Becoming a Writer–Part 4: Self-Publishing, Marketing & Resources

Decided to self-publish? So which company? How to choose?  

The Caxton Celebration William Caxton showing specimens of his printing to King Edward IV and his Queen 2Let’s say you have decided to self-publish. You will do or pay for all of the marketing and promotion. Most sites or companies that will help you self-publish will happily sell you these services as well. Here’s where the skepticism and smart shopping comes in. There are bad actors out there that will charge high fees for services which aren’t worth the cost. Go to pred-ed.com (Preditors and Editors—yes the site spells it that way on purpose) to find the good witches and the bad witches. And, as previously noted, you will still need to do some promotion/marketing yourself even with a traditional publisher, so you will want to check Preditors and Editors for independent providers of these services.

As in so much else, Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla (or in this case, maybe the 5-ton gorilla). Still, there are many other choices as well. But as we said earlier, why would you want your book to NOT be available in or from as many places as it possibly can? To exclude some means that readers who prefer one format or one seller over another won’t buy your book—not a good outcome. All, or virtually all, of the POD/eBook publishers make it relatively easy to upload your book for them to publish. Relatively refers to formatting. Most will convert your book into whatever format will get your book out to the public. But before you upload it, after all the editing/proofing, etc., is done you will probably want or need to make a table of contents–even for a fiction book. The sites have explanations of how to do that and to deal with other issues like page numbering (unneeded for eBooks), fonts, footnotes, etc. Beyond their requirements, look at any book on your shelf. You will see a series of things inside the cover—a title page, “front matter,” your name, copyright information, etc. There are protocols for this. Learn them.

All right, the moment of truth—who are the publishers you want to consider? Bear in mind that whoever you go with, some will want to make your book available through their site or company alone—as we have already suggested, don’t go there. Instead, most of them will also offer distribution through various wholesale outlets (for POD). Some of them will also offer conversion of eBooks into the various eBook formats. Kindle (Amazon) and iBook  (Apple) have their own formats; everyone else, including Barnes & Noble’s Nook use the EPUB standard. You can separately offer those sites your eBooks as well. NOTE: you can do this individually with each and every eBook seller OR you can work through a wholesaler/publisher that will charge you a distribution fee to make your book available on multiple sites. So here are the links to some (not all) of the major publishers you may wish to consider:

  • Amazon—CreateSpace, their print on demand publishing option
  • Amazon—Kindle, if you don’t know what this is, stop reading and go watch TV; what you DO need to know are various flavors/options
    • Kindle Direct—this is the basic option; you upload your book following their guidelines, set a price and can get 70% or 30% royalties (depending on country choices, etc.)
    • Kindle Select—this is a minimum 90 day deal in which your book is available exclusively through Amazon; your book will also be made available via Kindle Unlimited (in which subscribers can read as many books as they want in a month) and the Kindle Owners Lending Library (there’s a limit on the number they can borrow). The carrot is that you earn 70% royalty on some countries that otherwise your sales would earn only 30%. The Unlimited and the Lender programs will pay you from a pool of revenue based on the number of pages of your book read by the subscribers (yes, per Amazon’s agreement with the subscribers, they know that—it’s based on “normalized” pages since Kindle and other ereader users can change the font size and hence the page count. The other big deal is that you easily offer free downloads of the book for short periods of time. Why would you want to do that?  Because a whole bunch of free or reduced price downloads MAY result in your book being an Amazon best seller AND generate word of mouth sales for that book as well as attention to future ones.
  • Barnes & Noble (B&N)—almost a year ago B&N jumped into the POD business, adding to their existing Nook eBook.
    • Nook is their eBook brand name. Nook uses the EPUB format; Kindle uses a proprietary MOBI format. Both have apps to enable to read them cross-platform, on computers or tablets.
    • Nookpress-print is the new POD program they started
  • Kobo—originated in Toronto but now owned by Japanese company Rakuten. They will enable you to publish eBooks directly with them (EPUB) worldwide. They do not offer POD.
  • Lulu—offers both POD and eBooks. They, like others, also offer various add-ons like cover design, editing/proofing, marketing plans, etc. They also offer distribution through various channels. The basic POD costs little and eBook nearly nothing. The cuts into your revenues come in the way of distribution charges for eBooks.
  • Smashwords—as the landing page will illustrate, they are exclusively an eBook publisher which also makes your book available through multiple sellers in multiple formats, including Apple’s iBooks and for a variety of EPUB readers (NOT including Kindle).

We have intentionally omitted the large remainder of POD publishers out there. If you search the web for Print on Demand publishers you will have no trouble finding them. BUT you must BEWARE: there are many which will take much money from you for various services, as previously noted. Many of them are subsidiaries of an infamous company that need not be mentioned here assuming that before signing up with any, you follow our advice and check Preditors and Editors—where you will quickly learn who is who.

So, you have edited your book and are ready to upload it, somewhere—but wait, there’s more, as they say in the infomercials.

Some things you may want to have at the back of the book, after the ending:

  • A request for a review, assuming they liked it, on whatever site they purchased it from (or downloaded the free or discounted copy you offered as a promotion)
  • More about yourself—a brief profile and perhaps more about how you came to write this book
  • For eBooks, links to your social media sites, your website, etc.
  • An excerpt from your next book (ideally you already are far enough along on that next book to include this; if not, you can always revise an eBook later to add)
  • Perhaps an invitation to subscribe to an email newsletter that will announce when your next book is available, with a caveats that you will NOT share their email addresswill not spam them with frequent messages and that they can opt out at any time [a legal requirement in the European Union and elsewhere].

What happens after the book is out?–AND some other very important pre-release tasks

Promotion and marketing of course! Schedule whatever marketing you can afford or feel comfortable doing WAY BEFORE THE BOOK IS OUT:

  • News releases (although not necessarily that helpful anymore).
  • Features or interviews with your local news media.
  • Book signings at a local bookstore. Note that independents are more likely to do this and that you may need to supply the books on consignment; even a chain may do it at one or two local outlets.
  • Advertising on selected book sites (see the list in the resources section).
  • Guest blogs or “blog hops” on other sites (not as popular as they once were).
  • Reviews on blogs.

Yes, that’s right, book signings, TV and radio interviews (seriously, do you think all those will happen?) Maybe they will if your traditional publisher set some up for you. Once upon a time traditional publishers spent time and money promoting and marketing your book. Not so much anymore. Sure, for James Patterson et al, not for you. The interviews are possible, but difficult for the self-publisher except at relatively low-rating outlets which offer limited exposure.  Plan ahead to make them happen when the book comes out. You can also pay for ads, if you can afford it. Press releases are free, but are themselves an art form—you can learn about them or pay to have them done. You can do some of the marketing yourself via social media, the blog, etc. (you did get that platform up and followers in advance, right?). According to a leading agent who gave a talk at the Southwestern Festival of the Written Word, word of mouth is the biggest reason people buy books. In other words, get some people to like your book and tell their friends. More on this later. Book signings at brick and mortar sellers may work if you can talk a local book store into taking some of your books on consignment (independents may be better targets than chains) because they seldom will stock self-published books. Book signings can also happen at community events, libraries and elsewhere. Maybe there are book clubs in your community that might want you to appear for a reading/discussion/signing.

How do you get a copyright?

Your book is legally copyrighted (in the US) by publishing it with your name, the title and a date. However, if you want to be able to enforce that copyright you need to do something more. You need to register your book at U.S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress. You can do this online now. Everything you need to know about the process is on their website. It takes a very long time before they eventually send you a certificate acknowledging your registered copyright. How will this vary if you are using a publisher? Don’t guess; ask them during the contract negotiations. Whatever you do, don’t pay somebody else to do this for you; the copyright office charges enough as it is and doesn’t require a professional submission from someone else.

Web resources that will help in all aspects of writing—from the first draft through marketing

256px Internet1Here are links to websites, articles on blogs and more that you may find useful. Some have appeared in the series before; most appear here in this series for the first time. They are categorized by topic in alphabetical order. NOTE: we cannot attest that they are all update, but as of October 2015 all are active. No evaluation or approval is implied by the listing; you must evaluate the merits of any site you check on the list. On just a few listings there will be some pros or cons. Some items on this list contain lists of their own—links to other sites just as this list. So there is a great deal of information to be gleaned here, some better than others. This is just a small sample of what’s available, but it’s a start. To update that old biblical quote—search the web and you shall find [some good stuff and some junk].

Advertising/Marketing
All of the above and all of below—special multifaceted sites
  • Indies Unlimited—writing tips, marketing, publishing and much more; good site
  • Michelle Rene Goodhew—primarily a good cover designer but also has articles for authors
  • Publishing and other forms of insanity—author Erica Verrillo’s site with frequent info on new agents, publishers accepting submissions without agents, writing contests and more (great)
  • Preditors and Editorspreeminent source for checking on agents, publishers, editors, etc.
  • The Story Reading Ape Blog—guest posts on writing, marketing, design and much more including free author profiles and book promotions (a great site); follow/sign up
  • Writer’s Digest—major source of information; not all free but check it out
Author blogs/sites of interest—most have many tips about self-publishing, writing, etc.
Blogging/content writing and related topics
Book design/production
General self-publishing tips and resources
Reviews of your book
Social Media
Other Writing Resources

 

This is the final instalment in the series.

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