Hey everyone! How are you doing?
It’s been a while since I did an actual blog post for my own site, so I figured, why not do one involving na awesome update?
As some of you may know, I gave a talk at our local writer’s club about Self Publishing. In a way, it wasn’t anything new as I take part in the discussions on a regular basis and even co-run a writing group with my wife.
Two things made it awesome. One was I had the floor to myself and got to indulge in an old dream of being a teacher, but the what made it truly special was the fact people actually showed up to hear me talk.
I mean, I’ve spoken at preshifts at jobs and at author events before, but this was the first time it was actually all about me. The funniest thing about it is I used to have tremendous stage fright. For me, it was like being a teenager and meeting a pretty girl for the first time. I would seriously forget my name, age, and any other relevant information. Not this time. This time, I was anxious to do it. I put a whole new meaning to the phrase chomping at the bit going into this.
Overall, I think it went really well and there are videos that’ll be on Youtube in the near future. How many and what parts of my talk or how long overall I have no idea. My wife took the video, so I’ll be as surprised as anyone else. lol
Okay, enough of making this about me. ::Takes deep breath:: I wanted to share bullet point presentation with you all. I hope it covers any concerns or questions you may have whether you’re new to this or a veteran.
If what I have to say works for you, great. If not and/or you disagree, great. These points are based on my experiences and what I’ve seen and learned over the last five years. I don’t expect everyone to agree, and I would love to hear what insights you may have.
Without further ado, here is my presentation. Hope you enjoy it. 🙂
One of the first questions I’m asked is, “What is Self Publishing?”
I think it’ll make things easier if I take a minute to describe the different publishing platforms.
- These include the big five such as Random House, Penguin, etc as well as small or Indie publishers.
- The differences between the big houses and Indie publishers is mostly reach, acclaim, and prestige. The big houses often offer money (Advances) up front as an investment against future sales. Most Indie publishers don’t have the resources or reach, so they usually only offer a higher royalty percentage (50-70% vs 2-8 percent from the big houses).
- They also offer editing, cover art, and any other fees at no charge. Our book is an investment for them, and they treat it as such.
- Vanity Publishers are publishing houses that offer their services in exchange for a fee. Usually a couple of thousand dollars to start.
- They offer little to anything else besides putting our book in print and digital format because their fees are their revenue chain. In short, their only concern is selling us their service packages. Avoid them. No reputable publisher should ever ask for a penny of our money.
- The only benefit is we can get our book published, but we also often sign our book rights over to them, so it’s really a wash.
- This is a method of publishing where the author (Us) take on full control and responsibility of our book, including paying for editing, cover art, and advertisement.
- Self Publishing offers the author the chance to also make higher revenue from their sales, generally up to 70% per sale.
- You are the boss. Period.
I think it’s good to point out that the big houses burn the candle at both ends. While they deride Self Publishing and small publishers, they each have multiple Small Publishers, Vanity Publishers, and even Self Publishing sites under their scope, so be sure to do your research before deciding what works best for you.
One thing they all have in common is the leg work, or advertising aspect. While the big houses will give a push, they prefer for us to have a large social media footprint (Internet like Facebook, Twitter, blog, website). The larger our following and success often leads to larger advances. It also leads to the big houses leaving the marketing of our book to us. Simply put, they only give us as big a push as they think we will sell. So, the bulk of marketing falls on us as it does if we Self-Pub or Vanity-Pub.
Self Publishing Steps
First and foremost, the first step is to write our book (Simple, right?).
Next is the editing, acquiring cover art, and publishing phases. Or, as I like to refer to them, the fun part.
- Everyone has a different system for editing. I prefer to leave my manuscripts sit for a couple of weeks at least. That way when I go back to them, I feel like I’m looking at it fresh and tend to see how stupid or weird I was at times.
Developing a Blister
- Developing a Blister is my term for being able to look at our own work with an impartial eye. It’s not easy, but it’s easier to develop it here and is a necessity and will make things easier down the road.
- We have to be able to look at what we’ve written and honestly judge if it moves the story forward, or is just a cool tidbit about a character that doesn’t matter. These include back stories for secondary and minor characters (Honestly, no one cares about a maid’s family unless she’s a main character), side stories (A character’s trip to the store that offers nothing but a slice of life and has no relevance), or exposition or info dumping (Having a character tell another something they already know and is implied for the sake of the audience, ie: if they’re married for ten years, that can be accomplished by simply stating they were married for ten years instead of a drawn out scene of them telling one another about how they met).
- Sacrificing scenes may seem cruel, but often times it is the best for the novel, and that’s what we need to keep in mind.
- Don’t hesitate to check into writing groups, both local and online.
- As with editors and beta readers (More on them coming up), whether the group critiques our work or just discusses aspects of writing, they are an awesome tool to use.
- It may take a couple of meetings, but you’ll develop a feel for if the group works for you or not. Not every group works for everyone, and there will occasionally be that one person that thinks they’re a literary god. If you feel it doesn’t work for you, that’s all right. Not everything works for everyone
- A couple of online sites we can find groups on are Goodreads, Facebook, and LinkedIn. There are groups for each genre and writing in general, and I’ve found if you ask a question they’re all willing to help as best they can. It’s worth noting that some can be… interesting, so it’s best to keep our blister handy.
- The strength of these groups is the diversity of the members. The different view points can give enormous insight into our work, so do not be afraid to ask questions. As with local groups, we’ll usually have a couple “experts”, but most will give honest and well thought out answers/critiques as well as sharing resources.
- Beta Readers are people that read over our work to look for plot holes, inconsistencies, character issues (Are they believable, are their descriptions and personalities consistent, etc).
- Beta Readers can be friends or family, but they should be able to offer an honest critique of our stories.
- They are potential readers, so listening to them is one of the most important steps. Ignore our readers and we’ll suffer a slow and painful lesson.
- Self editing is important, but we need to have another set of eyes to look over our work.
- Do NOT fear vetting an editor and do NOT take an individual’s endorsement without asking for a sample. Any editor worth their salt should be open to doing a couple of test pages. This is so they can decide if they want to work with us, and if we wish to work with them. It’s a two-way street.
- Do NOT hire an editor just because of their price tag. Paying for an expensive editor is prevalent trend and advice at the moment, but it’s a point of view that’s been proven not to be correct many times. I personally have seen a good deal of books edited by “professionals” charging a thousand dollars or more, and they resembled first draft quality.
- An editor should NEVER try to change our voice or style. They should offer thoughts on how to tighten our craft, not alter it.
- More times than not, and editor is right, but do not be afraid to stand your ground if you believe in something strong enough.
- Like editors, a cover artist’s vision may not be what you’re looking for. Any cover artist should be willing to work with you to develop a cover you’re happy with.
- Cover artists can be found anywhere. Sometimes, all we have to do is post a message of Facebook or Twitter saying you’re looking for one. Another site to use if deviantart.com. While some will charge, others will often be happy to do a cover in exchange for being named as the artist or charge very little. There are also websites offering pre-made covers for as little as $20 up to $200. The artist will usually add the book’s title and author’s name without an additional charge.
- As with editors, they can be expensive, so do not be afraid to look around.
- We know what works best for our book, but keep an open mind. There are advice articles that will say to have an eye catching cover, while others say keeping it simple is best. As I’ve said before, do not be afraid to follow your heart.
Networking and Building an Audience
- This is what most people refuse or try not to get into. It’s also one of the first things we want to start doing. I prefer talking about my books while I’m writing them and continue throughout the process, but it’s a decision that’ll work differently for each of us, so give it a good think.
- As I’ve shown in previous segments, networking with other writers, artists, and editors can lead to a gold mine of aid with various aspects of our books.
- Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn. Facebook isn’t, in my opinion, as powerful as it used to be, but it does offer the ability to connect with other authors and share each others’ work and offer support. There are various ways to use Facebook, like setting up an Author Page, using groups to build a Street Team (Group of people that help promote your work), taking part in events with other authors, and building solid relationships on both a personal and professional level. I’ve met some of my best friends through these sites, and we’ve built awesome working relationships.
Google+ and LinkedIn are similar to Facebook, but LinkedIn is a professional networking site more than a casual social networking site.
- Twitter is my social media outlet of choice. It’s easy to use and allows me to reach a greater number of people than any other platform. I average having 20k people see my Twitter posts daily, so that works for me. The only trick is learning to convey complete thoughts in 140 characters or less. It’s tough at first, but it gets easier. An added advantage of using Twitter is it’s also a good writing tool as it teaches us to be concise in our writing.
- Website. There are plenty of free sites available to use from webs.com, weebly.com, wix.com, and so on. They allow us to put everything (buy links, author bio, blog posts, etc) in one place, and usually offer pretty low rates if we wish to purchase your domain, many around $100.
- Blogs. I use my blog as my website as it allows me to have the same segments or pages websites do for buy links, author bio, and blog posts to name a few. Like websites, there are many free blog sites available to use like wordpress.com, blogger.com, and so on. They also offer pretty cheap pricing to purchase a domain.
- Build a Following. The best way to build a following on these sites are to send friend requests or follow people on the networks. They will often follow you back to build their following as well. Then it’s a simple thing to share or chat with them to create an engaging atmosphere. One thing you should NEVER do is share nothing but “buy my book” links. You’ll quickly become white noise to them and you’ll lose engagement. It really is that simple.
Publishing – The Nitty Gritty
- Now we’re ready to take the final step.
- There are various sites you can publish on including Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Create Space, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and others.
- While all are relatively easy to use, I prefer Kindle Direct Publishing, Create Space, and Smashwords. Out of those, Smashwords is the most durable as it makes our ebooks available on all formats, including those listed above except for Create Space. It also allows us to set our ebooks to any price point from $0 on up, and publishing only takes a few minutes. They offer a free downloadable ebook guide that walks us through the process.
- Create Space and Kindle Direct Publishing are both sub-companies of Amazon.com. Create Space is where we can upload our manuscripts for print books. It walks us through an easy-to-follow process and is free unless we choose to purchase their services for covers and other tidbits. This is different than vanity presses as they’re offering the service as well as giving us the option to continue without paying. One really cool option they give is allowing us to see a digital proof (book on the screen) instead of spending roughly $10 for a physical copy to be sent to us. Not only is it faster, but it takes the cost down to zero if we so choose.
- Formatting. This is one area that many have a problem with for various reasons. Formatting is simply resizing the interior of our manuscript to fit the final print version. After the first couple of times it’s easy, but the best cheat I’ve found is in the Createspace.com website.
Once signed into the site, we go through the steps until we reach the section titled: Interior. Once in that section, scroll down the screen to the bottom. There will be about four sub menus offering templates, guides, etc. Click on the third option entitled, Step-by-step guide to Formatting Your Book’s Interior, and follow the directions. It has screen caps of each step, and that helps tremendously.
You then finish the steps for pricing and choosing your markets. Be careful here, as you have to make sure you charge enough so you don’t lose money for each sale. At the end, it will give you the option of setting up your book for Kindle. This is a new feature I haven’t used yet. When I first started publishing, they offered to convert my book for $60, and I don’t know if they still charge for that service.
- Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Kdp.Amazon.com is the site where we can publish our kindle ebooks. This is my preferred method of publishing them as I prefer to have my ebooks out first. As with the other Self Publishing sites, it’s pretty easy to use as long as you follow the directions.
I like to format my manuscript at Create Space before coming to this site to upload it. Their formatting matched the other sites perfectly, so once it’s done for one, it’s done for all.
Once signed in, click on the link on the upper left titled: Bookshelf and then on the empty rectangle to the left with, “Create new file” in the center. From there, just follow the directions and make sure to fill out the required field such as title, author, etc. There are help icons next to each section we can click on if we need to.
As you can see, there is a lot of information to absorb, but the sites all offer directions to walk you through it. The hardest part comes down to us and how and who we select to help us during our endeavor. As I mentioned several times, do NOT take anyone’s word for anything. Do your research before agreeing to work with someone. Ask questions, and don’t allow anyone to push you in a direction you don’t feel comfortable going.
There is no one-size-fits-all, so be sure to do your research and pick what works best for you.