Since I released Memory’s Wake, I’ve had an influx of people contacting me interested in self publishing. They want to know what my experiences have been, how I did it, and most importantly, can, or should, they do it themselves.
The opportunities for Self publishing are really exciting right now, thanks to new printing methods and distribution programs that make it super easy to get your book published. This is, of course, a good thing and a bad thing. I’m going to talk through what I’ve learned so far in my self publishing journey.
Why did I self publish?
I wrote a book that I had high hopes for. I don’t consider myself a genius writer, but I believed my writing style to be adequate and the story solid. It had been reviewed and critiqued over and over by friends, other writers, and paid professionals. The impatient part of me wanted to self publish right away so it was available without delay, but I thought I’d serve myself better by attempting to get traditionally published. I approached literary agents to see if any where interested. I had a few that were, who read the full manuscript, but in the end while they enjoyed it, they didn’t feel it was something they could market. I kept trying until I got pregnant, then decided if I didn’t just go ahead and self publish then, it wasn’t going to be available for so long my impatient self might explode. A few months later, my book was released and it’s been a joy having people read it.
What people think of self publishing
Some people are going to assume that because you self published your book, that it isn’t very good. And yeah, there are books out there that were self published simply to fulfil a writers desire to be published, but the book really isn’t of professional standards (or frankly, actually downright awful). Other people don’t even know what it means to be self published and won’t care or notice that your book is self published. I think now more than ever there are a lot of writers making the decision to bypass traditional publishing options and make a serious career from self publishing, and soon the awareness and perceptions of self published work will improve.
What you won’t get if you self publish
You won’t get your books in book stores. If you distribute your books through the right channels, your book will be in catalogues that book stores can do special orders from if a customer asks. If you do the hard yards and go out yourself to ask local book stores to stock your book they may. But don’t expect customers to be able to buy your books in shops. When people come to you disappointed they couldn’t find your book at a book shop, just let them know where they can get it from, which will be Amazon, Barnes and Noble Online and most other online book retailers, and probably direct from yourself.
What you will get
You will get higher royalty rates per sale self publishing than you will by traditional publishing. I’ve heard that a traditionally published author may get 5% or lower per sale, where self published authors can get up to 70% of each sale for ebooks, and varying percentages for paperbacks (varying because an author can set their own profit margin, which I’ll discuss more up ahead).
What you don’t have to worry about
I worried that if I self published, I’d never be taken seriously if I tried again to get an agent or be published by a big publisher. But that’s not the case. Just look at Matthew Reilly, Amanda Hocking, or Christopher Paolini, who all self published their work before becoming bestsellers and getting taken on by mainstream publishing. If your book is good, there’s always a chance, if that’s the way you want to go. You may even get more chance if your book is well received by self publishing. Amanda Hocking sold over a million copies of her books by herself. Talk about a way to get the attention of publishers.
What is vitally important if you choose to self publish
You know what I said before about some people having bad perceptions about self published work? Producing low quality work (in writing or design) only furthers that perception. It’s important to produce the best quality you can, not only for you, but for the image of self publishing as a whole. If you produce a product that looks “home made” people will read it with preconceptions or dismiss it because it is self published. But if you produce a book of the same quality of mainstream published work, which you can, and should do, readers won’t know or care if your book is self published.
The work you will have to do
The key word in self publishing is SELF. By having someone else publish you, all the hard work of producing your book is done by them, but when self publishing it all falls to you. It doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own, in fact I highly recommend getting help for the key areas of production- editing and design. More on that up ahead…
But producing the book itself is really the easy part. Once the book is out there, it’s super hard to actually get readers to find your work. There are millions of books available on Amazon, more by the hour. How do they find you amongst all that? If you want people to find your book, be prepared to learn how to market it and spend time doing so.
Paying for services
There are a lot of small companies out there who want to help people get self published. There are packages available that polish and package up your book ready for the world. This is a valid option if you’re happy to spend the money, just be sure to shop around as some of these companies can charge disproportionately more than others. But remember, with a little time and effort you really can do most of it yourself, for free. There are some areas I do suggest you hire a professional for, the key ones being editing and cover design. Save your money for those, and consider doing the book layout (interior and ebook) yourself, and definitely don’t pay money for getting your book distributed. It’s the easiest part you can do for free (more on that ehead).
Companies like Createspace also offer paid services to put your books together, alongside the free, DIY service.
TIP! When looking for an editor and cover designer, search specifically for those offering services to self published authors. Some have very reasonable rates. Here is also a great start for finding reasonably priced author services- http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,50419.0.html
So all that sounds great and you want to DIY your first self published book. Where do you start? When I first mentioned I was thinking of self publishing, someone recommended this book to me- Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author by Zoe Winters. I can’t remember who recommended it, but a big thanks to whoever it was! This book is a great starter for those wanting to self publish, and gives great step by step descriptions of all the processes. Since then I’ve learned a lot more, but this was the book that got me going. I highly recommend it!
Publishing as ebooks is one of the easiest and fastest ways to make your work available. Also, the programs that let you do so are totally free! Here are some key programs you will want to sign up for to get your ebooks out-
Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon)- https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin
PubIt (Barnes and Noble/Nook)- http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com
Smashwords (A service which distributes your ebook to many ebook distributors)- http://www.smashwords.com/
But you want your book in hard copy, don’t you? Yes, getting YOUR book, as a real paper book in your hands is a real thrill! Here the services I’ve tried-
Lulu – http://www.lulu.com/Lulus is probably the fastest and easiest way to get hard copies of your book. Their service is free, quality is great, but they are also the most expensive (price per book), and cost more than others to distribute your book through more than just the Lulu store (eg, to Amazon). Lulu however offer options that some others don’t, like hard cover books and glossy page books.
Createspace – https://www.createspace.com/Createspace is my favourite option for paperbacks. This price per book is really reasonable. They require you to buy and review a hard copy of your book before it’s approved and so take longer to have your book available, but you should be reviewing your book at this stage anyway to make sure it’s right. Createspace also have a very wide distribution network (I believe they charge about $25 for widest distribution options now, but otherwise are free to get your book on Amazon or buy copies yourself). They are a little trickier to work with than Lulu for file formats, etc, but it’s worth getting through it.
Want to see what a Createspace paperback looks like? Why not grab a copy of Memory’s Wake, nudge nudge wink wink.
Lightning Source – https://www.lightningsource.com/LS are a step up in professional quality and distribution again from Createspace. They are a lot harder to work with, even signing up for an account is a long process. But they have (often) the best prices and widest distribution, for those really serious about getting their book out there.
Your baby, out in the world
You go ahead and click the publish button, and your book, your baby is out in the world. Be prepared. When readers do find your book, not everyone will like it. And some will dislike it so much they will leave you bad reviews on Amazon or elsewhere, which you have no control over. Even the best books get bad reviews. If you get a few yourself, the best advice is to ignore them and write them off as an individuals opinion. Don’t reply or try and talk them around, just move on. If you find you’re getting lots of bad reviews that say the same thing, well, you might have a problem there. Luckily, if you self publish, it’s easy to go back and revise a book that you’ve discovered problems with.
Uh oh. Once you’ve got a book released, a craving sets in. You’ll want more, more books in your name, more readers sharing your stories. Self publishing is addictive. Enjoy the ride, and know that the more books you have available, the more chance you have of success!
Have you been considering self publishing? Did this help? Good luck with your self publishing endeavours!