INSIDE THE ART, CRAFT AND BUSINESS OF WRITING for Film, TV, Books, Stage, Print or Digital Media (with Particular Attention to Comedy)
I knew from the start that I wanted to self-publish my new book “How To Be A Writer Who Writes” as a digital e-book.
No publisher was going to give me an advance on a how-to book about writing so I had no reason to go through the extended process of writing and submitting a book proposal – a whole project unto itself – and getting an agent and/or publisher.
Self-publishing a digital e-book had other obvious benefits:
1. Speed – I could ‘publish’ my book as soon as it was finished instead of waiting (and hustling) for agonizing months (or years!) to get an agent, get a publisher and wait for a traditional publisher to move it through their system.
2. Control – I could get the cover art, format, layout and release date I wanted. I know many published authors who were surprised and dismayed at some of the compromises they had to make with publishers.
3. Profits – 100% to me! (Actually, it turns out only 70% to me after Amazon takes it’s cut, but, still, 70%!)
4. Life-Span – Traditional publishers give a book a little longer to find an audience than traditional movie studios give a film, but not much. E-publishing lets a book live forever.
I knew I was going to have to do virtually all of the marketing and publicity for the book myself anyway, so there was no reason not to do it myself. For more reasons, check out this article from Indie Reader about why even traditionally-published authors are ‘going indie’.
The basic steps to self-publishing are simple, but turn out not to be all that easy:
1. Write the book – I’ve written many scripts, but had never written a book before so, after coaching writers in workshops and privately for years, I decided to follow my own advice, and it worked. After many drafts, a lot of feedback, more drafts and some life-related delays, I’m a writer who wrote a book!
2. Edit the Book – I knew I couldn’t edit my own book – at least not without getting caught up in an endless cycle of re-writing and re-editing so, after getting estimates from $500-$3000 (?!), I decided to barter private coaching in exchange for getting my book edited by someone in an editorial job. Unfortunately, this yielded less than optimal results. My editor took forever (apparently busy with their actual editing job) and after the book was ‘done’, I still found many mistakes and formatting inconsistencies. These were (I think) mostly addressed in the next step…
3. Format the Book – I don’t mean the layout, as in tabs and line spacing, although that turns out to matter. We’re still in the Wild West Beta/VHS phase of digital publishing technology, so Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple all require different files in different technical file formats! Amazon, where you will almost certainly do the bulk of your sales, uses a .mobi file. Barnes & Noble uses an .epub. If your book is a novel, and the only formatting is chapter breaks, you can probably get away with uploading a word doc directly to Smashwords, which puts it through an automated formatting process, spits the book out in multiple formats AND uploads it to the various sellers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc.).
Unfortunately, my book contains a lot of numbered lists and bullet points and several images and, a month after publishing it on Amazon, I am still trying to muscle it through the Smashwords system. Luckily, I have been aided in this by my formatter of choice, Rick Fisher of e-Quality Press, who has actually been dealing with Smashwords on my behalf. I also got a price quote of nearly $500 from another formatter called 52 Novels, but Rick was less than half the price. He’s been extremely responsive to cover art quality, margins and other technical format issues. There’s also a site called BookBaby, that offers to do what Smashwords does ‘starting at $99’, but I don’t have any direct experience with them. There are many others in this niche too. If you are very computery and technical, want to save some money and really do it all yourself, you can create your own mobi file.
5. Promote the Book – This is where the real fun begins, but it pretty much requires it’s own blog post, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, did I mention that I wrote a book? “How To Be A Writer Who Writes” is only $6.99 and I must say a) people are really loving it and b) it’s really satisfying to be a writer who wrote – and published. The book is available on Kindle from Amazon. Many people don’t seem to know that if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the (free) Kindle program to use on any computer. At this writing, the book has not yet ‘migrated’ to the Barnes & Noble or Apple store, but is available in those and many other formats at Smashwords or you can just get the PDF version right here.
The good news about self-publishing is that you can do it yourself. The bad news is that you have to do everything yourself – or hire people to help you.
Thankfully, I was guided through this process by a friend who did it himself, Alex Metcalf, author of the fierce noir novel “Where the Sun Don’t Shine“. Without his help my maiden self-publishing experience would have taken a lot longer, cost a lot more, involved a lot more trial and certainly more error. Since you may not have a helpful and experienced friend, I hope this blog will stand in and point you in the right direction(s).
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Greg Miller is available to give you personalized help with writing, editing or publicizing your book. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 323-717-4731 to discuss your particulars.