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This week I've been doing knitting, writing and canning (and working, but for now that's necessary).  I haven't done much quilting.  In part due to taking on a proofreading / editing "job". It doesn't pay but it's for a niece, so that's fine. Also I don't have any hard deadlines for any quilt project. That can make me a bit lazy on the quilting front.

In this diary I'm going to focus on do-it-yourself ebook publishing. First a little background pertinent to this diary. For eight years 1998 - 2006 I did micro-publishing as Speculation Press. We published 10 books, all in paper format, mostly traditional venues. We had distribution agreements with Baker & Taylor and Ingrams.  The distribution agreements were due in part to having Susan Sizemore, a very good friend of mine, and a New York Times bestselling author, as part of the company and also she gave us one of her books to publish, GATES OF HELL, a wonderful space opera romance (check it out here).  As with most very small publishing houses, we lost money, kinda big time, and more or less officially closed our doors.

That's the background. That was then, this is now.  Follow me below the orange squiggle for more.

There are a lot of people who are writers / authors who haven't had a book published by the traditional publishing houses. A writer / author is someone who writes, not necessarily someone who has had a book published by traditional publishers. It is very, very hard to break into traditional publishing at this point in time.  

Case in point is J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.  It barely got into print at all. The initial press run was 600 books with one of the worst covers ever.  600 books. That's an early Speculation Press press run, and we were a micro-publishing house. There are many other examples -- Tom Clancy's first book, Hunt for Red October, was published by the U.S. Naval Institute Press, which to that point had never published fiction and it only happened because Tom Clancy knew the people who ran that press.

So much for agents and publishers knowing what is good / what will sell well. You have to wonder how many other good books are being passed up?  Up until the last few years, traditional publishing houses were the absolute gatekeepers to being "published".

This is now changing.  You can publish your own book. It is easiest if you publish an ebook. Some of the current stats indicate that in 2012 about 20% of revenue for traditional publishers came from ebooks, or over $1.8 Bn for adult fiction. (Souce: NYTimes)  Even traditional publishers know that ebooks sell.

Now to the meat of this blog: How do you do self-publish your own book?

1) The first and most important step is write the best book you can!!  Nothing else is more important than this.  Don't just rely on your own opinion, get others to read your book and give their honest opinions.  You might also consider hiring an editor. That can get expensive fast and it needs to be an editor who is good and who you have a decent rapport with. When working with an editor, though, always remember that this is YOUR book, your story. The editor advises; you choose what advice to take.

2) Have the book proofread!  You've gone over that material too many times; you can't proofread yourself.  Have at least two other people, three or four are even better, read it to check for typos and other glaring mistakes.  Too many typos lowers people's opinion of your book.  This is the easiest part. Do it.

3) Cover art. This is really important. Choose someone who has done multiple covers. You will have to pay for this, usually between $100 - $400.  It is worth it.

You can do a Google search to find ebook cover artists. There are a lot of them out there. Also Smashwords has a list of cover artists here  Some of the artists are very busy, so a decent amount of lead time is necessary.  Estimate 1 - 2 months. Most will be pulling together stock images and layering and blending to give you a unique cover.

4) Formatting. Depending on where you intend to sell your book, you can just use the venues' (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc) guidelines and do the formatting yourself. Or you can hire someone to format the book for you.  At the link above at Smashwords, the first part of the list is people who do formatting.  Sometimes it is easier to have an expert do this rather than fight with it yourself.  Cost is roughly $35 - $100.

5) Upload the book and cover.  This seems totally easy and the part about uploading usually is, if everyone has done their job correctly.  The harder part is writing the promo that goes with uploading the book. This is hard to do, but work on it. Also the lovely thing about ebooks is that you can change the promo if it is not working out. Multiple times if you want.

6) Price the book. There are several websites that discuss the best price for an ebook. At the RT Convention I was at last year, there was a very neat slide by the founder of Smashwords that basically showed that $2.99 or $3.99 were the best prices for ebooks.

Remember the author usually gets royalties of 60% - 70% of the book price, depending on venue.  Much better than the traditional publishing system.

7) Market the book. I will say that I do not recommend paying for ads in expensive magazines or websites.  I know. I've gone that route. Others may strongly disagree with me on this. I'm just talking from my experience. Your best selling tools are the reviews that get posted on the websites by people who have read your books, and your promo (remember that item from above?).  That is not to say you shouldn't market - you have to. Usually the best marketing is direct person-to-person: website, blogging, Facebook - building a relationship with your readers. And that is mostly free. Also you might consider offering people something for free -- Amazon and Smashwords offer ways to "sell" your book for free.  I offer free short stories. Free helps people check out your work and decide if they like it.

Note on this: My husband, NormAl1792, and I discovered the Captain Lacey mystery series this way. The first book was free; we liked it and have bought every book since.

8) Keep marketing and keep writing. At RT, I sat in on a lot of panels that discussed marketing for the self-published person. One of the themes that kept coming up is not to spend a lot on marketing until you have at least 3 "things" up.  These things can be books, or novellas, or short stories.  Whatever. The point is that when someone "finds" you and loves your book; they want to read more, don't leave them hanging.  Also try to have something new up every 3 months at least. From personal experience that is hard to do.

9) Don't quit your day job. Again at RT, many people discussed that beginning authors, with no backlog of books, shouldn't expect great sales.  By this I mean usually 100 - 150 ebooks, although your first book may take off. It has happened many times.  There are writers that are making $10,000 off their first ebook.  Usually, though, it takes time and multiple books before you get "discovered."  

I hope this helps anyone who is thinking of self-publishing.

Best wishes for all authors!

Originally posted to What Are You Working On? on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 04:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Readers and Book Lovers.

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