Posts Tagged how to self-publish
I’ve had an interesting question from Tom. A lot of authors that are self-published avoid the question of cost. How much does it cost you to self publish? I would think that a lot of writers that aren’t financially well off want to know this info.
What a good question. To answer, I’d like to reframe it.
A lot of the basic aspects of self-publishing are low cost, or even free. Publishing on Amazon, Smashwords and Kobo, three of the major platforms, is free. Making Word documents and PDFs is free. Formatting ebooks and print books can be free if you’re careful and meticulous, and there are low-cost options to make it easier. Covers can be made free – or for very little money – in applications like Canva and Bookbrush.
So why do authors pay a lot more for publishing services?
The answer is: they’re paying for a professional edge. In editing, book production, cover design, copywriting. Marketing knowhow. Advertising. Access to curated audiences.
And how much does that cost? It’s honestly a difficult question to answer.
I realise this might sound evasive, but it’s like asking how much it costs to have a wedding.
It depends what kind of wedding you want. You can make your own dress from fabric bought for a tenner on eBay, you can pick a bouquet from your garden, you can use the local registry office and hold the reception in your house. Or not even bother with the reception. Or you can have a dress handmade by an amazing designer, invite hundreds of people, hire a manor house with caterers… you get the picture.
How much does it cost to self-publish? It depends on the result you want. You could do a lot yourself, for very little money, and it would still be a published book. Or you could involve professionals.
Here’s an important caveat. There are good and bad operators. Bad operators are usually taking advantage of your inexperience by offering a service of little proven value, or charging a vastly inflated price. So if you’re considering paying for a publishing service, check these two sources: Victoria Strauss’s site Writer Beware, and the Alliance of Independent Authors’ watchdog desk.
Anyway, we were saying…
Why involve professionals?
They will add value. They will give you an advantage – help you catch the attention of customers or build a reputation with good reviews in the grown-up world of books.
What if that does not matter to you? That is fine. We all write and publish for different reasons. Here’s a parallel from my own life. I have a horse. Many horse owners I know are keen to compete in jumping or dressage or eventing. They want their horses to have careers. I couldn’t give two hoots about competing. I want to ride and train my horse for our own joy. Success, to me, is personal satisfaction.
If you have the ‘career’ approach, you have to think like a competitor. You can’t do it without professionals. You won’t be able to do a polished job – and you won’t even know what details will make the difference. A cover designer will do more than create a nice piece of art. They will create art that will shout ‘buy me!’ to the right people. An editor will know how to make your book work best for your ideal audience. Professionals will help you raise your game, fulfil your potential. Using them is an investment, which should lead to higher sales, a good reputation, maybe awards etc.
But that might not matter to you. And that’s fine. Do whatever gives you satisfaction.
How much does it cost to self-publish?
The question is slightly wrong, I feel. It shouldn’t be ‘what does it cost’, but ‘what value would you get from hiring a professional or using a service’? To compare it with weddings, you spend as much as you need to feel you’ve done it properly, for your own personal goals. But here’s a departure from the weddings comparison – if you spend your budget wisely, it should pay you back in more tangible ways too.
And not everything has to be expensive. Here’s a piece on how to get useful writing tuition if you can’t afford an editor.
PS I’m teaching a course in self-publishing at the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Book here
PPS If you’d like help with your writing, my Nail Your Novel books are here. If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s been going on at my own writing desk (and with my little horse), here’s my latest newsletter. You can subscribe to future updates here.
How to un-self-publish: can you remove a book from self-published channels if you want to do something else with it?
I’ve had this question:
Can I free my book from Amazon CreateSpace? I want to seek a traditional deal. I published my first book a few years ago through CreateSpace. It’s a prelude to the one I’m now writing, and I am trying to find a publisher. Is there any way to free it from Amazon to match it to whoever I finally publish with? Sue
If you’re an experienced self-publisher you’ll know this is easy-peasy – so I’ll just say cheerio and see you next time. If not, read on….
Many writers might have an early book on a self-publishing platform, and now want to remove it. Perhaps to try for a traditional deal. Or to rework the material now they’re in a new phase of their writing life.
Here’s how to un-self-publish.
Do you have to ‘free your book’?
There are several aspects to this.
First: the rights. Big question: Are you allowed to unpublish the book and republish it elsewhere?
Let’s subdivide this further. Did you
- use the publishing platform directly, setting up your own account?
- use a middle man?
You published directly
The main direct platforms for print books are CreateSpace (which is now KDP), Lulu and IngramSpark. For ebooks, the main platforms are KDP, IngramSpark, Lulu and Kobo. There are also aggregators who send your books to multiple retailers – examples are Smashwords, PublishDrive, Streetlib, and Bookbaby.
If you have accounts with any of these, then you have complete control. You can remove the book yourself. Each platform has its own instructions.
So…. You don’t have to ‘free your book’. You are not under contract to these platforms. You simply used them as a printer. It’s not like a publishing deal. So you can do whatever you like with the book.
If it’s an ebook it will disappear from the sales channels.
If it’s a print book, the sales page will remain on Amazon but customers won’t be able to order it. There’s no way around this because it was assigned an ISBN so it forever exists in the limitless memory of book databases.
This might be irksome if you wish to bury the whole thing, but actually, it’s as good as buried. Only the cover, reviews and blurb will be visible to shoppers. In theory there might be second-hand copies available, though that’s unlikely. Even then, the system will probably help you as bots will know the book is scarce and will price the book at hundreds of dollars. (Really.)
So… although the book will look like it’s available, you can be pretty sure no one will buy it. But you can look at the page from time to time and laugh.
You went through a middle man?
If you went through a middle man, such as a publishing services company, they will have handled the uploading process through their account so you’ll have to ask them to remove the book. They probably printed through the exact same channels – CreateSpace, IngramSpark, Lulu or KDP, so the process at their end will be simple.
They might tell you the book can’t be taken out of the catalogues or off Amazon, but they’re referring to the situation I’ve explained in the previous section. The book will be visible but to all intents and purposes, not available (except for a handsome, bot-inflated sum of $700).
But… there are cowboy operators in the self-publishing world. Here are two hitches to be aware of.
- Some try to tie up your rights so that you can’t publish the book elsewhere.
- Others will make you pay for formatting and then not release the files for you to use yourself unless you pay a further fee. This situation won’t trouble you if you’re going to reuse the work anyway, or bury it for ever. (Here’s a post where I wrote more about this.)
Check the fine print of your agreement with them. With luck, everything will be straightforward. But if there’s a clause you’re unsure of, ask an expert at a professional body such as the Society of Authors or the Authors Guild. You could also try the Alliance of Independent Authors or Victoria Strauss’s blog Writer Beware.
Once you’ve freed the book, and you want to seek a traditional deal, what then?
A publisher probably won’t be interested in a self-published book if it didn’t do very well. Unfortunately! But if you’re substantially changing it, or re-presenting it as part of a bigger project, then it’s not the same work. When you query it, be clear about its history, and stress how your new use of it will be viable and different.
Lock up after you!
And don’t forget to block off the pathways to the book you’ve unpublished. Check through your blog, social media descriptions – anywhere you might, once upon a time, have laid a pathway for readers to find the book. There will be more than you think! Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… unpick whatever you can.
If you have a blog or website, you might want to write a brief post explaining that you’ve now retired the book. If you have exciting plans for it, write about them. This will help make your site look current – readers are put off if they come to a site that looks unloved and out of date.
Thanks for the keyboard pic Ervins Strauhmanis on Flickr
Last time, Peter and I gave a beginner’s guide to traditional publishing. In today’s episode we’re giving a starter for self-publishing.
A caveat! This show was recorded 5 years ago, August 2015, so some of our knowledge and discussions may appear a trifle quaint and out of date. However, the general trajectory of the self-publishing world is still the same – what started as a difficult and hazardous path has become increasingly easy and accessible, provided you know the pitfalls and also how to do a good job. Those considerations are the same as ever. For the most up-to-date self-publishing advice, follow this link to the Alliance of Independent Authors. But anything we said 5 years ago makes you snigger or bristle, do leave a note in the comments. It would be interesting to discuss what’s changed!
Asking the questions is the aforementioned Peter, independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me!
Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.
PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novel books. If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.