Do-It-Yourself Book Publishing
It seems like every week there’s a new story of an author having terrific success with self-publishing. (Two examples from just this week: Amanda Hocking and Alisa Valdes.)
I’ve had quite of few readers comment that they’ve gone the self-pub route, and many authors who’ve been published traditionally now have out-of-print books they’re selling via self-pub or simply e-book distribution on Amazon.
So I want to know, if you’ve self published a book (or books), tell us how you did it. Did you have a print run, print-on-demand, or is your book strictly digital?
Did you go through a company, or do it completely yourself? If you used a company, how was your experience? Would you do it again? Are you having any success?
What have you learned that you’d like to share with others?
If you’ve never self-pubbed: would you ever consider it? Do these stories of self-publishing success tempt you in that direction?
Let’s talk about it!
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
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I didn’t want to wait a year or two for publication. My book will be available in paperback, hard-back, and e-book. The part I like best is that I do not have to meet someone else’s expectations.
I’ve self-published with Xulon Press and was very happy with the help I received through all phases of production. The first story I wrote “With God’s Help” was published in Guideposts exclusive series, “When Miracles Happen.” It featured a little kitten who survived an ordeal only with God’s help, which resulted in healings both physical and spiritual and a gift of new sight for writing. This was the inspiration to write my first book, “His Everyday Promises”, a collection of true accounts expereinced in everyday life. Each story shows, as the poem “Footprints in the Sand” illustrates, God is carrying us in our most desperate of times. More information at http://www.hispromises.com
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>I'm self published though iuniverse. It was a good choice for me. My book is about a very unusual topic with a small audience. I tried to get it represented for two years and I submitted to two hundred agents and small press publishers with no luck. I'm happy that I self-published because it allowed me to reach the audience that really needed the book.
>I self published my novel on Lulu on a very limited run just for my critique partners and friends who are reading the draft before I start to query. Why do this? Well, surprisingly enough, it's cheaper than printing out six copies of a four hundred page novel at Staples. Way cheaper, actually.
I was going to print them at work, but I'd like to keep my job so I reconsidered that route.
I really like the product that Lulu offers. My cover is plain, very simple, but for the price the binding and paper is pretty high quality.
>The ease of self-publishing is seductive (Kindle, Pubit, Smashwords and things like wordclay for Print on Demand). But if the product you are producing is substandard, if the writing is poor or the story weak or the structure not there, then it's not going to sell.
And even if it's better than anything Clancy or Koontz or King has ever produced, it's still a hard sell.
From a entertaining diversion perspective, reading is harder than listening (to independent music) or watching (independent movies). Reading is an active process; listening and watching passive.
I'm self-published, and will be again, and I'm enjoying it, but the flogging of the product – getting in front of as many people as possible – is so much harder than the writing. There's no way that you can compete with established publishing houses when it comes to marketing your book.
I'd love to be able to quit my day job and live off the proceeds of my books, but I love even more other people reading what I wrote.
>I'm in the process of self-publishing my book (print on demand). I made the decision for several reasons–I wanted complete artistic control, I'm not necessarily going to write another book, and I didn't want to wait a year or two for publication. My book will be available in paperback, hard-back, and e-book. The part I like best is that I do not have to meet someone else's expectations.
>70% royalty rate for the author? Heck, yeah, sign me up for e-book publishing.
>I intend to do an ebook version of Lethal Inheritancce if my agent can't sell it. At that point I'll probably part ways with my agent. A non fiction publisher friend suggested that it is a way to see how popular the book would be and that a traditional publisher could pick it up for print books later on the basis of good sales.
I'd make sure I had an editor look at it before though, the worst thing is putting something out that isn't professional. Mine's had lots of readeres look at it and is being looked over, with a fine toothed comb, by 2 writer friends at the moment.
>As an Australian Christian author, self-publishing is about the only route open to us. American publishing houses primarily want American material for their primarily American market. The Aussie Christian publishing scene is limited to two or three boutique publishers. That's it. Self-publish or perish!
>I have been tempted by the whole thing before and I adore Amanda Hocking and her novels. I have read almost everyone that she has published. I don't know if I would or wouldn't go that route.
>I know I'm late, but I wanted to share my perspective.
I had a middle-grade book in 2008 get serious interest from a major publisher and we went through two full rounds of revisions with multiple rewrite letters. I wrote Rachelle at the time, because I was so freaked out they were asking me to do all this work with no contract. "There is no contract until there's a contract," she said.
Anyway, after all those revisions, they finally rejected the book in November 2008. So I let it sit in my drawer for the past two years while I worked on other stuff. Ultimately, last week, I finally decided to put it up on Kindle and self-publish it as an e-book. If you're interested, it's
Zig Zephyr and the Forever Diamond.
Honestly, it was a difficult decision to self-publish this book. Ultimately, I decided to do it because I felt like the book wasn't doing any good sitting in a drawer. At least on Kindle, it had a chance to find an audience. You might wonder why I didn't send it out again, but that's part of the issue today. There are fewer and fewer options for authors to traditionally publish, at least among the big houses. In my genre, there are only a few, really, and we sent earlier versions of the book to them once. You can't resubmit.
I don't know how the book will do, and I know if I'm deadly serious about self-publishing, I'll put up more books. You can't seem to have success in that world without lots of titles. I also know the market for MG e-books is in its infancy, if there's a market at all. But when all was said and done, I ended up feeling good about my decision to e-publish this book, because it felt like Zig really deserved to live somewhere other than my drawer.
>People often talk about the stigma of self-publishing. My experience has been that it simply doesn’t exist outside of writer circles. Most readers don’t pay much attention to who publishes a book. I’ve caught myself bemoaning the fact that some book of mine was self-published, but the person I am talking to becomes more interested because it is self-published. Many people see the fact that an author has published his own book as evidence that the author knows more about publishing, so it creates a level of respect that the typical traditionally published author will not achieve. The perception is that anyone can send a manuscript to a publisher and have it converted into a book, but to do that work yourself is something special.
Is that perception justified? To some extent, I believe it is because it does require more knowledge and more effort to do the work yourself, but I’m sure there are plenty of writers who will argue against it because there is nothing in place to hold self-published authors to a standard of excellence. Whatever we think about it within our own community, the stigma doesn’t exist among the people who matter the most.
>My Christian children's books (ages preschool to 8) were published from 1983 to 1987 with a shelf life into the early 90's. They sold over 100,000. I wrote from then until 2005 when Joyce Meyer used my book DON'T HUG A GRUDGE in her teaching series. I had the books reprinted then.
I received numerous requests by email, letter, phone call to put the books out again. The next generation was being raised by the children who had read my books in the eighties. Now they wanted them for their children. Parents were becoming grandparents that wanted their grandchildren to read the books.
In 2010 I had the first 3 books (a series) re-issued through a publisher and LSI. I thought it would be a snap because I had the book films. Turns out to make the books off the films would have been a huge investment compared to scanning. The books were scanned and then had to be typeset again. It was the best time to change anything. Everything became more involved than anticipated.
If anyone is re-issuing, they need to be educated about the publishing process..everything about it! The people I worked with were honest and could have turned 'the thumb screws' on me, but did not. I thank God that I worked with them and not another publisher/self-publisher. Even my illustrator for the books helped with whatever she could to make it happen.
If you think you don't need a publisher because you're doing all the marketing, you're wrong. You get the extra marketing lift by them having you on their 'new releases' list. Some people trust you more because of that alone.
Back in the 80's, people were not into blogging and social networking for books like today. There was no real way for me to participate in the sales of my books beyond newspapers, book signings and guest speaker gigs. I felt helpless and wanted to stop the decline of sales on my books but had no idea what to do.
Now I know and am a motivated author, daily online to market, meet new groups of moms (my market) and participating in guest posting/leaving comments on blogs in my market.
During 2009 to 2010 I built an author platform, an Author Website with shopping cart. I found different ways to market with book tours, book reviews, Bookbuzzr flipping books, book trailers on my own YouTube channel, and free downloads on my blog to encourage subscribe by mail (growing an mailing list).
Amazon and Barnes and Noble get deep discounts on the books unless I set the discount lower. Then it would be bad for indie bookstores, because that same discount is applied to them also which is far too low for them to make money on the books.
I'm looking into e-books now. Everything is on 'the learning curve'.
I would prefer being published through a publisher, but for now, this is what I've been dealt. Do I have any more books in me? Yes!
Even if I had a publisher I would still be working this hard.
>I SP'd a book I wanted to see in print but didn't want to shelve. For friends and family and perhaps a few others. I used Amazon's Create Space and am happy with it; people have read and enjoyed it, and that makes me happy.
I'm still trying for traditional publishing, and the SP book took the "desperate" edge off my innards so I can concentrate on the quality of my writing, and improving. 🙂
>I guess I cut my teeth on, "Oh, but she self-published," so it became a route I've wanted to avoid. Having had a hard copy published, I loved the experience, but rather than have my subsequent novels languish in my files, before I give up, I'd consider self-publishing and join the tarnished ranks I hoped to avoid.
BTW, Rachelle, thanks for introducing this.
>I've bought two ebooks (Kindle) novels. Both were poorly formatted. One was from a best-selling indie ebook author. (How does she get away with it?) The other had italic text for half the book.
Even so, I'm sure quality ebooks (writing, story, design) do exist. Konrath's blog gives some good examples.
I have a 98k word YA fantasy complete (not yet submitted). Unique premise — no magic, werewolves, dystopia, zombies, steamjunk or paranormal — but as an older male, I'm wondering if it will ever be published traditionally, considering the obvious publisher 'obsession' with young women authors in YA.
I cannot believe there are so few male authors writing good YA fantasy.
So, looks like I'll try indie ebpub, see how it goes first. While it is relatively easy to Kindle and Smashword publish, quality design and formatting pretty much requires work at basic HTML level. If you can't do this you need to get it done for you. Word conversion generally produces poor outcomes. Good cover design and social media promotion are, apparently, crucial.
>As a tech-savvy entrepreneur who has started and run two other businesses, I have to admit, I'm very tempted by indie publishing. The possibilities, from both the creative and business sides, excite me and set my mind whirling with ideas. However, I'm very committed to writing the very best stories and being the very best storyteller I can be. I would no sooner indie publish (or traditional publish for that matter) than I would go buy a restaurant without knowing anything about food, where to go for help, or thinking that I could just sit back with my feet up and a froo-froo drink in my hands and watch success bake itself in the oven.
>I self-published my first novel as a webserial and then as an ebook. The webserial was popular, so there was a demand from my readers to see it as a book. Ebook wasn't good enough for many of them – they wanted a physical book. And the truth was, it wasn't enough for me either.
I didn't query agents for very long before self-publishing, and the main reason for that was my readers – they wanted the book. As an author, there is nothing greater than satisfying that hunger, and I longed to have as many readers pick up my book as possible.
The novel eventually got picked up by a Canadian press, and the physical book will come into existence soon, God willing. Do I regret having self-published? Not a bit. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Even though I will attempt to get an agent for my second novel, I won't hesitate to self-publish should things not work out.
>There's so much good stuff been said here I'm not sure I can contribute much except to say that, as someone who works in publishing and someone who self-published, I do have a very good handle on publishing in general.
The first thing I'll say is that, had I known how difficult and how much hard work the self-publishing route was going to be, I'd never have started. I'd have continued to try and find a publisher for my novel. I'm saying this as an indicator that self-publishing is not for the faint-hearted.
It's been a year after my novel was published and it's going well in self-publishing terms, almost 1,000 copies sold and a lot of positive reviews and buzz.
I put aside quite a large sum to publish my book to pay for professional editing and copy-editing, design, printing and warehousing. Plus I paid a distributor a set-up fee for them to represent the book in their sales efforts. And I paid a publicist to help me promote the book in the first few months of publication. I can't imagine producing a professional product without budgeting for these items and services.
I knew all this work would need to be done to get the book to market. What I hadn't counted on was the endless hours of promotion and publicity I had to undertake. I have spent at least two or three hours every day since the book was published sending copies to bloggers, reviewers, etc., writing letters, blogging, Tweeting, entering material on Goodreads, arranging signings, doing signings, e-mailing, researching likely markets and people of interest, entering competitions, blah, blah, blah. It's endless, exhausting and ABSOLUTELY VITAL for a first-time self-publishing author.
But it eventually pays off. Just don't say I didn't warn you!
>I have published two books; The Window to my Soul;My Walk with Jesus (2004 Tate Publishing) and its Spanish translation, El Espejo de mi Alma (2011 WinePress.)Both books were self-published. The first one I used a partnership contract with the publisher. My experience with Tate was a sweet-and-sour relationship. They had some internal issues and at the same time my family relocated to Germany. These two items didn't help much with the marketing. Besides I was naive and had no experience in the publishing world. As a newly published, I also dreamed of becoming rich overnight.
I learned my lessons with this experience. For the Spanish translation, I decided to use a POD provider, WinePress. My book is schedule to be released between February or March. We are in the final stages of the process. My experience with WinePress has been totally different than with Tate. My project manager, Adam, is ease to talk with and he is very understanding. We communicate so often that when the book is publish, I will be missing our communications. We have become friends in the process.
Although I have not become rich and famous, I have learned a couple of lessons about publishing and marketing.
I chose to self-publish because publishers are scared to their wits about poetry. Some of my poems have evolved to songs and others have a more prayerful tone. Someone told me that I write psalms. For been a niche market, I found many closed doors so I adventure in the world of self-publishing.Publishers want sure best-seller but there is no guarantee for that.
Now I am more involve in different social networks such as facebook, myspace, shoutlife, and others. Through these networks and other yahoo groups I have met other more seasoned authors whose advice have helped me grow.
I also have my own website where I publish author's interviews and the book reviews I write for my site, catholicfiction.net, ThomasNelson, ARX Publishing, and Tumblar House.
Recently I started doing some stock photography and enjoying the fruits of my labor. In addition to stock photography, I use the non-stock quality photos to create postcards, greeting cards, and posters at zazzle.com. I combine my poetry with my pics and have my own unique collection for sell at zazzle.com.
The beauty of poetry is its versatility and charisma.
>When I finally got fed up with the regular rounds of not getting a novel published, I self-published with my self, meaning that I created my own company.
It helped that I had a background in writing, editing and design. And it was certainly encouraging to see how the new technologies can ease the process from my computer to the bookstore.
I'm still kind of jazzed that anyone can buy (uh oh, plug alert) The Miracle Tree from any bookstore in the world (after ordering) or from online sellers like Amazon.
What I haven't figured out, though, is the business behind the book biz. It's one thing to come up with the content, but another kettle of fish to get it noticed. See plug above.
>If you don't have the cash for cover design, shoot me an email. I do some basic covers for ebooks.
You can check them out on my blog.
Specific cover example:
You can design these on your own easily. 🙂 I design them for free for my writer's group.
I've been writing a fantasy series for about ten years now. I've never bothered to submit it to agents or publishers because I've been watching the market and I just don't think there's that much in the way of opportunity for an unknown writer's first book. Then the recession made the "new book" lists shrink even further. My partner used to work in the industry and he says that the numbers of books published per year has plummeted of late.
With all that against us, why waste my time and tie up my MS indefinitely? I figured I'd keep writing until an opportunity came along and then grab it. And then I noticed ebooks.
I've been watching the growth of ebooks in the UK for the last 18months and I think they are in the process of taking off massively. My first ebook is currently in editing and I hope to upload imminently, after which my second book should follow in a matter of months if all goes to plan.
Neither will go live until they have been through 2 editors, at least one proof-reader and four or five eagle-eyed beta-readers.
There is a lot of slush out there, and I just don't understand that – if you believe in your work enough to want to make it public, why on earth would you settle for less than the best?
I figure all you can do is make it as good as possible, make sure it's been checked through by other people than yourself, and take any criticism in the spirit in which it's meant. And then market it as much as poss without annoying people. I figure once the ebooks are moving I'll head off to whichever of Createspace or Lightning Source is most convenient for the UK by then, aand produce a few hardcopies.
I believe in my story, and I think that epublishing is such an incredible opportunity that I'd be stupid not to take advantage of it; but I also think that just out of respect to my readers, I need to make my product worth paying for.
I'm unlikely to make megabucks, of course, but if my books are read and enjoyed and the royalties keep me in beer and skittles, then I'll be more than pleased!
>If I were lucky enough to have a loyal following and an already established traditional publishing history, I suppose I would consider it. Under any other circumstance? No.
I guess I see it from a reader's standpoint. I would never buy a first time author's self-pubbed book. With so many bad books in the traditional market, despite the many quality control steps in place, I'd expect a self-pubbed book to be of low quality. Even if I thought my book was truly fantastic, I would worry that the current reputation of the industry would be detrimental to a future career.
>If I were lucky enough to have a loyal following and an already established traditional publishing history, I suppose I would consider it. Under any other circumstance? No.
I guess I see it from a reader's standpoint. I would never buy a first time author's self-pubbed book. With so many bad books in the traditional market, despite the many quality control steps in place, I'd expect a self-pubbed book to be of low quality. Even if I thought my book was truly fantastic, I would worry that the current reputation of the industry would be detrimental to a future career.
>I published my poetry book, Love and Lighter Fluid: poems of a wild tirzah through self-publishing. It's in an e-book and as print on demand. It's poetry.
Some of the individual poems have been published in magazines here and there. I just wanted them all in one place. I think I could have priced it cheaper but that's my mistake. I loved my cover art.
I'm also a contributor to an ebook anthrology of poetry called Said and Unsaid. It goes to print this summer.
I'm debating about rather to shop my comedy book around to publishers or to self-publish it. I don't really care about money, I jsut want to be read.
I think with poetry, after you've hit the magazines, self-publishing makes sense.
With fiction, it's more murky.
My one friend, Jeni, has two books through two different traditional publishers.
Her third book, is a very risque dark comedy on sexual deviance. She self published and promoted that one on fetish sites. It's not a book that many publishers would take a risk on. It's beyond pushing the envelope. It smashed the envelope. Many publishers would have made her dial the book back and it would have ruined it.
If you self-publish, remember to have a marketing and promotion plan. Be clear on what your goals are.
Just publishing it, doesn't do a damn thing if you don't actively try to sell it.
>I self-published my first novel, Waiting For Spring, in 2007 through Create Space and on Kindle. Kindle sales outnumber print by a good 200 to 1, and were high enough to catch AmazonEncore's attention. They're re-releasing it in May of this year.
>I used to be the biggest SP snob. I remember having a debate (okay, an argument) with someone in my writers group b/c I swore I would never SP since only people whose work is unworthy do that. Ah, hubris! This past summer, I had a bit of an epiphany (which, coincidentally, I wrote about on Tahereh Mafi's blog in a guest post this past Monday). Validation doesn't come from an agent or book deal (yeah, it will help, sure). Validation has to start from within. That said, the main reason why I dipped my toes in the SP world was because I had some short stories — two of which had been published in small lit journals — that I felt deserved a wider audience. The ease of self-publishing to Kindle and Nook made sense — I had nothing to lose, really…the stories were sitting there collecting dust. (That's the problem with shorts…you spend all this time working on them, sending them out, and then even if they get published, it's usually in a place with few readers.) And then I started doing a ton of research and became a disciple of Joe Konrath (and all the others) and realized there is a business model here, though I know it's not for everyone. I've had positive notes from agents on my first novel, though no takers. I've worked on it for nine years and have finally gotten it into a place where I feel it's there. I've had it professionally edited. I believe serious SP authors have an enormous responsibility to put out quality work (even more so than traditionally pubbed writers) simply because we're going this route and there is such a stigma. My sales are small but growing each month, and I'm marketing like crazy. I'm having a lot of fun, I'm only putting out work that I feel 100 percent confident in, and nothing makes me happier than when a reader (unrelated to me) posts on my FB wall that she loves my work. That's why I'm doing it: to share my stories with readers.
>I don't mean to be a complete snob, because I HAVE read independent books- I'm reading Amanda Hocking now, BUT for the most part, as a reader, I don't want to take the chance on self-pubbed writers because there is no vetting process.
As a writer, I'm a little ashamed of my attitude, because I KNOW there are great books out there that get passed over so Snooki can write a book about nothing. But it's the truth. I've been to writer's groups before when people have read aloud and I've thought to myself, "WOW! THIS is why agents groan when they talk about the slushpile!"
I'm 100% more likely to read a new writer who is traditionally published. But all that said, I have 2 manuscripts with an agent now and if they don't sell for some reason, I'd e-pub them in a heartbeat. I have a platform, I have an audience and a demand for my books.
It's a VERY interesting topic!
I'm new to this blog but would like to take part and share my experience with you about self-publishing.
In 2003 I, along with a friend, decided to form a publishing business 'Quill Publishing'. The idea was to initially publish the first of a trilogy of espionage thrillers that were based on fact. I wrote the books, designed the artwork, obtained quotes from printers, found and paid a proof reader, checked the printed proof copies for errors before going for a short print run. I then contacted Waterstones, W H Smith and Borders. The first print run was released in 2003 with the first book entitled 'Who pays the Ferryman?' a story about the 'Troubles' in Ireland and how an ex-para unwittingly became embroiled in the 'Troubles' once again. The take up for this title was terrific and was stocked and sold by Waterstones the length and breadth of the UK which encouraged a further short print run. However as we progressed on the sales side it became increasingly obvious that we needed to look for a lower cost on printing in order to keep the sales coming in. I then located a true PoD printer who was both very efficient and inexpensive. We worked with this printer from 2004 through to 2010 at which point they went through a rationalisation period (like many printers and publishers).
By 2005 I had achieved credibility with Borders and became one of their top selling authors – outselling many of the traditional published authors. I was in constant demand to do booksignings and talks all of which sold books. A lot of hard work but very enjoyable. The books are distributed by Gardners – one of the biggest outlets in Europe.
As to success – what is meant by success. It depends on how one perceives success. If it is making me a fortune, then I was not successful, if it is perceived as getting my written work out to my audience then yes I was very successful. If it means winning the Booker or Orange literary prizes, then no I was not successful, maybe because I was never entered who can tell.
Yes we sold many books and I have now gone this route on four titles. Unfortunately the demise of Borders in the UK had a negative effect on our sales and caused repercussions throughout the book industry and as such I am now considering whether or not to release the same titles as eBooks.
All this was done from scratch – no blog, no initial platform just a thirst for hard work and sales.
Initially I did try the traditional route but it was never politically the right time for my work – either Ireland was erupting in terrorism and it was argued such stories would cause concern or Ireland was going through the peace process and such stories would have a negative effect causing things to happen.
Having gone the self-publishing route I feel that it is a worthwhile challenge and lets face it traditional publishing gets books on shelves but that does not necessarilly mean you as an author get anything for them after all books sat on shelves are not sold until the cash register rings! With self publishing you can also get books on shelves and be paid if you are astute enough. In the main we always supplied directly to the bookshop on 'Outright Sale – No Returns' and as such we never had a proble. Even when Borders went we only lost £38.00, whereas others lost thousands.
Would I do it all again? Yes, a resounding yes! The disadvantage of self publishing is promotion and sales outside of the UK. I would dearly love to break into the USA marketplace but as of yet have had little chance. I as an author would love an agent in the USA to promote my work into an international publishing house in the USA – with a view to selling the overseas rights etc. I would dearly love an agent in the USA to endeavour selling the rights into the movie industry because many of my audience feel that any one of the four titles so far released would lean toward a dramatisation/film.
>Thanks for this post. It's provoked an interesting discussion.
I know of a half-dozen writers who have self-published and are satisfied with the experience, but I have never been tempted to go that route. I want the expertise of industry professionals on my side when the time is right to send my stories into the limelight.
>I have been absorbed in the writings posted here, such entertaining and enlightening bits and pieces of other's thoughts and experiences regarding traditional vs self-publishing.
I have recently self-published my first novel, Dagon's Blood. I had thought that getting my writing published would be the achievement of my life's dream. Instead I find that I am not, as I thought, at the end of this journey that the writing of this book has taken me on. This is but the beginning of more adventures to come in a land of unknowns which I must quickly learn so that the life I've given to this story, isn't stillborn. Of equal import are the writings and manuscripts I have stored up and am still working on, which will someday come to life as well. I believe in large families! The method is not as important to me as is the sharing of my stories with others. Self publishing, especially with the advent of e-books now, assures me that my writing is there now for others and not waiting on someone else's decision, timing, or inclinations to publish it or not. Now comes another kind of effort and care but then, that's the way it is with any new life. Just like any new, young mother, regardless of my real age, I am amazed at all that I didn't know!
I thank you for opening this discussion. I find the timing perfect for me in learning more of "what's next" and some of the "how to" that I so need to know. I found so much in these postings, research for me to do and directions to choose from here. For now, a good night's rest. Tomorrow, a new day.
>I self-published my first novel "Swords of the Six" with the intention of proving its saleability to attract a traditional publisher. The novel is YA fantasy, and that market is swamped with wanna-be-authors.
I didn't take any short cuts in my publishing process, and I researched everthing prior to doing it.
I ordered a print run of 1,500 books and also set up the title as Print On Demand to fulfil bookstore orders and online retailers. I visited stores and schools in 13 states, and in one year sold over 3,000 copies of my novel.
That got the attention of AMG Publishers, who offered me a three-book-contract. This month "Swords of the Six" will release from AMG, and the sequel "Offspring" will release this July, with the third coming in 2012.
It's a lot of hard work, and most people fail to research before going into it, but when done right… It worked for me!
>Three years ago Publish America (PA) published my Christian novel, "Pick up the Broken Pieces". There were no fees, but I won't send them my second book, which is being revised. I'll search for an agent when it's ready.
I signed a seven year contract with PA. It is POD. Although my novel is listed on Barnesandnoble.com and Amazon, the price is too high for a softcover book ($27). They make their money by selling to authors at discounts after pricing it too high. Every week I get e-mails from them wanting to send my book to Ophra or other movie stars. I only have to buy more books. They make a lot of money from postage (overpriced).
I'd like to take my chance with a real publisher this time. I want an honest opinion of my writing. PA wasn't a good experience.
>I self published through a small company over a decade ago (POD wasn't around to my knowledge at that time). I sold the last copy of this nonfiction book a few years later(except ones I kept for myself). To me, that was successful.
I self-published a few other manuals for my business on my own for a few years after that. These easily made money.
Two years ago I self published with CreateSpace and found this to be the best route. I hired an editor and a cover artist and within two months sold enough books to cover my expenses. Every book after that has been the icing on the cake.
Currently I tried another route for publishing, and while I have enjoyed the process of working with a managing editor, macro and micro editors and members of other departments, I am fully convinced now that traditional publishing will never be the way for me. Why? Because I've been watching the industry and working the figures and have concluded that the traditional publishing business model is seriously flawed. Perhaps it is because I have what I consider success in self-publishing that I find the minimal amount that a traditional publisher puts out for marketing and the low royalty payments a very large red flag to this business mind.
I grew up on a farm. A farmer works hard all year to sell a crop to, in Western Canada, the wheat board. Only a very small percentage of a loaf of bread actually goes to the farmer. However, that farmer isn't then expected to market that loaf of bread at their own expense.
It seems to me that traditional publishers buy your 'wheat', mill it and produce a loaf of bread, pay you about a tenth of what that loaf of bread is worth then expect you to go out and market the loaf of bread using a portion of the tenth you've been paid. Something is wrong with this picture. There has to be a better way.
Personally, I believe it is in POD and e-book publishing. But then, I realize that a lot of writers never want to leave their 'fields' to market their 'bread' and choose to believe the publisher will do it for them.
>PS: I did pring on demand.
>I'm self-publishing a book right now — should get the proof copy from the printer on Monday. I did it myself (with a LOT of help) and basically opened my own publishing company, Connections Press, to do it.
Why did I self-pub this book? I really believe in it (true stories of unplanned pregnancy), but wasn't finding an interested publisher. Had a lot of ups and downs on that journey, and finally decided I just needed to get the book out.
I have a marketing plan. Now we'll see if I can sell it.
>Before my manuscript was complete, my original idea was to self-publish. Reaching a wider audience became my goal after I realized the impact that my novel could make.
Self-publication is still a consideration for me, only as a last resort. I do have a background in marketing, so I think I could make it work. To me, that is a big plus in self-publishing.
Throughout my continuous endeavors, I realize the most important thing is to wait on the Lord's timing and Plan to show me the way!
>Self-publishing…the wave of the future? Kristen Lamb wrote some tremendous posts about this topic, as well.
>I had Survival at Starvation Lake published by the WestBow division of Thomas Nelson. The cover was designed by my daughter Sarah Miller who works as a graphic designer for the Marine Corp. Tragically, the same day it was published July 19, 2010 she lost her Marine Corp Engineer husband Paul Miller to a road side bomb in Afghanistan. This prevented me from following through with all the things I had planned to promote the book.
WestBow told me that they would price the paperback at $14.95 or less and that I could buy copies at $5.27 each or less. They priced the book at $17.95. The did sell me some copies at less than $5.27 each but then they told me that the price was a mistake and if I bought 250 books at a time I could buy it for just under $10.00 each. This has prevented me from selling more but I have sold around 750 copies to date.
I wrote the book to reach people for Christ and it appears that the book has had some success at that. Gary P. Hansen
>Self-publishing was my plan B after I didn't manage to get an agent. I have been REALLY happy with where things have ended up. I went with Createspace and it's worked out wonderfully. I also uploaded e-versions to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Things have been slow, until the last 2 months. After Christmas my e sales BOOMED. Things have gone crazy for me in the UK! Times seem to be changing for writers, and maybe traditional publishing isn't for everyone.
>After reading more comments I had to chime in again.
What are your goals with publishing or self-publishing your book? I think that is important for everyone to ask themselves. And what is success for you?
I was surprised by this comment:
"If my writing isn't good enought to tempt a publisher, it isn't the standard I want to have my name on."
It is sometimes about the writing not being good enough, but it is often about "How marketable are you and your book? What is the competition? Do you have a national platform?" There are great works that don't get published. Many factors go into the agents/publishers deciding if they want to take you on and your project. Not just the quality of the work.
Self-publishing is not for everyone, but depending on what your goals are (is it just to get "published" so you have that credibility) or do you have a message you want to get out there to whoever you can?
So far it has worked well for me and my purposes – providing encouragement and humor for moms with young children and something for my kids to enjoy . . . or go to therapy over. Now I have something to leave with the women I speak to at Bible study, women's events, and mom groups. Although traditional publishing would help to cast my net wider, I don't think it is necessary for me and my purposes at this time.
What I heard before I self-published the book and what I am seeing is so very true:
1. Speaking is the most effective way to sell books. (as long as you are not like King George VI before his training).
2. Very few authors make a lot of money selling books.
3. With or without a publisher, you've got to do a lot of marketing/promoting yourself. (I've sold 1300+ copies in 7 months without the help of a publisher.)
Amazon now allows authors to track their sales. I was shocked to discover when just a few copies of my book (Totally Desperate Mom: Keepin' it Real in the Motherhood) sell my Amazon Bestseller Ranking goes way up. It can go from 600,000 to 60,000 from just a few copies sold!! That tells me that not a lot of people are selling books – self-published or otherwise.
Shoooooot . . . I have over-commented here. I'll go home now.
If you love to write, keep writing!
Thanks to Rachelle for such an informative and encouraging blog!
>I'm doing my own experiment (self pub vs digital/print publisher) and it may be too soon to analyze the results. But my self-pub book is selling better than the book published through a small digital/print publisher. It may be because the self-pub book has been out longer. But it wasn’t any old manuscript in the drawer kind of self-pub book. It signed an agent, it got a contract with an e-publisher. At the time, though, I chose to self-pub it rather than go with a digital publisher – to retain control and to also get it in print.
So with the next book, I decided to go with the digital publisher (print included – important distinction for me), and it was great to have their editor/artist/production do all the work I had done before (with some outside help), but I don’t have the control – I can’t see my daily sales on amazon, I have to wait months for royalties so I don’t know exactly how it’s doing yet. But my self-pub book consistently ranks higher on amazon so I’m assuming it’s still doing better. But I think it also takes time so I’ll be curious as to how they compare a year from now.
>I tried to find an agent for my Christian YA novel but found the process difficult for me. I couldn't write a decent query to save my soul. I think it's a gift – one that I don't have! LOL.
A few agents that managed to make it past my horrible queries felt that there wasn't a market for the book. It didn't fit in one area. It was too "Christian" to go mainstream and to mainstream to go "Christian". Not that I was surprised by this, it had been my fear in writing it.
I believed in the book and had such positive responses from the twenty or so target audience readers (non of which I knew), that I decided to go a different route. I went with a "vanity press" (I think that's what most of you call it). I paid a fee and received editing, cover, layout, etc. The books been out about nine months and I'm happy with how it's done. The sequel comes out in a few months. I am going with the same company. I am also using them for my third. I've finished a fourth, which is by far my favorite (as well as the YA bloggers who were beta-readers for me) and I'm trying to decide which direction to take. I think there will always be that part of me that wonders if a major publisher would have ever taken a chance on me, but I'm not sure I want to spend the next few years trying to figure that out. And since things have gone so well, so far….
Publishing is an adventure, no matter which avenue you go. I'm just glad that avenues other than traditional pubbing aren't being looked down upon as much as they were even a year ago when I started this process.
Great blog post, as always! Thanks for giving people the chance to weigh in on this topic!
>Here is an excellent interview on e-books and self-publishing by author Matt Bell: http://thefastertimes.com/indiebooks/2011/02/11/on-e-books-self-publishing-and-the-“tech-guru”-a-conversation-with-matt-bell/
>I worked as a PR rep for a major POD company a few years ago. We were not a part of the company but rather the PR firm hired to handle the clients they thought had the best chance at media coverage. The books were HORRIBLE. The writing was sub-par for the most part. The grammatical errors were appalling, and yet, we were able to book some of these "writers" on national media circuits.
Because of that, I am very reluctant to take self-publishing seriously and think the deluge of available material makes it harder for the reader, which is unfortunate. Having said that, I do think things are changing, and in five or ten years I may have to change my position on self-publishing.
>Plus, I love writing. I'm not doing it for the money, though a little money would be nice.
>I can't afford to self-publish. For a decent package and a decent book you are paying upwards of about $5,000 (this includes marketing, etc). Then, I can't afford the time it takes to market the thing.
I'm aiming toward traditional. On the side, I may do Amazon for a short novella that I did just for my blog to sell.
But as far as my writing career…traditional. This is why I spend my time creating an online platform/presence, engaging readers, blogging, and working on my genre–speculative fiction.
>Self-publishing is absolutely a business, and for people who are excited about the publishing aspect, it can be a really good fit. I found a distributor to sell my book to comic and game shops (it's a zombie choose-your-own-adventure), so I did an offset run for them, but I still use POD for my internet sales (by handling all of the details myself instead of using a self-publishing company, the logistics are such that I can earn more per-copy this way). I'm also starting to promote the ebook edition much more heavily, and seeing a bit of success there as well.
Not everyone wants to be a writer AND a publisher, but if you're comfortable in both hats (and good at both jobs) new technologies are opening up a lot of exciting doors. It's the wild west out there, and I'm having a lot of fun being a part of it.
>If I ever get a book finished, I will go independent. It is a lot of work to sell your book, but from what I've been reading on publishing blogs over the last few years, most traditionally published authors have to be their own publicist with social networking, setting up book signings, etc.
For me, I think publishing independently is the smart business choice. The market is open to indie authors like it never has been previously. We went through this same growth with independent music a few years ago. Technology has opened new venues for musicians and authors alike. Independent music hasn't destroyed the recording industry, and independent authors won't destroy the publishing industry. But neither will tradition quash the independents. No matter which path you take, if your writing is good, your story is good, and you are a hard worker, you can succeed.
>The hardest part I've found is marketing and getting review sites to consider my work. Someone who recently bought my second book said she was reluctant to do so because it had no reviews – begs the question of how you get reviews if no one will buy because there are no reviews.
Amen, Lisa. The old Catch-22…
>I have been e-publishing for a few months and I did so for one reason: I just don't have the time and/or patience to wait the traditional two or more years from query to bookshelf, especially since my initial offering was a collection of my pet-related newspaper columns (The Animal Advocate) and I was told by another agent that my "platform" was simply not high enough for my book to stand on.
To be fair, although I have a journalism background and am accustomed to editing my own work, digital publishing was a challenge for me (i.e., learning HTML formatting, cover art, etc.). But it was also fun, not to mention a personal "atta girl" to see my work in print (albeit electronically) vs. bleeding ink from my overloaded desk drawers.
How are my sales? Well, suffice it to say I'm no Amanda Hocking yet neither am I a marketing guru. In other words, I write for a niche market (animal lovers) plus my social media skills are woefully lacking. But I'm learning and, to date, I've sold far more than I would have if I was still sitting here angsting (is that a word?) about agent replies, etc.
So I guess it boils down to your comfort level. As for many e-books being nothing but slush…well, I'm an avid reader and I'm saddened by some of the slop I see churned out by print publishers these days (including that from some of my long-time favorite authors).
All that said, this was a superb and timely post, Rachelle. Thank you for "bridging the gap."
>Ten years ago, I self-published my first book with the partial backing of an arts council, whose contest I'd won. Not only did the council pay a third of the cost of the first press run (1,000 copies and I chose a local printer), but they also set up several appearances for me, and several area book clubs chose my book. However, it took two years to sell that first thousand. I made enough money to buy really nice computer, to put a few thousand in the bank, and to do a second press run. I still have about 300 books left from the second run, but my promotions were regional rather than national.
I've also used a vanity press to POD some collections of short stories and columns I wrote for a local publication. I didn't lose money on POD publishing, but I didn't make much either.
While I learned a lot (mainly about self-promotion) from both experiences, I doubt I will ever self-pub or POD-pub again. I'm small press published now, and I can apply the promotion techniques I Iearned earlier without having to reinvent the wheel.
>Gwen Toliver, I think there is a great misconception that people who self-publish do so only because they want to claim they have a book. That might be true of a few people the first time, but by the time you get to the third book the new has worn off.
I think we all go into this publishing thing with different motives. For some of us it is money. For some of us it is to communicate. For some of us it is for the challenge of it. For some of us it is to give us something to do with our idol time. For some of us it is to leave something for posterity. And it may be a combination of several things. Aside from “making money”, which is somewhat iffy no matter how we go about publication, self-publishing can guarantee nearly all those things. Are those things “worthwhile”? I suppose that is up to the individual to decide.
>I began self-publishing eight months ago, after working with two agents who had been unable to sell my manuscript since 2005. I did ebook and paperback versions, through CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords. I've since self-published another title this month. I hired a professional cover artist and editor, must-haves if you venture into DIY.
Six years of waiting motivated me try SP and I don't regret it. The hardest part I've found is marketing and getting review sites to consider my work. Someone who recently bought my second book said she was reluctant to do so because it had no reviews – begs the question of how you get reviews if no one will buy because there are no reviews.
People have different measures of success, but mine is to develop a loyal following. I've got enough future titles, time, patience and perseverance on my side. As for the money? My Kindle sales are keeping me on track for re-couping what I've spent. The most surprising thing about SP I've found is that it's not as hard as I thought, provided you're willing to be a writer and a business person. Thanks for posting on such a great topic.
>I cannot post my response here. I keep getting warnings about HTML. My website blog has my response. We need a French Revolution in this business. Off with their heads.
I think the amount of publicity you have to do with your self-published e-book is exactly the same as you would have to with a traditionally published book. From reading many agent blogs and writer blogs, it seems the only publicity a traditional publisher does for you is a catalogue listing, maybe a press release, and the name of an in-house publicist who has bigger fish to fry. Publicity is all on your shoulders whichever way you go.
One advantage of eSP is that you get to set the price. If you publish the traditional route, your publisher will set the price of the e-book at $9.99, let's say, and your royalty might be 37.5%. So you'd get $3.75 per book. But if you eSP, you can set the price at $3, earn 70% royalty or $2.80 per sale, do the same publicity, and sell a whole lot more at $3 than you ever will at $9.99.
It's something to think about in this decision making process.
>The main reasons I'm not tempted are the stigma still attached to self-publishing and the amount of promotion I'd have to do all on my own. The first factor will, we can hope, dissipate a bit as more authors find real success through self-publishing. The second scares me. I know if I ever get published by anyone, I will be responsible for doing a lot of my own promotion. I hope that by going through a traditional publisher, I will get at least some assistance from the company, be able to get a publicist, or at least have the company's name to give me a little legitimacy as I promote myself.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You've said something important:
"I realize that some people don’t care if people don’t actually read their books as long as they make money from them, but I think most of us place a high priority on people reading our books."
I agree that readers are the more meaningful of the two. I have some Kindle sales, but the vast majority of my sales are in true, paper form. These are books I may have even placed in a reader's hand or corresponded with over email, Facebook, or Twitter during and after the reading process. I have a file folder full of reader emails after they've finished the book. I've ended up at book clubs for people I didn't know before they read the book. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
Aside from someone with a large platform of some kind, I don't imagine the average person can sell many books just as ebooks.
>Once upon a time I would've said that I would never self-publish, but take it from me: never say never!
I wrote a travel memoir back in 2008/2009 and although an agent and some publishers expressed interest, they all ultimately said that although they enjoyed it, there was no market for it. I ended up producing a paperback with Print On Demand service Createspace, and e-books with Smashwords and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. I did get the book proofread and had a cover professionally designed, but other than that I relied on free services like blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. to market and promote it.
It went on sale in March 2010, and to date I've sold nearly 3000 copies. About 90% of my sales are e-books – in January I earned around $1500 from my ebook sales alone.
But it's not about the money, although that's great. Doing this has opened up a world of opportunity for me, not least of all getting an agent. I've written a novel and am chasing 'proper' publication for it because that is The Dream, but self-publishing has kept me in ink cartridges while I do.
>I did print-on-demand for my book, Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK!, and I had a very positive experience. It was easy, I had complete control and it was fast. No long waiting for a year or more to see my book in print. I had to find an editor and a designer but through networking, an editor donated his time and a designer gave me a discount – all because they are animal lovers and the topic was so touching to them. Marketing has been a non–stop, all-consuming undertaking but from what I’ve heard, that’s no different than if I had a traditional publisher. Sales have exceeded my expectations and I’m seeing momentum growing as word-of-word reviews kick in. A national dog magazine is publishing a review of the book in an imminent issue. Platform has been vital for this book. Yes, it’s about dogs who are puppy mill survivors, but all animal lovers are enjoying the book – and that’s what agents and publishers missed when they rejected the book. I’m working on three new books and I will probably go the same print-on-demand route unless I get an offer that I can’t refuse!
>I have a manuscript that is sitting on an editor's desk at a big six publishing house. They expressed interest about it, in fact they seemed quite excited about it, but I have not heard a peep from them in six months…
So, I decided to self-pulish that manuscript on Kindle only. I uploaded it last week, and so far have a dozen sales. I did all the formatting myself, and had a friend design the cover. If anyone wants to know how to format for kindle, I'll be glad to help.
I don't expect miraculous sales, but I do feel that I put a great deal of effort into this book, so what reason would I have to put it in a drawer? I'd rather have a few dozen readers than none at all.
>I have such mixed feelings about this, Rachelle. In some ways the publishing, querying, agenting process is so daunting (spell check doesn't think agenting is a word, but apparently spell check has never tried to get an agent!), but on the other hand, is self-publishing truly worthwhile other than to say "I have a book"? I'm curious what your thoughts on this will be….
>I'm fascinated to read everyone's reasons for considering/not considering self-publishing, and the experiences of those who've done it. Thanks, Rachelle, for opening the floor for such a great discussion!
I plan to go the traditional route with the novels I write — unless, as Aimee Salter said, agents tell me the writing is great but they can't sell it.
However, I'm also experimenting with self-publishing. I've teamed up with several other writers to self-publish (e- and POD) novels, poetry, and short stories under a common "imprint", Turtleduck Press. (Link via my name if you're interested.)
The concept behind our experiment is (1) to pool our marketing power and (2) to offer a certain level of quality assurance by vetting each other's work (since we're putting our own necks out there, we have incentive to demand quality of each other).
We've been up and running for 2 1/2 months. I'm excited to see how everything unfolds.
>Self-pubbed nine years ago, out of ignorance. Mailed the book to middle-school English teachers, out of ignorance. My ignorance sold several thousand copies of the book, and the book is still required reading in several middle schools. Ignorance can be bliss, but I don't want to do it again.
Self-publishing is a business, and I am not a business person. I am a writer. If I cannot land an agent with the new material on which I am working, I will choose another career path. Writing is hard enough all by itself. I don't need the added stress of publishing.
>I plan on holding out for an agent first, then I'll try an editor. I realize that ePubbing is pretty much the kiss of death for signing a deal. But I won't wait too long, especially since this is my first book. It would be nice to have the support/advice of a true professional behind my project which would mean almost as much as it actually hitting the shelves. Yet I'm realistic.
At the very least, someday, I'll ePub it. With the time it takes to seek representation, sign a contract, nab a publisher, go to press and hit the shelves, that day may be sooner than later. Sometimes I feel like I'm still waiting on a VHS tape to rewind in the VCR when I have a perfectly good Blu ray player sitting there.
>I’m beginning to wonder if there might be something to fear in the apparent success of some of these eSPs. Suppose an eSP sells 300,000 books or 8,000 books or even just 1,500 books through Kindle for $1. Even at 35%, that is between $525 and $105,000, so the author is making money, but are those customers actually reading those books? Sure, they’re willing to take a risk because it is only a dollar, but if most of them aren’t actually reading the book then we’re wasting our time. It realize that some people don’t care if people don’t actually read their books as long as they make money from them, but I think most of us place a high priority on people reading our books.
>I've never had interest in doing the vanity publishing thing, but I would self publish electronically–Kindle, Smashwords, etc.–if I had a manuscript that had been polished and professionally edited that I truly believed in but couldn't sell. Why not?
>What an interesting discussion today. I don't have any strong opinions about e-publishing either way. It's not the path for me at this point, nor have I read any self-published books.
I'll agree with pp-ers that the only way I would consider it for myself would be if I'd received editorial feedback that it was excellent work but not a good fit for them at that time. And even then, I'd be concerned about the quality of work I was e-publishing. I would need to invest in professional editing and design services in order to feel comfortable putting it out as my work. All that costs $$, and unfortunately, it's a rare e-author that sees those kinds of returns.
thanks for doing this blog and the resulting comments. i'm sure that i am not the only rookie writer, or even veteran writer, struggling with this issue.
every writer's situation is different. this is mine.
i have a completed and fully edited work of southern literary fiction that is really good. it has been through the same process that a doctoral dissertation goes through: a reading and review by committee and the resulting rewrites. ( by the way, we filmed the panel discussion so that i didn't lose track of anybody's comments, etc. ) a dozen or twenty discerning readers are in agreement that the quality of writing, plot, characters, etc. are ahead of the curve in comparison to what is available on the shelves at Borders or Books-A-Million. if any of eight of the authors on last week's NYT best seller list sent in my book, it would be proclaimed his best work in a decade or more.
i have queried young agents. ( whose firms sell my kind of writing ) the new kid on the block, so to speak. … they want YA or paranormal romances! … i have queried agents who are women of a certain age … they understand my kind or writing and my characters: they have a long list of clients already and don't have time to take on a new, un-published writer.
with a quality piece of work: do i self-publish and possibly shot myself in the foot in relation to finding an agent and a main-line publisher? i can sell 1500 to 2000 copies by word of mouth and extended personal contacts. i don't have the time or the freedom to do what is necessary to sell 20,000 copies on my own.
with a quality piece of work: do i continue to query agents until i find one who is excited about my writing and who has the ability to sell it? at my age, i have 12-15 more years of writing left. i have this one finished novel, a new one in progress, and at least three others tacked up on my cork-board office wall. i have a strong inner need to be writing, not searching for agents and publishers.
do i self-publish, or do i hold out for the offer ? i am open to suggestions.
thanks tom honea asheville, nc
>I self published my first novel, EDEN'S WAY, in 2007. I created my own publishing company, purchased my ISBNs and used RJ Communications which I recommend highly for this type of enterprise. They are not your usual self-pub company since it is truly a hands-on endeavor from start to finish. I did pay a great editor to edit my manuscript, Kathy Ide, who I also highly recommend and paid a family member who's an artist to create the cover and design the copy. It's still on Amazon and I expect soon to have it available as an ebook. The marketing side is the hardest part for an amateur like me but I've been told by many beginning authors that even with a big name publishing company they author is required to do most of the marketing. My book a success? Maybe not. A triumph? YES.
>Tinkering with the idea of self-publishing in the future (if nothing happens to me 'traditionally'), so thank you for this blog post and all the comments! I've learned a lot, and I'm encouraged. We write because we simply can't stop. Not necessarily because we're out for profit (though, it would be a bonus!) It's nice, due to technology, that we have other options available as far as 'sharing' is concerned.
>I just did a blog post about my journey with a shout-out to you and your blog!
Self published, decided on offset printing (5000 copies), in 7 months have sold 1300 plus copies, learned a lot . . . more on my blog.
Thank you for all the insight you provide here!
>Timothy said it all, IMHO. Trying to be published by a traditional publisher is very much a crapshoot. It all depends on your query or proposal being perfect and hitting the perfect agent on the perfect day, and the agent hitting the perfect editor on the perfect day, and the editor hitting the perfect in-house meeting on the perfect day. On any one of those days, if a query/proposal/book just a hair better than yours also hits, you lose, whereas had your material hit the agent/editor/in-house meeting on a day when the other projects were a little inferior to yours, you win.
I looked very hard to find a downside to eSP, and can't find any. You may only sell 20 or 30 or 40 copies, mainly to relatives and FB friends with e-reader devices, but that's probably 20 or 30 or 40 more than you'll sell with a traditional publisher, because you are unlikely to get a traditional publisher.
>I self-published two books, "The Timeless Counselor" – everything you want to know about a psychic reading, in 1990 and in '08 a novel, "The Skye in June." Both are continuing to sell.
The advice I got from authors was two-fold, agent/publishing house and no, self-publish – keep the money. The latter means you must be brave and continual in your marketing.
Both times I ordered a large amount of book, 2,500 and 2,000. The advice I learned to be true: Books don't sell books, people sell books. Even if you are published by a company, and unless they believe you are a best-seller, they won't market you much. YOU must market your book or better, yourself. If an author is diligent and dedicated with some marketing funds, she (or he) can market her book. It's a lot of work for a little return. Another important sales pitch is your platform. Why will people want to buy books from you? What makes you unique? I have a professional platform that is of great interest and this is a big plus in selling my books. So from author to marketer you go.
A year at least, before your book comes out, market it; blog and snail-mail announcements. Schedule readings at local and distant bookstores. Not easy, especially for a first time and more so, self-published author. But Indie small bookstores will be open and larger ones only if you're selling through a national outlet. More money.
With persistence you can do it. Private book parties has sold the most books. I've traveled wide and far, and as much as attendees love my book, there's more to sell. Solicit comments and reviews. Yes, hard as it is, do it. I have many 5 star reviews because one reader sees one comment or review and feels brave enough to write one too.
E-books are definitely the future book sales. Both my books are ebooks selling on amazon and smashwords.com. The books have to be formatted for ebooks. My older book, a how-to, has a new cover and added chapters and is not yet in physical form with the changes. It's important to have both, physical and ebook. I have sold out all my physical books for the first and nearly all for my second.
My next book tour will be in Scotland, one because I've developed a fan base there and secondly because the book is about a Scottish family. Getting reviews from my readers there though as been, well, they are frugal I wills ay. Good luck! Keep writing! Don't let the rejection letters stop your flow.
I had an agent for years, and my books are edited by a superb NYC editor. I have editors at the Big 6 that wanted to buy my books, only to be nixed by the sales teams during the E-pocalypse. SO I self e-published. So far, the results have been amazing (to me): almost 1500 copies sold in two months (and that's for only one book), a plethora of 5-star, rave reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, and just a bunch of goodwill that would never have happened otherwise. I own all the rights, my options in print and ebooks are wide open, I have three more books to work with, I'm publishing on CreateSpace due to demand, and couldn't be happier as a writer (okay, quitting my day job would make me happier).
>Considered it early on. Not the path for me.
What meaty answers today.
>I've been following JA Konrath's blog for several months. He's a great place to go to find out what can happen through e-publishing.
The interesting thing, Rachelle, is that he still needs an agent for other deals on the e-books. I found that intriguing. The assumption has always been that self-publishing eliminates the need for an agent, but evidently that's not so.
>My book 'Sandman' was 'kind of' self-published – although through a PoD imprint of an indie publisher – but I didn't have to pay money for it, and both they and I rely on royalties. It has sold well via Amazon and a bookshop local to the setting (who keep seleling out), but the drawback is the low profit margin for booksellers – only 10% after the distributor has take his much larger cut. This makes them reluctant to stock it. So most effort with conventional bookstores is wasted despite the fact it has a great cover endorsement from Sophie King, excellent reviews, and many say it would make a great film. I wish there was the scope for more bookseller profit. Even if I supplied it direct I would have to take a lower cut and it would not be worthwhile.
Google "ian kingsley sandman" to see the high internet profile I've achieved. So my verdict on PoD is this. Downside: think well before self-publishing, and don't hand out large sums; preferably nothing. Upside: Take care and your end product is as good as anything on the shelf, and you can get a larger commission (but probably on less books). I rejected Lulu because I believe UK purchases come from the US! Anyway, 'Lulu' brands a book as self-published and potentially puts prospective purchasers off.
Find out more about Sandman at iankingsley.com and you'll see I managed to get some great reviews by being proactive with finding reviewers via the internet. Quite a lot of good Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk reader reviews are the icing on the cake. I also Twitter to keep a high profile.
It was – and still is – a worthwhile enterprise to publishe the way I did after not exciting any agents. Next time around I really do need an agent to help me get to a mainstream publsher so I can gain a higher profile in bookstores. And if that doesn't happen, my backup plan is an eBook. But there's nothing quite like the printed word on paper, is there?
>In some ways, self pubbing appeals to me. I don't think of publishers as demigods, and I'm pretty libertarian in my thinking–a do-it-yourself type. If I were to go that route, I would have to hire a professional editor and learn how to do self-marketing. On the other hand, I don't know that this is the kind of do-it-yourself project I'm willing to pour my efforts in. I'd rather be traditionally published and stick to growing my own organic garden. Either way, I'd have to pray long and hard about what God wants me to do.
>It was the olden days – 1994 – and I did everything, layout, illustrations, writing, all in an early version of Publisher. Took the 370 printed pages to a printer who made 2000 copies, no issues with printer, some with binder. Took home 75 boxes of books. Began selling – trade shows, advertised in nature magazines, etc. Sold 1000 within 5 years, about 700 since. The remaining 300 continue to hold up my spare bed as they have for 17 years now. Happy about the whole thing. Would never do that again, but will definitely use print-on-demand and e-pubbing.
The whole of the publishing industry seems like one big lottery to me, not just self-publishing.
>I’ve loved reading the comments here–some great and varied input.
I’ve self-published three books through Lulu.com, and I’ve loved the relatively easy, independent creative process. I think I’ve made some good, careful books, very much my own, but books aren’t meant to be one’s own, to sit in a dark corner. As most writers, I want to spend my time reading and writing; I don’t have time for doing everything on earth I can to sell my books. For this reason alone, I’ll most likely seek a traditional publisher for my self-published book/s (though marketing work might yet need to be self-propelled, I’ll have help).
I wouldn't go the self-publishing route — partly because I have an awesome agent :)– but I think the concept of creating and selling your own ebook, which I see as different than self-publishing (true? not true?), could be lucrative if you've built up the right audience.
>Rachelle – I love that you’ve blogged about this.
Interesting that one of your questions is: “are you having any success?” I wonder what you mean by “success,” and think writers today need to re-examine its definition.
I have self-published: first, by serializing my book, Veronica’s Nap, on a blog, and also by producing a paper and e-copy through iUniverse (in progress). I went for this one-stop-shopping option because it’s simplest and my time is limited. It has its flaws, including many traps to be aware of, some quality issues and a tendency to be a rip-off! (Which vigilant authors can certainly avoid.)
So far, I’ve been thrilled by the experience, am glad I made this choice and consider it a wonderful success. Since launching my blog, all sorts of doors have opened, such as:
–press coverage and interviews with organizations I respect like the Association of Jewish Libraries)
–invitations to speak at book clubs, synagogues, even church groups! (Churches have been interested in the topic of “waking up” spiritually that’s folded into the book’s “Nap” theme.)
–invitations to give seminars on self-publishing and on….. “Redefining publishing success.”
Most importantly, I’ve finally been able to express myself outwardly as a writer and share the joy with others.
Here’s a post I wrote about this on Writer Unboxed : http://writerunboxed.com/2010/12/30/naked/
I'll undoubtedly continue trying to find a traditional publisher for my next books, because I would love to have a professional's input on so many of the things that for now, I have to figure out alone. And I do believe teamwork makes for better books, and would love to work with an editorial team. But in a field where the financial rewards are typically so low and so fickle, and where appreciation is just as fickle and very hard to measure, sharing the joy is the most gratifying success I can hope for.
>It seems to be a question of platform, doesn't it? Either you have some name recognition as an already published author or you have a very popular blog or some other means of convincing strangers to buy your stuff.
Simply uploading your first novel with a decent cover for $3.99 without any other platform seems to be a recipe for slow sales.
Thus it's fantastic for out of print novels, for side projects or new genres for established authors, or for people like Seth Godin who are widely known already. Everybody else? It seems to be like playing the lottery.
>I self-published my first novel, Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery in December 2009. I published as an ebook on Smashwords and Kindle, and as a print edition through CreateSpace. Except for paying for a professionally designed cover, I did all the work of publishing these books myself.
I had written the first draft of the book 20 years earlier, but while I got an agent immediately, at that time historicals were rare, and none of the traditional houses would take a chance on it. Much later after major rewrites and an abortive 3 year contract with a small press who promised POD and ebook sales, but never delivered, I found agents saw the book as "already published" so wouldn't represent it.
When I finally retired from my full time teaching job (history professor at a community college)I rewrote again (I have been part of a writer's group for 20 years and had multiple additional beta readers) and after doing research decided that self-publishing was the way to go.
I have been very successful. While it took awhile to figure out how to market the book (I am still learning), in the past 13 months I have sold 8,000 books, most of them on Kindle. I now average about 50-60 sales a day, and my book is #1 in the historical mystery category on Kindle.
I average $2 profit a book, so I have made much more than I would in an advance for a book in this genre, and I didn't have to worry about the book being returned from bookstores when it didn't sell well in the first 6 months (when I only sold a few hundred a month). I am slowly building an ever large fan base that I will be able to tap into when I finish the sequel I am working on now, and I haven't had to go on any book tours, which would have eaten into my profits and my time as a writer.
I couldn't be happier as a self-published author.
>I work for a publishing office, and have seen firsthand how challenging the industry has become. I resisted self-publishing my own work for years, given the now-fading stigma. But it's all changed, and even some agents encourage writers to self-publish as a way to test the market. Some authors I know who have worked with traditional publishing houses say they went the self-publishing route recently and they've found it liberating. I was nervous about trying it, but now that my work is out there, I'm very pleased with my decision to go down this path, and will continue to do so. I've worked with Smashwords and CreateSpace, and it's been a fantastic experience.
>Erika Robuck is obviously doing self-publishing the right way. While I would love to do the same, I think that it part of the reason I prefer self-publishing over traditional publishing. If I had a traditional publishing contract, I would feel obligated to take a similar approach. That would force me to take time away from things that are more important. As long as I am self-publishing, if I want to do the more important stuff and let the promotional stuff slide, I answer only to myself.
Author of Mother Not Wanted
>Good Morning everybody. I am new to the self publishing game. Granted it is ebooks and not printed books. But still self published non the less. I have only two books under my belt. "It Waits" has gotten about 2,500 downloads at feedbooks.com and ot smashwords.com close to 500. But it is a freebie short story horror. My second book is at the other end of the spectrum. "Dragons Fire and the Brave Little Prince" is a Children's Bedtime Story Fairy Tale with a actual morale to it. 🙂 That one is just .99 but sits on smashwords like a rock with just 3 sales. From the few that was brave enough to buy it gave it excellent reviews. I have also self published that one on Amazon. I guess it is just the ahead of its time for that genre. Because who takes an IPad or Kindle to thier little ones bed to read them a bedtime story from it? Not many yet. 🙂 Printed books is still King there.
>I self-published my first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING, in 2009. It's set on the Caribbean island of Nevis in a haunted sugar plantation in two time periods. It took me about five years to research and write the book.
Around the time I started querying agents, many of my friends (in book clubs) started asking me to read it. I kept putting them off because I wanted to go the traditional route. After a few months of this, I decided to self-publish because I realized I could still go the traditional route, even as a self-published author.
My husband and I formed a publishing company to work directly with our printer, Lightning Source. Lightning Source lists the book at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
My husband formatted the manuscript. For the cover art I got the rights to use a painting mentioned in the book from the National Gallery of Art. I then hired a cover design company (AuthorSupport.com) to make a GORGEOUS cover that did NOT look like the self-pubd. covers I'd seen.
I ordered 600 copies of my novel initially, made requests at my local bookstores that I frequent (indies and Borders) to stock the book and hold signings, and began making the rounds at my friends' book clubs.
Thirty book clubs later (and countless signings, book fairs, art festivals, etc.) I've sold about 1200 copies of the novel. That might not sound like a lot to traditionally published folks, but I'm proud of it–especially because I have three little boys at home under the age of 8, so my peddling time is somewhat limited. I'd still like to get the novel traditionally published, but I just completed a second novel that I'm really passionate about, so I'm querying that.
Bottom line–I didn't self publish because I had an ax to grind or an anti-traditional agenda. For me, it was a way to satisfy some hungry book clubs, start building an audience for my future books and blog, and share a story I really believed in.
I'm really happy with my decision to self-publish my first book. I still long for a traditional publisher for my second. And I'm acutely aware that I have the best, most supportive and wonderful husband, family, and friends in the world.
>I haven't and am determined NOT to for my early works, but I think the option for out of print is FABULOUS, and if I can build a name for myself more traditionally, but have works I have more trouble with, I would consider it later in my career. My real problem with self publishing is so many people do it LONG before they are ready, so I think it makes it very difficult for readers to weed the good from the crap. I've read a couple where I see a great story in there, but there REALLY needed to be about 5 rounds of editing… it is just our nature as authors–it is hard to see your own mistakes and once it is out there, it is out there.
>It's not completed yet, but I have a non-fiction book in a very specialized area, so the prospect of self-publishing feels more appropriate for it than going the traditional route. There are probably as many good reasons to get it sold to a specialist publisher as there are to going it alone, but it feels right that it stands alone.
Most of the folks who used to do the titles this one hearkens back to have moved on, or died, so it is rather intimidating to have to approach publishers with a relatively untried market in current publishing. If I do decide to self-pub, then added content and meta-links to online resources in the digital editions would set it slightly apart from what everyone else is doing…
My tendency to horribly over-think things may be justified in this instance.
>I have a mystery series that was dropped by my publisher. After I tried to find a new publisher with no success, I made the decision to self-publish to satisfy my readers. I used Lightning Source for print on demand and published an ebook on Kindle. I plan to also turn the book into an app with bonus content. I did end up signing with another publisher for a new book. But will continue to self-publish my series. I think we'll be seeing many more authors who'll be both self and traditionally published.
>After another rejection from another agent and another publisher who all say (in various ways) how good my book is, then they add that dreaded BUT…we can't place it/sell it/whatever, I've finally decided to go the independent publishing route. I explored a local house that provides all services, proofreading, cover design, distribution, printing etc. Their work is of a high quality, but they are expensive. So I've decided to go the e-book route. I've had a professional designer draw up my cover, busy with professional proof reads at the moment. I don't expect to make money at this point; it's more a "test-the-waters" exercise. If I can sell more than 500 copies in the first 6 months, then I'll consider the expense of print copies.
Why did I finally take this massive step? I believe in my story. The long wait periods in the traditional route. The e-book revolution – if my book is as good as the professionals (whose choices are understandably governed by the bottom line) it will sell. If it's not good enough, it won't sell. It's as simple as that. But at least I'll have closure on this project that is dear to my heart.
Judy (South Africa)
>Early in January I made the decision to go the e-self-publishing (eSP) route. I'm less than a week away from having my first thing available. It's a short story titled "Mom's Letter". I've had the cover designed (see discussion on my blog, http://davidatodd.blogspot.com). I'm about a month away from publishing an historical-political book, Documenting America, about 33,000 words when done, with numerous follow-up volumes possible. I've got a novel ready to go, which will follow maybe a month later. And I have a thematic poetry book ready—except for illustrations. I'll probably put it up without illustrations in this first edition.
So by the end of 2011 I hope to have 5 or 6 things available. The will be electronic only for now. If I can figure out Smashwords I might offer the longer items via POD, but I'm not even looking into that until I, the ultimate technophobe, figure the eSP stuff out.
>I’ve never been tempted to self-pub. I’ve published a short story with an e-publisher, and I absolutely loved the experience. E-publishing allows manuscripts that are a lot shorter then what traditional publishing houses accept and that’s perfect for me since I prefer writing shorter pieces.
>I had a short novella that I'd placed with a literary journal. Due to its length, there was simply no where else to place it. After the rights reverted to me, I decided to put it up on Amazon as a digital short. It got caught up in a 'free day' and ended up selling a couple thousand copies and hitting some of the top 100's lists. I was even paid for the 'free copies' – who can argue with that? It still continues to sell steadily and many of the reviews said they'd like to see more of my work, which is just good advertising for me. I have a novel coming out from a publisher soon and promo never really hurts.
It was a lot of fun and a little more money on a vetted piece and it's good for my reputation. I can't complain.
>I grew up with do-it-yourself publishing in my blood. My dad was the clerk for both the Cane Creek Baptist Association and the Baptist Missionary Association of Missouri for many years. Every year, twice a year we went through this process of preparing the minute books for printing. It was the most natural thing in the world for me to move over into publishing my own books. To date, I have published 11 books, with 7 of them being my own. The latest one is Book Cover Design Wizardry: For the Self-Publishing Author.
For associational minute books, the print run is usually defined by the association, so it makes sense to print them all at one time. For my novels and longer non-fiction books, I have used print-on-demand because I don’t want several boxes of books in my living room that may or may not sell.
My most successful book, so far, is Church Website Design: A step by step approach. It hasn’t seen the success Amanda Hocking and Alise Valdes have seen (I doubt many people will have that success), but it has made me a profit.
Yvonne mentioned cookbooks. Cookbooks seem to do fairly well in a do-it-yourself situation. Our women at church published a cookbook a few years ago as a fund raising project and it went into its second printing. I know several churches have had similar results.
If there is any advice that I can give to those considering self-publishing it is to keep your costs low and be conservative with your sales estimates. I estimated that Church Website Design: A step by step approach would sell 200 copies. When it broke the 200 mark, I was thrilled. Sales for it have slowed now, but the four or five copies I sell each month are just an added bonus.
>I think part of the success is due to the fact that, for new authors, people are willing to take the risk to buy their book if it is under $5. I know that I rarely buy a new author in hardback unless my friends absolutely raved about it (even then I often wait until it comes out in paperback). Maybe self publishing isn't the best path for most new authors, but I do think publishers could capitalize on the affordability and availability of e-books, especially for new authors.
>I think this is kind of fascinating. If you have something you really want to publish and you have already gone the traditional route how do you coordinate that with your agent? (I don't have anything yet Rachelle, just curious.:))
There was some great blogging about this over at The Killzone with Jordon Dane yesterday. http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2011/02/quirky-ramblings-on-e-books-self_09.html
Amanda Hocking sure is getting a lot of press but I don't think her success is the norm, still, it is fascinating.
>I self-published my first book that I wrote when I was 15. I used Outskirts Press and while I liked their services, I didn't have much success with getting books sold.
Now, four years later, I am working on refining my second book and am praying that I can find a publisher for it. 🙂
>My name is Billy Ng and I am the author of the self-pubbed book entitled WITNESSING TO DRACULA: A MEMOIR OF MINISTRY IN ROMANIA (see Facebook and Amazon). I proceeded with a medium-sized print run in the fall of 2010 with a print company located in Illinois (I am in NY but am a missionnary in Romania). The company was very professional and extremely helpful. There were no problems whatsoever with the quality nor the transport to NY. The book is now about 4 months old and I have nowhere the 'success' of the authors that extraordinaire agent Rachelle mentioned in her post. It is almost impossible to sell 100,000+ copies at book launch unless you are a known author backed by a huge publishing house. Having said that, for my indie memoir, I focused exclusively on my platform. How many churches do I speak at? What connections do I have with other religious organizations? Will my numerous friends help me sell my book by word-of-mouth? As a missionnary, how do I sell my books while on the field? At the start, it does not matter how good I think my book is. What matters is how much I am willing to work at to sell the book. There is a TREMENDOUS amount of WORK involved in promoting and selling an indie book. Even The Shack-book took a few years before becoming well-known.
And after all that work, my results are sales of around 300+ books each month. While nothing spectacular compared to the 10,000+ sales figures that other authors seem to achieve, I get the deep satisfaction that my book entertains and inspire all those who read it. Is it a runaway success? Only time will tell. Will I do it again? Yes, I will but I will seek to expand my platform even more before self-publication. That is crucial! I have learned that self-publication involves much work with steady sales after all the work. God bless!
>I think it's a fascinating time for books in general now. I haven't (yet) considered self-publishing but my first Regency is coming out with an independent Canadian publisher who firmly believes in e-books (although it will be in print a couple of months later).
I was listening to an interview with a young Oxford Theology graduate (Joanna Penn) whose first book is self-published this week. Her blog already has almost 1,500 followers. The striking thing is her intelligence and confidence. Her book is the first of a trilogy and she self-published this one in the expectation a publisher will pick her up. Since it's a Dan Brown type of novel, she knows what she's talking about, and she has had it extensively, professionally edited, I'm sure it's only a matter of time. And I'm already talking about her without having read the book, although I intend to!
>I used to write and post my stories online back a few years ago and it was a fun experience. I was hoping to create a story just for the sole purpose of putting it online, but now I'm reading about people and their success with self publishing. I might try it out just to see where it goes with a story that will be good, but maybe not for a large marketplace. I definitely still want to have a traditional publisher just because you can connect with people in a way that you can't really do (unless you have the means to do it) with self-publishing. I want to finish my story by the end of March or April and put it up by June and just see how it goes from there.
>I've self published with Createspace, Kindle, Smashwords, and Pubit. It was a very easy process and I am very pleased with the final product. I haven't had much success, but it's been more than I would have had if I left the manuscript in the desk drawer.
Now, I will say that to enjoy any level of success you have to have a valid platform, a marketable book (my mistake with publishing literary fiction), a decent price, and an excellent cover.
Would I self publish again? Yes, I'm planning on publishing a paranormal romance on the above markets in the spring. I have been very pleased with the way that it has gone.
>I've never considered self-pub but I'm never going to say never. I feel like as authors, we always need to be flexible enough to try new things and go with the market and if I felt the market was going that way, I'd consider it. But, for now, no.
>I'm not tempted. If my writing isn't good enought to tempt a publisher, it isn't the standard I want to have my name on.
That said, if publisher's feedback was "writing superb, just not for us" I'd probably be tempted.
Also, I think the author needs a 'platform', or an established audience if they expect any real sales. I want to (eventually) make aliving out of writing.
Self-pub isn't for me. YET.
>Until "success" with self-publishing is common enough that it no longer counts as newsworthy, I can't see it being worthwhile for most authors.
While those few hit their stride, this week I've also seen people asking for help with their Kindles because they want to find a way to filter out all of those self-pubbed books to get to publishers they recognize without having to dig through the slush pile.
>I'm on the fence about it right now with my first cookbook. Perhaps it depends on the niche you're writing for, but I tend to think with food it's probably best to find an agent to help you reach a larger audience (cookbooks are expensive to self-publish). If anyone has information to the contrary, I'm definitely interested to know.
>I've never tried self-publishing, but have considered it. It sounds like fun. 🙂
>Back in 2003 or so I managed to get an agent and he sold The Ardly Effect, the first of a humorous sci fi trilogy, to a small publisher. The publisher went bust. After much wrangling we all parted company (after I bought the URL) and I wondered what to do next. I was very surprised at how easy it was to purchase ISBN numbers (I still have 7 allocated I think) and so used Lightning Source to to get a POD version onto Amazon. By 2007 I'd sold around 10,000 copies. I was distracted by illness. But when I resurfaced I found getting my e-book onto Smashwords and Kindle (via kdp) and even Createspace and Lulu was, as a technical exercise for one who's very IT literate, almost trivial. It is SO easy to publish e-books now. And, on deviant art, there are lots of talented people willing to produce reasonably good cover-art, btw.
What have I learned: getting an e-book published is almost trivial. Getting it to sell is a lot, and I mean A LOT, of work.
The author platform is not just about visible followers. It's about how many people you connect with 'behind the scenes'. And the quality of that connection.
Sympathetic and empathic critiquing, a kind word to a reviewer, a thank you – from the heart – to a reader who 'favourited' your book, all are worth their weight in gold when the next project is ready.
Have I had much success? It's growing.
Will I go it alone again? To be honest, I'd rather not, I enjoy working with others. But yes, I will.