Thursday, October 27, 2011

One Stop Shop Self-Publishing - at Least the First Time

Many first-timers contact me about where to start when it comes to self-publishing. If you Google "self-publish", you'll come up with vanity presses, how-to format sites, and an assortment of articles about how to become a self-published author, from cover design to purchasing ISBNs. Your eyes will cross and glaze over before you know it. Granted, I've not self-pubbed since 2007, when I used to publish The Shy Writer: An Introvert's Guide to Writing Success, but I'm not bad at keeping up with change in this industry.

In my opinion, your first decision is e-book or paper or both. Who is your readership? Are they paperback readers or are they big on e-readers? Frankly, the genre fiction subjects of sci-fi, fantasy, young adult, romance, and mystery are selling hot as e-books. How-to nonfiction probably sells better on paper. Study your niche and determine what your readers prefer.

Let's say you want to go the e-book route first. Yes, it's cheaper. If you are like me, you don't want to learn all that formatting if you can help it. Amazon wants one style, Barnes & Noble another, and so many others. You can see the long list of formats at Wikipedia. Don't let it bother you. You don't need to learn all that. Just know that format matters.

You can learn format at each site. Or you can go through someone to format your manuscript for you, like Bookbaby, or the well-known Joshua Tallent (@ebookarchitects), owner of eBook Architects. Or you can go to a place like Smashwords and let them format for Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony and a few others, and offer e-book sales for you on their site.

I've wondered for a long time whether disbursing an e-book in all those formats was worth the trouble. Writers have told horror stories about taking two weeks to format a book correctly, in one specific format, not to mention all the others. Then there's the extra cost of the various formats unless you want to face a huge learning curve to understanding the technical jargon of each one. Time and money.

Then I read a piece by Morris Rosenthal in which he touts Amazon's Kindle the way to go for e-books and CreateSpace for paper. 

I see the Amazon ecosystem as a tremendous leap forward for authors. Publishing with Amazon is the only logical first step for new authors, unless they can land a six figure advance from a trade. And despite the spam and flames, customer reviews bring authors face-to-face with readers in a way that rarely happened with the self selected audiences who would show up for a book reading and signing.

I applaud this man for saying what many writers think. Most readers know how to buy from Amazon first and foremost over other venues. Who doesn't recognize the smiley-face box? Who owns a Kindle and doesn't understand what Whispernet is? And he addresses the fact that the self-published are treated the same as the traditionally published.

Amazon treats self published books exactly like they treat trade published books, the books sell on their merits, as Amazon measures merits. A self publisher will never get the front and center table in a Barnes&Noble or other bookstore, a best, they’ll have one or two copies hidden away on a shelf somewhere. On Amazon, a self publisher who has the right book for the right market can get that front and center table, and make a very good living.

So, if you are trying to figure out all the confusing terminology, guidance and choices in the self-publishing industry, and you have a book ready to go, I suggest you cut your teeth on Amazon - Kindle for e-book and CreateSpace for paper. I'm not saying the other guys aren't any good. I'm just saying that readers know Amazon well. And no matter how good the other guys are, the lion's share of e-book sales takes place via the Kindle format. Then once you feel comfortable with that format, delve in to the others. Just don't let the convoluted collection of e-book how-to tutelage keep you from publishing if you're primed and ready to roll.


widdershins said...

Like all things ... do your research first!!!

Debra Stang said...

Hi Hope,
I did a lot of the same research and have reached the same conclusions you did. It takes me almost no time at all to format a manuscript for Amazon, whereas the directions for Smashwords still have me scratching my head!

P.S. I LOVED The Shy Writer. It gave me hope that I could succeed in the writing field as an introvert.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this interesting bit of information. Do you know if Create Space does the formatting or will an aspiring author still want to hire someone to format their manuscript?

Anonymous said...

What a great post.
I published my novel Thicker Than Water (Brands Crossing Series) in paperback (createspace) and Ebook (KDP and Smashwords)

Although there was a lot to learn and that learning curve was pretty steep, I persevered and, with the help of my good friends at Trinity Writers Workshop (many of whom had already self-published) I succeeded.

I recommend this method to anyone interested in self-publishing.

Kim Lehnhoff said...

I came to the same conclusion - Amazon or bust.

The stats prove that most ebooks are purchased through Amazon, so if I'm bothering to learn a format, Amazon's is it for me.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Cheers for the advice Hope.

I'm STILL holding out for the traditional path, but it's very difficult to get an agent, let alone a publisher.

Surely there are easier ways to get your work read. Ha ha (not laughing on the inside.)