A Quick Summary of my Self-Publishing Adventure
My brother sent me an email this morning, part of which said, “I have a friend who is interested in publishing poetry (sonets). He is elderly and doesn’t have a lot of cash to try this. How did you go about self publishing: costs, web sites, etc.”
So this is what I wrote back to him. I figured I’d share it on my blog because it summarizes much of what I’ve discovered so far.
An author can turn to several places now if they want to publish but still keep full rights to what they create. That’s always been one of the biggest problems with traditional agents and publishers, at least for the author. Amazon is probably the biggest and overall best because there are no up front costs and they have a wider distribution than any other single self-publishing outlet, such as Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple, or Smashwords. (Smashwords, however, I find the friendliest and easiest to use. I just don’t sell much through them. Most of my sales are eBooks for Kindle from Amazon.
Authors can publish their works digitally for Kindle through Kindle Direct Publishing (https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin). This uses your regular Amazon login information, and allows you to upload directly from ‘.doc’ files. It’s fairly intuitive to use, but there are guides available about how to do it.
Creating paperback editions can be done through Amazon’s Create Space (https://www.createspace.com/). Formatting for paperback is a bit more difficult, but it can be done. I did a post on one way to do this not long ago. It’s here if you want to see it: https://dlmorrese.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/my-self-publishing-adventure-episode-nine-formatting-your-book-for-paperback-publication/. The paperbacks you order for yourself for ‘proofs’ come at a discount, but you do have to pay for all but the first.
Once you have your books available for sale on Amazon, you can do a quick check of your status through Amazon’s Author Central (https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/home). I will caution that the reports you get from Author Central are not as accurate as those you get from KDP, for some reason.
As I said, all of these services through Amazon are free of up front costs for the author. Amazon does take a cut of sales, though. These are still considerably less than a traditional agent and publisher would take, and, of course, you retain full rights to your work, which I think is the biggest reason so many authors are now self-publishing.
Sounds good, right? What self-publishing means, though, is that the author does not get the support provided by traditional agents and publishers, and this is where the costs come in. Here are a few things someone considering self-publishing should consider:
1) Editing – It is tough to edit your own work, tougher than I ever imagined until I tried it. A good editor is also hard to find and expensive. For a full-length book of 100,000 words, you should count on outside editing costing as much as $6,000. It could be more or less depending on the services you need. A quick proofreading can cost just 2¢ a word ($2,000 for a regular novel). My advice for poor authors is to know someone who has editorial experience and owes you a favor. Failing that, edit your book yourself and beg your friends and family to proofread it.
2) Cover Design – This can cost as little as $100 to $200. I paid $200 for two covers. I got artwork for one and didn’t like it, so I created my own covers and ate the rest of the cost. I created my covers, which you can see on the “Novels” tab on my website, using the free image manipulation program, Gimp (http://www.gimp.org/), and Microsoft PowerPoint. Once you have determined the page count and size your paperback will be, Create Space can give you a template for the dimensions of the cover. Even if you only produce a digital edition, though, you still need a cover that can be displayed on websites.
3) Formatting – This you can do yourself, honestly. It’s not that hard if you are proficient with Microsoft Word. From a good Word .doc file, both KDP and Create Space can produce quality products for Kindle and trade paperbacks.
4) Marketing & Distribution – Now this is where the traditional publishers really have things sown up. They have access to book reviewers and to brick and mortar stores (those that are left) that self-publishers do not. They also may promote (advertise) your book, although I understand they don’t do this as much as they once did and now only really promote books they believe can be bestsellers. A self-published author, therefore, should have some online presence, such as a website, blog, Face Book page, Twitter account, and such. It also helps to establish a presence in forums such as Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/).
That’s a quick rundown of what I’ve leaned on my self-publishing adventure so far. Individual results may vary.
My Self-Publishing Adventure: https://dlmorrese.wordpress.com/blog/my-self-publishing-adventure/