In response to the reaction to my last blog post, I asked the hugely successful Freda Lightfoot if she would contribute a post on the subject. To my delight, she said yes, so here it is:
Is self-publishing for you?
As we know, many writers are now turning towards self publishing. Some in order to restore a back list, others because it is increasingly difficult to find a publisher in a world where less attention is given to building new authors, or their work doesn’t fit the market. There are financial considerations but for some writers the greatest benefit is that choosing this path simply gives them more control, both creatively and in how they run their career. This is an exciting new world for writers, bringing us more choices. It is not, however, an easy one to make and writers should be aware of the amount of work involved both before and after publication, and the pros and cons involved. Let’s consider some of them.
Obviously there are no advances but royalties are better. These can, of course, change at a moment’s notice, but there is no sign of this happening. A writer can feel rather alone and many join a support group in order to resolve this and share expertise. One plus is that lead in times are less. Self-publishing an ebook can bring it to the market much quicker than the traditional route. Lack of credibility can be a problem - but acceptability is improving. Publishers are actively exploiting the self-publishing world and offering contracts to authors successful in that field. It can be a viable step towards publication with a traditional house, so long as your numbers stack up.
Promotion is a vitally important part of S-P and you need to be prepared to set aside a month or two after publication to guest blog, chat on social media, etc., in order to get the book noticed. Yet it would be naïve to imagine that a traditional publisher would put much money and effort behind a debut author, so there too you are expected to involve yourself in a great deal of promotion. You might try book trailers, advertising through BookBub or Facebook, free samples, special price offer for the first month of publication, contests and giveways. In today’s social media world, with the right kind of effort, authors can chat to and get to know their readers, which is a definite advantage over publishers. What it mustn’t be is a constant buy my book approach.
Some people are put off by the amount of work involved. This can appear overwhelming at first but like anything else it does get easier once you know what you are doing. But if you aren’t very techie, or don’t have the time to do it yourself, help is available. One good result of S-P has been the way job opportunities have been created within the industry as authors buy-in in services. I have certainly used people to design my covers. It is vitally important to have a good one that is attractive in thumbnail on Amazon, on a tablet, small mobile phone, and in black and white on the basic Kindle or Kobo ereader. You can also use a company to prepare and format the ebook for you, and even distribute it. (See links below) You will need to buy ISBNs if you wish to sell beyond Amazon. The free one from Smashwords will not be accepted by some retailers. Each title will then need to be registered with Nielsen.
Some writers choose to be hybrids with a foot in both camps. I am currently one of those. But it is also increasingly common for entrepreneurial authors, or APEs, as they are cheerfully dubbed, are looking at new contracts and deciding to go it alone. If you do choose to go with a traditional publisher it may be worth trying to restrict the number of years they can hold erights, rather than handing them over for eternity. Is an agent still useful, assuming you can find one? Possibly. They can help sell other rights for you such as audio and large print, even foreign if you’re lucky. But this shouldn’t cost any more than the usual 15% commission.
Kindle use mobi, but other retailers require epubs. If you have a Mac you can create your own using Legend Maker. It’s very simple to use and the results easily go through the validator. Otherwise you can use someone like e-bookformattingfairies, who charge around $50, for which you get an epub and a mobi for Kindle.
Self-publishing is still in its infancy but expanding rapidly. Only you can decide whether or not it’s for you. But if you decide to go down this route it is vital that you produce a good book - a well written story, well edited and properly proofed in order to achieve good sales and reviews. Sloppy work will kill not only the book but your career stone dead. Always be professional. You cannot afford not to be.
My thanks to Freda for finding the time to write this post, which will have given many people food for thought. Freda’s website is here: