Back in 2010 or so, having finally finished my first book (nonfiction about my family history in Australia) and knowing traditional publishers would be unlikely to take it on, I decided to self-publish it.
Self-publishing was in its infancy then. I knew enough about it to know that it was possible, that other authors with no particular technical or publishing skills had done it, that even established writers were now self-publishing their books in order to keep control of the process (and to make more money!). But that was it.
(We have Amazon KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing – to thank for making this all possible through POD, or print on demand, which means that it costs the same to print one book whether the order is for one or for a thousand, and for allowing anyone to upload a manuscript onto their site for free in ebook and print format.)
So I sent off for quotes from organisations to have my book published in print and ebook format.The results that came in varied, from around £3000, which was too much, to £125, which was suspiciously too little and implied there would be very little human intervention.
I didn’t think of doing it all by myself because I assumed I lacked the technical skill, but at the same time I didn’t know if I could either afford or trust anyone else to do it for me to my satisfaction. Confused, yet encouraged by other writers, and wanting above all a finished product I would be happy with, I decided finally to have a go at handling the whole thing myself.
To say it took me longer than it should have is an understatement. The problem was not a lack of information so much as a plethora, much of it contradictory and a lot of it unnecessarily complicated. I got there in the end, and ever since that first endeavour I have managed to streamline the process so it takes me very little time. Above all I learned it is far easier than many people make it out to be.
I have no coding skills, I don’t understand and don’t want to understand html. I managed to convert my manuscript into ebook format using only Word. I believe there is software out there – Vellum for Macs for instance – that can do the whole thing for you, and no doubt there is a PC equivalent by now. But I’ve gotten used to doing the whole thing myself, and it works perfectly well for me.
I even wrote a book at the time called Self Publishing for the Technically Challenged, which laid out in simple detail exactly how to convert a manuscript into an ebook, and to format a book for print. (It’s no longer available; things are changing so fast in the indie publishing world, and I didn’t have the time or the inclination to keep updating it. But I can send it to anyone who is interested.)
There are people and organisations out there who are notorious for taking a lot of money from authors and promising to turn them into best-sellers, and then doing very little. They used to be called vanity publishers.
There is even a website called Editors and Predators who list them. (At the time of writing this their website seems to be temporarily stalled, though they have a Facebook group.) And there are organisations such as ALLi, The Alliance of Independent Authors who you can join, for a fee, and get as much information as you could possibly ask for. Authors are remarkably generous with their time and their knowledge.
That’s my experience at least, and I think I can say the same for many independent authors. Moreover, they are more profitable, as you get to keep 70% of the price of the book. And, of course, they are instantly downloadable.
Of course not. There is Kobo and Nook and Apple and others, although Amazon – whatever you think of them – has very much the lion’s share of the market. There are other organisations for print books also, in particular Ingram Spark, who charge a nominal fee for uploading a ready-formatted print book onto their site, which they will then distribute worldwide.
To get people to actually buy your book involves a whole new set of skills. Many independent authors make a good living out of their writing, many do not. It helps if you have a background in or knowledge of IT, or marketing, and of course if you are a whizz at social media. It is a crowded market out there after all.
And, of course, there’s a lot more to it that there’s no space here to go into. If you are interested in becoming an independent author there is more information on my website, or if you get in touch with me I can send you a copy of my self-publishing book.
Some are authors, some not. All of them offer a vast amount of knowledge and information for free.
They are all UK/ Europe based, as that’s where I live (and I’ve no doubt there are many others in the US and elsewhere), but the information they offer is relevant globally.
What do you think about self-publishing a book? Do you have some experience with it? What help have you received? Are there any resources you used to get you through the process the first time?
I have self published 3 books and the very first one I got ripped off by the alleged company that was suppose to do it…I have a lot of the books as marketing was not my forte..but I give them away to amuse ??? friends.
Aaaaah! Too many people get ripped off in this business, that’s a real shame. Giving your books to friends or handing them to charity shops is a great idea, as at least they stand a chance of being read.
Thanks for a great article. You really hit the nail about “the plethora”; so much info (that constantly changes) has hung me up for years. My question is about books that need lots of pictures, words alone won’t work. Like cook books, art, photography, etc. Any advice? I’m told it is incredibly expensive. Plus the logistics and legalities of all the photo credits.
I don’t have any direct experience of books with pictures JM. I can only recommend joining ALLi – the Alliance of Independent Authors, there’s an affiliate link on my website – because it is a treasure trove of information on everything to do with publishing. Including legalities concerning photo credits and copyright etc. I don’t know if it needs to be that expensive, but someone on their forum would be able to advise you I’m sure.
Timely article thank you for sharing your insights. I am wondering about how to publish with multiple photos as well!
Any pointers on this ?
Personally as I said I have no experience of photos or pictures in books. It depends partly on what you have in mind for your book. I looked in the ALLi Facebook forum for tips and one person suggested blurb.com. Again, while I’ve heard of them I don’t know what they do precisely. So much depends on what quality you are seeking regarding the photos themselves and the paper they are printed on. Sorry I can’t be of more help!