Guest Post by @AuthorLHerman: The Economics of Self-Publishing a Book

The Economics of Self-Publishing a Book

a guest post by Louise Herman

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Hello everyone, and I hope you are enjoying the week.

I have decided to take a week’s respite from writing the third book in my YA urban fantasy series, Split Blood, to catch up with author interview and guest post requests. I am looking forward to discussing my thoughts and opinions on the economics of self-publishing a bookas well as giving some advice on what aspects of self-publishing is essential to a budget and what I have experienced as a waste of time and money.

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Why did I decide to Self-Publish my books?

I would love to say it was a choice, however, after I sent a number of emails to literary agents and received no replies, I decided to close my eyes and jump straight into the self-publishing ocean.

It was nerve-racking at first because I had no idea about self-publishing but after a lot of research and learning from my mistakes along the way, I am enjoying the self-publishing journey.

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What are the common misconceptions of self-publishing?

I think the biggest misconception about self-publishing is anyone can publish a successful book in today’s technological world.

For example, you have a great idea for a story, you get so engrossed in writing it, you take the leap and self-publish it on the internet and then you sit back and wait for the big bucks to start rolling in, along with literary agents fighting to represent you, right?

Not quite!

The reality is only a handful of self-published authors break even (the total cost of publishing against the profits of the sales, after each website has taken its percentage) and if you do not have a regular presence on social media sites then you could find it difficult to be seen and network with influential people who can help potential readers find your books.

These people are bloggers and reviewers.

I have built up a good relationship with many bloggers and have added them to my list of ‘Go to People’ when I need to do author interviews (to discuss my past, present and future. This is not all about promoting my work. It is for potential readers to get to know the person behind the books), Guest Posts (topics related to writing that are important to me) and Spotlights (a full discussion about myself, my work and upcoming projects).

It’s also fun to communicate with these bloggers because it is a two way process. They advertise an author on their blog and social media sites, therefore, as an author, I also do the same (I will post the promotional item on my blog, which advertises their blog to my followers, and on my social media sites).

However, not all bloggers work the same way.

Some specialise purely in reviews but some are open to other forms of promotion.

I have found that trying to get reviews can be quite hard because many are overwhelmed with requests and often close their review request channels until they can catch up with the backlog.

While others will state they do not accept requests from self-published authors, with some going as far as to state that they have a problem with the quality of the self-published books they have previously read.

I used to find this slightly insulting but when you take into consideration that they are doing these reviews for free, they should be allowed to have an opinion on what types of books they want to review.

NOTE: Reviews are usually free and reviewers usually have full or part time jobs but review in their spare time. This means try to give at least three months’ notice to your reviewer. If you are asked to pay for a review, try somewhere else! Not only is it slightly frowned upon in the self-publishing industry but it’s just an unnecessary, extra cost to your ever rising budget!

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What are the advantages of self-publishing?

I like that I have the opportunity to learn about online publishing first hand and that I have the chance to communicate with a range of people with similar interests.

I learn something new every week to help enhance my writing and advertising skills and I really enjoy having full control over every aspect of publishing my books.

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What are the challenges of self-publishing?

Although I enjoy having full control over publishing my books, I do sometimes think that it would be nice to have a literary agent to help take on some of the advertising tasks because having full time job, restricts the time I can dedicate to writing and sometimes the advertising infringes on the writing time.

I have also found that it takes a lot of work and effort to gain a strong following. I write Young Adult Urban Fantasy novels, which is a popular genre and I have found that it is extremely difficult to get new followers interested in looking at my new pieces of work if there are no reviews to give them an inclination of how the book has been received by other readers.

There will be potential readers and followers who will read the synopsis and give the books a try but there are some who use reviews to help them decide whether or not it is the kind of story they would enjoy reading.

It is the latter type of follower that bad reviews can affect your potential sales.

Some reviews that are lower than five stars can be disheartening to an author but if they offer constructive criticism (e.g. “there was too much fighting in it”) then it could be a case of what one person dislikes about the storyline, another reader maybe looking for this type of drama.

However, if they give you one star because they “just couldn’t read it because you should never write again”, it offers nothing to a potential reader about the story and many would not take this type of review seriously.

And lastly, I have given out copies of my eBooks for a review in the past, only to be disappointed to never receive one.

It is disheartening but all these things are part of the learning process and have helped me focus on what works and avoid what wastes time and money.

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What are the costs to publish your own book?

Here are the basics of what it cost me to self-publish my first book (The Orcus Games: Blood Moon):

  • Book cover artist –  This is difficult because it depends on the type of cover you want? You can get book cover images from a variety of stock photography sites and prices vary on each site. For a basic book cover with an image that does not need to be edited and text, I would estimate between £50 (~$70) and £150 (~$212).
  • Proof-reader or Copy Editor –  Between £600 (~$850) and £1,000 (~$1418) (depending on word count, how many hours it takes them to work on the book and how much work the book needs).
  • eBook Conversation Costs  If you cannot convert your eBooks yourselves then it might be worth getting a professional to do this for you. I convert my books myself but I have received quotes in the past for this type of work and the prices were between £50 (~$70) and £150 (~$212).
  • Distribution costs –  (for reviewers who only accept hard copies): I have heard that some websites do give a small discount to authors who buy their own books but I am yet to find these sites. Therefore you would be paying the same price as a customer to purchase your paperback books to send to reviewers. Many authors buy in bulk for this purpose and can spend between £599 (~$849) and £1099 (~$1558) for an order of 100 books.
  • URL for website Having your own website is essential for an author and you can buy domain names from nearly anywhere on the internet at the moment.

I have a website through Fat Cow and bought my URL through them as soon as I set it up.

It cost me approximately £8.99 (~$12.75) to buy the domain name + £60 (~$85) for the year (with added extras).

However, different extensions can either increase or decrease the cost (e.g. com, co.uk, org. Etc.)

  • Publishing sites percentages
    • Amazon – There are two royalty options. (correct as of January 2016)
      • Option 1: Keep 70% of the royalties. However this option is only available to books sold in a specific territory of countries set out by Amazon Kindle. Any books sold outside of these regions will give you a 35% royalty.
      • Option 2: Keep 35% of the royalties. This is the standard royalty rate.
    • Smashwords – (correct as of January 2016)
      • “Smashwords authors and publishers earn 85% or more of the net proceeds from the sale of their works. Net proceeds to author = (sales price minus PayPal payment processing fees)*.85 for sales at Smashwords.com, our retail operation. Authors receive 70.5% for affiliate sales. Smashwords distributes books to most of the major retailers, including Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and smaller retailers.  Sales originated by retailers earn authors/publishers 60% of the list price.”
    • Lulu – (correct as of January 2016)
      • Lulu prides itself on working on a 90/10 royalty split, therefore if you have published your book after 6th September 2011 and it is priced at $1.24 or higher then you can qualify for a 90% royalty revenue.

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What advice would you give to someone wanting to self-publish their first book?

There might be something I have missed out because every week I am learning something new about the self-publishing world but so far I have eight tips that would help a new author get started:

  • Test it out on free sites like Wattpad first to see if there is an audience for it and find Beta readers in these groups to help highlight elements that may need extra attention (e.g. such as continuity issues, plot holes, creating believable characters or scenes, etc.)
  • Build up a following and make amendments based on the feedback
  • Get a professional book cover artist (unless you are good with graphics software or you are a good artist)
  • Get your work proofread or copy edited
  • Publish on the main publishing sites
  • Build up a group of regular reviewers
  • Be active on social media (not just to talk about the book but share your interests and get involved in group discussions)
  • Remember success doesn’t happen overnight (it could take years), so continue with your passion and never give up!

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About the author

Louise Herman is a North London Fantasy author obsessed with pear drops sweets and 80s Fantasy films.

In between reading James Herbert novels and drinking too much coffee, she writes Young Adult Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance novels.

Louise Herman has currently written five YA Fantasy books to date (December 2015); The Orcus Games Prequel Trilogy and The Split Blood series, which take the reader on a journey of magic, mystery, obsession and forbidden love with seductively dark consequences.

For more information, please go to: www.louisehermanauthor.com

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All Book Covers to Date LARGER

#Review: Building a Promotional Package, by @MichaelKRose

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Title: Building a Promotional Package: How to Prepare for Your Successful Book Launch
Author: Michael K. Rose
Rating: 5/5 Stars

“New authors often find book promotion to be a confusing and frustrating experience. In this concise step-by-step guide, author Michael K. Rose will walk you through building a comprehensive promotional package. He will show you how to organize all your promotional material in one place where it can then be tailored to your specific needs.

Whether you’ve yet to promote an upcoming release or are a planning a promotional push for a published book, Building a Promotional Package will give you the tools necessary to help ensure your success.” (description from Goodreads)

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I don’t normally check out books of this kind, but I’ve read a few of Rose’s stories and seen his promotional work around the web. Being that I’m somewhat familiar with how he gets his name out there, I figured I’d take a look at this ebook to see what information Rose has to help authors out.

Even though most of the information in this book isn’t new to me, being that I have a few books out and have some my own form of promotion for each, it was still a great book to read. I can say that there are many new authors out there that this could benefit, and even some experienced authors who could use this to boost or alter their own methods of promotion.

The information is presented is a very organized fashion, and it would be easy to go back to in the future for reference. The reader isn’t bogged down with too much information or terminology. It’s easy to follow.

The examples that the author includes in this book is directly from his own promotion, which in its own way shows another area to promote one’s own work. At times doing this could seem too self-serving, but I didn’t feel like Rose was pushing his work on the reader. The way everything was worded worked very well throughout the book.

If you’re an author looking for a place to start or haven’t found a way or promotion to work to your liking, I’d suggest checking this book out. While its basic information, it’s still very helpful and I’d recommend trying some of it out.

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You can purchase a copy of this ebook from:

Amazon

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About the Author:

Michael K. Rose has spent most of his life in the American Southwest but he has also lived in Maine and the Middle East. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Arizona State University in 2006.

In addition to writing, he enjoys traveling, attending the symphony and the opera, smoking pipes and cigars and, of course, reading. He is a wine enthusiast with a particular fondness for vintage Port.

His favorite book-and movie-is 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Find out more on:

Indie Week: S. Fitts & A Venn Diagram (And Giveaway)

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Exploring the Vast Indie-Lit Community or Fun with Venn Diagrams

I started writing a post comparing indie literature to indie music and how they’re both evolving in this flaming, digital death-future we’re currently inhabiting.

I realized I couldn’t define “indie” in a literary sense. As a movement, it’s so alien to indie music and film that I was stymied.

Indie lit isn’t always gritty, at least not as far as the content’s concerned. The editing might be gritty, which I suppose could be compared to the sound of a poorly-produced punk record. Difference: some people like the second thing.

There isn’t an “indie style” in the literary world, merely an independent method of operating, and unlike indie musicians and filmmakers, a lot of these authors and their work seem so… normal.

Every time a romance writer with a conservative avatar follows me on Twitter, I scratch my head. “You’re self-published? Why? And why are you following a degenerate like me?” I follow back, of course. I’ve got an open mind.

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The Indie-Lit Community:

I am one of you.

I don’t know who we are.

I had to make a Venn diagram.*

The original three circles were labeled: “Rejected by Establishm’t,” “OCD,” and “The Insane.”

The kinder, second revision is labeled: “Tired of rejections/don’t trust the establishm’t/burned by the establishm’t,” “Artists with a specific vision which they will not allow to be altered,” and “The Insane.”

* Level of brilliance is irrelevant in this discussion.

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Let’s look at the first circle: Authors with issues regarding “the establishment.”

We’ve all heard a story of some lady inManitobawhose sci-fi/fantasy trilogy about a world where guinea pigs rule as feudal lords was rejected eight thousand times by agents and editors worldwide. This lady then found GREAT SUCCESS by self-publishing her trilogy on Kindle. She now has a BMW. (Try KDP today!)

Okay, so this person clearly has an audience, and the agents misfired. She might have been rejected for simple commercial reasons – too many guinea pig-related submissions already in the slush pile. Perhaps her queries were incoherent. Doesn’t matter. She didn’t want to wait for her prince any longer, and no matter her current level of success or the wholesomeness of her project, she is indie.

(Cheers on the BMW.)

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Then we have those who don’t trust the establishment. Perhaps they’ve been fucked over by a bad agent, are offended by the literary status quo, hate The Man on principle… Again, I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. They think agents and publishing houses are filled with axe-wielding goblins, so they avoid them and self-publish.

Often, this camp voices their opinions loudly and defensively, causing the establishment to point and laugh. It’s a disturbing rift. Vonnegut once said that all writers are extended family, just like all musicians are family, and plumbers, and car mechanics, and so on, and I believe in that. (I’m paraphrasing. I can’t find my copy of Cat’s Cradle, but I’m pretty sure it’s in the prologue.)

Sometimes, I agree with the establishment. Sometimes, the professional retorts sound like high school hazing, and I can understand the troubled authors’ mistrust.

Bitter, pensive, or misunderstood, they’re indie, too.

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The Second Circle: Control Freaks.

I don’t want an editor touching my shit! I want approval over the cover! I want to pick the font! I want to dry-hump my art in the dark!

Please, know this: I’m making fun of myself, too.

I’m fortunate. I have a degree in graphic design, and my focus was, logically, typography and bookmaking. While these are useless skills in today’s job market, they’re wonderful to have stashed up the old sleeve when self-publishing a book.

The downside: I don’t have the same passion for graphic design that I do for writing. My knowledge base is outdated. I didn’t want to design any of it, but the friends willing to attack the project didn’t share my vision for the book’s overall feel. In the end, I did it myself because I could.

That’s not to say that I think the book’s design is impeccable. It’s definitely not. I made mistakes, I learned, and I gave an imaginary intern full credit.

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On self-editing: Do it. A lot.

More importantly, find friends willing to read your shit and point out their disappointments. None of mine are professional editors, but some are writers, some are voracious readers, and they all had invaluable notes.

I’m positive Bleeding Gut Blues would have benefited from a professional editorial spit-shine. It also would have been better if it were my third book instead of my first. C’est la vie.

The point: Editors are good. If you’re self-publishing the work they’re editing, you aren’t obligated to take their advice. What’s to lose in seeking out a professional opinion?

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An author isn’t necessarily foolish to want to protect their baby – financially or artistically. Horror stories abound. An acquaintance told me about a friend of hers, wrote a book about lesbian pirates. Publisher slapped a stock pirate photo on the cover and marketed it as YA. Clusterfuck ensued, and the author can’t do a damn thing about it.

Now, granted, it was probably a vanity publisher. (Sidenote: Being self-published means you will be harassed in every form of contact by Dorrance and its subsidiaries for, I can only assume, the rest of your life.) I don’t believe a legit publishing house would make a mistake like that. Perhaps I’m naïve.

As far as rights and future earnings are concerned, I have a piece of paper that says Bleeding Gut Blues is mine, all fucking mine, to do with as I please. On the flipside, no one’s invested a slice in its ownership, and therefore, selling it is my sole responsibility.

That’s the indie Catch-22: Total artistic control begets total responsibility. Artists don’t always have heads for marketing. I certainly don’t. I’m an antisocial bastard who sits in a corner typing.

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Which leads us to the last circle: The Insane, those mentally unable to work within the establishment.

You probably thought that part of the diagram was a joke. Sadly, it wasn’t. Just because someone’s neurotic or worse doesn’t mean their work is crap. It just means they’re crazy. Professionals hate dealing with crazy, and who can blame them? Therefore, these people end up indie as well.

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In the center of the diagram, we’re left with an eccentric, paranoid, passionate, possessive, enterprising, and self motivated individual.

The same could be said for plenty of published writers. All creative types, in fact!

I guess I’m still stymied.

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The author of this post would like to giveaway an ebook copy of the book Bleeding Gut Blues to one lucky commenter. To enter, please leave a thoughtful (maybe even discussion worthy) comment on this post. Be sure to provide your email as well, so I can have the author contact you if you win. 🙂

Giveaway ends 12:01AM July 18th

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About the Author:

Born in Houston, transplanted in Rhode Island since 2000, S Fitts is the author of Bleeding Gut Blues and keyboard player for punk bands Almost Blind and Drunk Robb & the Shots.

[I’m also a shitty poet, hack busker, self-hating graphic designer, RISD graduate, former barista, and amateur publisher. –S]

About Bleeding Gut Blues:

Ellis O’Neill, a young drifter withdrawn from the world, is subsisting at the base of the Pyramid of Needs. He wakes up on a lawn in southern Illinois with just enough recollection of the night before to get him to a bus station, Cincinnati, and Danny, his last friend and makeshift brother, waiting with a sedan pointed two thousand, two hundred miles west.

Officially, they’re checking on Danny’s sister, Angie, missing in action for months, her whereabouts finally verified by a vague letter postmarked California. The two have cause to be worried about her safety sans chaperone, but the knights-in-armor motive is a front. For Danny, the trip is an excuse to get his friend back, to pull Ellis back into the world. Ellis isn’t sure about the world, but he’s sure about Angie, his only proven solution to a life shaped by alienation and neglect.

Find more about S. Fitts and Bleeding Gut Blues: