Monday, January 19, 2015

How to Get Self Published For Free! A Guest Post

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Photo Credit- Bill Longshaw- Freedigitalphotos.net
I was 9 years old the first time I got published. For an aspiring writer, nothing is more intoxicating than seeing your name in print, especially for the first time. I've been a writer as long as I can remember, with many ideas of books I wanted to publish. But one thing always held me back.

What if no publisher wants my book? What if I work so hard on my book, and the only thing that it results in is a big stack of rejection letters?

There was a novel I was in the middle of writing, and I published it chapter by chapter in blog form. I got great feedback on it, and everyone who read it encouraged me to finish it and publish it. But I shelved that project, since I knew the niche that the novel fit was too small, and no publisher would accept it. So after 9 chapters, I gave up on that book.

If you've been dreaming of writing a book, but the thought of query letters and rejections after toiling for months or even years on a book is too hard for you to bear...
This post is for you.

I currently have 2 books I am in the middle of writing- one a cookbook, and one on foraging, (and two or more ideas for children's books I want to write) but the publishing aspect was scaring me.

In the past, people knew that the alternative to getting accepted and then published by a publisher was to self publish books, but it was a costly venture, with the writer accepting upon themselves all the printings costs, with the hopes that eventually they'd be able to recoup that cost. Advertisement and distribution was all on the writer, and the writer would end up needing to keep all the printed books in their home until they were sold. It was a gamble, a risk that people took if they were desperate enough to see their name in print, but not something that your average Joe would do.

With today's technology, self publishing is a "whole 'nother kettle of fish" than what it once was. You can self publish entirely for free, without needing to lay out money in the hopes of selling- you can make pure profit without needing to worry about making back what you spent. Added bonus- you don't need to store boxes and boxes of your self published book, since they are printed on demand and mailed to those who buy them.

My friend, Kelly Sangree, author of BooksBikesandBudgeting self published her amazing book "Hard Core Poor - a book on extreme thrift" (see my review of the book here), and I asked her to write this guest post to tell us more about how to self publish. After reading it, I am really excited now, because this is definitely doable for me, and I don't need to worry about getting crushed by rejection after rejection.

Just a note- if I would self publish, it wouldn't be entirely free for me, since I would probably hire a graphic designer to help with the layout first, or at the very least, with the cover. This is optional, though, and would just help with making the book look more professional.
And as for advertising and distribution, that I'd probably do myself.

How to Get Self Published- For Free! A Guest Post by Kelly Sangree

Disclaimer – I've only self-published one book, and been heavily involved in self-publishing another. I’m not an expert in this field, just someone who’s tried it and wants to share what I've learned. OK? OK!

In the past, in order to see your own book in print, it usually involved many, many submissions to large publishing houses. Those submissions were usually followed by many, many rejections. It’s so common that authors often joke (and one prominent author actually did) that they could wallpaper their bathroom with rejection letters. The alternative to that was self-publishing, but you had to pay up front for a fairly large run of books, then hope you could sell enough to make back the printing costs.

Thankfully, technology has advanced beyond the days of manual typesetters and heavy, expensive bookbinding, allowing people to self publish as little as one paper copy of their book at a time. The new way to self-publish a book is through a POD (print on demand) publisher. That means that when you order a book, it's printed on the spot and shipped, rather than having a bunch of copies sitting around waiting for buyers. The biggest one, which is also the one I've used, is Amazon’s self-publishing company - CreateSpace.

I chose to use CreateSpace for my book (Hard Core Poor) and my mother’s vision therapy book (Reversal Busters, which is a book full of exercises to help people who flip and reverse letters like b and d, or 3 and E) because it was easy to work with, and it costs absolutely nothing to put your words out there. CreateSpace is the wing dedicated to publishing “old fashioned” paperback print books, while there is a different branch of the company dedicated to Kindle e-books, called Kindle Direct Publishing. Don’t worry – if you decide you want to publish in print, you have the option to put your book up on Kindle Direct, too, and vice versa.
One of the first things you need to know about self-publishing is that your baby, your book, will not be tampered with in any way in between your keyboard and the page. If you worried that an editor would chop your book to bits and rearrange it, have no fear there - it will go out exactly as you release it. That can be both wonderful and horrible, because that also means there is no one who will preview your work or proofread it except YOU (and the people you ask for help). If you ever buy a book and wonder “Who edited this thing? There are typos everywhere!”, the answer is – the author did, which sometimes means no one did. Make sure you have several people read and reread your book before you hit “publish”. I recently saw a book go out that had typos on THE COVER, both back and front. Don't shoot yourself in the foot that way! Proofread, proofread!

CreateSpace is a wonderful medium for getting your book out there, because if you do it right, you can sell copies of your book without ever having to pay out a nickel. There are paid consultation services offered by CreateSpace, but reviews are mixed on how helpful they actually are in finishing your product and getting it sold.
Once you have your book written (a whole other challenge), you create your CreateSpace account, enter your working title and set up the ISBN number (the number that identifies your book), then you upload your book to the file manager and pick the size of your book. You also will choose the style of margins and paper color (white or cream) at this stage. The weight and finish of the paper are set, but the quality is medium-nice – not ideal for an art collection, but generally very acceptable. You can have full illustrations in your book, full color photographs, if you want – but it will increase the base price of your book. If your book has pictures or other graphics, this could be the most challenging part of all – because now you have to make sure that your graphics will show up in your book the same way they did in your draft! My mother’s book, because it had many pictures and diagrams to help people do the vision exercises, was a real bear to format. My own book was much easier, as I just had to scale the margins of my Word document to match the book size I had chosen.

After you’ve tinkered with the layout of your book, now you decide on the cover design. You can select either glossy or matte finish for your cover, and then design your cover image. CreateSpace has a lot of pre-formatted cover templates with stock images and the ability to choose your font styles – chances are you might find a cover style that you like in their database. If none of them work for you, there's a template that allows you to use your own picture, or you also have the option to design and upload your own cover from scratch.

Now that you've chosen your cover, check your online proof copy, and then you have to choose what channels you want to sell through. The standard channels are through your own CreateSpace url (which will give you the highest royalties), and Amazon, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Expanded distribution is also offered, which will allow bookstores, colleges, and libraries to order your book. This is tempting, because if you’re a writer, you’re probably also a reader, and you’ve always dreamed of seeing your book on the shelf of Barnes and Noble. Here’s why I don’t think it’s a great idea, at least at first. The next page is where you set your list price for your book. You'll see different royalty amounts for different distribution methods. You'll get the least amount of money from expanded distribution sales.
Let me give you an example – let's say you write a 200 page book, black and white, no pictures, and a simple cover. You decide to list it for $9.99 because the minimum list price is $6.30. Your royalties from Amazon sales will be be $2.50, while your direct CreateSpace link (which is not searchable – you have to give the url to people directly) gets you $4.50 per copy. If you choose expanded distribution, you can get a whole 50 cents per copy when you have sales through those venues (eyeroll). You can order your own paper copies to sell directly to local book shops, or give away, for only $3.44 – if you've made personal contact with a bookstore, you will undoubtedly earn more money by selling the books directly to them than by selling through expanded distribution.

If you’re a first time writer, it’s highly unlikely that bookstores will spot your title out of a long list of new books and say "That looks promising – order 500!". If you stick with standard distribution, your minimum set price will be lower, which will allow you to charge a little less for your book and still earn a bit in royalties. You can build your audience base online, then later on if you want, you can expand your distribution channels easily enough, at any time. However, if you're writing a book that you hope to market to teachers and professors, you'll want to make sure they can order it through the proper channels.

After the print version is finished, you will be offered the option of simultaneously publishing on Kindle. In my opinion, this is a no brainer – set up your Kindle version right away! Why? E-books sell VERY well, you can earn 70% on every copy you sell, and there are more promotional tools available when you sell your e-book exclusively through Amazon.

Some books simply don't translate well to e-book format, like children's picture books. Some books do best as e-books, like romance and fantasy. You have to choose the formats that will work best for your book.

If you already have a busy website or blog, you might choose to be able to sell your e-book via different channels along with Kindle. But if your internet presence is still on the small side, I recommend listing your book through Kindle Select – it doesn't cost anything, and you get some free promotional tools. For every 90 day agreement to list exclusively with Kindle Select, you get 5 days where you can offer your book for free, and at least one Kindle Countdown (a temporary discount).

Why would you want to offer your book for free? Easy - it makes your book more visible on Amazon. Every download of your book, free or paid, boosts the chance that new people will see your book. You can choose when and how long your book will be offered free – it's a useful tool! Of course, there is a downside – you don't get paid for free copies. But since you have 85 other days in your contract to hopefully make money on your book, you should be able to sell some paid copies now that you're higher on the Amazon list.

Going back to the print books – you can order as few as one personal copy (or none at all, come to think of it), or as many as you think you can sell, but this is the only time that self-publishing with a print on demand publisher should cost you anything. If you have a few independent local book shops, go to them and ask if they would be interested in carrying a few copies of a book from a local author. Make sure you show them a description of the book and a picture of the cover when pitching your book – they may have visions of ugly '70's style covers and dull stories cluttering up their shelves, and it's up to you to prove them wrong! In general, if a store chooses to carry your book, they'll take 1 – 3 copies to start with, and your earnings will likely be in the $1 - $2 dollar range per book (depending on your price – if your price is higher, you'll make a little more), so a few dollars extra in your pocket along with some added exposure is a nice plus. If you're invited to do a book signing, you'll need enough copies so you won't run out while doing the event – ask the book store how many people typically show up for a book signing and plan accordingly.

If you've had a book in your head and you've been waiting to write it because you weren't sure if you could get it published, stop waiting!

Thank you so much Kelly for this wonderful advice! Now to get cracking on my books!

Are you a writer? Have you had a dream of getting published, but didn't want to waste your time if there was a possibility of only getting rejected and not being guaranteed that you could even publish it? Would you ever consider self publishing, knowing now what you do?

1 comment:

  1. I might try traditional routes first, then self publishing. So far I've only tried writing a novel, but it's terrible! I have a math book in mind.

    I also want to make some of those picture books (to take the place of the scrap book photo albums I used to make when I had printed photos), but those are pricy.

    I'm glad you mentioned editing. You might even hire a real editor (paying in kind may be possible).

    My favorite thing about this article, though, is that it means you might publish books!


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