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How to self publish. Part 1
How to self publish. Part 1
The traditional rout
Most writers write with the intention of someday publishing some of their work as a book. But even if we do finally get that first novel written, trying to find a publisher is hell. Unless you have a PHD or you are a journalist or you have some sort of credentials or an in, you are not likely to be met with a lot of enthusiasm... and you end up out.
Most publishers won’t look at your work unless it is presented to them by an agent. Some won’t publish anything they have not commissioned. There are a dozen road blocks in your way before anyone ever reads your manuscript. So even if you are a Hemingway in the making, a new writer faces rejection after rejection after rejection unless they catch a really lucky break.
What’s the alternative?
Some people go the vanity press rout. A vanity press is a publisher who agrees to print your book, but you pay for each copy. You do all your own advertizing. Often they set the price for your book. They give you a percentage off if you buy in bulk. You can sell to your relatives and friends for as much as you want. They also pay you a small percentage on orders they receive from outside sources you no doubt cultivated.
And there are horror stories. Some demand you sign your rights over to them for up to 7 years. Often the paper they print their books on is inferior; sometimes they decide what your cover will look like. You might have extra costs like buying an ISBN number from them. You may have to pay up front for the first copy before they finalize the deal with you. You will never get a free copy for yourself.
It’s a far cry from getting a real publisher and getting money upfront to finish your book, and then sitting back and letting them do all the advertizing while you go to photo ops, talk shows, and book signings.
So some vanity publishers are really bad news. But some are actually not so bad depending on what you expect or use them for. It takes work to sort them out so as long as you don’t jump at the first one that says they like your submission and want to work with you, you’ll find a good one. You have to know, of course, no one actually reads your work before they accept it. No one edits it. So whatever praise they give, it is usually a lie to butter you up to sign on.
The fact is: They provide the press, you provide everything else. They get most of the money.
If all you want is to have an on demand paper book published for family and friends, and you don’t mind doing all the legwork yourself, it might be perfect for you. There has been the odd person here or there who have made it big by self publishing their first paper book. I hear of one or two a year now. You never know.
But the world is changing and it is changing fast. Paper book sales are way down for everyone, and have been declining for several years.
Are you depressed yet? Don’t be.
You are about to enter the world of eBook publishing.
While traditional paper book sales are way down, eBooks are gaining popularity by leaps and bounds. It is said that eBooks will be outselling traditional paper books in the next few years. It’s an emerging market that’s emerging fast.
Why? The reason is technology, simple as that. Most smart phones these days come with eBook readers built in. The new tablets have them. The Iphone “has an app for that.” And there are an entire range of portable readers out there made by the likes of Sony and Amazon. You see them on busses and trains and subways everywhere now. People can even read books off their lap top or on their home PC or Mac.
So what are the pitfalls of self publishing with eBook publishers?
None. It is that simple. You write the book, you make sure you format it correctly and you submit it with a cover and a short description of the book. You get a good percent of the sales and you don’t pay a cent for anything. The point is: they want you.
Who are the eBook companies you can publish for?
That’s the beauty of it. You get to publish with all of the big names all at the same time. The biggest one on the internet being Amazon.com. Amazon is one of the biggest book sellers on the internet, and they are turning their focus toward eBooks. They are selling a reader called: Kindle, so all their books are formatted for it. But you don’t have to pay over one hundred dollars for a Kindle to read books in Kindle format. You can get a free Kindle reader for your laptop or PC.
You set your own price and you get a percentage of it. Say if you set your price at ten dollars, you will get around 3.50 per sale. They pay you when you make 100 dollars or more.
But there is another company called Smashwords. They are a book seller as well but if you publish with them they will automatically convert your book to all the major file types. That means if someone wants to download it for their Iphone they can. If they want to download it for their Sony reader they can.
Smashwords has its own outlet so people can buy direct just like at Amazon, and they even provide the conversion for Kindle readers.
But the best part about Smashwords is that if you meet their requirements, you get on their premium catalogue. That means your book will be available through Sony, Iphone, Barns and Noble, Amazon and more. It costs you nothing to get in the catalogue. All you have to do is meet their standards.
No, they don’t read your book and don’t edit it for you. What they mean by standards is that it has to be readable in all file formats. And for that to happen you have to format your work in a specific way. To be sold through Iphone your work also has to have a price that ends in 99 cents. But if you do all that, submit your request to be included, get an ISBN number from them for free, or bring your own, your eBook is added and you have exposure in all the major outlets.
Again, Smashwords allows you to pick your own selling price, but charge a smaller fee. So if you set your book at ten dollars you get around 6.50 per sale.
If you want to participate after that you can build your own web site showcasing your book. You can use the URLs to your book as a signature at the end of all your emails. There are dozens of ways you can advertize your book. It’s all up to your imagination. But at least you have a major well known distribution network, so even if do nothing you will get some sales. The more books you publish the more sales you will get.
Some people publish their book for free. The publishers like Amazon and Smashwords love that. It draws people to their web site and may encourage them to buy a book. After all, they got one free so now it’s like they are paying half price.
At both Amazon and Smashwords the potential buyer gets to read a few pages to see if they like it, just like they would do if they picked up your book off a shelf in a store.
And who knows? It could take off and you might get an offer from a traditional publisher. Great. You retain the rights to your work so you can do what you like with it.
My advice is to publish with both Amazon and Smashwords. You might take a hit on royalties with Amazon but in my own experience 75 percent of my book sales have been through them.
In the next instalment of the series I’ll tell you about how to format your book for conversion; and more.