Directly from Brenda.... Take it or leave it....

First and foremost, let me say that by no means do I know everything there is to know about being an author and publishing my own work. So, you are probably wondering why I am giving advice then, huh?

It's simple, really. I am paying it forward. Yep, just like the movie with the cute kid. When I started writing in 2010, several authors gave me advice and helped me learn what I needed to know to get my first book in print. Without their help and experience, I would have been lost!

Now, I speak on writing panels at conventions, do web radio interviews and make guest appearances on blogs to not only talk about my books but also about writing, self-publishing and POD (print on demand.)

Again, I don't know everything there is to know. I encourage you to speak to different authors or research on your own to get different points of view. There is no one way to be an author… or publisher for that matter! So, don't be afraid to take bits and pieces from different sources and experiment to see what works for you.

My hope with this little "advice" page is to share what I have learned and give you information that you may or may not find helpful. If something you find here does not make sense or you have 'seen' or 'heard' it done differently, well that is okay. Like I said, there is no one way to do things but I always welcome being contacted if you would like to chat about something you find here.

 

The Pros & Cons of Self Publishing

To Self Publish or Not?

 

Ask ten authors and you will get ten different answers on the best way to self-publish. That is not what this article is about.  This article will give you both sides of the coin when it comes to self-publishing / print on demand. This is a panel that I do annually at Necronomicon in Florida. I hope you will find the information useful.

I will cover the advantages and the disadvantages to help you decide if self-publishing is the right choice for you.

Let's start with the basics - e-pub means any electronically published work. Whereas POD stands for Print On Demand. All books that will eventually end up online or in print start out in an electronic file. So, whether you decide to stay strictly e-pub or eventually move to POD, all of this information can apply.

 

Advantages

Less start up $$

Basically to self-publish you just need to create an account at a POD site and upload your story. Or upload your work to a site like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or Smashwords that specializes in e-pubs. This does not cost anything but just because you write a book and make it available in print doesn't mean that it is good or that it will sell.

More control over your work...

No editor or publisher to tell you to change your story and no one to tell you what price to set for your novel.

 

Work at your own pace...

No deadline to meet. While this is appealing, you will need to be dedicated to writing your novel.

 

Keep all the profit minus pint/shipping/data transfer cost...

Your only cost is in ordering your own printed stock and paying for the shipping to have it delivered to you, if you decide to offer your work in print format. For e-pub only, data transfer fees are deducted from your royalty payment.

Companies like CreateSpace & Lulu include automatic Amazon listing, limited cover options, and your own eStore (Lulu only).

 

Disadvantages

The disadvantage list is much, much longer. I have been accused of trying to scare new authors away from self-publishing their work. However, that is not my intent. If anything, my intent is to scare aspiring authors about how much work self-publishing involves.

 

You have to do EVERYTHING yourself (editing formatting marketing, etc.)....

This many not sound very hard but you would be surprised. If you are willing to learn how to do this on your own, it can be accomplished.  Editors are EXPENSIVE! Sometimes you can find one to edit for 25-50 cents a page but more often than not they charge per word. I have seen between 0.002 – 0.0045 per word.  I use beta readers but be warned sometimes they are just looking to read a free story and are not reliable for finding errors (spelling/grammar) or giving feedback in a timely manner. Keep in mind that traditional publishing houses have whole departments working on your novel. When you self-publish, you become every department.

Most POD sites will provide a formatting guideline for printing your book. Even for e-pub only novels, there are formatting guidelines that must be met before your file can be uploaded. You may have a learning curve with this is you are not proficient with the program you are using to write your book (i.e. Word). For every novel I create, I have to do three different formats - CreateSpace (for pint), Kindle, & Smashwords (for all digital formats).

Marketing can be a huge hurtle for a self-publishing author regardless of the platform you choose to publish your work on. If you believe you can just create a website or blog and that your listing on Amazon will sell your books, then you are sadly mistaken. If only it were that easy!! You may need to educate yourself on marketing strategies and even then you may not sell many books. As an author with a Bachelor's in Marketing and Business Management, I still struggle to get out there and find new fans. Knowing how to market your novel is the only way you will have a chance at becoming a best-selling author.

You have to educate yourself on ISBNs, Tax IDs, Public Domain Classifications, and Conventions...

Sites like Lulu & CreateSpace offer "free" ISBNs but they come with limitations. You need to read carefully what you are allowed to do with your published book if it is under a "free" ISBN because there are some restrictions. There is nothing wrong with using the "free" ISBN option, I do for some work, but you should not blindly go this route without understanding the restrictions that will be placed upon you. ISBNs can be purchased (1 for $125 and discounts for bulk orders) and that may be the route you wish to go if you are hoping a big publishing house might "pick-up" your book in the future.

As a self-published author in the US, you can earn money from selling your book for up to 3 years if the money earned is under the federal cap by using your SS# as your Tax ID# (because the money earned is considered to be earned from a hobby. Still, you should verify this on your own. Don't take my word for it!!). However, if you go over the cap you will need to pay federal taxes with a federally issued Tax ID # (or your SSN.) You should also be aware that you may be asked for Tax ID # or business retail license if you are selling your book at an appearance or convention.

Sites like Smashwords, CreateSpace, Lulu, Amazon, & Nook will all ask for your Tax ID # or your SS# so they can report your earnings to the IRS. Depending on what your earnings are on the 1099 tax form sent to you by where your book is being sold, you may need to pay taxes. Talk to a CPA because the last thing you want to do is owe the IRS money come tax time and find out you don't have any because you were spending your royalty checks throughout the year!!

If you do not know what public domain is, you will need to educate yourself. There is A LOT to learn on this topic (too much to cover here) but you need to know about "Copyrights" & "All Rights Reserved" for images and to protect your own work. Don't assume you know what the terms "Copyright" & "All Rights Reserved" mean. They are not the same!! Educate yourself!

Marketing, I covered above but conventions fall into this category. Learning what conventions you want to market your book at and the costs affiliated with the conventions requires research and networking. You have to have money to order proof’s and inventory for conventions if you are going to have books in print, as well as, money to pay for your convention space. As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. We've all heard the saying and it applies to self-publishing as well. You don't have to have books on hand to sell at conventions and guest appearances but it does help! Readers want to "see" what they are buying upfront.

 

Create separate accounts (Bank, PayPale, Quicken, Square, Etc.)....

Keeping your accounts separate is essential in any business venture. The last thing you want is to be audited. If you are not familiar with this practice, then you need to educate yourself on it. Research how to start a small business and you will learn what you need to know (again, too much to cover here) because becoming self-published is a business!

 

The easiest thing about self-publishing?

Instant gratification if you aren’t afraid to learning what you don’t know and working your ass off!

 

The hardest thing about self-publishing?

Finding a good editor and being able to afford them.  As I mentioned, editors don't come cheap. There are several options if you cannot afford one. Beta readers, I already mentioned but consider writing groups, college English majors, or English teachers. Most new authors’ fear that by letting 'strangers' read their work before it is published that someone will steal it. It is understandable to feel this way but the reality is that authors are egotistical and already have too many voices in their head that they are trying to get on paper to even care about stealing what you have written. Most beta readers, members of writing groups, etc. are not thieves. Sites like Critique Circle are also good if you have the spare time to utilize them.

Finding cover art. Even though CreateSpace & Lulu have databases with public domain art, they might not have something that fits for your book. Cover art is EXPENSIVE and usually you are only paying a "licensing fee" to use the art and the artist retains the copyright. If you are not sure what I mean, again you need to educate yourself on these terms (too much to cover here). For example, the 'cheapest' licensing fee I have come across so far was $300 for a piece of art and I would be limited to using it for the book cover only. What this means is that I would have to buy a separate license to use the same art on any promotional materials (business cards, bookmarks, t-shirts, etc.) Now, there are sites where you can buy pictures to use (Fotolia is the one I use) and they will come with licensing options for use. Educate yourself and read carefully when purchasing artwork! Most professional cover artists use artwork from these sites and the licensing fee is included in the artist’s fee. Whatever else you do, DO NOT trust search results for public domain art! Always find the original site the search engine pulled the image from and read the copyright information!!

 

Things to ask yourself...

What are the reasons you want to self-publishing?

 Too expensive to send manuscripts out to big publishing houses? Formatting a manuscript to send to a publishing house is another thing you will have to educate yourself on. Each publisher has a different format (most do not accept digital submissions) requirement but most require single-sided, double spaced pages and the manuscript must be bound. Think about this for a moment... if your book is 300 pages normally, just to make it single-sided bumps it up to 600 pages. Then it must be double spaced so now you are looking at roughly 1200 pages. Bind it at FedX or Kinko's and you end up spending almost $100 or more for one formatted manuscript to be sent to a publisher. And that is with no guarantee that it will even be read!

 

Don't want to go through the rejection process?

Waiting to hear back from a big publishing house can take months and that is if they even bothered to look at your manuscript. Then if you do hear from them, can you take the criticism that comes with it? Many new writers cannot!

 

Don't want to go through the rejection process?

This is the worst reason to self-publish! If you just want your name on the cover of a book, save yourself some time and don't bother writing the book. Every year, thousands of aspiring authors self-publish (especially with eBooks becoming the popular way to publish!) and clog up Amazon with crap stories just so they can search for themselves or say they are listed with Amazon. Take your time, write a good story, and worry about seeing your name in print last. The book should be about the story not about your name being on the cover.

 

Can you do the marketing yourself?

Marketing is expensive. Ordering book inventory and promotional items cost a lot and are needed to get your name out there. If you are hoping to make money selling books, you will be disappointed. There is a reason most authors still have day jobs!

 

Can you afford to attend conventions? (vendor fee, travel, hotel, food, etc.)

Again, you will have to spend money to make money. Starting with local conventions is the best way to go because you don't incur travel costs.

 

Can you make your own website or afford to have one made?

Sites like Facebook and GoodReads will only get you so far in getting your name out there. Many readers want to see a website for the author and not just their blog. If you do not know how to make your own or cannot afford to have one built, it will hurt you. Buying a domain name (a .com) and finding an online host can be cheap if you are willing to have your potential readers (customers) flooded with ads when they visit your site. But, keep in mind that those "cheaper" sites will not only annoy your potential fans but will also limit how much you can upload (sample chapters, pictures, etc.) And don't forget about web graphics...they cost money too if you cannot make them yourself!

 

Can you make your own printed promotional items and / or afford the printing?

This was covered above... discount postcards, business cards, banners, web graphics, etc. These all cost money if you do not know how to do it yourself.

 

Do you have the motivation for a second full time job?

Self-publishing is a full time job - being an author is a FULL time job regardless of how you decide to publish. If you do not have time for a second job in your life right now, then now is not the time to become an author. I spend about 10 hours a day online trying to get my name out there and I am sure many of you have never heard of me (and maybe now you still don't know who I am or what my stories are about!). Keep this in mind. You can't just make your novel available for sale and think that they royalties will start rolling in. I write around 6-8 hours twice a week (around 12,000 words) and the rest of my time is spent running the not so fun behind the scenes business stuff.  Like any job, you have to do the work to earn the money! 

 

I hope that this information gave you some things to think about in regards to self-publishing / POD vs. traditional publishing. If you found any of this information useful, I only ask one thing. Pay it Forward!