People want different things from writing a book. The first step you must take is to ask yourself: “What do I want?” and actually get to the rock bottom of the truth.
For many people, that is difficult. Too difficult. Some people (me) only get halfway there, but I freely admit I don’t know what I want most of the time.
So there I was with my cursor perpetually on the SEND button sending my manuscript out to real agents and publishers (not those poseur ebook publishers) and getting nowhere. Meh, I don’t blame the early rejections. My blurb sucked and so did my beginning (which I rewrote) and my tag line was apparently only appropriate for my blog.
I retooled and sent out another round. Meanwhile, I saw that an in-real-life critique group friend I’d had back in the day and had gotten published by her chosen publisher was talking up ebooks. Well. If she had no problem with it, maybe I should just peek. One night, after another long shift of medical transcriptioning, I decided to browse the poseur ebook publishers.
I found one whose blurb was satisfactory, so I bought it and read it. It was good. It was really good. I bought another one from a different ebook publishing house. Also good. A third, from a third ebook publishing house. Excellent, in fact.
After another spate of flat rejections, I started sending it to ebook publishers. Lo and behold, I got one rather complimentary rejection with several suggestions I implemented immediately. I got a couple of other complimentary rejections, and a few more. People liked it, but they didn’t know what it was, precisely, or what to call it.
That was encouraging, but it was still a wall. At least I knew I could still write.
Yet I despaired and my husband finally said (quite innocently) (it was cute), “Why don’t you publish it yourself?”
That sparked the REEEEist REEEE that ever was REEEEd.
YOU CAN’T DO THAT! IT’S NOT ALLOWED!
And that would make me no better than Judy the MT.
He was completely confused. “You publish your cross-stitch patterns. You already have the skills to do it.”
I REEEEd for days.
The problem was … in between those very complimentary rejections and the odd editorial suggestion here and there, I was fiddling with covers and doing the typesetting to create a pretty galley. I kept that part to myself. It was my dirty little secret because yes, I did have the chops to do it myself, I didn’t trust what a publisher would do with it, so I’d already begun in the hopes I could say, “Yeah, hey, uh … could you use this cover? And this typesetting?” I was halfway out the door of my church, but I was afraid of the heat I’d take.
“Look, do you want people to read it?” Mr. Mojeaux asked me.
“Then put it out there. Who’s it going to hurt?”
MY FEELINGS! MY PRIDE! WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE IT? WHAT IF THEY SAY MEAN THINGS ABOUT ME ON THE INTERNET?! WHAT IF SIMON & SCHUSTER WANTS TO DESTROY MY CAREER?! REEEEEEEEEEEEE
Then. Then. THEN.
He used The Words on me.
“Remind me who said, ‘The question is not ‘Who’s going to let me?’ The question is ‘Who’s going to stop me?’”
I should never have given him Rand.
The pros and cons of self-publishing have, since 2008, tipped heavily toward the pros side. I won’t bother you with what I had to do, as it is irrelevant, other than to note I set up a publishing company to attempt to cover myself in a glamour of legitimacy. That involved changing my business name from Effervescent Designs to B10 Mediaworx, but the state of Missouri was very understanding and it took like 3 seconds.
|total control||total control|
You are now sitting there staring at your computer screen where you have just triumphantly typed THE END. Now what?
This is what you need to know before you do anything else:
Smashwords is the leading distributor of ebooks to iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Overdrive (a library supplier). They distribute to other places too, but these three are the most important. They do not distribute to Amazon (they do, but negligibly). They do not do print. They do do audiobooks. However, I know nothing about that.
Amazon plays by its own rules, so you will go to them directly for ebook and print. They can make your print book available to bookstores and libraries that want to stock your book.
There are companies that will take you from soup to nuts (including ghostwriting), handling the whole process for you. You will still have to set the accounts up yourself, key in payment and tax information so you can wake up on the first of every month with money having magically appeared in your bank account and trust your vendor with your login information. This may seem self-evident to the more savvy, but I spend a surprising amount of time guiding clients through this process.
Now that you’ve done that, figure out how to market it. Spend a lot of time on this.
Time to get everything ready to go.
There are three levels of editing: Content, line editing, and proofing. There are editing services. Lots of them. I am not going to recommend one, not even myself, because that is not my forte. I can line edit and proofread, but content editing isn’t my bag.
Good editing won’t gain you readers but bad editing will lose them.
This could cost you anywhere from nothing to several thousand dollars. I had nowhere to go to edit The Proviso, so I clattered around the internet and finally found someone who was even willing to do it. She did a very good job and I felt I got my money’s worth, all $3,000 of it. Though I really needed a second pass, that was going to cost more money. I simply couldn’t do it.
I have since acquired skilled friends who will do it for free in exchange for an early read. I have also gotten good enough that I can point out the problem areas myself.
This, plus your back-cover copy, is your most important marketing tool. Do not skimp, but get a young designer who is hungry. Mine Deviant Art first.
I did my own first cover. It isn’t horrible, but it’s not good or representative of what’s in the book. I take comfort in what Reid Hoffman at LinkedIn said: “If you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product, you launched too late.” I re-edited it and put out a second edition with a new cover (that someone else did).
Do you want ebook only or do you want print also? Smashwords has “Mark’s List,” which has a list of vendors on it.
You will need either a Word DOC properly formatted to spec (this is harder than it seems for most people, especially after they read the instruction manual) and/or an EPUB file.
Smashwords will take your Word DOC and convert it into several formats (e.g., Kindle, PDF, HTML, EPUB) for people to be able to buy the format of their choice directly from Smashwords. Smashwords cannot take an EPUB and convert it to any other format.
However, all the important ebook retail outlets require a properly formatted EPUB. They don’t get the other formats, so it is a convenience for Smashwords shoppers only.
Why one or the other or both? Several reasons:
- Say you have a pretty print nonfiction book that has lots of text boxes or recipes or images or footnotes you want to link and you want it to look just like your expensively typeset print book. A Word DOC is useless because it has to be plain jane; it will look like a raw manuscript. You want to be able to control how it looks on an ebook reader screen, so you will want an EPUB.
- Say you have lots of images and/or high-resolution images that must retain their fidelity. Smashwords has an upper limit on file size. A Word DOC has to be smaller than an EPUB does, so if your Word DOC cannot be hewn to under the limit, you’ll have to have an EPUB.
- Say you have a fiction book with straight text. You don’t need an EPUB; just upload the properly formatted Word DOC and you’re golden.
- Say you want to control the formatting for all the other ebook retailers, but you want to make it available to Smashwords customers as well. If it’s not as important to you to recreate formatting for the (probably) few copies you will sell at Smashwords, then you’ll want a Word DOC for those people who want to buy other formats and a properly formatted EPUB that will be sent off to retailers and libraries.
You will need an appropriately sized cover image. I use 1400×2100, 72dpi.
You will then upload your text and cover files
To get into the retailers and libraries, you will need an ISBN, which you can get for free from Smashwords, although Smashwords will show up as your publisher, or you can buy your own.
For ebooks, you will upload a file. It can be a Word DOC, RTF, PDF, EPUB, or a MOBI (which is Kindle’s native format). I generally do not tell my clients that they can upload any one of those because more often than not, the conversion will come out nastily. I do not want to be blamed for formatting a Word DOC for Smashwords that someone then uploads to Kindle that then comes out looking like someone who only found out about Kindle books yesterday typed up. Therefore, I simply sell a MOBI file and call it good. Most of my clients are tired of thinking about it, need guidance, and don’t want to hear all sorts of options that hinge on technicalities and might have a bad outcome.
You will not need an ISBN for this if you do not own one.
You will also need a cover image, as above.
For print, you will need a typeset print-ready PDF file and a properly constructed print-ready cover PDF file. Your interior can be as pretty or as plain as you care to have it.
As to getting the files onto Smashwords and/or Amazon, you can do that, following all the directions, or you can let your book shepherd/formatting vendor (if you have one) do it.
You may or may not want an ISBN, depending on whether you go with Amazon’s “expanded distribution” program or not. If you do want bookstores and libraries to be able to order your book from a catalog, you will need one assigned by Amazon. Amazon will show up as your publisher there, as well.
I know nothing about this. My books are doorstoppers, I don’t have the money to pay good voices, and I sound like a 12-year-old redneck who ate a dictionary, so I can’t do it myself.
If you plan to publish more than one book in more than one format, I suggest getting an account with Bowker and purchasing a block of 10. It’s expensive and I’ve always been pissy about it, especially since other countries give them away for free. But yay capitalism. By using your own ISBN, you can be shown as the publisher. I believe Amazon now has the option of expanded distribution for those who have their own ISBNs, but I haven’t checked. I have an alternate method because I was forced to start out as a publishing company.
Yeah, about that …
 What I want is to sit on my ass in a lovely home I don’t have to clean so I can spend my time writing or reading and codding around on the internet, not having to worry about money. I want to travel well and when I am doing none of the above, I want to play golf (yes really). But no self-respecting libertarian likes to admit they just want to be aimless with no money worries.
 You know that point in a job you hate when you’re calling in all the time because you hate it but you haven’t yet figured out that you should probably just quit? But you don’t? Because you’re kind of afraid to because you don’t have another gig lined up yet? No? Just me?
 You will not be able to get yourself into a bookstore, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, grocery stores, truck stops, or airports. You might be able to get yourself into libraries. Fortunately, that may not make much difference.
 Please do not ask me how to do this. If I knew how, I would be sitting on my ass in a nice house I don’t have to clean heckling you lot before hitting the links.
 At the moment, I’m struggling with the pivotal scene in Cods & Cuntes when the heroine gets out of the friendzone. I have two different scenes written, they’re both good, and I can’t choose between them. That’ll be up to Mr. Mojeaux.
 I wasn’t too embarrassed until a friend said, “I am amused by your creative use of verbs.” I dun fucked up.
 My next post will be more how-to.
 I’ve resolved to market the hell out of Cods & Cuntes. It’s a popular trope in a popular time period in a popular area of the world. It’s an easy read with little philosophizing and a simple conflict and, if I may say so myself, it is a rockin’ good time.
A note: This process is very simple to me. No matter how disoriented a potential client is, I can always figure out what they need and guide them in the simplest language possible. This may not be enough information for you and it may be I structured the post awkwardly, but I’m at 2,200 words. If there are many questions in the comments, I’ll do a followup QA post.