Self-Publishing, Part 1

I am dipping into the scary waters of self-publishing. This difficult decision came about for several reasons. I did a brief survey of readers on my Facebook author page asking if they’d prefer, for an original mystery I’ve written, (a) the expensive hardcover library edition that wouldn’t come out for another year, (b) an ebook version being released as soon as possible for $2.99, or (3) a simultaneous ebook and mass market release with the ebook possibly priced over $5.00. Again, this release date might not be until 2015.

The majority of readers voted for (b), the quick and less expensive ebook edition. This choice corresponds to my self-publishing this work, rather than pursuing small press or traditional NY publisher. For either of those, a wait of over a year before publication would be likely, with no control over the resultant price of the books.

If I were a new author, I’d choose the publisher route to establish credentials. But I already have a fan base for my mysteries. Hopefully these readers will be eager to try an original work and potentially book one in a new series.

self publish

So what are the steps to follow? I’ve put up one backlist title by myself. I formatted it for Kindle and Nook and Smashwords, hired a cover designer, and uploaded Keeper of the Rings to those retail sites. Since this title had already been published, I had the cover copy and quotes handily available. Not so for a totally original work.

I am following the steps so generously described by author Libby Fischer Hellmann at http://www.libbyhellmann.com/six-steps-of-self-publishing/. These steps are similarly described in the resource articles below.

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Step number one is to Hire an Editor once you’ve finished your work. You may need two editors, a developmental and a copy editor. Or you may employ other writer professionals in a time swap arrangement, beta readers, and critique partners. If you are a new author, it is critically important that you follow this step and work with a professional editor.

Next on the list is preparing the Front and Back Materials. Author Marie Force gives a comprehensive discussion of what these should include at http://e-bookformattingfairies.blogspot.com/2012/03/front-matter-and-back-matter-why-it.html.

Author Terry Odell recommends putting most of the items in the back so as not to obstruct the “Sample Preview” offered by Amazon. Terry also made another good point in suggesting I leave off listing the Cast of Characters, because e-book readers won’t be able to flip back to the front of the book for reference. So my front material consists merely of the Copyright Page. I am not having a Dedication, but the front is where this page would go, as well as any advance review quotes for your book.

The back end materials take more time to prepare. First come the Acknowledgments, moved from the front as Terry suggested. Next is an author’s note that reads thus:

Thank you for reading [book title]. If you enjoyed this story, please support the author’s efforts by helping other readers find this book. Here are some suggestions for your consideration.

Write an online customer review.
Gift a copy of this book to a booklover friend.
Sign up for Nancy’s quarterly email newsletter on her website.
Follow Nancy on her social media sites.
Spread the word about her work.
Suggest her titles to a local book club.

Following this page is my About the Author section with social media links. Finally, I have a page with More Books by Nancy J. Cohen. If I can get my formatter to link these titles to the appropriate bookstore, that would be great. Otherwise, the list remains as is.

Another section you can add here is a chapter from your upcoming sequel or excerpts from your other published works. My sequel isn’t far enough along for me to add this additional page.

Keep in mind that these bonus materials add to the length of your book. From what I’ve been reading, this becomes important when formatting your work for Createspace, but that’s another topic down the road, However, if you will be having a cover artist do the spine and back cover for a print book, she may need to know the spine width and that might relate to the number of pages.

Now I’ve added my front and back materials. It’s time to move on to the back cover copy.

In my view, that’s harder than writing the book.

As you can see, this venture promises to be incredibly time consuming the first time around. Thereafter, I imagine it is easier because you can just repeat your steps. Will the effort be worth the reward? I hope so, because these publishing duties steal time from writing the next book.

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It’s exciting to think I’ll have something different to offer my fans, in addition to the Bad Hair Day and Drift Lords series that are on-going. This makes me one of the new breed of hybrid authors. I hope you’ll continue to follow me on this journey of exploration.

Useful Articles on Self-Publishing

http://www.libbyhellmann.com/six-steps-of-self-publishing/

http://e-bookformattingfairies.blogspot.com/2012/03/front-matter-and-back-matter-why-it.html

http://gigipandian.blogspot.com/2012/03/20-steps-in-self-publishing.html

http://www.authorems.com/self-publishing/

Get Rich Self-Pubbing

Get Rich Self-Pubbing Your E-books with J.A. Konrath

 

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.

Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.            Konrath (800x600)

 

Self-publishing eBook guru J.A. Konrath shared his experiences with us at the Ninc conference in St. Pete Beach. His sales figures are impressive and I’m not going to repeat them here. You can follow him on his blog, http://jakonrath.blogspot.com

Joe suggests making your website “sticky”, i.e. give people a reason to stick around. Content should be informative and entertaining. For example, you might offer an unsold book online for free as a pdf download. Joe calls this a “gateway drug” because these readers will go on to buy your print books.

Publishing houses still provide editorial services, cover design, and distribution, plus they serve as  gatekeepers between the author and readers via bookstores. But should we pay for these services forever, or one time only?

If you are self-publishing, the cover art should be professional, even if you have to hire your own artist. Be sure to get the rights to use your cover design for any promotional purposes and also possibly if your book goes into print someday. Make sure your work is edited, error free, and correctly formatted so it looks professional. You’ll need to write the blurbs and back cover copy and get reviews and quotes. You’ll want the free preview option and no DRM.

Joe suggests doing a Kindle Nation ad but not necessarily a Facebook ad to attract readers. Participate in the kindleboards and social networks.

When self-pubbing, if you start out at Smashwords, you’ll get an ISBN there. You can opt out of the Kindle and Pubit (for B&N) and do those yourselves.

If you have an agent, think above having him sell the subrights to your eBooks, i.e. audio, foreign, film.

Books no longer have a shelf life. “This is infinite. It is forever…It’s a buffet mentality. We’re not going to have a saturation.”

SELF-PUBLISHING

Self-publishing is rising in popularity these days. It used to be that books vetted by agents and accepted by editors went through quality control measures. In other words, the writing was up to professional standards and the story had a special zing to it that made an editor take notice. But if any Joe can publish, how is a reader to distinguish between what’s classy and what’s crap?

I have no problem with self-publishing under certain circumstances. For example, someone wants to publish their memoirs to share with her family. Or perhaps an expert in a subject wants to publish a nonfiction book to sell on the speaking circuit. I’ve considered going this route for a book my father wrote concerning his hitchhiking adventures in 1939. Thus in some circles, self-publishing is acceptable. Even legitimately published fiction authors may find themselves suddenly orphaned without an editor, or their line closes, or their option book isn’t renewed. They may view self-publishing as a viable option after a series of rejections by the major pub houses. In this case, their writing will be polished enough that quality won’t be lost.

In fact, why not bypass a publisher altogether when you can convert your own files and submit them electronically for publication as an e-book or POD (print-on-demand)? Maybe this will be the wave of the future, especially if print books go the way of the music CD. Then who needs a publishing house or an agent? Well, I’ll tell you. Authors who want the distribution and support of a royalty-paying publisher. Readers who want quality control so they don’t pick up a book by Joe Schmoe who has no clue how to write. Booksellers who need to be able to return unsold books to the publisher. Change is in the wind, but writers still need traditional publishers if they want to make some money at this career. They still need agents to help them find a publisher for their work. And publishers still need authors, for who else will write the stories of tomorrow?

These publishers may produce ebook or POD formats, but their editors still scour through manuscripts looking for polished work and a unique voice. In other words, they are selective. Self-publishing skirts this process, dissolves the barriers, and lets anyone have a voice. For experienced writers, this isn’t a problem. Their work will still be up to professional standards. But how is a reader to tell the difference between their book and the enthusiastic aspiring author who has no clue about pacing, characterization, and plot? Herein lies the danger of self-publishing, that bad books will flood the marketplace and turn off readers. And if it’s one thing all writers want, it is for readership to increase, not diminish.