Frequently Asked Questions about Self-Publishing
1) What made you decide to self-publish your novels?
I had three full-length young adult novels written and publish-ready back in 2010. I’d been through a year or so of querying agents and editors and getting tons of rejections, most of them saying that they loved my work but that it didn’t quite fit the market. I could have kept tweaking and/or changing my stories to try to chase the ever-changing “market,” but I felt strongly that there was an audience for my books just as they were. Changing the age of my protagonists, slashing subplots, and taking a chance on being the one in a thousand manuscript that New York decided deserved to be in print seemed counter-productive. Frankly, I didn’t want to waste any more of my time beating down doors.
Heaven is for Heroes, in particular, was a time sensitive project. Waiting for even the possibility that a publisher would pick it up and get it onto the shelves might take two to three years. By then, it would have made the subject matter outdated. From a business standpoint, the ability to release three books within a six month time period seemed like a prudent venture. Self-publishing was riding a rising wave in 2011 when I took the plunge and many authors were blazing trails to make the option viable to anyone wanting control of their product, their craft, and their destiny. In the end, my pros and cons list weighed too heavily toward the SP route to ignore. The 70% royalties were also a big drawJ
2) How hard is it to self-publish?
Make no mistake, self-publishing is far from the easy way into the publishing industry. Nor is it a get-rich-quick endeavor. There are always those outliers, but the majority of authors, both traditionally published and indie don’t make much money. The average author can hope to earn from a few thousand dollars a year to a modest income. Some are even fortunate enough to make enough money to quit their day jobs. Most aren’t. My point being, that anyone can write a book, publish it to Kindle or Nook and sit back to wait and see what happens. But if you want a career as a writer, it takes a huge amount of effort, time, and fortitude to research and learn the industry.
On any given day, my duties include the following: Marketing via social media, advertising, blogging, guest blogging, networking with loops and groups, and making appearances. I am responsible for hiring and working with editors, cover artists, and formatters. Hours could be spent on sending queries to reviewers, bloggers, schools, libraries and book stores trying to get reviews, interviews, and signings. Setting and keeping production schedules, creating a book launch plan, and initiating a social media campaign are just a few of the items on my to-do list for each book I plan to release. Are you getting my drift here? It’s work—a lot of freakin’ work. And you may—like most new authors (and as with any new business)—actually lose money the first few years. It may take five or even ten books before you start making money. So write if you love to write. Publish if you want to share it with the world. But if you expect to make any money, you’ll need to be in it for the long haul and do the leg work. If you believe you can succeed, and you never give up, you will conquer–even the world of publishing!
My tips for success:
1) NEVER publish your work until it has been through a critique process with other writers, professionally edited, has a professionally designed book cover, and is formatted properly. You can find a listing of these professionals at sites like Author EMS or World Literary Café.
2) Join a writing group such as Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, or one of the many on-line groups where likeminded individuals congregate—or check with your local library to see how you can start a group if they don’t have one.
3) Create a budget and stick to it. Realize you have to sell a LOT of books to make back your investment. Even if you made $2 on every book, that means you have to sell 500 copies to recoup every thousand dollars you spend. It doesn’t sound like much, but one statistic states that most authors will never sell more than a hundred copies of their book. Yikes! Do as much as you can for yourself, but hire out the important stuff like editing and cover art. A quality product is your best advertisement. Don’t spend a lot of money publicizing your first book. Wait until you have a few books in your backlist that new readers can go back and buy.
4) Don’t rush releasing your book. Take your time to properly launch it. It could take six months to a year ahead of launch date to prepare. Create a social media presence and develop a street team or a network of people willing to shout out about your book. Get reviews ahead of time by offering the book to beta readers and reviewers a few months ahead of the launch date. Set up appearances, signings, blog tours, advertisements, press-releases, etc. BE ORGANIZED from the start.
5) Follow industry blogs (click here for my go-to list), and keep up on the latest changes in self-publishing by joining yahoo groups like IndieRomanceInk, MarketingforRomanceWriters, or Authors Network.
6) Above all, try to find balance in all you do. There is always someone one step ahead of you and someone one step behind, but you’re on your own path. If it’s where you are meant to be, you’ll find success and satisfaction. There is no end to the to-do list so take it in small chunks and do the best you can…and
7) Write the next book. Make writing the number one priority in your business planning. It’s what will make you the happiest and what will be your best marketing tool.
3) How do I go about self-publishing my novel and how much will it cost?
If you have written a great story, had your work critiqued by other writers (not your mother, sister, or Aunt Sally), and you think it’s as good a story as you can make it, the next step is to hire an editor. There are a ton of free-lance editors on line these days. I’ve included a list of editors that I or other authors I know, have used. Plan to pay anywhere from $300-1,000, depending on if you need deep editing (story, plot, structure, characterization), a copy edit (fact checks, grammar, punctuation, style, usage, etc.), line-edits (less than a copy editor but still a thorough clean up job on the manuscript, and always hire a proofreader separately to get fresh eyes on your final draft. I recommend having print copies available for this. (You can get proof copies through CreateSpace.)
Next, hire a cover artist. I’ve listed some here who are reputable and professional. Expect to pay $100-300 for a decent cover. Look at other covers in your genre and see if you can find a way to compete in that market by having your cover be similar in some ways but one that will stand out at the same time. Make your name BIG, the title readable on a thumbnail version—which is what readers see on their e-reading device—and make a conscious decision about creating a “brand” style for you and your book covers. They should all have a certain “feel” to them that will help readers identify them as yours.
Choose your channels of distribution and follow their formatting guidelines to ensure proper formatting and a superior reading experience for anyone who buys your books—either in e-book or print. Here are the links to the most popular venues for self-publishing and book distribution.
Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon), Nook Press (B&N), Smashwords, i-Books (Apple), Kobo, Draft2Digital
Smashwords and Draft2Digital are both aggregators who offer to convert and distribute your e-book to the various distribution platforms all from one convenient location. Using these will cost you a small percentage of your profits, but there are some worthwhile features to using them. Read here for a comparison of the two companies.
Here are a list of books you might be interested in reading.
1) How do I market my book after I self-publish?
MARKETING is a BIG word and should be considered separate from PROMOTING your book. Promoting is all the things you do to spread the word about you and your book, including but not limited to using social media effectively, creating buzz locally and on-line, and participating in group events to cross-promote with other authors. Marketing is what you do to sell your books. It requires planning and goal setting, and constant reassessment about what’s working and what’s not. Marketing is how you get your books into the hands of readers. Advertising, running sales, gaining reviews, and getting your books into book stores, schools and libraries are all marketing strategies.
The bad news is that getting your self-published books into brick and mortar book stores, libraries or schools is still a challenge. As far as advertising, what works today may not work tomorrow. What works for one author might not work for another. And depending on genre, trends, and unforeseeable fluctuations in the industry, it sometimes simply depends on luck! As I suggested above, author Yahoo Group loops like IndieRomanceInk, MarketingForRomanceWriters, and Authors Network are great resources for the latest on what’s working and what’s not.