Over the past year or more we’ve been hearing more and more about self-publishing. Joe Konrath has been a force behind the message that we authors can have so much more control, and income, if we override the conditioning of Big Publishing and take control of our own careers. That’s not to say that traditional publishing is bad. I’m not against it in any way, and will still be pursuing it. But I’m also smart enough to know that options are never a bad thing.
In October I dipped my toes into the whole self-publishing pool with MEANDROS. I’d promised to keep y’all up to date on how it went, but have really posted nothing about it since because it’s been very slow moving.
Meandros is a short story just over 5k long. It’s been previously published, and it was also a free read on my website and scribd for a year or so, so I didn’t really expect a lot of sales. But I thought why not, let’s get it out there. I put out some coin to get it re-edited, and formatted and got a nice new cover. I put it up for 99 cents, because that’s the lowest price Amazon allows.
Here’s the stats of what’s happened with that book so far.
* In the four and a half months it’s been for sale, I’ve only sold 1 copy through Smashwords, and 150 through Amazon.
* Sales went up when readers posted reviews.
* Changing the blurb didn’t help sales. Although this could be because my story is about how the main character deals with the death of the love of her life, and I refused to hide that fact in the blurb. It was suggested to me I take that out, to sell the story, but I didn’t think that was cool. I didn’t want to mislead readers
I’m okay with slow sales on that story. Of course I want it to sell lots. I’m human and I want to keep working as a writer, but that particular story is a very personal one, and I really just wanted it to be available to as many readers as possible.
Author Jordan Summers has also been dipping into the Indie Publishing arena by re-releasing some of her backlist, and talks about it openly on her blog. So far she’s released one novella and one category length book, and states that she made a little under $100 in the first month. A few of the sales are from Smashwords and B&N, but the majority are from Amazon. Jordan’s done no promotion beyond her own blog because she wanted to see what would happen if she just put the books out there. Would people find them on their own?
It seems that many of us are not only seeing this as a way to re-release backlists, or short stories that connect to our books, or even new stuff, but also as way to really see what works with readers. We can see what works promotion wise, too. I know I noticed a bump in sales when readers started posting reviews on Amazon, and Jordan confirmed that she saw the same thing.
With that in mind, I went forward with a project with another author. Charlene Teglia and I decided to do an anthology together. We used the theme of rocks or stones of mystical value (ROCK MY WORLD is my story) and we each wrote a short story that connected to our previous print books. Because Charlene’s was paranormal, I chose to write one connected to my own paranormals that were published by Kensington, and not my Berkley contemporaries.
The idea of it is that our fans will buy the book because it’s connected, and hopefully new readers will enjoy the eBook so much they’ll hunt down the print books they’re connected to.
Below are some tips from me to anyone out there wanting to go the Indie Publishing route.
*When it comes to formatting…hire a professional. Save yourself time and stress.
Also, when getting the file ready to send to the formatter…Keep it as simple as possible.
Page breaks are okay. Italics and bold are good, but beyond that, there’s no need to format your file a lot. The person who formats it for publication has to break it down and completely reformat it anyway. However, you can make their job easier and smoother by giving them a clean and simple file to work with.
When asked about how she charges for formatting April Martinez of Graphic Fantastic gave me this list
Long Fiction: $30 for the first file, $10 for each additional format
Anthologies of three or more stories: $50 minimum (more if number of stories or authors exceed 5) for the first file, $10 for each additional format. If the ebook file needs to have Interior Illustrations (including diagrams for non-fiction or covers for excerpt books): additional $5 per image embedded (assuming all images are provided by author(s))
April says, “So far, length hasn’t really made much of a difference in either ebook formatting or for print book design. If anything does make a difference, it’s more likely to be the number of chapters or the number of sections or, say, stories in an anthology. This is because where there’s a hard page break, it’s usually the start of a new file — so the more chapters/sections/stories, the more “files” there are in an ebook and in a print book, and the more “entries” there are that refer to them in a table of contents.”
This shows that it’s not so much about the number of words when it comes to formatting, but the work involved..books with more work (Sections, or excerpts, or images that need to be embedded) will cost more to format.
Also…be sure to include the legalese in the front, and your bio in the back. It’s not up to the formatter to complete your file, only to format what you send them.
If you have any specific requests, (a table of contents, or embedded links) be sure to mention them at the same time you send the file in.
When you get your file back, be sure to check them over right away. You’ll likely get a chance to ask for tweaks if there’s something off, but only if you do so right away.
Smashwords was fairly simple to upload to. Step by step, instructions. One thing we did by accident was not check off the ePub version because we wanted to upload our book to B&N via PubIt. That was a mistake, as the ePub version is also what they use for the iBook store and Sony. We waited until the file was published, then went back in and redid it. It wasn’t a huge hassle, but it was a step that we could’ve avoided. Plus, having to republish set our book back in the line for the premium catalogue, a delay thats not really wanted when the goal is to get the book out in as many venues as soon as possible.
*Side note* Smashwords has a fabulous step-by-step guide on formatting your file for them. It seems easy. It wasn’t. I formatted MEANDROS for Smashword myself (The guy I hired for that one only gave me Mobi and EPub files, I didn’t know enough to ask for a word doc) I followed the steps. Everyone of them, and MEANDROS is till no even in the line-up to go to the premium catalogue because they keep saying it’s not formated right. So, I highly recommend hiring someone. )
Kindle also had step-by-step instructions that made publishing fairly easy. The thing we screwed up on there has to do with pricing. You see, we uploaded the story to all three places (B&N, Amazon, Smashwords on Thursday, and decided to wait until it was available on three before we announced the Sale and Giveaway we planned. We figure it was a better way to make an event out of the release. With this in mind we set the price at $2.99 when uploaded, figuring we could change it to 99 cents for the sale on our official release day Monday) On Sunday night Charlene went in to change the price so the sale could start. The change on Smashwords was immediate. B&N took an hour or so, Amazon took over 12 hours. So, next time, we’re not going to worry about co-ordinating and surprising with a sale, we’ll just put sale price in initially. LOL
B&N PubIt. Me, I didn’t bother putting Meandros up on there before because at that time it wasn’t worth it for the experiment I was doing. Charlene uploaded our anthology, and she cursed the whole time. She says “The real difficulty I ran into wasn’t the upload process, it was the account creation and verification. Also, the cover art requirements are different from Smashwords and Amazon, so it takes a separate file that fits their requirements exactly.”
I highly recommend these guys.…
ImagineIf Creative Services by Michelle lauren
Editing, (three levels: proofreading, copy edits and substantive editing)
April Martinez of Graphic Fantastic
Fantastic cover design and graphic art as well as formatting for electronic as well as print publishing. *Did the cover for A Rock & A Hard Place* Visit
And since I’m talking self-publishing, I just have to add that the news of Barry Eisler turning down a two book deal worth $500,000 to self-publish makes me wonder what’s next. While there is no denying this was a revolutionary move, it’s also one that make me wonder what this move means for those like me and Charlene, and Jordan, who aren’t NYT Bestsellers. How will it effect us if more “Big Name” authors follow in his footsteps? Will it effect us?
One thing is for certain, it’ll be along time before things are settled again in this industry.