, distribute, and market your book. But instead of relying on a single agent or editor to pick you, you are able to pitch your novel on the site and readers will pre-order your book based on that pitch. Once you get 750 pre-orders, Inkshares will publish your book.
- You are able to gauge reader interest in your book and potentially get it professionally published at the same time
- You don’t have to deal with the stress of designing and marketing your book
- Inkshares will distribute your book at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and hundreds of independent bookstores
- The platform has connections to both its own community of readers and traditional and online media outlets to help promote your story
- It can be very difficult to hit that 750-pre-orders goal, and if you don’t, your readers’ money just gets refunded
- Inkshares only offers 35% of net receivables (what is left over after deducting production and distribution costs)
- After reaching your pre-orders goal, the publishing process still takes another 9-12 months
Author’s Bio: Jillian Karger was born in Ohio but has lived in and around New York City for over a decade. Since graduating from NYU in 2009, Jill has had a long string of jobs doing things like scouting books to be adapted for film and researching trivia questions for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.
She has done freelance writing as well for sites like Cracked.com, and had her Twitter jokes featured on BuzzFeed and funnyordie.com. Jill has also self-published two novels on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Jillian-Karger/e/B07B894DNW).
Follow her blog posts about books and writing advice, read books and publish them for free at: https://www.fictionate.me.