Why Self-publish? A Primer

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I won’t go into this subject too deeply as it’s been covered in excruciating detail elsewhere. Consider this a quick introduction.

Amongst aspiring authors there are two main camps: those that believe in the traditional route to publication and those that prefer the “indie” route.

The Traditional Route:

Choose a genre, write a book, have it beta-read and/or edited. Rewrite it until it’s as good as can be. Then find a literary agent to represent you. This can be an extremely difficult and time-consuming process. You could easily spend 3-4 YEARS making submissions to literary agents without ever finding one who wants to work with you. If you succeed in finding an agent, he/she will look for a publisher to publish your book. If he/she finds one, you will receive an advance (usually tiny) and the publisher’s editors will go to work on the book. With a lot of luck, many rewrites and a following wind, your book might arrive on the shelves in some bookstores 12-18 months later. If the book sells, your royalty share will be just under 15% of the retail price of the book; the rest goes to the bookseller, the publisher and your agent. If the book doesn’t sell within a month or two, it will be removed from the bookshelves, shipped back to the warehouse and shredded.

The Indie Route:

Choose a genre, write a book, have it beta-read and/or edited. Rewrite it until it’s as good as you can make it on your own. Now, find a professional editor and have it edited. Rewrite (maybe several times) as needed.

Format your book. There are a number of choices here. Scrivener will produce documents suitable for the various eReaders. I prefer to use Guido Henkel’s instructions and Calibre for the Amazon Kindle (.mobi) format. Formatting for eBooks for the Kindle is tricky. It requires a lot of patience and attention to detail, but it can be done. (Calibre is free software explained in Guido’s Guide).

You’ll need a cover for the book. Best use an experienced cover designer. To me, this is as mysterious as any of the black arts, so I will say nothing more than that.

The final step is to submit your book to the eReader distributors, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony etc. For me this is a 2-stage process. I submit a complete .Mobi file created using Calibre, to Amazon and for the other formats (ePub etc.) I submit an MS-Word file to Smashwords. If you want to go for Smashwords Premium Catalogue, you will need to purchase an ISBN. Apple iTunes insist on an ISBN.

Now we come to the advantages of the indie route:

In the first place, the time from conception through to sales can be foreshortened and depends on no one but you. A hard-working indie author should be able to publish 3-4 well-written, well-produced books per year

Second, you have complete control over the content of the book (within the limits of the medium – you won’t be able to choose a font, or example) and if the day ever comes when you decide it’s awful and you shouldn’t have published it, you have the option of unpublishing it.

Third, you set the price and you can alter this if you wish.

Fourth, without the middle-men, you can expect royalties of 35%, 70% or 85% depending on the country where the sale is made, the selling price and the outlet. Smashwords pay 85% royalty on all eBooks in all ‘territories’ as far as I can tell.

And last, you have the comfort of knowing that no one will ever shred your book in some dingy warehouse. It will be available for sale on the Internet for the foreseeable future without apparent end.

Producing a POD (Print On Demand) paperback version of your book is also quite a straightforward process. I haven’t bothered with that myself, as the production costs (in Amazon’s CreateSpace service) are too high in my opinion, forcing the paperback selling price into the stratosphere.

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