Summertime and the reading is easy. I have a TBR pile a mile high, some from favorite authors, some new but interesting looking stories, one from a writer pal, and, once a week, I read an indie title sent to me from book blogger Ali who owns A Woman’s Wisdom. This week I discuss a fun summer read with serious consequences for the entitled and glamorous heroine.
Indie, self-published, small press published, vanity published, e-published, POD, traditionally published. If you’ve always wanted to write a book, and don’t know where to start because there are so many different ways to do it, this post is for you. Vernie:)
Although many of the above terms are related, each one is a little different, and if you’d like to save time and effort, you should know everything about all of them before you decide what your path to publishing will be. I’ve published five different ways, and worked in the field as a professional reviewer for several years, so I’ve seen the behind-the-scenes stuff, too.
Indie published is a synonym for self-published. I like it. The hip vibe of “indie” nails it for me. You might rather say you are self-published, but they both mean you did the publishing work yourself or, when things got too technical, paid someone to do the hard parts for you. My first book, Your Words, Your Story, was self-published. I started a small press (TCAM Press) used only for my own work, wrote the book, found a reputable printer, paid someone to format the book, paid very little for a cover that used two photos from a friend. I applied for bar code and ISBN, I contacted Library of Congress to register my book, picked up and distributed the books with my husband on a magical snowy day in December of 2007. Below you can see my distribution center, otherwise known as a closet.
I teach creative writing and my first published book was written specifically for my students, but it works for any writer, and if you’re not my student, you don’t have to do the homework:) A closet is not an ideal distribution site, but lucky for me, the college bookstore sold the books to my students. More recently, I’ve put the book on Kindle for 99 cents, so when I teach creative writing these days, I bring a box of books to class and hand them out for free. Your Words, Your Story cost me approximately $3000 to print, and I made that money back through sales. But it was not the ideal situation. I still have 3 or 4 boxes of books in my closet and I could use the space.
My next venture in self-publishing was with Scribd. Just checked out Paradise Fields, my chapbook of poems there, and it’s been read by close to a thousand people! Scridb is a free sharing writing site. Meaning, I make no money for it. But I didn’t have to pay money either. I wanted to try this indie avenue, so I did. I’m happy with it, but again, not perfect. For example, no hard copy to give to friends. When one of the poems won an award, I had ten copies printed at Kinkos. For the covers, I used photos from my sons. With their permission, of course.
Publishing on a Digital Platform
I went all in with my third published book, the indie novel Sister Issues. I didn’t want to pay any costs, I wanted to try KDP (Kindle Digital Platform), and most of all, I wanted that novel in the world. There are tons of digital publishers out there, but I chose Kindle because I am on my second Kindle and love them. It wasn’t as easy as I thought to get a book up on Kindle. The cover shot was difficult. Gave it my best effort, but I’m no photographer. Still, I didn’t have big bucks for a picture. This time my daughter-in-law saved me with the perfect pic. I did pay her for the photo. Not much, but something. If a friend or family member allows you to use their photo on your book, I think it’s essential to give them something in return.
Sister Issues as an e-book only, at least right now, because I didn’t have the cash to pay for the POD (Print On Demand) fee Amazon’s Create Space charges, and I was already running into production problems. In the end, I paid someone I trusted $100 to format the book for me so it correctly uploaded to KDP. I do plan to get a print edition published soon. I chose the price point for this book. 99 cents again. Not sure I’d go so low next time. I think $2.99 is fair for a novel-length e-book.
And then, after going it alone with a few hired guns, I finally got an offer from e-publisher Wild Rose Press for my second novel The Paris Notebook. The major difference between my publisher and let’s say Harper Collins, one of the traditional New York publishing houses, is that there are no advances. No money is paid to me up front. I have to earn it through royalties. The other thing is that e-Pubbed books are sold online, not in brick & mortar stores. On the plus side, I worked with an editor who helped me greatly improve the story, WRP chose an awesome cover artist, did the formatting and uploading to online bookstores and their PR people sent copies to many review sites, a few of whom picked up my novel and gave it great reviews:) Also, if your book is 65,000 words, the publisher has a POD option. So my friends without Kindles could finally read one of my novels.
My WRP editor asked me to delete a storyline. It was a great subplot, but she felt, since the novel was a romance, it took away from the main love story. So I extracted that plotline and with a few edits Sarah’s Survival Guide is now available free on my webpage. I paid a trusted designer $100 for the cover image. And I love having that free story up. Whenever a friend asks me to “write more” about the characters in The Paris Notebook, I direct them to my website for a free read of Sarah’s story.
I loved my e-publishing experience with The Wild Rose Press. I got to do what I wanted to do, write the book, and they did everything else. I’ve got another manuscript with them now. Fingers crossed!
Vanity presses are often confused with e-publishers. There are all kinds of e-publishers, and the vanity people are in the mix, so you should make sure you use a reputable, established publisher. Check out “Predators and Editors” website for unscrupulous agents, editors, and publishers.
Here’s how you can tell a vanity publisher from a legit e-publisher: they ask for money. Lots of it. I’ve heard $10,000 is not unusual. And they do nothing for your book. No editing, no marketing, no nothing. They slap a cover on it and print it. That’s it. They prey on the uninformed and the (gotta say it) lazy would-be writers who don’t care if the book is poorly edited, who just want to have published a book. Then the books land in their basement where they stay unless the author works full time on marketing their book from the trunk of their car.
So, I paid $3000 for 1000 books. How is that not vanity publishing? First of all, I established myself as a small press. Like Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, and countless other intrepid writers. Also, I have two degrees in English and I edited the heck out of that book. I also had trusted beta-readers give it a close read for me. I visited the print shop, saw copies of the books they published, worked with an editor on the typeface, font and paper (you really don’t want white/white pages.) I took in a copy of a book that I admired the look of and the print shop did a similar job for me. Also, I had a distribution plan.
Traditional publishers have been hit hard by the e-book phenomena and aren’t accepting many new writers these days. They rely on their top sellers like Stephen King and Danielle Steel to keep bringing in the bucks, and some are even developing e-pub subsidiaries. If you do find a traditional publisher, their benefits are many: your book in a real store! Up front money for your book. $5000 or more! Maybe some publicity, more reviews in traditional print venues like newspapers and magazines. Here’s the down side: Most traditionally published writers don’t earn out their advance, so that up front money is all they see. Most traditionally published authors need day jobs. And if their books don’t perform well, they may not get a contract on a second book.
So, there you have it, the big messy fun exciting world of publishing today. Hope this post helps you find your way to publication!
At the corner of career and life, where it’s been nothing but serene the past few weeks, traffic has picked up.
Mike is getting married to Jessica next weekend–July 25 to be exact. In Malibu. You know I will be there. For a week. Without a laptop. I’m leaving the computer home on purpose, as I want to enjoy family time without the lure of the internet. When I get back I will post pictures and tell stories and answer all non-spam email!
Agent loves e-book idea. We are planning big-picture career stuff. I have three romantic comedies, category length but not Harlequin material, I want to put out as e-books. She says it’s a good idea! Very forward-thinking. Plus, the mss. are just sitting here. Why not make them available?
I also have all my blogs from writing each of those rom-coms–it would be fun to gather them together as extras at the end of the books or maybe here. I got that idea from Paperback Writer, where I get so many ideas. Her workshop series in particular really got me fired up on the e-book idea.
Then there’s that Space Opera idea. I’m not sure if I have time to write that…the deadline is August 10. Even if I can’t make that deadline, I love the idea it gave me for the fantasy stuff agent is submitting to print markets. But…the lure of a quick deadline, writing something challenging and new, and also a fast decision (they are making their picks for the anthology at the end of August) is just getting my writerly juices flowing.
So 25,000 words in 25 days. That is 1000 very doable words a day. Four pages. Of course I will be on vacation part of that time, but I’ll be packing a notebook. So! A new morning ritual to wake up to. Things have been quiet since school let out and that was fine for a few weeks, but I am so ready to write again.
There’s also my story. “Layla’s Other Life” doesn’t need much work, just a couple of minor tweaks. (Although I am intrigued by the world I have set up there and wouldn’t mind exploring it later in more detail. Maybe another book???) If all goes according to plan, I’ll post it here next Wednesday, the day before I leave for L.A.
Other stuff is swirling around too. I’m in the midst of applying for a full time job at my college. I don’t have a PhD and I’m old, so I don’t think I have much of a shot, but I am going to give it my sincere best. The application process involves a lot of writing, most of which I’ve drafted. I just need to finish it out. That’s due end of August. I’d love to have something secure like a full time teaching gig right now–especially with Al’s job at Fiat/Chrysler so precarious.
To top it off, my datebook is crammed with yummy social and self-pampering activities for the next five days! And on day six I fly…