Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What I've Learned (so far) About Being A Self-Published Writer

When I wrote a piece back in January about why I had decided to self-publish ( http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/2013/01/why-ive-decided-to-self-publish.html ), some of you asked me to keep you posted on how I did things, how they turned out and I felt about it all.

But stop right here for just a minute.  You've written YOUR book!  Be proud.  Remember to hold this dream in your heart 'cause if you're a writer, the chances are the rest of this stuff isn't going to really be your cup of tea.  BUT.  It's necessary. As necessary as having an editor.  You've done that, right?  Had your book looked at by an editor?  If not, back up.  Have your book edited by someone other than yourself.  NOT proof read - edited.  By someone reputable, not just some name you randomly pulled off the web.  Ask your writer friends to recommend someone.  Several someones. Talk to people before you make your final decision.  But this step is every bit as important as the writing was.  A good editor is going to make your work better.  Believe it.

So here's the story (so far).

I honestly didn't have a clue as to what I was doing, so I asked a few friends questions, gathered the information that was useful to me and just kinda jumped in.  If you're writing and considering your options whether or not to self-publish, I would encourage you to do this.  Do your research! Ask questions!  And ask them of people you know and trust.  Everyone has different goals and experiences, so you're still going to have to make your own decisions based on what you want.  And you're going to have some surprises along the way.  Be prepared.  Not everything is going to go as planned.  Try to remember it's a learning experience and what you learn the first time around will help things be easier the next time around.

One of the most helpful things I found was Kimberly Hitchens' webpage for her company, Booknook.biz.  Hitch is extraordinarily generous with her wealth of knowledge in the world of self publishing and shares a lot of it in her "eBookery 101 - The Handbook."  After reading through "The Handbook" a couple times and looking through her website, I decided to turn my manuscript over to a pro and have them do the eBook conversion.  One of the smartest things I've ever done.

While working with Booknook.biz, I hired another pro to do my cover.  Luckily, I happen to have a friend who is well versed in design work and I knew I'd be happy with what we came up with.  I knew exactly what I wanted and she helped me get it right down to the smallest detail.  I went to some of the royalty free photo places on-line and searched out the different aspects I wanted to include.  If this is a new venture for you be aware that "royalty free" does not mean the images are free for you to use at will.  They're not.  You pay a licensing fee to use these images.  Some are very reasonable and some are much more expensive that I could afford - just browse and enjoy the art work and you'll find what you want at a price you can afford.  A couple places you might start looking are iStockphoto.com and dreamstime.com.  But that's just two of many.

Here's probably a good place for me to send you over to L.J. Sellers' blog.  (Another person sharing a wealth of information!)  http://ljsellers.com/e-book-self-publishing-roundup/.  This is a place you'll need to bookmark (along with Hitch's handbook) and refer to often. 
 
The way I'm telling things may, I'm afraid, make everything sound a lot more simplistic than it really is.  For example - your cover is separate from your eBook conversion.  But it needs to be included in your Kindle upload.  And you'll need your cover files from your cover designer in order to upload it. 

You don't need to be afraid of the process - just knowledgeable.  And the knowledge is available.  Between L.J.'s blog and Hitch's handbook, you're going to be well on your way.

My next step was taking my book file from Booknook.biz and my cover file to amazon and uploading my files at Kindle Direct Publishing, where it popped up at amazon WAY quicker than their original estimate. 

I then went to CreateSpace.com (also an arm of amazon.com) and uploaded my manuscript for the print version.  Again, CreateSpace will walk you through, step by step.  It was not a difficult process, but it was a lengthy one.  And you will also need your cover files here.  And not just the front cover, but the back cover and a spine.  I "think" there are cover templates at CreateSpace to help you design one on your own if you don't already have one.  (I "think," but I'm not sure about this).

This is probably an obvious point to everyone, but it wasn't to me.  My first upload to CreateSpace (thank goodness they send back a proof!) was all wrong.  I just "assumed" that my manuscript was fine to upload as it was.  "As it was" happened to be as it was created - 8 1/2 x 11.  That's what our Word files are, right?!  Right!  But, wrong for making your manuscript into a book.  Change your paper size on your computer to the book size you choose at CreateSpace. 

And do your proofing thoroughly.  By this time you're going to be sick to death of reading your manuscript.  No matter.  Do it!  And when you send it back to CreateSpace to make the changes (and you will) be sure and look over that next proof thoroughly again.  Don't assume they've caught all your changes.  (I had this happen).

Some people do this differently than I did.  Some will take their manuscript to CreateSpace and do their print version first, then have CreateSpace communicate with Kindle Direct Publishing to have the electronic version done.  Your choice.

Here's another thing I did which, again, is a personal choice.  I was told by an independent bookseller who I know and trust that a lot of booksellers would rather buy their book stock through their normal distributor - which in most cases is Ingram.  In order for your self-published book to get to Ingram it will need an ISBN number.  The ISBN given to your book through CreateSpace is for their own inventory purposes.  So.  In order to get an ISBN (IF you want one) you'll need to go to the only place that sells them.  That's Bowker.  And you have yet another bit of "paperwork" to do, and it too is timely but not difficult.  Just read the directions and follow them.  Don't assume anything while you're doing this - read the directions and you'll be fine. 

Something to be aware of.  If you purchase your own ISBN, there's a lag time from when your book will appear at amazon.com and when it will be available through Ingram.  That period is about 6 to 8 weeks.  If you want booksellers and libraries to order your book, it's best to wait and alert them once you're sure your ISBN is showing up in Ingram's database.  A bookseller can easily check this for you.

Okay.  So.  You do all this and voilĂ , your books are available (and it feels great!).  Now you get to do some promotion.  And you get to decide how much promotion you feel comfortable doing.  Remember Hitch's handbook?  There are some great suggestions there. 

And in answer to a couple final questions. 

Am I happy with my decision to self-publish?  Yes.

Will I do it again?  Yes. (and doing everything exactly as I did the first time - but with a bit more knowledge this go 'round). 

Have I made any money?  Considering the up-front costs, I admit, I was concerned.  But in my first month I have recouped what I spent (whew!), and have a bit of profit to boot. 

Am I going to get rich?  Pffffft.  Noooooo.  But I'm having fun and I'm gratified with the reviews and comments and notes I've gotten from readers.  Who - by the way - have grown to include people beyond my friends and family - Yay!!!!!  But friends and family helped enormously by helping me spread "The Whimsey Word."  As you've heard a million times, writing may be a solitary art, but getting your work noticed and selling it can't be done by just one person.  Let friends and family help. 

One more thing.  Not everyone is going to be as supportive as you think they will.  But at the same time, support will come from places you might never expect.  And I'm thinking of different kinds of support here; financial and emotional - intertwined but separate.  Be prepared. You may feel confident that those you've supported in the past will support you in return.  That's not necessarily so, and it hurts me to say that, but, there you go.   And - not everyone is going to like what you've written.  It's okay.  Not every book is written for the same audience.  Don't worry about that.  Your job is done - you've written the book YOU wanted to write.  What other people think at this point is no longer your business, really.  Will you get your feelings hurt?  Oh yes, you betcha.  But you've written your first book and you'll write your next book.  And THAT'S REALLY WHAT COUNTS.   Be damned proud - it's an accomplishment to be proud of.  It's an accomplish you alone now own and no one can take it away.  Don't allow them to even tarnish it the littlest bit.  Anyone who thinks it's easy hasn't done it.  And those critics?  Honey, their opinions are no more valid than the next reader's.  And the next reader may very well love what you've given them. 

So - - - - - -




And have fun!!!!

Then feel free to shout it out - loud and proud.

11 comments:

Lesa said...

Kaye,

What a terrific list of pointers for self-published authors. Logical and easy to understand, with information every step of the way. Very nice!

L.J. Sellers said...

I was glad to be helpful. I blogged about my self-publishing experiences as I went along, so my site is searchable and is loaded with information. I also complied the best blogs into a book called "Blogging My Way to Indie Success," which sells as a $.99 ebook.

Best wishes in your writing and publishing endeavors.

Pat Browning said...

Kaye, thank you! It sounds daunting but knowing you survived and got it right relieves most of the "daunt." Youse is a peach, kid!
Your friend and fan,
Pat Browning

Eve Kotyk said...

Kaye, thank you for this encouraging post. I've heard of some of these steps before but it was nice to see everything outlined and information on supporting websites. I'm also gratified that you recouped your costs in sales. Yay. I would put an exclamation mark there but my silly tablet won't let me.

Lillian Stewart Carl said...

Yes, there are cover templates on CreateSpace that are actually fun to use---and I say this is a technologically impaired person.

Glad things are going so well, Kaye, but then, you've got it right---do your homework and have a superior product!

Karen from Mentor said...

Wow, sounds like a heck of a ride so far. You really threw up your hands and went "wheeeeeeeeee!" I'm so pleased that you got your product to market, Kaye. Realizing a dream is a wonderfully life affirming experience.
*happy sigh*
:0)

Peg Brantley said...

I'm just so danged pround of you! Your support and generosity for so many others is coming right back at you!

Best wishes for continued success and inspiration.

Beth Anderson said...

What a great blog, Kaye! It sounds like it's not as formidable as I thought it might be. If I decide to do the same thing, this blog is first on my list to memorize, so thanks for the help in advance. ;-) Not many would go to the trouble you've gone to here, but you've gone to a lot of trouble for a lot of writers and I for one do really appreciate it. Big Hugs and Congratulations for getting that lovely book in print and e-book. I'm very impressed!

Earl Staggs said...

Kaye, Darlin', one of the million things I love about you is you got spunk. You decide to do something, you jump in, splash around, and get 'er done. I'm proud of you and proud of myself just for knowing you.

Earl Staggs said...

Kaye, Darlin', one of the million things I love about you is you got spunk. You decide to do something, you jump in, splash around, and get 'er done. I'm proud of you and proud of myself just for knowing you.

Hitch said...

Hi, Kaye!

You are one of the nicest clients we've had, and you've said such great things about us, I don't think I could ever live up to them. ;-)

I'm pleased as all get-out that you liked and used the Handbook. It was quite a lot of work to put together, but I wanted to assist authors--many of whom felt overwhelmed when they started out. We've added most of the Handbook material to our new FAQ/Resources section, also: http://www.booknook.biz/bk_resources . I hope other authors find it useful.

And, of course, I couldn't leave without making sure the people know that Wimsey is a FUN read!

Thanks again, and you go get 'em, Kaye!