A fellow author asked me a number of questions about publishing. This was my response. If you are a writer looking to publish, I hope you find this helpful.
Self and Traditional. A vanity press is a printing press. Nothing more. You submit your manuscript. They print it. But the distribution is on you. I think we’ll start there.
Publication can be broken down on three aspects.
This is publication in a whole and how each of these is conducted is based on how you wish to proceed and is the difference between each route taken.
A vanity press manufactures for free. That is it. BUT You have to purchase the books, store them in your house, and distribute and market them on your own. In most cases, you will sit on a box of books you paid for up front and they will collect dust.
I paid $32.00 for my ONE COPY. To have 50 books in stock, you needed to pay $1,600 dollars up front. You still have to find a way to reach readers and you will have to pay out the expense of shipping. Marketing is still on you.
Self publishing…There CAN BE no upfront expenses for self-publishing. Unless you have very skilled and generous friends, this is a bad idea. I’ll talk about this at the end of the article.
An indie author is an author who CHOOSES to self-publish. A self-published author is an author who self-publishes with no other choice. Most self-published authors are indie authors.
Amazon manufactures. They do not distribute and they do not market. There are two kinds of Amazon eBooks…KDP and KDP Select. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
KDP means Kindle Direct Publishing.
KDP Select means you keep more royalties, but you are locked in to EXCLUSIVITY. Exclusivity is a dirty word. It means, by contract, you are not allowed to use any other means to publish your book for a certain period of time. I think it is two years. Say goodbye to Nook, Apple, and all other eReaders in that time. BUT, you get higher royalties. How much more? 5% to 15%.
I went with KDP. KDP is 70% royalties and you are free to upload your book to other platforms. In either case, Amazon will deliver your eBook on demand.
Smashwords is a DISTRIBUTOR. Amazon is NOT. This is IMPORTANT. Smashwords does what Amazon does (They manufacture), but Smashwords takes it to the next step and DELIVERS your book to all other eReaders for you…except Amazon. You are still needing to do all your marketing, but with Smashwords, you upload once and your book is available on Nook, MOBI, EPUB, and many more…except Amazon.
Let’s talk about Nook…Smashwords distributed to Nook for you, but you take a 5% cut (I think 5%) from B&N sales. You CAN go direct to Barnes &Noble and upload there to make more off your royalties. I know some authors who do this. There are benefits to both. B&N does not do pre-orders, so you take the 5% cut on Smashwords, but you can pre-order.
You CAN NOT USE SMASHWORDS OR B&N IF YOU OPT FOR KDP SELECT on Amazon. THAT is what exclusivity means.
How much did this cost? Nothing. It was free…kind of…We’ll talk about that in a moment.
How much time did it take me? I finished Dolor and Shadow on April 2014. I submitted Dolor and Shadow to literary agents from April to October 2014. I had two agents request the full manuscript. Both turned me down. I heard from no others and by October, I chose to self-publish.
I know one author who submitted to agents for two years and then went indie author. He lost two years he could have been earning in sales. Something to think about.
Before I uploaded to Smashwords and Amazon, I hired a cover artist and an editor. I did my own marketing and here it is April 10th, and my book is now up for pre-order. I still have heard nothing back from the literary agents.
This is what the Trad authors said.
• Manufacturing – Manufacturing is on the publishing company. The author will pay a % of royalties for this service.
• Distribution – The Distribution is on the publishing company. The author will pay a % of royalties for this service.
• Marketing – The author has to market.
BUT…here’s the catch…The Death Clock!
Do not think of a bookstore as a bookstore anymore. It is a book hotel. A hotel with precious space and if you don’t turn a profit in three weeks to earn your space, they will ship your book back to the publishing house where it is destroyed. In most cases, the investment is counted as a loss, and your career as a Traditionally published author is over. That is what they don’t tell you.
This is where a good agent can help boost your marketing and sales IF you can find an agent and a publisher to take a business risk. Finding an agent is not finding a publisher. Something else to think about.
This isn’t about books. This isn’t about art or literature. This is about business…the stock market. This is EXACTLY like Wall Street. Would you invest in a stock if you could not guarantee high profits with turnover? THAT is how publishing companies and literary agents think.
So…for your questions…
Q:How was Smashwords to work with?
A: Smashwords was very easy to work with. Mark Coker is the founder of Smashwords and that wonderful man offers his “How To” guide for free. If you have NO IDEA what you are doing, he not only walks you through the process, he also provides a list of other authors who are willing to help you or do it for a small fee ($40.00) This list is called “Mark’s List.” In comparison, Smashwords was FAR EASIER to work with than Amazon.
Q: Are there fees involved?
A: No! But there’s a catch and I’ll talk about that in a moment.
Q: Did you do the edits, or did they?
A: And there’s the catch. Edits and book cover…
An author needs to think about the book cover and the edits as separate expenses. Here is why. At the end of the day, you are paying for these services NO MATTER HOW YOU PUBLISH.
In Publishing Houses, you pay for these services through royalties.
An indie author can opt to not pay for editing or book cover services. DON’T DO THAT! A decent book cover is EVERYTHING to your sales. You can get a decent cover done for as little as $35.00 (pre-made) from some vendors.
I had mine custom done for about $100.00.
Cover Art by http://indigoforest.weebly.com/
Editing! The next most important expense. Most editors who work for Random House and Tor have side businesses. I was sneaky.
I located four editors. One was from Tor. The others I found on Goodreads. I gave them each the same chapter from my manuscript and waited. Most editors SHOULD offer a sample of their work BEFORE you commit. If an editor does not offer this, don’t use them.
I compared the work of the Tor editor to the other three editors and chose the one editor whose quality matched Tor’s editor. Her services were 10% of Tor’s editor, but with the same outstanding quality.
Mia Darien at http://www.miadarien.com/
When you upload your book on Amazon and Smashwords, both offer editing and cover art services along with countless other services that can add up. DON’T USE THESE SERVICES WITHOUT DOING YOUR HOMEWORK. Here is where the expense enters the publishing process. If you have not already hired an editor/book cover, you can opt for these services when you upload. Personally, I think you can save a lot of money if you shop around a bit.
Interior book design…I was told about Vellum.com. I will be looking into this myself.
Q: How about promotion; are you largely responsible for promoting the novel?
A: The author is 100% responsible for promoting. No matter how you do this, you are promoting your novel. This is a publishing truth that most authors don’t want to accept because twenty years ago, the publishing houses promoted a book for the author. Not anymore. Those days are done. *sob sob sob*
One more thing…on expenses…I strongly recommend
Copyright registration through the Gov’t office of copyright – $100.00 ??? I have to get more info on this…
ISBN – $100.00.
Bar codes – $35.00 (about) A bar code generator can do this...I think…I have to do more research.
Hope this helps! I can go over more on the ISBN/Bar code/Copyright if you wish