Self Publishing Books – Good or Bad?

November 4, 2015 in Articles, eBook publishing

Best Publishing Routes For New Book Writers

Early in the writing process, new writers should think carefully about the likely publishing options open to them for their book. We all nurture dreams of becoming bestsellers and earning a fortune; our prudent friends smile, wish us all the best, and think to themselves, keep dreaming! To write and publish a book you need to be businesslike, from the word go.

eBook Publishing and IssuesWe are all entitled to be optimists, and if your book is aimed at a well-defined and large enough readership, then I think you owe it to yourself to offer it to real publishers and literary agents first before taking the publishing risk on your own shoulders. If the manuscript of your book offers fresh insights on a topic, has been professionally edited by a book editing service, and is submitted correctly to those who market such work, then at least you have a ticket in the lottery. And don’t try just one publisher; submit to at least half a dozen at the same time. It will take months, it may not produce a deal, but at least you will have given your book a decent chance of a commercial send-off. In the meantime there is always the eBook route, an option that can be used to kick-start the process and demonstrate the potential of your written work.

Ethical Book Publishers and Literary Agents

How to Avoid the Sharks Lurking in the Publishing Shallows

Real publishers and literary agents, the kind who pay you rather than the reverse, are elusive fish, hard to catch. On the other hand their dangerous relatives, the vanity bandits, dress up in the same clothes, but can be landed without even putting a hook on your line. Just dangle your fishing rod over the water and they’ll leap out, with mouths wide open. Never in their lives will they have been so moved by such tasty bait. Your book is a masterpiece; you are indeed a budding Shakespeare. You are also about to be taken on an expensive self-publishing ride that will empty your wallet, one stage at a time, until there’s nothing left.

Self publishing books, as a paperback or ebook, is nowadays possible for the technically-minded, and not expensive to achieve, but still demands that the book’s contents are ‘as good as it gets’. In other words, the writing itself remains the important task; then follows the editing. Only after the creative work has editorially been ‘put through the wringer’ should formatters be invited to work their magic.

Book editors can mark your card as you prepare your original manuscript, then take extracts of your writing and show you how to self-edit. At the submission stage they can tweak your submission material to potential publishers so that you avoid making the mistakes novices exhibit when attempting to sell their own work. And once you have offered traditional publishers ‘the chance of a lifetime’ to have you as an author, and if they somehow fail to recognise your brilliance, you can self-publish a professional book in weeks, at surprisingly reasonable prices. Don’t be fooled by publishing packages offered by vanity bandits. The majority of these are worthless, using seductive waffle, aimed at taking your money, leaving you with all the risk, and boxes of books to sell on your own. Professional editors help you bring your book to market efficiently and ensure it has the best chance of becoming the bestseller it no doubt deserves.

Self Publishing – A Route for the Brave

October 26, 2015 in Articles, eBook publishing

Sometime the only way to get a book published is to go the self publishing route. These are the 3 steps to getting published.

Self Publishing A Book

self publishingThose who embark upon the self-publication route have two things in common: a belief in themselves and a wish to see their book in print. So far, so good. But other writers nurse dreams of great wealth and forthcoming bestsellers. They may be disappointed.

I like the idea of DIY publishing. There are many beautifully crafted books in print that deserved to be published but would never represent a commercially sound risk, from a mainstream book publisher’s standpoint. Nowadays, computers have transformed the publishing process, and when linked to dedicated machinery, can print single copies of a book in a matter of seconds. This is called Print on Demand. Authors are right to consider the merits of bringing their own work to market – once traditional publishing routes have been exhausted.

The Three Steps to Market

Step one of the self publishing process involves the creative process. A quality product in terms of content, writing skills and presentation has to be completed. No matter which publishing route you take, this step has to be accomplished professionally first. There are no short cuts. You first have to write something.

Step two is concerned with pitching or submitting a book manuscript to traditional publishers. This is a business task, not a literary one, that defeats most novice writers. Publishers receive piles of manuscripts daily; if your book proposal is poor, or long-winded, or both – your draft will be buried instantly. Seek advice to help you complete this task effectively.

Step three is concerned with the options for self-publication, once steps one and two above have been taken. You then need to seek out writers who have organised the entire publishing process themselves and take their counsel. For this you need stamina, ability, patience, selling skills, and a secondary source of finance to live off, ‘just in case’ sales don’t match expectations. And, of course, it helps if you have a well-written book, on a popular subject, with a readily identifiable market to aim at.

Getting the DIY Merits of Self Publishing Assessed

Look for a book editing service that, when asked to assess the DIY merits of a particular piece of work, either as a proposed project (relatively easy) or as a completed work (more difficult), discusses the specific skills the writer will need to see the book through its publishing stages. Few writers relish tackling each and every facet of publishing; most prefer to identify those they can handle and those they cannot. A book editing service can recommend writing services that will help them with particular aspects of production.

Look for a company that accepts no commission from such agencies; aspiring authors should know that the price they negotiate is a commercial one that will represent excellent value.

No matter what book you have in mind, they should ensure you know, in advance, precisely what your budget should be. As written elsewhere, there are bandits at large who do nothing else but play on the dreams and vanity of aspiring authors. Their charms are worth avoiding; you deserve better.

Style and Editing

Bad book editors don’t take prisoners. They delight in executions. They have a job to do. Writers have no idea how brutal their first exchange with such a beast is likely to be. Like ‘Compassionate Conservatism’, surely an unfortunate juxtaposition of terms, even considerate editors can make or break a timid writer in seconds. A top editor will never do this and overstep the mark; mediocre ones frequently do.

Where’s all this leading? To the heart of most writers’ concern: ‘won’t my writing style’s individuality be high-jacked by even the finest of book editors?’ The answer is – certainly not. No two writers express themselves in an identical way. Their mannerisms are acquired in childhood, and only a psychiatrist with a perverse mind and literary talent would have the slimmest of chances of altering the essential voice of an individual.

Top editors never attempt to go against the grain of their writers. What they can do is point out where lazy or inappropriate writing habits obscure reason or reduce the impact of the topic they are intent on expressing. Writers should be communicators; if they have habits that reduce this ability then few readers will have the patience to stay with them and will never get to know the person behind the writing.

Beginners often exhibit timidity in expressing views. It’s as though they don’t wish to offend because they are still new to their trade. An apprentice carpenter on the other hand, when first handling a plane to skim off wood, is more likely to take too much off than too little. But at least he makes an impression on the wood and learns by his mistakes. Writers should do the same. Go for it; seize the day; make cock-ups, offend the world; stuff the censor – if you don’t, who will?

If you are planning to write a book, and get published, the sooner you have a book editor to discuss things with the better. Make sure you are put in touch with a sympathetic professional who will guide you through the whole process – and save time and money.

Where Indie Authors Can Publish Their Books

December 12, 2013 in Articles, eBook publishing

Independent PublishingEvery Indie author will either know or strongly suspect that the best place to publish their books is on Amazon. There is a lot of information on this site on how to go about doing that and plenty of other online resources have discussed and advised how to publish books via Amazon.

Using KDP for ebooks or Createspace for paperbacks are two very good options and should be a strong consideration for any indie author.

But are there other options?

The quick answer is of course ‘YES’…. there are bound to be other options besides Amazon for publishing books. But then you need to know what they are and why.

With ebook readers growing ever more popular, what many independent authors do is to publish their books on Amazon and or Createspace first and then to use a third party distributor like Smashwords to get their ebooks published with other online distributors.

There is a good reason for this and quite simply put…. it is down to administration. Smashwords, for example, has positioned itself in the ebook distribution market place as a provider of services to independent authors. What they have done is to provide comprehensive help and advice that will help most reasonably computer-competent authors format their books ready for publication and, if required, provide an ISBN for the book. Then they convert the books to multiple formats that can be used on virtually all the ereaders currently available in the market place. Also, if the book achieves premium status, they will distribute it to multiple online distributors.

Achieving premium status depends on the formatting of the book prior to submission.  In other words – all relevant formatting requirements detailed in their style guide must be met.

They collect all royalty payments from the various distributors and once they have taken their cut, which is quite modest actually, they reimburse the authors with their net royalties.

At the time of writing, Smashwords can arrange for the distribution of an ebook (that has achieved premium status) to the following list of online distributors:

  • Sony
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Page Foundry
  • Baker & Taylor Blio
  • Library Direct
  • Baker-Taylor Axis360
  • Flipkart
  • Oyster

There is an opt out function for any distributors you prefer not to distribute through, either because you have already distributed through them independently or perhaps you just prefer not to distribute through a particular channel. This list continues to grow as Smashwords make agreements with new distributors.

You can of course go to most of these sites independently to try and set up accounts so that you can publish your book with them. But there will be stringent requirements that have to be met in order to get your book accepted, particularly with respect to formatting and you will then of course have to deal with the administration yourself on a distributor by distributor basis.

For authors outside of the USA you may well find that the distributors are also forced to withhold up to 30% of your royalty payments for the tax department (IRS). The only way around this is to apply for an international tax identification number (ITIN) and send a letter to each distributor advising them that you are exempt from withholding tax (provided you are of course). If, on the other hand, you are only dealing with Amazon and Smashwords you should really only need to advise them. I should mention here that I am not a tax adviser, so please ensure you verify what you need to do with someone qualified to do so based on your own personal circumstances.

This thread on Goodreads may help for anyone trying to get an ITIN http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/756351-dealing-with-amazon-com-and-the-irs—authors

What Are the Disadvantages of Using Smashwords?

There are definitely some disadvantages to using Smashwords, here is a quick summary:

  • They take a cut of your royalties
  • Even with their comprehensive style guide, some people still struggle to get their books formatted to a standard that will get them into the premium status category. The consequence being your book will only then be distributed by Smashwords and will not go out to the other distributors listed
  • Smashwords only sell a small percentage of books directly, mostly I suspect because it is more complicated to download a file and transfer it onto an ereader (even with detailed instructions being available)
  • There are file size limitations (10MB) and graphics, where used, need to be relatively simple and straightforward in nature
  • They only publish eBooks
  • You cannot upload books with DRM (digital rights management ) protection

A Quick Summary of the Advantages of Using Smashwords

Just a quick list of what the advantages are for an independent author publishing through Smashwords:

  • The potential to get your books listed with multiple distributors and with only one account to administer
  • Your books can be converted to multiple formats to suit most ereaders using an automated process
  • You can get free ISBN’s for your book
  • Publishers and agents can also use Smashwords for their clients
  • Growing in popularity with established social media presence that can be used for book marketing
  • A range of different tools and options available for promotion campaigns
  • Free link to printed books
  • Video facility for book trailers
  • A range of author profile tools including, interviews, social media links and blog feed.
  • Books are free of DRM constraints (likely to be appreciated by potential customers)

Who else provides Similar Facilities to Smashwords?

Of course you may not like the look of Smashwords or decide their formatting style guide is just too complicated, so here are a few other successful distributors that independent authors can use:

And just in case you haven’t explored the Amazon route for publishing eBooks, then take a look here http://kdp.amazon.com/  The most popular publishing platform for independent authors and where you are most likely to make reasonable sales. You can ask Smashwords to list you with them if you want to, but to be honest this is one option you are probably better taking care of yourself.

If you need help with any aspect of getting your book published and promoted then you are free to leave a comment or get in touch via the contact-us page.

photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

Why the eBook Route?

March 21, 2012 in

Why The Ebook Route Is Attractive For New Writers

Getting published has seldom been cheaper. Or easier. And I’m not only talking about ebooks. Printed books can be produced to order, quickly, one at a time, but here set-up costs can be heavy and there are drawbacks for the unwary, with unscrupulous operators masquerading as real publishers after your business – the sort who instead of paying you, empty your pocket, and take no investment risk whatsoever.

However, with ebooks, aspiring writers with their wits about them can now bypass the submission marathon and become published authors in a matter of weeks . . . if they feel that impatient. Which I must admit most of us do!

Writing and Publishing Your eBook

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Offers Many Advantages

It’s the arrival of the ebook mass market that I’m really interested in, especially the one set up by Amazon with its Kindle ebook readers and Kindle Store. Publishers failed to appreciate what Amazon was doing to the market for their printed books, and indeed some are still protesting as their old-fashioned ways of operating are exposed for the rackets they were: ones that benefited neither reader or writer, or indeed the publishing houses themselves in many instances.

Why take the eBook route?The Kindle Store offers new writers a free platform to display their books; it’s one where they can list them, describe their merits, offer a profile of the author, and adjust the price of the ebook from one day to the next. Amazon do take a commission on each sale, but at rates that compare well with the abysmally low net royalties offered by traditional publishers. There are also ways to promote your books which may just get their heads above the precipice and into the bestseller category: Listmania, wish-lists and using your buyer profile to like them and promote the search tags. These are tools that can be used on Amazon to give a promotional push that should not be underestimated.

But if something sounds almost too good to be true, as this does, then what are the dangers, the horrors that might plague you as a newly published writer once your book is available for readers worldwide?

When you put your name on an ebook, then its shortcomings will be down to you. Nobody else. And to prepare for and ward off these disadvantages it’s necessary to split the marketing aspect into three facets:

  •  .  what does the ‘packaging’ proclaim, inform readers about treats to come
  •  .  how are the ‘contents’ displayed
  • .  how instructive, well-written or entertaining is the book itself

Taking these in reverse order, if your writing is semi-literate, poorly punctuated, and rambles as you attempt and fail to take your reader on a literary journey, then your reputation is punctured both as a writer (probably for good) and as a person (what will your friends think of you when they read it?). The same care should be taken with the writing of an ebook as you would devote to its printed cousin. Your draft should be planned, edited, proofread, and targeted from inception at an identified readership, and then it should respect it. Provide what readers are looking for and they will respect you and look out for your work in the future.

If you have a brilliant manuscript, the next thing to ensure is that it is laid out so that the software employed by ebook online retailers will display it well on ebook readers. If you pay insufficient attention at this stage – Amazon offers page upon page of advice but it’s not always easy to follow – then your work may look dreadful when viewed on ebook readers. And if that’s true, your book will neither sell or do you justice. My advice: unless you are comfortable with the jargon employed by computer and print people, invest a small sum in acquiring expert help – at least for your first book.

And finally we come to the marketing and ‘packaging’. Here we are talking about what visitors first see when they visit the Kindle Store or other online ebook retailer. Your ebook will commence with two things: a unique listing page, and a place where it sits with all other similar books in your chosen category.

To deal with your unique listing first, you will be asked to describe your book, categorise it, give it a title, price it, and provide an image of ‘the cover’, a reminder that while no ebook will ever exist outside the screen you view it on, publishers still think of it as a tangible thing that can be picked up! Every one of these things, if incorrectly done, will ruin your chances of success.

For the listings, your competitors will all be visible alongside a summary of your book, and because you are new to the listings, you shouldn’t expect to be number one immediately. You won’t be. You’ll more likely be number forty or fifty. But if everything you’ve done works as it should, your sales should rise over the following weeks as readers find your work.

One last point. I would strongly advise new writers to seek a little support when tackling this brilliant market for the first time. Editorial advice should ensure the minor literary flaws are eradicated soon enough (if they don’t then perhaps you shouldn’t be publishing just yet), technical support will guarantee a well laid out book, and an informative listing will ensure your book has a reasonable chance of being a success.

Seize the opportunity, I say . . . but take as much care as you can to produce truly professional work you can be proud of.

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