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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Self-Publishing

  This post was originally a guest post on TCWT's blog, http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/. It's a really great place to visit and highly recommend it to any young writer on this blog. Check out the full post, and more over there.
 * * *
  Your agent calls you, requesting that you call a big-wig in the movie-making industry concerning the film and production rights for your hugely popular book. Unfortunately, you have to put that off for a moment, as you are on the way to the airport to go on a national book tour for your book... all set up by your agent, and industrial publishing house. (First class flying, of course). While checking in on your multimillion followers on Twitter and Facebook, you discover that the enhanced, specially formatted eBook version of your book became #1 on the Kindle Bestselling list. You sigh contentedly, knowing that it was about time it joined its New York Times and USA Today bestselling print version. (It had been in the top one hundred bestselling for months... just days after its release). As you sit down on your plane, you open an envelope that contains your royalty check. With a long-practiced movement, you slide the paper out and examine the figures. (There's a lot of zero's.)

  ...Unfortunately for just about every writer and author out there, excluding the big guys, (James Patterson, Stephen King, Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, J.K. Rowling, and others) this wonderful, common day dream of mine is certainly not easy to obtain. But possible...? Perhaps.
  As I have heard, please jump up and disagree with me here if I’m wrong, but statistics show that only about 1-5% of all manuscripts sent into a mainstream publishing house are ever published. Simply put, its not easy. In addition, only 1% of all published books become bestsellers. Inspired for the day?
  But what if I told you there was a different way to publish, that changed the first one to five percent to a 100% chance of getting published? The method I will discuss here is called self-publishing.
  Self publishing is one of those words like "author interview," or "guest post." (aha, so clever!). It's when you publish by yourself. (Upon editing, my inner editor kindly reminded myself not to include the word in the definition.) Self-publishing is when you release your material generally on your own. Don't picture yourself running off copies in Kinko’s, stapling pages together and selling them at your school. It's not like that, fortunately. To be honest, when I first began reading up on these things, that what I thought self publishing was.
  Upon further investigation, and experience, I have learned that it is much different. Especially nowadays. Even 2-3 years ago, (especially as you go further back in time,) publishing was harder. To self publish, you had to invest thousands... even hundreds of thousands of dollars and hours to get published. That, or you could attempt, with no certain guarantee, to publish industrially. Nowadays, within less than a month, you can physically write, edit, and publish a book. This, however, I would highly suggest you refrain from. Even if you participate in NaNoWriMo, writing your book is the most you should do with a book in a month. Editing and publishing really should take longer than that. I’m just saying that its possible, with modern technology.
  But, if you already have your book written, it is quite simple to self-publish. It sounds hard, but to be perfectly honest... it's surprisingly easy.
  If your book is written, every scene and word, the first thing you need to do to get published is: EDIT! I’m telling you, this is THE most important step. I’m serious. Not even kidding. Its essential that you do not skimp out on this portion.
OK, now that you have that done, (or at least in your head,) we can go to the next step.
      1. If you want, you can pay some company 200 or more dollars to do most of the work for you. Be warned—look into the company a TON first. I would recommend NOT using companies whose packages exceed 5,000 dollars. Seriously. Don't spend that much. More on this later.
      2. OR you could sign up for a FREE account with websites like CreateSpace or LuLu. (This is what I did; with CreateSpace.)
        1. If you want, you can pay both companies to do specific things with your book. Need a cover? Need it edited or reviewed? Want to have illustrations? Both companies have varying packages that usually range from 50-1000$, depending on what you want done.
        2. Both of these websites also have various templates that help you format your book, and design a cover. These are free, you just have to do it yourself. Neither are very difficult to do, but will take some time and patience to get used to.
         
      3. Follow the steps for each publisher. They should be relatively simple. The steps vary for both companies, but are fairly similar.
      4. At one point, you will be asked to upload a PDF version of your book. Select it like you would if you were uploading a picture to Facebook from your computer or flash drive. It works the same way.
      5. At one point, you will also be asked to either upload, or create, a cover for your book. I used CreateSpace's CoverCreator program. (Are any of the CombinedWords with CaptialLetters annoying to you?) LuLu's is again fairly similar, though, to me, is a bit more difficult. It also lacks good solid templates and built-in pictures. Book design/pattern is also fairly limited.
      6. At another point, you should be asked to give distribution information. This is where it gets exciting. This is where you get to choose where you want your book to be sold. I found that at CreateSpace, Amazon.com comes as a free channel, as well as your eStore. For about a 40$ upgrade, you could potentially get into bookstores. (I got myself on both B&N's AND Border's online catalogs due to this upgrade. I recommend it. It also gets you into Ingram, so you can have book signings at most stores.)
      7. Order a proof copy. This is a rough draft of the actual book, what it will look like when people buy it. This is a very exciting, very influential day. I cannot simply express how wonderful a day it is when the package of your book comes. It's like Christmas... but better, in some ways. It's the very reason you've labored so many hours over the computer. And... it's awesome. : )
      8. Review the proof. Make sure everything looks good. Maybe do one final round of editing. Don't do too much. You shouldn't have to change very much, if anything at all, after your proof copy.
      9. "Click here to publish." I’m not even kidding. That's all you do in the end. Click a button. That's all you do. You click that the proof was okay, and then you click a button that says "publish." I’m not downplaying it, or anything. I have a post on my blog about it, when I Published my book. I was surprised that was all I had to do!
  Well. There you go. That's pretty much all you have to do. A long list, perhaps. Most things on there take a little while to do. Let me give you some averages for my book, The Dreamers, then I'll tell you a little bit about it.
  I spent less than a month writing it. (Thanks, NaNoWriMo!). I easily spent 5-6 months editing. This was not gentle editing, either. Entire pages crossed out, every other word corrected for paragraph after paragraph. (Thanks, Dad! You made it better!) And then I made the cover, and prepared sales channels while I was editing. Including that time, publishing in all probably took 2-3 months. Maybe more. Like I said, though. If you have a complete novel, and you are sure that it is perfectly written and formatted. After you make a cover, you can have your book published within the hour. On amazon.com within the week.
 
 
  One of the questions I was asked to answer was "are teens too young?"
I don't think so. Websites like KidPub have self-published authors even younger than 8 years old!
  "Is it too much of a responsibility?" is another question I was asked. This depends. You definitely have to do a LOT if you want your book to sell. But it's possible! More on this later. If you do nothing, then, chances are, your books wont sell as well as commercially published ones. Even if you do, this is unfortunately likely. (Just look at James Patterson! He even has people write his books!)
  For example, because I have communicated with principals, librarians, and bookstore managers, at nearby schools and book stores, I have been able to do booksignings up to twice a month at school bookfairs and local stores. At one of these events, (granted, my own school,) I sold over 50 books in 3 days, making over 400$ in profit. However, such book signings at "foreign" schools and bookfairs have resulted in as low as three to five books being sold... or 30 to 40$ in profit.
  One thing that helps all authors, though especially self-published ones, and me, is looking around online. You will find endless niceties on the internet. That's how I found this blog. That is how I partially found the Idaho Book Extravaganza, and how I was later named a "Top 50 Idaho Author". That was how I became acquainted with many professionals in the publishing world.
  If you are already self-published, things that I believe will help you are: Social Media, (an online presence), and having an eBook version of your book available.

  eBooks are a whole other world. After much research on the internet, I found that conditions are fairly similar, despite the many other differences out there. You can pay one company up to $1000 dollars to format your eBook, or you can do it yourself. I personally, found it too difficult to do myself, so I payed Book Baby, an eBook company, 120$ to do it for me. They gave me an ISBN, formatted the manuscript for each eReader individually, and give me 100% after Amazon.com, the Sony Reader store, the iBookstore, and the Nook Store, and growing market take their share. Their customer service was excellent.
  Well...this pretty much concludes my post on Self Publishing. It is a wonderful thing, that has revolutionized the publishing industry. If you would like to learn more, don't hesitate to email me at oliverdbooks@hotmail.com.

Dream on!
Sam Kullen
&
Oliver Dahl

2 comments:

Brian McBride said...

This was really well written! I've been searching for feedback and reviews on whether self-publishing is a good choice or not. I have a book that is finished, but the editing is still underway, but I don't know which direction I should go.
Basically, what I need to know is this: what are the pros and cons of self-publishing as opposed to traditional publishing?

www.jointhestarcrafters.blogspot.com

Oliver Dahl said...

I'm really glad you thought it was well written! I've been told that before, but I haven't really read through it since it posted. I just read through it again, and, I have to agree, without bragging, sorry. :P

That is a really good question! It makes we wish I had added that! Wow! I had to think about that one!

Basically, anyone with a finished book can self-publish even if it's not any good, for better or for worse. When you "traditionally" publish, you are depending on the fact that the editor(s) or an agent will find your work satisfying or enjoyable, and will work to publish it for you. I would say in general that most "traditionally published" books sell more. There are definite exceptions, like John Locke and others, but as a whole, and especially in print format, traditionally published books sell more because they are done more professionally, written or illustrated better, and marketed to a larger, existing audience. When self-publishing, you can still get the same benefits, it just comes at the author's expense, not the publisher's. And this can get expensive. If you and others believe in your book, go ahead and try to traditionally publish. I hope to do this someday. If you want quick, guaranteed publication, without having to worry about what others think, and to have complete control over every aspect of the book, self-publishing is the way to go. If you like to have this stuff done for you, or your book is exceptionally written, go the "traditional" route. There aree definite pros and cons to both methods. In the end it's all up to the author, no matter which way you go.

If you want any more info about this, email me at oliverwdahl@gmail.com

Thanks for the comment! I hope mine helped!
Oliver Dahl

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