Some of the articles under the Self-publishing Articles section on this blog are a little dated. The principles have not changed but some of the wording needs an update. These articles cover various aspects of self-publishing along with other articles that focus on writing. That said, it’s time to consider revisiting some of them to bring them into the present.
This is where you come in. Are there any articles you’d like me to update or express new views on?
Let me know either via email or via the comments below.
Some call this the Golden Age of Publishing and the best time to be a writer.
Still trying to figure out why. That is, why in the truest sense. Sure, the arguments are it’s easy to get your work out there and some of have made a goldmine. That’s not reason enough to give this era of publishing the labels we have.
For those who don’t know, I started writing my first book in 2000. I published it via a vanity press in 2003. Starting in 2004, I began self-publishing all my novels through my own company, my traditional “outbound” sales being short stories. Being independent back then was considered taboo and the kiss of death. If you publicly declared you published your own work, at least in writing and publishing circles, you weren’t a real writer and eBooks weren’t real books. You weren’t even a real publisher.
It bothered me for a few years, but then I didn’t care and proudly flaunted what I did. If you didn’t like it, too bad.
I made a name for myself in small press circles and became a minor local celebrity. Back in the beginning, back when I was writing that first book, there were a couple of months where I dreamed of fame and fortune. Not anymore. Don’t want it. But that’s another blog entry.
As my career progressed, I’ve seen writers come and go, publishers rise and fall, and the industry drastically change. I’ve made amazing friendships and networked with so many people, some of whom are very well known. I’ve stuck to the small press by choice and have dealt with the major league publishers while my publishing company was in full swing and I worked with other authors.
These days, I’m alone again. By choice. My meltdown in 2014 led to that and, in some ways, I’m still recovering.
That’s a quick history of where I’m coming from.
Back to why I decided to quit the publishing business: to be honest, I won’t no part of it. Not in the way it is right now. Over the past few weeks I’ve spoken to a several writers about how things are going. I’m paraphrasing, but they all said the same thing: not very good. Can’t get readers.
Over the months and recent years leading up to this past little while, I’ve heard the same thing. It’s getting progressively harder and harder to reach people and books can no longer–for most–be one’s sole source of income. And I’m not even talking massive money, to be clear. For many, making a thousand bucks off one’s books in a year is doing well. But to make a livable wage of, say, twenty or thirty thousand? Forget it.
Sure, there are genre exceptions. Erotica’s a big one. I know a guy who’s main love is horror, but that doesn’t pay the bills, so he writes pornographic books to make up the difference. Certain romance genres are also big. But other genre fiction from average Writer Joe? Forget it.
The market is flooded. Everyone is publishing a book these days, quality be damned. And those who do put in the time and effort and monetary investment for quality are just nameless voices on the wind. Some said the cream would rise to the top. I have yet to see it, and that statement was made years ago.
Heck, some readers are stopping reading independent titles altogether because they’ve been let down too many times. You don’t have a name that’s recognizable and one that can be counted on to deliver the goods? Back of the line, please.
That opening line to this entry? It’s true. Here’s what happened:
A certain on-line juggernaut was a good place to get books. There were many others, but this big on-line place was a favorite. They offered a few breaks, saved you some shipping, discounted things by a couple of bucks. It became a common place to refer people to. We all sent them there. Over and over again. The company grew–exploded–and came out with their own publishing platform. That caught like wildfire and stories of near-instant millionaires tickled the ears of writers everywhere. A little more time passed and everybody was publishing and everybody was referring people to this one place. Meanwhile, over the years on the side, other companies couldn’t compete and started shutting down. (Ever wonder why you go into a bookstore and a good chunk of it is dedicated to things other than books? There you go. Or what of the smaller publishing houses whose main bread and butter is government grants and not book sales?) Options became limited. And us writers kept pushing one platform, one retailer. Throw a flooded market on top of that and now things are falling apart.
(And you know it’s bad when you have big shot agents in NY telling you to self-publish instead.)
Writers don’t know what to do and fail to realize they’ve ruined their own careers by betting the majority of their chips on one avenue. Mankind’s shortsightedness, right? Look at other writer blogs that talk about writing and publishing. What are most of the articles about? How to sell books, score big at a certain on-line place, manipulate charts and cheat your way to the top all in the name of the almighty dollar.
Oh sure, even if you’ve scored massive right now–who cares? You’re screwing Future You. If you’re really in this business for the right reasons–that is, you’re an artist and need an outlet and want to share it with people while supporting yourself at the same time–you should know by now this is a marathon not a sprint. Yet writers are sprinting and scrambling and are getting frustrated all the while not paying attention to how their actions today will affect themselves tomorrow.
Samhain Publishing is the recent high profile case of a publisher closing its doors. The reason? Like all businesses that have to say goodbye, they couldn’t fund the operation anymore. If you read their letter, which is on-line, the bulk of their sales came from one place and, when that market became tough, the money was no longer there to keep going.
Side note: Even those who are making a killing at this–it’s not a killing at all because they have one main outlet, even one main format. Take that away and what’s left? Not much else. That’s not success, in my opinion. Yours might be different. Success in publishing comes from doing well in the majority of the markets, not just one. Anyway . . .
Speaking generally, the mad dash for the dollar is the main culprit. Greed is the fall of mankind.
I was at a bookstore recently and I was disgusted by what I saw. Nearly every book on the shelf looked just like the one next to it. Not a single one caught my eye. Sure, some had neat-sounding titles, but strictly the covers? It’s like walking into Moore’s to buy a suit. They’re pretty much all the same save for a few differences in how the lapels are cut. But that’s marketing. That’s the big machine brainwashing people into telling them what they want. Romance covers look like this, thriller covers look like that.
Of course I realize I could very well be alone in this. My tastes are more into the unusual and books with covers that show genuine creativity and break boundaries are what get my attention. This goes for my comic book tastes, too.
So again, the machine, the big ocean of publishing. I’m just one measly fish in all this but everyone else wants to cater to the masses. They forget that we programmed the masses to accept things a certain way by doing things a certain way over and over.
Even books. We have genres. When a book’s genre is a snap to define, it’s marketable. Ask any writer who’s queried an agent or publisher. Have a different style of book where genres–even mediums–merge and it’s much, much harder. Seems we forgot people simply like stories and have instead forced those stories into little boxes. Romance here, thrillers there. This puts writers in boxes, too. Write a book that’s gonna sell. Another common mantra. So you write to genre, even to formula. That’s what readers expect, after all. Don’t shake things up. Don’t create anymore. Just follow the recipe and hopefully your cupcakes will turn out well.
I got into this business all those years ago to tell stories. Being green and naive at the time, I knew about genre but didn’t know about genre. And, yeah, I’ve partly catered to it as time has gone on. Even played the money game and published what was popular. It was all unfulfilling. The extra bucks in my pocket didn’t fill that gap in my heart, the one that needed to express itself through simply telling a story.
Over the years, I’ve tried to do new things in my fiction. Even my zombie stuff has gotten blasted because of some of the non-formulaic stuff I threw in there. Wanna give me a one-star review for that? Put me down. Or the first Axiom-man book. It’s a slow burn because I based it on real life and played it out as if the storyline happened in our world. No fast-paced Hollywood hero stuff.
There were even times over the years where I was obsessed with landing a mass market deal so I could “make it.” There were other times where all the joy and fun of creating was gone and my books became a product and I was a factory. And, man, when a book loses its heart–it’s not a book anymore. Just words on a bunch of pages. That’s empty. That defeats point of even creating to begin with.
These days, all I’m seeing is the majority of those in the business thinking nothing of the craft itself and instead thinking of the endgame, the product, the dollar. Search writers’ groups or your Twitter feed. Article after article on “formulas for success,” or “how to write a book that sells.”
The immediate cash grab.
(These formulas are all BS, by the way. There is no one right way because if there was, the secret would’ve gotten out by now and we’d all be doing it.)
Authors are panicking because most rely on on-line sales and, well, there’s really only one place for those now, isn’t there? You remember whose fault it is.
Just living in the now. Screw the Future You and, for quite a lot of you, you are that Future You right now and you’re taking it hard up you-know-where.
As said, we’re all guilty.
To wrap up, I just don’t want to be part of this business as it is. I don’t want my own creativity to be limited by outlet or genre. I don’t want to be an author brand or that writer who only does one thing. The point of art is to create without limits. Pick your medium. This is where you say, “Well, that might be, A.P., but if you want to survive in this business you have to play by the business’s rules.” And you’re right . . . but you also forget it’s actually us writers who make the rules.
Except no one is going about trying to change them. A publisher is useless without you, remember?
Imagine if we all started doing our own thing. Imagine if we didn’t play to genre or one platform or manipulate systems and writers everywhere flooded publishing offices with manuscripts that were excellent heart-filled stories that didn’t fall into a definable category. Chaos at first. A whole slew of rejections. But if it kept happening? The powers that be would have no choice but to take a second look and revise how they do business.
Or . . .
Imagine if every writer marketing their work got their heads around the truth that fostering box stores–on-line and off- –is a bad idea, and instead of handing their literary destiny over to a single entity, they diversified. Hmm . . . what if they led by example? What if their own purchases for anything in their lives were made outside the giants? What if they steered their readers toward direct sales or other outlets that don’t get as much attention? Small businesses would thrive again. Perhaps, even, people in general wouldn’t be corporate cogs and we’d all have fulfilling lives in terms of how we spent eight hours a day and the rewards we reaped from it beyond just the dollar sign.
For years I said if the publishing industry continued down the path it was on, it would start to break. Now it’s happening. I know many writers who used to support themselves on their writing having to go and work outside the home again. I know of many small presses closing up shop because they can’t sustain themselves off of books.
It seems creators in any medium don’t understand they hold all the cards. We can change this. We’ll need to take hits along the way and some will be financial. You’ll have to part with your precious cash. But in the long term? That Future You? They’ll thank you.
As for me, I’m out. Gonna march completely to my own drummer now. Do things my way. Tell the stories I want to tell genre be damned. Break some rules. Put out books with covers that are simply cool instead of falling into marketing cliches. Even mix mediums and put out illustrated novel/graphic novel hybrids. These days I don’t rely on that on-line empire for my sales. Off-line and direct work very well for me. And this is good. If all my cards were in one deck and that deck goes away–and yeah, it could happen, guys, unless you know the future and aren’t telling me something–I’d have nothing.
Anyway, you might call this career suicide.
I call it career resurrection.
I’m in this to be honest with my work, to be honest with who I am as a person, to be straight up with you and to be the real deal. Might also being the only guy doing it, too, which is fine.
But, man, what a payoff.
I’m not publishing books anymore. I’m making them. To publish them connects me to a business that’s dying. To simply make them and make art connects me to something that’s alive.
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.
Like the headline says, there’s a new interview with me at Captain Awesome’s Realm of . . . Awesomeness. It was a pleasure doing the interview and I got to talk about superheroes and self-publishing. Andrew Lorenz, who conducted the interview, is a great guy and great comic writer. He runs September17 Productions, which publishes the comics he writes.
This entry was prompted because I’ve come across it more than once. Three times, to be exact, so I figure it’s worth blogging about–
Authors and starting their own publishing company.
This is the approach to publishing I strongly advocate in Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book. It’s my opinion that taking the time to set up a publishing business the proper way opens doors to taking your self-publishing career in multiple positive directions, on-line and off-.
However, on three separate occasions I’ve seen authors simply “start companies,” that is, just making up a business name and start and/or plan to publish under it without registering it through the proper channels.
While the nuances of business start-up rules vary country to country, state to state, province to province, if a person wants to start a company, there is a certain way to go about it because each industry functions on different rules of trade and sales depending on where you live.
When I started Coscom Entertainment and any if its imprints, I had to go to the Companies Office downtown, fill out paperwork, explain what my business was and pay a fee. This was in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
I know from speaking with other Canadian and US publishers that they, too, had to go through a formal procedure to get their company up and running.
But I have also seen authors pull a company out of thin air and aim to start using it. I don’t know if this is simply because they don’t know any better or if it’s because of all the Kindle talk that people think all areas of publishing are free and one can do whatever they want when it comes to it. Or maybe, like most writers and artists, money is hard to come by so they want to do things as cheaply as possible and free is about as cheap as it gets. Perhaps it’s the Internet mentality because a lot of people view the Web as a “place to get stuff free” so why not start up a company for free, too? The problem with this kind of free is it’s unethical. Why create the groundwork of your career on something that’s wrong? It’ll only lead to problems down the road.
The publishing industry is changing, this is true, and things are not what they used to be–and this extends past the whole eBook thing–but other things have remained, and that is the need to properly start a business if setting up a publishing house is part of your self-publishing plan.
If you’re not sure what to do, pull out your phone book and look up your local Companies Office. Tell them what you plan on doing–publish books–and they’ll let you know what you need to do so that if your business is ever looked into, you can produce the proper paperwork that states you are allowed to run your business whether out of your home or an outside office. Likewise, when it comes tax time and you claim your writing income, claiming it under a company might work to your advantage in terms of write-offs. Talk to an accountant about this as the rules vary place to place.
In the end, if you wish to self-publish via your own imprint, part of the deal is registering that imprint with the proper authorities.
Start your career on the right foot. It can only payoff in the end.
You need to know where you’re going before you can figure out what you’re doing. A simple—even obvious—principle, but one often overlooked by writers and artists looking to get their work out there.
I made the mistake of jumping right into this business and publishing my first book, A Stranger Dead, via a vanity/subsidy press. Next thing I knew, I was in the hole around $2500US and never made my money back. Back then, because of the US-to-Canadian-dollar exchange rate, you could add about 40-45% to that bill, so I plunked down somewhere around $3,625 Canadian for a book that went, well, nowhere. I think, all told, I recouped maybe a couple hundred bucks and that was it. Of course, a couple hundred is better than zero, but had I known that jumping in without stopping and researching and honing my craft, I would’ve come up with a different plan, especially since I was trying to make writing my livelihood.
Yet many jump in. They believe the Kindle hype and jump in. They pay someone to publish their book and jump in. They hook up with a small press without knowing its history or who’s behind it, and jump in. The list goes on, and heartbreak and frustration often follow.
The problem with jumping in and not knowing how to swim is that you drown.
Like all journeys—and believe me, publishing is a journey and not some place you can just get to by stepping out your door and, poof, there you are—you need to figure out where you’re going first. And this destination is different for everybody.
It’s based on goals.
There are a few categories of people when it comes to the publishing business and though money is involved, it’s not all that’s involved.
The first thing anyone needs to do before they embark on any creative journey in regards to getting their work out there, is to decide what their end game is.
No way around this.
Don’t go any further without establishing this. Without it, it’ll be like being in the middle of the ocean and not knowing which way to swim to get to land. You will quickly tucker out as you try different directions, get frustrated, even mentally broken in some cases and, eventually, you’ll pack it in.
There are three general categories the writer falls into. Find which one you’re in and you’ll make your life easier going forward.
The Hobbyist: this person creates solely for fun. Money is not the main motivator and they usually give away their work for free or sell it for very, very little, the main drive simply to have a good time with their art and that’s it. They might also not even distribute their work and just fill up a hard drive or journal with their stories solely for their own amusement.
The Part-timer: this person is interested in making money with their work, but thanks to either a working spouse or a job they love, their craft isn’t a career-goal for them. Regardless of the money involved—but there has to be some as they are, indeed, looking at their art as a “part-time job”—the main motivator is to use their art to put food on the table in conjunction with other sources of income.
The Full-timer: this person aims to make their art their sole livelihood and so work their butt off to obtain that. Some find success right away, others take years, even decades. The amount of money it requires to achieve this varies on lifestyle and personal desires.
Each of the above involves taking a different path. Though “all roads lead North” isn’t true for this biz, there are many roads to achieve each of the above goals, most of them being a case of finding what works for you and running with it.
However, generally speaking, the roads look something like this:
The Hobbyist: with money not really an issue and/or motivator, this person will either invest their own funds into their project, put it out themselves, distribute however and whenever, or simply throw everything up on the Web for free and call it good. They might publish with a small press and if the book is a flop, it’s a non-issue for them. Also, as previously mentioned, publication might not even be pursued and the stories are kept private in journals or on a hard drive.
The Part-timer: money being a consideration, this person will either get involved with a small-to-medium-sized press, make a few hundred dollars to a few grand a year, and are more than happy with that.
The Full-timer: with their livelihood at stake, this person will aim to find incredible success with a traditional publisher, whether big, medium or even small, depending on the number of copies sold. Though lifestyles vary, $20-25,000 minimum would probably be required to live off of if you are single in today’s economic climate. To secure this kind of advance for a first-time author is difficult, but not impossible. First-time author advances range from $100-10,000 in general (and depends on the size of the press), but with a good marketable book and a good agent, getting $20,000-plus up front isn’t farfetched. While the high-end first-time author advance of $10,000-$20,000 may or may not be enough to live on, it does give you access to a publisher’s resources and distribution channels, their brand and connections, and, you never know, your book might take off thus putting you in demand and getting you a higher advance for a second book. There’s also the possibility of signing a first-time author multi-book deal (i.e. $30,000 for 3 books at $10,000 each).
All three of the above can also take one final path: entrepreneurship, in other words, self-publishing, which is the main focus of this book.
Each goal can also be achieved self-publishing-wise based on one’s entrepreneurial model.
You can also mix-and-match, meaning you can shoot to be a part-timer but end up scoring on the publishing roulette wheel and still net a full-time income on the side.
In the end, goal-setting is priority one. It’s the first step. You’ve got to know which way your feet are pointed before you can walk out the door.
I’ll emphasize it again: you must do this if you are to save yourself weeks, months or even years of frustration and spinning your wheels.
By taking on the role of a publisher, the one who fronts the cost to turn a manuscript into a published book, the self-publisher takes all the risk—but also reaps all the reward as a result. Think of it as an investment. Folks go to the bank all the time and dump in fifty dollars, a hundred dollars, a thousand or more into RRSPs or GICs, money they’ll never touch for years, but while it’s sitting there, it’ll earn them much more than they originally invested given enough time. Self-publishing is the same way. Even if your up-front costs are a thousand dollars, you start selling your books and, depending on format, make $3-10 profit, once you’ve sold 100-333 copies, you’ve made your money back. Everything above that is your return on your investment. And instead of making a dollar or even two dollars a book sold as per the traditional royalty system with the rest going to your publisher—and to be fair, they deserve to make money for bringing the book to market for you and taking care of you during your contract with them—you get to keep all the profits for yourself.
There’s huge potential to make a lot of money self-publishing. Like I said, if you set up your system to ensure you make $3-10 profit per book (i.e. $3 minimum on an eBook sale and $10 or so on the high end for a paperback sale), you could come away with a very secure future assuming the market is kind to you. To sell 50 eBooks would pay my water bill for three months. I could do the same if I sold 15 paperbacks at a convention as I average around $10 profit per sale through those direct-to-reader venues.
Before, a writer would have to sell thousands of copies of their book just to stay afloat because they made anywhere from 80 cents to a couple bucks a book depending on format. Sometimes less. And while it’s great that they sold those thousands of copies so they could pay their bills, imagine how much more they could’ve made had they been able to do the same volume of sales on their own? If they sold 2000 books total and made the aforementioned 80 cents to two dollars, that would be around $1600-4000 in their pocket. If they self-published and averaged $3-10 per sale, that’s a range of $6000-20,000 to their credit. A huge, huge difference, and for some, enough of a difference between having a bed to sleep in and food on the table.
The beauty of self-publishing is the ability to produce a book for a niche market, something that you don’t typically find in the mainstream, if at all. For example, I write superhero fiction. Back when I started doing it in 2006, my series, The Axiom-man Saga, was one of a handful of other independent superhero fiction books. There was no way I could take my manuscript and sell it to a publishing house because no one would take the risk on a completely unknown superhero with no proven track record. Well, guess what? By self-publishing the series, I’ve been able to find an audience for it and every time a new installment in The Axiom-man Saga comes out for a convention or on-line, people buy copies. And when I’m behind on getting a new book out because I’m committed to other projects, people start asking me when the next book in The Axiom-man Saga is coming out.
Self-publishing is also great for those who can’t keep their hands to themselves. Some writers need to be involved with their book every step of the way, and while this goes back to self-publishing enabling the writer complete control of the project, it also lends itself to writers who are also entrepreneurs, who are business people by nature.
There are two types of people in the world: those who take risks and those who don’t. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers. They see the potential for a business and are willing to spend the money—sometimes money they don’t have—to make it happen even though there’s the possibility it might not work out. And that’s their mindset when it comes to self-publishing: it’s a business. And what do businesses do? They manufacture a product and market it to people. Even service-providing businesses do the same because a service is a product. The entrepreneurial self-publisher is someone who isn’t just a creative individual, but also one with a business-oriented mindset, someone who has a vision for their book beyond simply writing it and are willing to take the risk(s) involved to make that vision a reality. While I personally don’t view books as “products” but works of art, from the outside looking in that’s what a publisher does: sells a product.
The other advantage to self-publishing is to take a book and prove to a traditional publisher there is a market for it. There are many stories of writers self-publishing rejected manuscripts—which weren’t necessarily rejected for quality reasons—and turning them into bestsellers. There are also those who have self-published, had major success, and then were picked up by a traditional publisher who took on the publishing duties of the same book. Often, these publishers paid a lot of money to have these books in their catalog because the writer showed them there’s an audience for their book(s) out there. You need to sell several thousand copies to catch a traditional publisher’s interest, something to the tune of 5000 copies-plus, but self-publishing is an excellent way to give a chance at life to a book that otherwise would’ve been sitting in a rejection pile somewhere.
By self-publishing, you are also the sole rights holder to the book. And while true even if you sold the book to a traditional publisher you’d still be the sole author and copyright holder, the traditional publisher would be the one who holds the print and electronic rights to it, meaning they could be the only ones to publish the book in the language they represent. Depending, some traditional publishers take additional rights when taking on a book: audio, film, even foreign translation rights if they are connected in that way. The first two are the most common. By going it alone, you decide who gets what, so if some guy from Hollywood wants to make a movie out of your book, you don’t need to share the monies offered with anyone if you negotiate the deal yourself. You’d also get to decide how much influence you’ll have on the movie, though, of course, if you want too much influence—and how much influence is “too much” is up to Joe Hollywood—then the deal might not happen at all. Regardless, to be the one in charge of deciding what other ways people can experience your story is up to you if you self-publish.
If you’re a salesman or are good with people, then the marketing of self-publishing should excite you. For some, sales are a thrill-of-the-chase thing and for every sale they land, they get a high off it. And to know that for every hour of effort you put into selling your book will reap you and you alone the financial reward of doing so should make you even more excited. Books usually don’t sell themselves, but if marketing and creating campaigns is an area of interest for you, self-publishing is an excellent field to do it in.
As you can see, there are numerous advantages to self-publishing your book, the main ones being control and the potential to make more money. You also get to bypass anyone who might reject publishing your book and just take it directly to the reader themselves and let them decide.
But most importantly, self-publishing is a ton of fun and I love every minute of it. Unless a traditional publisher comes along and can do something for me I can’t do on my own, then I plan on self-publishing for the remainder of my writing career.
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.
In an age of self-publishing hype and scattered sources of reliable information, it’s difficult for the would-be self-publisher to learn how to properly launch their career and avoid the inevitable pitfalls the world of independent publishing is known for.
Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book is by self-publishing veteran A.P. Fuchs, who has been self-publishing fiction for nearly a decade. From getting suckered in by a vanity press to learning the hard truth behind successful self-publishing, A.P. Fuchs has been through the school of hard knocks and beyond, coming out on the other side with a publishing platform that has enabled him to support his family while independently publishing fiction.
In Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book you will learn: the most critical lesson about self-publishing you will ever discover; a no-nonsense, non-hyped approach to desktop publishing; proper paperback and eBook formatting; book marketing strategies for on-line and off-line sales; all explained in an easy-to-understand, step-by-step format, helping you to take your finished manuscript to market with ease; paperback and eBook publishing checklists and notes section.
No hype. No bologna. Just pure, honest self-publishing.
If you’re tired of the confusion, tired of the hype and just want a simple and concise way to properly self-publish your book and be successful at it, then Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book is required reading for any serious self-publisher, whether just starting out or having self-published already.