Before any meaningful success I might ever have due to my book(s), I wanted to be sure to thank folks who took the time to share their publishing experiences, knowledge and advice on how to enter the book industry. People who care about sharing information and are genuine about it. People who didn’t share their thoughts to be condescending, to make themselves look superior, or to benefit in any way from their advice. If anything, they’ve only asked that information be shared. That’s why I’m writing this post. I want to share my experiences so far. It’s a bit too soon to lend advice as an expert, but I want to offer thanks and share some of my experiences.
As I was wrapping up my debut sci-fi and fantasy novel, Souls of Astraeus, I spent many months reading and researching information on everything from self-publishing, to book formatting, to printing options, and electronic book specifics.
I was definitely in no hurry to publish. There were a few times that I wanted to downshift and hurry it along, but each time, I quickly hit the brakes. I had spent some six or seven years working on my book, (through great hunks of inactive writing periods for various reasons), and I mostly had no trouble with being patient. I wanted to do right by my passion and my work.
I was definitely in no hurry to publish.
So, yes, I researched and researched. Initially, I spent most of my time looking at the various self-publishing options, and weighing their pros and cons. At the end of the day, I decided on options that I believed allowed me to retain as much control of my book and its future as possible.
My personal experience with publishing my first book:
My first decision, after reading countless other peoples’ experiences, was to create my own publishing imprint. I wanted to create an imprint for financial reasons, but mostly, to allow me to begin the process of self-publishing on an equal footing as the professionals. They use a publishing imprint, so I was going to as well. It only takes about $40 to start up a sole proprietorship, so that’s what I did. After that, I needed a printer, and I decided to use Ingram/Lightning Source. What was the biggest deciding factor on that, as opposed to choosing CreateSpace or LuLu? A few things… I wanted access to the distribution channels, I wanted pure 100% ownership of the ISBNs, and I wanted the hard cover option. A lot of people don’t care about a hard cover, but I did. I wanted all options available to me and I didn’t want to give anyone an opportunity to dismiss my book for any reason, before they read it. If they didn’t care for my my writing, I would understand that. But, I wanted to put a professional product and all options in their hands to give it the best shot possible.
I did the paperwork to set up an account with Lightning Source. It wasn’t all that daunting as some people have reported. Again, it just took a little extra time to do. Another thing I liked was having the option to tweak wholesale -> retail discounts and such. That affects how likely your book is to appear in retail stores. I don’t know with 100% certainty that other print options limit your ability to manipulate discounts and such, but I knew I would have complete control with Ingram/Lightning Source.
After that, I bought a chunk of ISBNs from Bowker. They were mine. Cool!
In the last few months of editing, I also sought out my illustrator. After a little contract and a flat fee, I had the illustrations used in the book. I could’ve published Souls of Astraeus without illustrations, to save time or money or whatever, but no. I wanted my book to have those illustrations, and I couldn’t imagine the book without them. I needed the reader to see what I was seeing for the few scenes I had illustrated.
So, that covers the bulk of the infrastructure I needed to self-publish. It was around this time that I had the final draft with cover and such, and sent an application to the U.S. Copyright Office with the Library of Congress. I thought that would take a lot less time than it did, but about five months after that, they told me they needed physical copies. I sent them two hard covers straight away, and then after another month or so, I received my copyright certificate.
Around the time I originally submitted my copyright application, I had pretty much completed the initial version of my website. Fortunately, I didn’t have to spend time or money hiring someone for their knowledge of website construction. I already had that from being an IT professional, and having grown up with computers and HTML since the mid 90s. Knowledge I didn’t have however, (that took a lot of time to overcome), was learning how to use InDesign–an indispensable tool in creating and editing the interior files and cover of your book.
One other very important thing… is knowing how to use/manipulate CSS/HTML. I knew how to do that from the start, but I didn’t realize until months after the initial publish, and a few edits of formatting later, that I could extract the CSS and HTML files and manipulate them for the electronic versions of my book. Fairly recently, I was able to completely manipulate the electronic version as I wished, and snag that last 5% of control back I thought I had to give up to conversion tools and such. I was back to 100% control.
So, I published the book and had it available in hard cover and paperback, as well as an electronic version for Kindle. I put all the versions out there, signed up for KDP through Amazon, told friends and family and tried to market myself. That was six months ago, (October 2013), as of this writing. And only *now* do I feel like I have an idea on how to properly market my book… some steps I haven’t even taken yet, because I’ve only recently learned about them. With that said, I had been planning on putting up a blog for a while. I originally had a set of forums set up as well, but I thought a blog would be more concise. So, here’s the blog. I think this is only the third post.
At this point in time, I don’t think traditional publishers have any advantages over independent publishers, except for networking and established rapport with others in the industry… Don’t get me wrong–that’s a huge advantage. But, even so, I think that advantage is quickly diminishing. Why? Social media. In the past few years that I’ve kept a pretty steady eye on the industry, it seems that writers of all kinds are doing plenty of successful, targeted marketing on their own.
The relevance of, reference to, and overall necessity of traditional publishers is decreasing.
Alright. So, that’s a drastically watered down review of my more important experiences in getting my first book published.
- Finish your book
- File for copyright
- Get people to read/edit it.
- Set up an imprint (LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.)
- Define your availability goals, (e-book only, e-book + paperback, etc.), and pick your printing option accordingly
- Get ISBNs (if necessary, depending on your availability goals)
- Create a presence online via website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.
- Have your book formatted/edited
- Market, market, market!
- Launch your book!
- Market, market, market!
- Write another one!
Next, here are some valuable resources and amazing people I want to acknowledge and thank:
People and resources (I’ll be adding to these when I have more free time):
1) Joel Friedlander: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/ – This man, his team at his blog and his contributors, are Patron Saints of Book Design and Book Industry Advice. Their information and tips are pure gold. An aspiring author can find everything they need or would ever want to know about book design at his website.
2) Jane Friedman: http://janefriedman.com/ – Jane is another giant in the world of must-have knowledge for aspiring writers and publishers. She is a prime example of having passion for writers, publishing and sharing knowledge.
3) J.A. (Joe) Konrath: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ – An exciting writer and wealth of industry knowledge and author encouragement. What the hell do I mean by encouragement? He doesn’t blow smoke, he just reassures you by providing experiences and information that allows you to escape the gates locked by the traditional publishers.
4) Book bloggers & reviewers: It’s amazing how accessible information is today, and we, as writers, are SUPER lucky to be able to access the reviews, opinions and feedback on books, trends and the industry. Some of my favorites are:
- Kat Kennedy: http://cuddlebuggery.com/ or http://twitter.com/_KatKennedy
- Jaime Arkin: http://fictionfare.blogspot.com/ or http://twitter.com/jaimearkin
- Shelly & Octavia: http://readsleeprepeat.org or http://twitter.com/shellysrambles and http://twitter.com/readsleeprepeat
5) Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com – A website for anything and everything books. Hopefully you’re already more than familiar with it, but if not, I bring it up now. It’s a great site to find books, look up books, read reviews of books, buy books, etc. But for both readers and writers, the community is amazing. There is an endless supply of conversation on any imaginable topic that benefits writers and readers alike.
6) Google: No, seriously. If you have a question, and chances are you’ll have at least 4,727 questions… Look for an answer. It’s out there.
I’ll add more to this list when I have more time. Thank you for reading. Let me know if you have any questions! If any part of this might be helpful… please feel free to share it!
Main website: http://www.soulsofastraeus.com
tl;dr: Be patient. Research. Be humble.