A Book Blog from Ecuador asked if I would be willing to submit a blog entry regarding independent publishing and my experiences with it, which I happily agreed to. I would like to start by making sure that anyone who reads this knows that I am by no means an expert on the subject. I have self-published my own work and I can share my experiences thus far, but they are limited in scope and this should not be considered a guide or the only way to do it.
I would like to add, though, that my experience has so far been very positive and I’ve had good results in a relatively short period of time.
*IMPORTANT* Anyone looking to go the route of self-publishing should be aware that there are a large number of agents and publishing houses who will not, under any circumstances, consider a book that has already been self-published. Be aware: if you believe your work is worthy of notice by an agent, submit your query letters and be patient when waiting for replies. If you’re anything like me and can’t stand the wait, by all means jump the gun and get your book set up on your own. It’s relatively easy and if you’re willing to spend some time drumming up attention it can be profitable.
Before I talk about how to go about taking a manuscript from a word.doc file to a finished product, I want to make it very clear to any first-time authors that writing, and especially self-publishing, is not a get-rich-quick endeavor. If you’ve got a manuscript – even if you’ve got a great manuscript – you need to be prepared for the idea that unless you have thousands of close friends that just can’t wait to read the words you’ve written, it is going to be slow going at first. Almost every author experiences this on their first novel unless they have an agent and/or publisher working hard for them, and even then it is hit and miss. But remember that a book can last forever. Your book may only sell 10 copies the first two years and then sell thousands the next year – and you may never know why.
Marketing your book is pain in the ass and it will keep you up long hours into the night, especially if you’re working ‘a real job’ to pay the bills. It is nonstop and most of the time, you feel like the time spent isn’t worth it. But remember this: if you have a good product and can create a memorable brand either through yourself (as an author) or through your book(s), every single time someone sees your name, logo, or book cover, you’ve left an impression that could one day lead them to click the ‘buy now’ button. Those impressions – those are what count. Get your brand out there as often as you can per day in as many places as you can. Don’t give up. Especially if you love writing – don’t give up.
For my projects, I’ve made use of Smashwords (www.smashwords.com), Kindle Direct Publishing (https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin), and Nook Press (www.nookpress.com). I also made sure that I signed up at Goodreads (www.goodreads.com).
Based on a tip from a friend of a friend, Smashwords was where I started. Once you’ve created an account, they offer every service you’ll need in order to get your manuscript from a manuscript to an eBook.
The first thing you’ll want to do is download the Smashwords Style Guide; it’s an eBook, and it’s free. Don’t let the number of pages it contains make you nervous – I was able to convert my first manuscript in less than an hour and I completely had no idea what I was doing.
Next, you’ll want to create your cover. If you’re good with Photoshop, this is something you can do on your own as long as the graphic you create is 1600 x 2400 pixels. If not, Smashwords also offers a list of current cover artists who’ll design the front of your novel for anywhere between $35 and $200 depending how far you’d like to go with it. If you’re only passingly familiar with graphic design, it is strongly recommended that you hire someone else to do it; your front cover is your book’s first and maybe only impression – remember that.
Once you have your manuscript formatted and cover ready, submit it for publishing on Smashwords’s site. They have an automated checking system (autovetter) that goes over your file and makes sure there are no obvious formatting issues. If it clears that check, your book is published immediately afterward, but only on their site. You will then have the option to go to your book’s page and download any format that you like.
After that, if you want to get it submitted to the larger commercial sites you need to submit it to their premium catalogue. This is basically just them going over your book a little more carefully than the what their autovetter did. It’s just a click of a button for you and it doesn’t cost anything, but because there are so many books being published every single day it takes Smashwords a little longer to check it over. It could take anywhere from 1 to 5 days.
AMAZON & BARNES AND NOBLE
With Smashwords, you can opt into a group of different distributors including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Diesel and a few others. My experience with Smashwords was that although they were able to get my book out and on sale with most, they were unable to get it out on Barnes & Noble or Amazon. I waited over two weeks and after that, I’d had enough. I went straight to https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin and www.nookpress.com. Although your percentages for profit are a little lower going through them directly, your book will be available and on sale within 12 hours after you click the ‘publish’ button. I don’t how much longer or if ever my book would have shown up on those sites if I’d waited for Smashwords.
With all three of these sites, you can upload a new manuscript or cover any time you like.
PRINT ON DEMAND PUBLISHING
Because I had such a good experience using Amazon’s direct publishing site, I decided to use Createspace (www.createspace.com) for my printing. They are owned by Amazon and although I found a number of negative reviews on them, there were less on them than there were on their competitors. So far, my own experience with them has been top-notch.
Print on Demand is exactly what it sounds like; when someone orders your book, a copy is printed and shipped. You are not required to place any minimum orders or keep any quantities on hand.
With Createspace, I was able to (re)format my manuscript for print (their site provides very specific directions) and include the cover I already had from the eBook. Only thing I had to add was the back cover, which really was kind of fun. They will put your book for sale immediately after the formatting is approved, but they (and I !! ) highly encourage you to have a copy or two sent to your home for proofing first. The cost of your proof will depend on the number of pages in your book, mine was $5.15 – for the proof. The actual sale price to customers is much more. To give you an idea, I set mine at $11.99 and my bottom line margin is just over $2.
And that’s it! The entire process, start to finish, takes a day – maybe two – of clicking. You’ll have some formatting errors when you try to upload to each of the sites at first, but that’s normal and you should plan for that.
I hope this lends a little clarity to anyone who is nervous about self-publishing and I wish all of you great success in your endeavors!
Some great resources:
http://www.publishedauthors.org/ – Shelagh Watkins is an absolute fount of information and extremely approachable
http://getabookdeal101.com/ – this site offers a lot of information on not self publishing. Good to know both sides.
http://www.pubshelf.com/?tag=publish – although incomplete as of 6/9/13, some good info there
There are many, many more resources out there on sites, in blogs, and through companies willing to let you pay them to market your book for you.
Read an interview with Matthew Keith.
About the Author: Having been born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1972, I am as much a product of the 80’s as anyone from that era can be. Back in high school, I was a 6’3″ bean pole with long scraggly hair, a jean jacket that I wore nearly every day of my life, and drove around in a loud, busted-up ’76 Cutlass that I bought from my big brother and thought was the greatest thing on four wheels. Guns ‘n’ Roses, ripped up jeans, radio way too loud – I was that guy.
Back then I didn’t have many ambitions except to get out of high school as quickly as I could. I’d always envisioned myself one day becoming a teacher, but
the road that led to that career included a minimum of four years additional school and I wanted nothing to do with that.
I’m older now, not much wiser, with a lot less hair and more around the middle. I’ve been a partner in a pizza business for over fifteen years with an amazing man who has not only given me the opportunity to achieve financial success, but has also been a mentor in nearly every aspect of my life. If he ever reads this – which I doubt – you know who you are. Thank you.
I live in Kentucky now and have two wonderful children, one who will be starting college in August (2013) at the University of Kentucky on a music scholarship and one who will be a sophomore in high school. I have been married to the same beautiful red-head for the last sixteen years and from the way it’s going I’ll be happily stuck with her until the day I die. Truly, without her I would never have finished my first novel let alone been able to be halfway through a second and third. She has supported me in every aspect of my life – it is that support that gave me the belief that I could write something worth reading.
As far as my writing, it is something I’d always wanted to do but never allowed myself to find the time for. As any writer will tell you; it’s a discipline and what starts out as ‘fun’ or ‘romantic’ turns into actual work at some point. Compound that with the fact that most writers, like myself, work ‘real’ jobs to pay the bills and it becomes ever harder to do. For me, it can sometimes be next to impossible because there are twelve pizzerias that I operate and they always comes first, leaving little time in the day for writing. My first novel, Watchers of the Night, took over two years to write – an hour here, 30 minutes there. Sometimes I would go for weeks or even months without writing a word simply because I was just too busy with life.
But that’s beauty of working without an agent or publishing contract. Until I’m offered that six-figure advance, I see no reason to sign with anyone or hurry my writing along. I would prefer to keep it a labor of love instead of … just a labor. I hope you’ll all be patient with the pace I set.
For those of you who’ve taken the time to read this page and are still reading by this point, thank you. I appreciate that you took the time and had the interest in who I am enough to soak all this in. If you like what you’ve read in my work, drop me a line – I would love to hear from you!