Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Bit on Self-Publishing

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to attend an awesome writing symposium. I wasn't sure what to expect as it was my first venture into any sort of writing conference. As stated in the last few posts, I had a great time and I learned a ton. I think the thing that stuck in my ribs the most was the information on self-publishing. For me, self-publishing went from being something to be snubbed and looked down upon to something to be enthusiastically excited about possibly trying.

I wholeheartedly and sincerely apologize and repent of my former feelings.

Now, I am not saying that I will definitely go the self-publishing route in the future. There are pros and cons to both sides of the coin. I just thought that I would outline a few of the things that I learned about why self-publishing isn't just for those who can't get published the traditional route. 

First off, I was amazed at the ease of self-publishing. Now by ease I do not mean one click of a button and you will be a bestseller. But there are so many options and you really can get your work out there quickly. If you want a good product, you obviously would want to spend some time making sure your product looks good, but there are plenty of ways to get your product out there.

 And you don't have to pay a dime out of pocket! I always thought that self-publishing entailed forking out a bunch of money to get your books printed and then storing them in your garage until you could get someone to buy a copy. I'm sure that there are those who still go this route, but there are other options!

For starters, you can do a Kindle version of your book through amazon.com. There is also CreateSpace, amazon's partner company. They do have some paid-for services, like formatting your book, or designing a cover, which can be helpful. But if you are savvy and can do these things yourself, it costs $0 to get your book out there. They are a print on demand site, so when someone orders your book on amazon, they print it and ship it. They then take a cut (and that is how they get paid) but then your get your percentage of the cut--and it is nothing to sniff at.

This leads me to one of the other perks of self-publishing. If you go the traditional route, after the publisher and your agent get their cut, you'll probably get around a 7-9% royalty. So on a $10 book, that's about 80 cents. Not too bad if you can sell lots of books. With the Kindle books, you can make as much as a 70% royalty (if the book falls within a certain price range). So on a $5 dollar kindle book, you would make $3.50. That's pretty great! The royalty is not as large on CreateSpace, but it can still be pretty good (it depends on the length of the book)--a 300 page book set at $10 would give you $1.55 in royalties. That is almost double the traditional publisher.

So there are definite pros to self-publishing, but there can be a few drawbacks. For one, if you self-publish, you have to do all the marketing of your book by yourself. This can take a big chunk of your time. At the writing symposium that I attended, traditionally published authors said that they spend about 15-20% of their time working on marketing. Those who were self-published said they spent around 50-60%. That's huge. So if marketing isn't your thing, self-publishing may not be the way to go. I did learn, however, that even when a publisher wants to publish your book, they expect you to have your own marketing plan of how to get your book out there. So you wouldn't completely escape marketing either way.

Personally, I like the control that self-publishing offers. I also like the indie culture. Although in many ways more difficult, the idea of pushing through the crowd to be successful has appeal. 

Crowd funding has also caught on as a way to get your writing (and other cool projects) out there. If you haven't had a chance to check out Kickstarter, I highly recommend it. Basically, you have a creative idea, and others help fund the endeavor and are rewarded with things that you will give them for helping you out. For example, one of the people I met at the symposium is trying to make a monster look-and-find book. He has various rewards for those who help fund his project, like copies of the book and original art work. Kickstarter has a whole section just for publishing. Its a great tool to potentially utilize. 

So yeah, those are a few of the things that I learned. I was amazed to find out that there are authors that make a living--pay a mortgage and raise a family--just by being a writer and self-publishing. How awesome is that. 

There were a few authors in particular at the writing symposium that helped expand my views on self-publishing. You can find links to their websites below. You should definitely check out their work.
Tracy Hickman --yeah, THE Tracy Hickman, co-author of the Dragonlance series

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