It’s About Choices
Amy asked me to talk about self-publishing today and why I went from having a publishing contract to publishing myself.
For a long time, I never gave much thought to what would happen after I made it through the magic gateway. I figured I’d worry about that when the time came. Instead, I focused on polishing that manuscript, buffing the query letter, and agonising over the plot summary. I researched agents, stalked them on Twitter, and spent far too much time obsessing over how to get the right gatekeeper’s attention.
But after I got that contract, I started hearing people talking about self (or indie) publishing. I’d always been told that self-publishing would be the death-knell of any writer’s career. It was only for washed-up wannabes who’d run out of options.
Time change, and so has the publishing industry. This ain’t the self-publishing of legend. This new model means authors have choices. Choices are good.
So why would you do it? What’s wrong with the old model?
- In traditional publishing model, the author gets a very small cut of the cover price, even on digital.
But wait, you say, the author also has to pay expenses, right?
Sure, you’ll have to pay a freelance editor. That’s the one expense I tell people not to skip. If your product isn’t professional, you can do serious damage to your credibility. Readers often won’t give an author a second chance if they’ve been burned by a shoddy product.
If you can’t do the cover art yourself, you may have an out-of-pocket expense hiring a cover artist. There are lots of them out there, and prices can vary.
Some people hire specialists to put their books into the proper digital formats, but if you’re reasonably competent with technical things (learning MS Excel is harder than learning book formatting), you can do this yourself. I bought this book (link: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Formatting-Complete-Amazon-ebook/dp/B0024FAPF4/), and you can find free guides online.
Should these out-of-pocket expenses stop you from self-publishing? I say no. Remember, ebooks are forever--unlike traditional print books, which have a limited time on shelves.
- Control – with a traditional publisher, you have none.
This was the biggest decision point for me. I wasn’t wild about the first cover art the publisher showed me. The woman on the cover, while pretty, didn’t look anything like my vision of my main character. It was in my contract that I had zero control. Oh sure, they gave me a worksheet to fill in early on, but when it came down to it, my opinion counted for diddly. It turned out okay in the end, but I learned a big lesson.
It wasn’t just the artwork; it was editorial. There was one point about which I disagreed so strongly that I decided to say no. Their response? Fine, but we’ll pull the book. I had a choice to make—it was their way or the highway. It didn’t matter that it was my name on the cover. To them it was their book.
- Time—you can either wait 12-24 months between signing the contract and the actual publishing date, or you can put your book online and start making money right away.
With my first book, Ordinary Angels, from the time I finished writing the book to the publication date (April 4th, 2011) was about two years. (I spent about a year querying.) I have one friend who got an advance of a few thousand dollars for a three-book deal. By the time her release date rolls around, she could have been selling it for two years on Amazon! If her book was moderately successful as an indie offering, she could earn that advance price in that amount of time, and maybe a lot more. And most books sold through traditional publishers DO NOT earn more than their advances.
So what do you do?
- Write a good book, and polish it until you’re sick of it. Then put it in a drawer for a month, and get it out and polish it twice more. After that, give it to at least four beta readers (fellow authors—not friends) and have them be merciless. Believe me, beta readers will never be as unkind as reviewers. You’d rather get the bad news when you can still do something about it. After you get their feedback, polish it twice more.
- Send it to a professional editor. No matter if you did polish it ten times, I promise you, your editor will find things nobody saw. This person is a pro, and unlike your beta readers, she’ll read it word by word and pick it to death. This is a GOOD thing.
- Get your cover art done or do it yourself. Get brutal feedback from others, and make sure this isn’t just friends and family—those people are too nice and will always tell you everything you do is wonderful. The cover is a key selling point, so you want this to have that “wow factor.”
- Format it for Kindle, B&N’s Nook (if you’re in the US), and Smashwords. Smashwords will distribute to Amazon and B&N, but it’s better if you can submit directly. Don’t know how? Google is your friend. There are free articles that will walk you through it step-by-step.
- Network—find book bloggers interested in your genre. Give them a review copy. Set up the book to appear on Goodreads (a website for readers and reviewers). Do a virtual book tour, write guest posts, tweet, make a Facebook fan page. Connect with authors, readers, and indie groups. Get involved!
When I made the switch to indie, I put myself in the driving seat of my writing career for the first time. It’s not a short-cut. You’ll be busy and work hard. But I’ve never been happier.
Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Fiction AuthorIndia knew from age nine that writing would be her passion. Since then she's discovered many more, but none quite so fulfilling as creating a world, a character, or a moment and watching them evolve into something complex and compelling. She has lived in three countries and four American states, is a dual British and American citizen, and currently lives at the base of the Scottish Highlands in a village so small its main attraction is a red phone box. In other words: paradise.
The supernatural and paranormal have always fascinated India. In addition to being an avid sci-fi and fantasy reader, she also enjoys mysteries, thrillers, and romance. This probably explains why her novels have elements of adventure, ghosts (or elves, fairies, angels, aliens, and whatever else she can dream up), and spicy love stories.
Author website and blog: http://www.indiadrummond.com/
Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/india.drummond.author
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