Networking with Self Publishers

June 29, 2010

The Self Publishing Workshop at the Winchester Writers Conference last weekend showed that writers determined to publish themselves can combine ideas effectively.  Some of those who took part had already gained considerable experience of how the book industry worked.  Those with little experience of the publishing world were able to draw on the knowledge they had pick up while following different careers.

There are so many print-on-demand companies, writing and editorial services now available to the independent writer that it is difficult to recommend any which offer a good package at a reasonable price that does not take advantage of their customers’ lack of knowledge of the publishing industry.  After trying one or two such companies, two workshop participants found that “Authors Online” offered the best deal.  But it must be up to each budding self publisher to examine what is on offer for him or herself.  In the end they may decide it is more practical to form their own company, find their own printer and go it alone.

Competing against the larger publishing companies is a daunting prospect but networking is a powerful tool.  Linking websites and marketing each others books will surely be the best way for the self published writer with few titles to his or her name to get their work noticed.

Self Publication Plan

June 24, 2010

If one of the large Publishers likes your writing they will probably draft a Profit and Loss statement for your book.  The P&L includes costs such as editing, jacket design, image settings, print settings, page layout, printing costs, and overheads such as, marketing, administration etc. The profit side is estimated by the number of expected sales which in the main will be for books but could also include other spin offs such as the sale of TV and film rights.  The estimated profits will probably be based on the returns they have had from similar books.

The new Self Publisher will not have had much experience to make a judgement about estimated profits.  Although they may have done some market research which is easier with nonfiction than fiction as the market is less difficult to define.

It will greatly help put the project in perspective by listing all the costs entailed.  Self Publication is a business and as such needs a business plan.  However, unlike most business plans where there is the need to satisfy potential investors, the planner must look at the reason why he or she wished to self publish in the first place.  If it is to make a profit they should stop at this point.  If it is a desire to see one’s work in print and have it read by others then it will help to work out how much they can afford to spend.

A good Self Publication plan will prevent a novice writer’s dream from turning into a financial nightmare.  The book may even sell enough copies to attract the attention of a mainstream publisher.  Presenting them with a well set out realistic plan may even tempt them to take you on and by doing so use their greater marketing resources to further your dream of becoming a successful published writer.

Avoiding Pitfalls in Self Publishing

June 22, 2010

Easily the best way to avoid pitfalls is to network with other writers.  This can be done on-line or by joining writers groups and attending conferences, courses and workshops.  Writing is a lonely business and it is easy to become locked in ones own work.  Discussing your writing with others can help you think objectively about the project you are working on and generate much needed support.  Without the support of others it is easy to become discouraged and may lead you to give up.

Asking three to five writers, not closely related to you to critique your work is very beneficial.  If more than two are critical about a particular point then it probably means it should either be radically altered or deleted altogether.  But remember you are the final arbiter.  It is your work so it is up to you in the end.

Employing a professional editor helps improve quality although this will cost money.  There are many good ones about.  They advertise in the writing press but it is always best to seek recommendations from fellow writers.  Find one who you are happy to work with and who is sympathetic to your style.

Do not order books until you are happy with the proofs and do not order more than 20 books at a time or until you are sure you have a market for them.  It is easy for the most diligent proof reader to miss an error which will be picked up by readers of your first print run.  Many a self publisher has ended up with a stack of books riddled with a glaring error which inhibits their sale.

Start at the last page when editing and read your manuscript back to front.  Have your computer read your manuscript to you out-loud.  There are computer programs which offer a text-to-speech feature.  Some are free.  Use search engines such as Google to find them.  Your book may sound like Stephen Hawking is reading it, some of the contractions sound weird but, as you read along with the voice, you will notice some errors that your eyes alone would have missed.

Wait until you have three completed books before self publishing with your own company and look to utilising different formats.  Link to other Self Publishers websites and online social networks to market each others books and so become a bigger fish in a smaller pool.  Pitch your book in 15 minutes.  Produce a profit and loss publication plan.

By employing some or all of these tips you ought to achieve your ultimate aim which should be to publish your own work that you and others will enjoy at a cost which you can afford.


Opportunities and Pitfalls in Self Publishing

June 17, 2010

The real attraction of Self Publishing is that one is guaranteed to be published.  Not only that but you will be your own boss, have complete editorial freedom, be responsible for pricing & advertising and can keep all profits.  Unfortunately there is a downside and there are pitfalls into which the unwary can easily slip.

One’s venture maybe considered as “Vanity Publishing” and your books thought to be inferior to those produced by the established press.  Also the new self publisher will have no track record and will be just a “small fish in big pond”.  It will be easy for the beginner to make basic editing errors and on top of all that he or she will be responsible for all losses.

The upside is that that you will see your cherished hard work in print and it is that which will make the Self Publishing option outweigh the risks.

Ways to Self Publish

June 15, 2010

There are now many ways open to the writer to self publish that cost next to nothing or are free.  Most of these utilise the internet and the worldwide web.  Establishing one’s own website is now very straight forward.  It is probably the easiest way to present your work to the world.  Website costs range from free of charge with limited memory to expensive host options where there is sufficient memory to upload video and animations.  Creating a website is an essential necessity for the first time self publisher.  It is the way I began when the internet was young.  Now there are millions of sites and it is easy to get overlooked.

Writing one’s own site is not that difficult.  There is a variety of software available to aid you and many consultants who will help for a fee.  Social network sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter are a good starting point and are again mostly free and straight forward to use.

Print on Demand (POD) is the most expensive option.  It is now easier than it once was and there are reputable companies that provide a good service.  However, there are still some cowboys so make sure you know what you get for your money.  If you form own company, you will have more control over, printing, design, distribution.  It is more work but will be cheaper than if you use an established company and probably more satisfying.  However, if only you have only one book using such a company is probably the best option.  Whichever route you take network with other self publishing writers and learn from their experiences.

Other options include ebooks, audiobooks, podcasts, video and Braille.  If you are going the POD route then you are already producing pdfs so ebooks entail little extra cost to produce.  They have the added advantage of little or no material or distribution costs.

Author David James and my self are running a Self Publishing Workshop at this year’s Winchester Writers Conference on 25th and 27th June and I will report what we will have learnt in future blogs

Why Self Publish?

June 10, 2010

If you feel that self publishing is an easy way to make money then forget it.  Until you become an established writer or unless you are a celebrity then you will start out by making a loss.  This is the gamble that large publishing houses make.  They can afford it as they have a large stable of successful writers.  They also work with editors and agents who they rely on to know what the market wants and spot talent.  But the stories of them missing gifted authors are legion.

The novelist with a story to tell and faith in his or her own work will keep trying and eventually someone in the industry may take notice.  To write a narrative of 80,000 words plus and reach a satisfactory ending if only for ones self is no mean achievement.   It is only natural to want to share this with others even they number only a few.

It is not surprising that most authors survive on the proceeds of the “day job” in order to earn a crust whilst satisfying the urge to write.  The compulsion to share their writing with others is much stronger than the financial and physical effort exerted in its making.  As the saying goes “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Self Publishing

June 7, 2010

Self publishing can no longer be considered the sole preserve of the vanity writer.  The current downturn in world economy has meant that large publishing houses are less inclined to take a gamble on the unknown first time author.  Indeed many such companies will be forced to downsize or they will go under.  Advances in digital technology have meant that printing processes have undergone change similar to those which have affected the music record industry.  Just as musicians now produce and distribute their work online ,and using their own record labels, a new world has opened up to the modern day writer.

There is now such a rise in Print on Demand (POD), audio and ebook companies that booksellers and mobile digital platform manufactures have begun taking those embracing the new technology extremely seriously.   The literary press and writers conferences are all playing host to the new phenomenon.  Budding writers know that if they self publish they will be published.  Whether or not their work is any good is another matter.

Attending one’s own funeral

June 3, 2010

Mark Twain’s novels are humorous and perceptive.  He creates worlds based on those he knows and, although the content may sometimes be deemed controversial, presents them in such away they do not cause offense.  That is the art of a truly great writer.

The notion that art reflects life or life reflects art is often bound up in his books.  In “Tom Sawyer” Twain’s young heroes turn up at their own funeral after hearing wonderful things said about them by the congregation.  Ironically, Twain learns that his own obituary is reported mistakenly in the New York Journal hence his famous quote, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”.

The chance to hear nice things said about us after we have passed away should be a pleasant experience.  Unfortunately most of us never get the chance.

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