Dispelling the 7 myths about self publishing that every newbie Indie author should know:
Myths 1- 7
1. It’s Vanity publishing (self promotion, self indulgence to distribute to only your friends) and/or you are doing it for yourself because no publisher would touch you with a barge pole)
2. It is expensive
3. You need specialised skills to design covers, do formatting & distribution
4. E-books or electronic forms of books are not ‘real published books’
5. You can’t get your books into bricks and mortar book shops
6. Traditional publishers won’t look at your work or sign you up if you are previously self published
7. Self-published authors can’t compete with the professional standard set by industry
Dispelling myths about SELF-PUBLISHING
Dispelling Myth 1, 2 & 3. In the past, self-publishing may have been percieved and, was to a large extent, driven by one-off vanishing publishing; but not these days. Self-published authors are now en-par with traditionally published authors. Self-publishing can be entirely free or relatively inexpensive and the level of skill required is very basic and depends upon how much creative control you ultimately want for your book/books. You can publish easily and all you need is: access to a basic computer with standard software and an internet connection.
In the bad old days when physical books had to be bought and paid for in advance of setting up the printing machine, yes, some authors resorted to self-publishing knowing that they would have to pay an enormous amount for hundreds, if not more than a1000 copies of their book. After you were broke from your financial outlay and paying for formatting and cover design etc, self-published authors would typically find that they could not shift their books for love nor money. They would store stacks of them in their top attic or garage and tried to get rid of some of them by doing a lot of hefty leg-work and ended up giving most of them away as Christmas presents to relations and friends. Once their books were out of print – that was it. No new files could be uploaded. They would just have to keep the books they had. If it was a non-fiction book, these in particular would become quickly out of date as technology marched onwards and/or new information arose. There was no chance of updating your files unless you were prepared to do the whole thing over again and pay the cost.
- POD (print on demand) means that you can print one or as many books at the cost of the paper it is printed on as required.
- E-book publishing can be completely FREE – Physical books can cost as little as 1.60 Euros as in the case of an 80 page book with full colour cover and a small amount for postage for proofs. It can be completely FREE if you don’t need to see your book in the flesh
- Digital technology (pre-viewer software) allows you to see and examine every inch of your e-book and/or paperback (physical) copy before distributing it for sale on places like AMAZON.
- Cover generators and templates can be downloaded and be used to produce your own unique book – all for FREE
- For a little more control and choice of how and who distributes your books, you may need a little more skill and a little bit of a budget. You can do it all on basic software programs such as picasa, powerpoint, word, converted to pdf and you don’t need specialist and often expensive graphic programs. (I give tutorials on this upon request – I took this route myself just to prove that it could be done for free and without specialist knowledge)
- You can even have your own publishing label (imprint) and assign your ISBN number (unique identifier) for your book to the publisher (i.e. your own imprint) for the cost of ISBN number (c. 25 Euros) in the case of my own books and you will be able to have print-ready files for any POD company to make your books into physical ones for the cost of uploading for about 20 Euros – buying proofs is cheap and only costs the price of the paper it is printed on. Following non-Amazon templates or creating your own will make your distribution to other platforms much wider and flexible.
- The slightly more skilled route with a little financial outlay is worth doing if you have several books in the pipeline and you don’t want to be stuck with Create Space on Amazon for example. And particularly if you want to create physical books and not just e-books
• Otherwise, you can get your book out, even a physical one simply and for Free, but you will be limited to Amazon (CREATE SPACE for physical) and Amazon (KINDLE for e-book) if you go this route.
• Templates and step-by-step formatting tools are available online for free and lots of video tutorials to help. Furthermore, once you have taken baby steps and got over the fear of the unknown (e.g. go with Amazon as it is fast, free and they hold your hand) you might get more comfortable and ambitious and want to strike out on your own – I know I did.
• It is brilliant to learn for free via Amazon (Create Space and Kindle) and make all your mistakes here first as it doesn’t cost and you can be very adventurous and creative without having to pay for the experience of learning what not to do – as I did.
• The alternative to following Amazon templates is to ‘outsource’ cover design/formatting etc to a professional. There are lots of really great people out there who can do jobs on an individual level online and send you upload ready or print ready covers and interior files etc of your book and it won’t cost a fortune. Plus they work with you and what you need. You can also ask a family member or friend to do particular parts of your book as they may have particular skills and are willing to help.
• Editing your manuscript cannot be done via Amazon unless you have a bit of money and I have no experience of their services – I would suggest working with a committed individual. I am fortunate enough to have an editing friend. Editing is crucial and no free online tools can do this for you. Editing is not doing what spell and grammar check does on your word doc, and even if you are good at editing yourself, you probably should not edit your own work. An alternative (if you don’t have someone to do it for free and cannot hire an editor, is to ask a broad range of friends and acquaintances – and give them each a chapter or two of your book. They will all see different things – then you correct (if you wish as some comments may not be useful) they have highlighted. I heard of one author who rewarded his editors with chocolate. Whatever gets your book to a polished and professional standard will all help.
• Saying that, the internet is full of very expensive packages being offered to lure you into being published by them, but at a cost. Avoid them – really. You do not have to spend a penny to become a published author these days, unless you have very specific projects that you want to outsource and these people have a great track record of such work.
Dispelling Myth 4:
E-Books are a very powerful way of presenting your words to the world and there is virtually no cost involved and covers are easy to produce compared to physical books. Plus you get much more of the royalties than you do with physical books. E-books are the future of publishing. But they are not replacing physical books.
- Lots and lots of people read e-books on devices from old grannies to teenagers. They are handy, light (great for travelling) and others don’t see what your reading when your on the bus, tube or train. You can get updates for new versions and an author can change their files any time. They are great for non-fiction books like mine that have hyperlinks to sources. Readers can investigate the research themselves by clicking. You can have a virtual library and do free downloads and samples of your work. A physical book costs the reader for delivery and book itself. But fortunately, physical books are here to stay and I personally, as alot of people, prefer the real thing. So, you cannot go wrong with doing both print and e-book formats. Publish your way – Creatively!
Dispelling Myths 5 to 7
Self-published authors are now recognised as proper authors. Thankfully the stigma has gone. It is a serious industry and some self-published authors become successful without a traditional publisher – even a bestseller.
Traditional publishers have been known to actually find their next best author by seeing what is hot on social media – honestly. There are a number of success stories of very high profile authors who originated from the stables of INDIE publishing (independent self publishing). Having your book out there and people actually discussing it, reviewing it and general getting excited about it – is a great way of landing that publishing deal – most of us would jump at the chance I’m sure. But I have heard interviews of authors that turned down these deals as they had more creative control and better earnings from being self-published. I would advise to just put your work out there and this is surely a better way (but you could still do both) to sending reams of manuscripts to several publishers, enquiry letters and months of waiting for a reply, if you get one at all, to say that they liked your book, but isn’t exactly what they are looking for at the moment (in other words, they don’t want to take a chance on it as they need to be sure of their profit margin and who could blame them – they are under tremendous pressure these days with the rapidly changing publishing climate due to e-books, the internet and blossoming self-publishers. And even if you don’t end up in the sludge pile, in order to get a foot in the door of the traditional publishing house you need an agent and in some cases needing an agent to get an agent.
- You can be in many virtual bookshops such as on AMAZON and have your books distributed that way (via orders online and they will print as required and fulfil order) POD. You will not typically make much money doing this and certainly not as much royalties as your e-book. However, overall, the royalties of a self-published author are much better than what you get from traditional publishers. It is not impossible to get into physical book shops with your paperback or hardcover book, i.e. bricks and mortar bookshops, but they can order your book via a database. For example, you could go into your local main book chain and get them to order a copy – it should come in the next day or two. You can go online and order the physical book.
- The only real difficulty with self-published books getting into bricks and mortar book shops is the payment and quantity issues (dealing with small publisher and a one-off book from an author is complex in terms of how much you get paid, when and book returns – if not sold). It isn’t the fact that you are self-published as the standard has become so high that it would be difficult to see the difference between a self-published and traditionally published book – or at least that is what you are aiming for when you self-publish. Many book shops don’t deal with anything that is published through Amazon (i.e. Create Space) but there are other routes to get round this.
- Generally speaking, it is easier for high street book store and even independent book shops to sell from larger distributers and they are in business of SELLING books and making money, therefore, they need to be confident that all the admin is worth it.
• You could ask your local independent book store to hold a few copies (they may take around 40 – 60% on sales). You might do a book launch there and then it would make sense.
- And/or promote your book locally and get potential customers to go in and ask for copies, then the book shop might consider stocking it – if there is enough demand.
- Traditional publishers can do promotion – self-published authors have to do their own. However traditional publishers will only promote your book at the beginning, but once you are not flavour of the month, they throw everything at their top 10% bestsellers and if you are not one of these, expect to do it yourself anyway.
- Self-published authors, and those no longer the focus of their agent/publisher typically use social media/facebook/twitter/blogs etc, which are all great ways of spreading the word and sharing your book. If you have these skills and are great at this anyway, use these tools to promote your writing and help others on the way.
- Talks and presentations given to special interest groups relating to your book and going to places like GOODREADS online to find millions of people who are mad about reading new stuff and discussing it and even reviewing it within a particular genre are worth pursuing. Posting on forums and in discussion groups relating to your book all helps draw attention to your book.
Final word for now…
The unpublished mss is a sad state of affairs. Even if you only get your words into e-book form and put it out there, that would be much more preferably don’t you think – it’s better than sitting in your drawer?. Publish creatively, it doesn’t have to make money, but at least you have nothing to lose and people may begin to read your work. I’m a great believer in getting your ideas and words out there and a writer becomes a published author when they have readers. It doesn’t matter if it is self published or traditionally published. Even hybrid authors exist and are both within the industry (traditionally signed up author) and self-published, use every means of getting your words out there.