• Tag Archives Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book
  • Top Ten List of Truths for Self-publishers Part Two

    Getting Down and Digital DrivethruTop Ten List of Truths for Self-publishers Part Two
    by
    A.P. Fuchs

    Also published at BadRedhead Media here

    6. Long gone are the days of just writing and nothing else.

    Like I said before, unless you catch a break or find yourself in Amazon’s “also bought” loop and bestseller lists, you’ll have to market your work. This goes beyond just having a website and telling your friends on Facebook and Twitter about it (though those items are a good start). Even if you score a traditional deal, you’ll need to put in the time to market your work until you have such a large fan base you know they’ll pick up everything you write regardless of what it is and all that’s needed is an announcement.

    A suggestion is to dedicate at least one day a week to marketing or, if you can spare it, do a minimum of two things a day to tell others about your book, two things that involve both the on-line and off-line worlds. Marketing on-line is harder, actually, because you’re competing with so many more voices. Local off-line marketing is much easier—unless there are two hundred thousand authors all shouting about their books in your local bookstore.

    Take the time to set up things like:

    – newspaper/radio/magazine/blog/website interviews
    – book signings
    – convention appearances
    – social media efforts
    – trunk-of-car sales
    – magazine ads
    – other

    It takes time. It takes work. But that’s what it takes. Simply uploading your book to one or two platforms doesn’t cut it anymore.

    7. Utilize both the on- and off-line worlds.

    It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing solely on on-line sales. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it, and I’ve had good times and bad times with it.

    Like I said about diversifying, you need to be both on-line and off-line with your book.

    My book, Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book, walks you through both processes step-by-step with your average self-publisher’s budget (a few hundred bucks). It gives a well-rounded approach to publishing and emphasizes using both the virtual and real worlds.

    I will admit, however, there is an on-line bias and that’s because of the off-line world’s system of book returns. You can be in every bookstore in every country, but unless your book sells and stays sold—bookstores allow customers to return books after all—you face the potential nightmare of having a ton of books returned to you at your expense.

    At the same time, off-line sales pose the chance to make a good buck per book. Like I mentioned about my convention experience—and I’ve been doing conventions steadily for seven years—I net $8-10 a book. Can’t do that on-line because even books sold through on-line retailers require the retailers get a cut.

    The following should be part of a self-publisher’s arsenal on top of on-line sales through the usual suspects, whether those on-line sales are for eBooks or paperbacks:

    – book signings
    – convention signings
    – book events
    – public readings
    – direct sales to family, friends, co-workers, strangers

    8. Publishing costs money.

    A lot of writers struggle with cash. I totally get that. I was once homeless because of me chasing this dream and have lived close to the breadline a few times as I pursued it. It’s hard when you look in your cupboard and there’s not much there and you have a family to feed. It’s hard when part of your income is walking back alleys looking for beer cans to cash in. I fully sympathize with any writer struggling right now and those who have struggled. However, the one thing that has always been consistent is it costs money to publish whether one is struggling or not. You need to either save up, work a few extra hours at the day job, get a second job, sell some stuff, do pre-orders or something else to raise capital.

    Some people you’ll need to pay:

    – an editor
    – book cover artist and/or book cover designer
    – printer set up
    – office supplies
    – paper and ink to print out your manuscripts
    – marketing expenses
    – other

    It costs money, too, if you want to get in books for events, signings and other things. However, you can quickly make it back if you get in small quantities like, say, twenty books a pop. (i.e. print books at $4 a book, sell them at $15. I’ve made back my $100 printer bill and then some after the tenth copy sells. Copies eleven through twenty are all gravy.)

    9. Stick to your own thing.

    Like I mentioned earlier, trends come and go. Recently, there was a huge zombie boom in literature and doing zombie books was like printing money. Now that bubble’s burst and the sales aren’t there like before. I know this from personal experience and from talking to those in my publishing circles.

    Vampires were huge for a while and those books were moving like crazy. Now, not as much on the whole. Urban fantasy is the new thing. Those are moving like hotcakes at the moment. But you know what? That’ll change, too, so unless you’re willing to write whatever is hot at the moment, you’re better off just writing what you enjoy. While it’s true some genres sell better than others (i.e. romance has always been a solid seller), you’re better off just doing your own thing. Your joy in writing whatever your genre is will come through on the page and make a better book. You’ll build your brand as “that guy/girl who writes thriller/mystery/superhero/weird” fiction and will develop your following of readers who love that stuff as a result. That’s the trick: finding that niche market of readers who’ll support you for each release. The goal after finding them is to grow that group and sticking to one or two genres goes a long way in making that happen.

    If your genre isn’t hot right now, odds are it will be at some point. I never thought I’d see the day when superheroes were all over popular culture. Thanks to Marvel’s efforts at the box office—and if DC gets their act together, them too, and Man of Steel was a sign their new shared universe is off to a good start—they’re everywhere, more than at any other point in history, and it’s put a spotlight into my main genre: superhero fiction (The Axiom-man Saga). Good deal for me. I stuck to my thing and now it’s poised to pay off.

    10. Have fun.

    Nothing kills creativity like discouragement. When we first start out writing, we’re all gung ho and looking to make a career. We’re hungry for it and sacrifice anything to get it—I was homeless trying to make this happen, remember? Sometimes success comes right away, other times you got to toil away for years and years. Look at J.A. Konrath. He put in around twenty years before things really came together. I’m sure there were times the fun stopped and, dare I say, he even considered quitting. But he didn’t. He made it work, made it fun and kept on going. Now it’s paid off.

    Writing is an art form above all else and there are many writers who never catch a break and just toil away at it their whole lives. They’ll say it’s because “they can’t help themselves but write,” but what does that mean? It means they’re having fun regardless of payoff. Writing is a source of joy for them and completes them in some way. Whether you publish or not, there needs to be a fun element. Very, very few writers write solely for money.

    Publishing should be fun, too, even if success doesn’t happen right away. Transforming a book from a manuscript into an actual book with two covers is also an art form, a fun art form, and should be part of the joy of creating something from nothing just like writing the story is. In fact, it’s becomes highly addictive after a while.

    Writing should be about honesty and good times. If it’s not, why bother?

    Anyway, thanks for reading my Top Ten List of Truths for Self-publishers. There are more, but these are the big ones. Others can be found in my book, Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book, which walks you step-by-step through the publishing process for print and eBooks, formatting, cover design, marketing and more. It’s an entire self-publisher’s education between two covers, one that covers multiple eBook and paperback markets, and is meant to be the ultimate go-to guide for the career indie author.

    Thanks again.


  • Top Ten List of Truths for Self-publishers Part One

    Getting Down and Digital DrivethruTop Ten List of Truths for Self-publishers Part One
    by
    A.P. Fuchs

    Also published at BadRedhead Media here

    Self-publishing has been around for a long, long time. In fact, that’s how writers used to publish their work before the whole big trade system came along. Self-publishing has also always—always—been a viable way to make a living as a writer, but the problem was most writers who tried it didn’t execute it properly and ended up losing a ton of money, were taken advantage of by dishonest companies, or simply sat on a pile of books because they didn’t know how to move them.

    Or was that just me?

    Nowadays, self-publishing is easier than ever before, but like those days long ago, many writers don’t know what to do or where to start, or if they do find information on-line, it’s not always complete. As a ten-year self-publishing veteran and one who has been doing it full time since the spring of 2009 before the indie revolution, there are several truths about long-term self-publishing that I’ve discovered over the years and want to share here.

    My Top Ten List of Truths for Self-publishers in no particular order:

    1. Self-publishing is completely feasible to make a living at with the proper knowledge.

    When I started, I had no idea about the book business, how it worked, who to talk to or what to do other than knew I needed a publisher. After a string of rejection letters, I ended up putting out my first book through a subsidy press. They call themselves “self-publishing houses,” but they’re not. The moment any “publisher” charges a service for a fee, they fall into the category of a subsidy press with you, the writer, subsidizing them. With that press, it cost me around $2500 and all I had to show for it was a badly-written book—with a good story, but terrible writing—and no audience. Despite spamming the news lists in those days—didn’t know any better—nothing really came out of it. Had I done my research into what real self-publishing was, I would’ve found out that it’s not paying someone else to publish your book, but rather covering all the costs yourself, learning how to produce a professional product, and doing all the tasks of a publisher for your own work.

    What I should’ve done was:

    – spent several evenings combing the Internet researching self-publishing
    – read books about self-publishing and learned the requirements
    – discovered what legalities might be involved
    – learned software
    – researched success stories to learn from those who made a go of it and did well, then applied those lessons to my own career

    But I didn’t take the time to learn the ropes and paid a high price for it, not just financially, but mentally and emotionally as well.

    There’s a cost to self-publishing, but the good news is this cost becomes less and less the more one learns about it. Though I am a firm believer in hands-on learning, even going through trials for some lessons, research and taking one’s time before jumping into the pool is always strongly encouraged.

    I wish someone would’ve told me to do the same way back then, so I’m here to tell you—if no one else is—to research, research, research. You’ll save yourself a boatload of headaches and heartaches later if you do.

    It’s important to:

    – be ready to listen to others who’ve “been there and done that”
    – be willing to hear the stuff you want to hear and the stuff you don’t want to hear
    – in short, be willing to learn regardless of the lesson. No one is a master right out of the gate, and even those who seem to have perfected a system of publishing are always learning themselves.

    2. You need to work hard.

    Aside from catching a break and getting caught in Amazon’s “customers who bought this book also bought this other one” loop, or finding yourself a regular on the bestseller lists thus maintaining your visibility, self-publishing is hard work.

    Not only do you need to put in the hours to write the actual book, you need to:

    – put in the time to perfect the book during the rewrite stages
    – the willingness to listen to and work with an editor
    – put in the time formatting the book for paperback, eBook and possibly hardcover
    – later, to stand out amongst the hundreds of thousands of books published each year, make a solid effort marketing your title so people know about it while you also write and produce the next book

    For many writers, if this isn’t their fulltime gig, they find it difficult to maintain a day job, family and put in the time for their writing career. Many quit along the way because the workload-without-always-an-immediate-payoff gets to them and they get discouraged. Understandable, for sure, but sad when they walk away.

    You see, the challenges aren’t always a book not selling well.

    Sometimes these challenges are:

    – the people in our lives, those telling us to get a real job or “it’s fine to dream but make sure you have something stable”
    – those who just don’t get why we spend hours upon hours writing stories [hopefully] first for our own amusement and then for the amusement of others.

    Their words cut. Their words hurt. Their words sometimes put a stop to things before they even begin.

    Their words—even actions—become the challenge and sometimes make the inherent challenges of writing and publishing easy by comparison.

    Going into self-publishing knowing you’ll have to make a sincere effort will help make that effort easier. I know many who jump into self-publishing thinking it’ll be a breeze only to quickly get discouraged and overwhelmed when the workload kicks in. Prepping your mental state ahead of time will help see you through those 3 AM rewrite sessions when the coffee brewer runs out.

    The good news is as your career grows, this becomes easier because practice makes anything simpler and less time-consuming (our first go-round is always the longest). At the same time, working hard at the writing and production of a book(s) is usually lifelong for any self-publisher and until one’s name can sell books all by themselves, the marketing work needs to be there, too.

    3. Diversify, diversify, diversify.

    I’ve been self-publishing for ten years and I’ve seen trends come and go, markets come and go, and formats come and go. For the longest time, hardcopy books were all that were available so that’s what people bought. Later, as the Internet grew, non-fiction PDF eBooks were a big deal and folks were making a mint off them while paperbacks were a steady seller. Then—at least in the small press—things were paperback-focused again barring a few markets, but now eReaders have come along and eBooks have taken over. Truth is, this stuff is cyclical and things will either balance out and paperbacks will gain ground again, or might even become the norm once more. We really don’t know, and that’s the truth. This business changes like crazy and has been changing more rapidly since Joe Author has been able to keep up with the big boys with greater and greater ease. What happens next, only time will tell.

    And as a self-publisher, you need to be ready for it.

    In the realm of independent publishing, the self-publisher needs to diversify their distribution and take advantage of all the outlets and not just focus on one or two. I know those who put all their eggs into the Kindle basket and now their sales have dried up because the market’s flooded. They didn’t diversify and are paying for it. On the other hand, those I know who have their books available via more than a couple channels are just fine because they can afford it when one channel lags behind for one reason or another. It’s like your book(s) is riding a series of rollercoasters simultaneously: some go up while others go down, but at the end of the day, you’re still moving books because readers buy their books from more than one source in more than one format. The more sources and formats you’re in, the more consistent your paycheck will be at the end of the month thus making it easier for you to put in the time to keep the self-publishing machine going.

    Case in point, I do the e-market, sure, but also do comic conventions where I net $8-10 a book and sell a lot of books. I can’t hand readers eBooks, but I can hand them paperbacks, and since I use an affordable printer, my per-unit cost is very low and thus make out well come time for direct sales. And I print on demand, too, by the way.

    I also had a couple eBook channels go out of business on me, but that was okay because my eBooks were available elsewhere and not just at those two places so the hit wasn’t all that bad.

    Bottom line: your paperback venues, eBook venues and even hardcover ones, if you go that route, need to be available in as many places as possible so that when the market fluctuates for good or ill, you’ll still be able to pull through. I’m not suggesting to stretch yourself too thin either and sign up with every distributor on the planet. If you’re a one-person-band, your time and attention only go so far so keep things reasonable, of course, but certainly keep them varied.

    4. Write a good book.

    The biggest book marketer of all time is word-of-mouth. That’s why when a certain book or series gets popular, it suddenly sees a giant spike in sales: everyone’s talking about it. Sometimes a book is popular because it’s popular since people generally ride bandwagons for their entertainment, but other times it’s because a book is genuinely good that word spreads. Writing a good book helps increase the chances of that and helps encourage those who’ve read it to tell others.

    It also serves as a resume of sorts for your other titles.

    – if a reader likes Title A, he/she is more apt to try Title B because Title A was written so well
    – if you turn them off the first time because of bad writing, then you’re only shooting your backlist in the foot

    There is so much to choose from in this competitive market that the reader will move onto someone else in the hopes of a better written book. And let’s be honest, writers—or any artist—are a dime a dozen. You need to do well to rise above the crowd.

    Simply put: write a good book, and if you’re thinking of self-publishing your first book, make sure it’s objectively good and isn’t just good because you and your mom think so.

    – see what other seasoned writers think
    – see what a beta reader group thinks

    Most people’s first novels aren’t that great as the writer is still learning their craft. I know mine was a stinker. Great story, but terrible writing.

    Best to put a strong foot forward and take your time learning your craft before getting all excited and jumping into the self-publishing pool. That’s one of the reasons the market is so painfully flooded right now. Everyone’s publishing everything. The idea of publishing whatever and finding your audience doesn’t hold any water and the current climate proves that. Publish “whatever,” sure, but make sure it’s a good whatever, you know? If you’re serious about this business, you’ll want to be in it for the long haul and being known as the writer who consistently writes good books—regardless of sales volume—can only help you in the long run.

    This business is a marathon, not a sprint.

    5. You need to be attractive on the inside and on the outside.

    And, no, I’m not talking about your looks.

    An exciting and attractive book cover will make your book stand out amongst the rest. Don’t know how to make an attractive book cover? Either learn how or hire someone who does.

    There are certain elements that need to be in play in order to hook the reader’s attention, everything from:

    – color choice to graphics
    – eye flow
    – font size
    – other items

    If you don’t understand these items and how they apply to your genre(s), you need to learn how. This is why you see so many books out on Kindle and elsewhere that have terrible covers. The author cheaped out and didn’t put as much effort into the cover as they did into writing the book. A book’s cover is part of the creative process of a novel. It’s its “clothes,” so to speak. You can have the greatest book in the world, but if the cover stinks, then odds are you and possibly a few others will be the only ones who’ll read it.

    Assuming your cover has interested the reader, they’ll pick your book off the shelf or “search inside” it via an on-line retailer, so having an equally nice interior is also important. It’s about creating the whole package for them and a properly formatted interior makes a better reading experience for the reader and, later, will make them more likely to check out your other books because they had such a pleasant experience with that first one. It also demonstrates you take your fiction/non-fiction seriously since evident care was put into the book’s presentation. People pick up on it whether consciously or otherwise.


  • Publishing Isn’t Free

    Click Here to Download from Amazon.com
    Click Here to Download from Amazon.com
    Raising Capital for Your Book
    by A.P. Fuchs
    (from Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book)

    Publishing books costs money. Like the saying goes, you’ve got to spend money to make money. There’s no way around this. Thankfully, desktop publishing has dramatically cut that cost down and instead of having to spend thousands of dollars up front like in the old days, you can publish your book for less than a couple hundred on the low end, or a thousand or more on the high end.

    This book shows you how to publish your book for around $200, give or take a little depending on what you hire out when producing your book and where you live.

    Keeping up with the spirit of this book, which is starting out with little to no money like I did, let me make a few suggestions as to how to raise that $200 if you don’t have it saved already.

    – set aside a set amount every payday so you can publish your book in a timely manner

    – if things are indeed tight and nothing can be spared, then consider getting a temporary part-time job to cover the expenses of book publishing

    – if your book is complete, write up a synopsis of your book and take pre-orders from family and friends. This may be tricky, however, if you don’t know how to price your book. See the section on pricing for more info

    – have a yard sale

    – start a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign at www.kickstarter.com

    – sell off your unwanted CDs, books, records, etc. to stores that specialize in those items


  • A Self-publisher’s Book Stock

    In the corner of the studio is my shelf of books. These are for conventions, book signings, direct sales, and any other venue I can sell paperbacks at. Selling direct to the reader is a market that most modern self-publishers don’t take advantage of and is one I highly recommend as I’ve been doing direct-market sales for eleven years, and convention sales for eight. Save for the occasional bad book signing, it’s always been a good method for me to move copies. Typically, I’ll order in a bunch of books in moderate quantities, anywhere from 25-100. Only once have I gone way over and got in 300 copies of a title. By doing it this way, I know I have stock for all my shows for a year, possibly two, depending on quantity ordered. By all means, there’s a small financial outlay at the start, but as discussed in my book, Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book, this cost is quickly recovered and everything above that is profit. Likewise, the more you get in, the cheaper your per-unit cost is thus making it fewer copies to recoup your investment and also increasing your per-unit profit.

    Here are pics of the big bookshelf in the corner. Some book and comic stock also pepper the studio in other places, but this is the main go-to shelf, which is stocked two books deep and as high as is possible. Click the pics below for a closer look. Recognize the titles?

    DSCF3027

    DSCF3028

    DSCF3029

    DSCF3030


  • Why You Should Self-publish Part One

    Click Here to Download from Amazon.com
    Click Here to Download from Amazon.com
    by A.P. Fuchs
    (from Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book)

    There are those on the planet who enjoy making things. I mean, really making things, going from mere idea to its actual physical reality. There’s a sense of pride in seeing something through start to finish, crafting something with your own hands, making something that wasn’t there before.

    Our world wouldn’t be where it is if not for those who saw it fit to make their ideas a reality, for others to see, feel and experience those ideas and, hopefully, make the world a better place as a result. Sometimes we’ve succeeded at that, others times not. Regardless, bringing something into existence that wasn’t there before is incredible.

    That’s what self-publishing is: an incredible way for writers to bring their ideas into physical reality for a reader. And while before it was a joint effort between a publisher and writer to do that, taking the path of self-publishing enables the writer to be the sole creator of a book.

    The reasons people take the self-publishing route vary from individual to individual, but there has to be a few positive reasons behind doing it for it to be a viable option and worth the writer’s time, effort, and money.

    Self-publishing puts the success or failure of a book on the writer’s shoulders. By them being the publisher, it rests on them if the book succeeds or not, and by walking the book from conception to finished manuscript to formatted and printed paperback/hardcover and eBook, they can oversee each step in the process to stack the odds in their favor for a successful outcome.

    Why should anyone self-publish? I mean, it is an awful lot of work. Some, like me, would argue that the writing of the book is the easy part, but turning that manuscript into a published book is where the challenge is.

    It’s not for everybody and is certainly not for those seeking a get-rich-quick scheme, but it is for those who are entrepreneurial by nature, are very hands-on, enjoy a great deal of control, and even are lone wolves at heart. Writing itself is a lonely job, sitting there for hours on end typing on a computer or writing a book on a legal pad. Throw taking that manuscript and turning it into a published book into the mix and you’ve just added even more hours spent by yourself.

    For me, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my alone time and prefer to spend the majority of my time that way if it can be helped. Ever since I was a kid I enjoyed time by myself, with time spent with others more of a chore than a joy. Nothing against anybody; just how I’m wired. But if this is you, too, then you’ve already got the makings of a writer and a self-publisher.

    To see a book through from start to finish, there’s an immense amount of control. Unlike the traditional publishing model where things like the cover or even the book’s title are under the domain of the marketing department, everything is up to the writer if they self-publish. The beauty of this is you can not only call the book what you want instead of giving your baby another name, but also decide on its presentation.

    When writing the book you no doubt had the story’s different scenes playing through your head. I’m sure there was at least one moment or two where you thought, Man, if only this scene was on the cover. Well, self-publishing gives you that chance. You can be very specific with the artwork and hire someone to bring to life that image you saw in your mind’s eye. Likewise, the book’s interior can be presented the way you want. Do you want spot illustrations in it? Hey, hire and artist and put them in. A traditional publisher might not go for that if you asked because it’s an added expense for them and an additional hassle in terms of coordinating with the artist for those images. Same with even font style, or simply labeling your chapters as “Chapter One” or “Chapter 1” or “1.” However you want it is how it’ll be which, to me, brings an added level of artistry to the book. Not only did you write the story, but you also designed the canvas for it to be presented on. Self-publishing is the only way to have this kind of control.

    Same with picking the price point. Traditional publishers have a bottom line they’re trying to feed and, depending, that bottom line might not even be dictated by the company owner but by others with their fingers in the pie. After all—and as I’m sure you’ve experienced if you’ve ever worked for a big company—the almighty shareholder comes first and who cares about practicality, right? By being in control of the pricing, you get to decide how much you make as the author/publisher and have the ability to experiment with different price points to see which one yields you the most earnings.

    Speaking of money . . .

    Part Two to be posted next Monday.