Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Kimm Walker: self-publishing a memoir

Self-publishing is NOT an easy or cheap option. It is much, much more difficult than submitting to agents and/or publishers. You must believe in your book and in yourself. It will involve lots of research, hard work, marketing and promotion.

The first and most important thing is to make sure your manuscript is the very best it can be. If you’ve ever watched programmes like Britain’s Got Talent, you will recognise the cringingly awful people who have never preformed for anyone other than their family and friends, people with rose-tinted glasses and selective hearing aids. There are plenty of self-published books like that (most of them piled in the authors’ garages) which give the rest of us a bad name. Seek out as much critical feedback as you can, preferably from other authors and readers who enjoy your particular genre.

A word of warning, not everyone will like your work simply because there isn’t a book out there with universal appeal. But if two or more people point out the same weakness, you ought to at least consider if it can be improved.

Once the content is as good as it can be, don’t stint on professional editing so that it is technically as good as it can be, as well. A book with spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors is off-putting and amateurish. There are skills involved in formatting, which are also important, for example gutters (the white space in the centre) and margins (the white spaces at the outside edge of each page). Some of the vanity and POD producers stint on these to save money and it’s not worth it.

People do judge books by their covers. It can be tempting to choose an ‘off-the-peg’ cover but like off-the-peg fashions they are uninspiring. There are websites from which you can purchase photos, like istockphotos, (mine cost £14) then it isn’t quite so expensive to have a graphic designer put it all together.

Print on demand (pod) is less risky than using a printing company to print in bulk but is more expensive per book. That will mean you will have to charge more money per book to cover your costs. Since you are an unknown author your book will have to be relatively cheap or people won’t want to take a chance on buying it if they can buy a cheaper book written by someone they know they like.

When you factor in your costs to determine what price you will have to charge, don’t forget to include the ‘cut’ the shop will have to take. The bigger stores (Waterstones for ex) will only buy books now from the major distributors who also will need to take a cut. It is still possible to sell directly to independent book shops. I sell most of my books at speaking engagements or workshops. With direct sales you can offer the buyer a discount because there isn’t a shopkeeper to pay.

You will need to think carefully about who your audience might be and what you hope to achieve. If you just want to see your book in print and maybe have a few copies for friends and family, pod companies like Lulu will probably be the simplest and most cost effective option. If you think you might be the next GP Taylor, whose self-published Shadowmancer became a best seller, you will have to have a story which will appeal to millions, be prepared to work extremely hard and have an enormous amount of luck.

My memoir, A Life Less Lost, is available via Amazon.co.uk for £6.99 or from Amazon.com for $9.99.




Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Kimm, thanks for sharing your useful insights into self-publishing. As I live in the UK as you do (and we are friends!) I find your insights on how to self-publish in Britain very useful.

I wish you much success with your memoir and I know you have had success with it, both here and in the USA.

Savanna Kougar said...

Kimm, thanks for sharing the print book angle of self-publishing.

I know a few authors who are happy with Lulu and with CreateSpace, especially those authors who already have an established readership.

Linda Banche said...

Hi Kimm. thanks for the info.

You managed to keep your book's price relatively low, even though you said it's hard to do. Is it because you sell direct? And how did you get it on amazon?


StephB said...

Thanks so much for sharing. The same issues you brought up, making sure the manuscript is as good as it can be, cover art, editing, were all things I had to tackle with self publishing. It's very time consuming. I agree - you have to be 100% dedicated to getting it right and the biggest thing I learned - have patience. Thanks for sharing your experience.


LK Hunsaker said...

Hi Kimm, great point that authors need to put in their minds: it's not the easy way!

Congrats on your success with your memoir.

Bekki Lynn said...

Great post, Kimm.

I can't stress enough how important it is to proofread, edit and use extra eyes. I could go through my own work fifty times and still miss the obvious.

Celia Yeary said...

KIMM--you have given us a clear picture of the unvarnished truth. Some authors are able to self-publish more easily than others.Me? I'd never get it done, but I have several dear friends who have succeeded because their store of knowledge concerning technicalities is far greater than mine. I applaud all of you who are courageous and savvy, as well. Celia

Rebecca J Vickery said...

HI Kimm,
Thanks for the information. It's always very interesting to me how some things are done differently in the UK than in the US. I also agree it is definitely more difficult to get a good, quality print book published than it is to get it into an ebook. And the price is definitely a huge consideration. A really BIG part of self-publishing is dedication. Congrats on publishing your memoir. Wishing you many sales!

Linda Acaster said...

Kimm: thanks for not pulling punches on the need for a quality product professionally packaged. It matters little whether it is indie authoring via POD or via ebook, we are shouldering up to the multi-nationals as we display our wares for readers - and readers don't take prisoners.

I wish you well with "A Life Less Lost".

KBWalker said...

Hi Everybody, sorry for not getting back to you all sooner. It's a bit manic here at the moment. I've just been involved in a collaborative book project, which was launched this week. Lindsay is kindly letting me post again next week with details of that exciting venture.

Thanks for all the good wishes. This is the second time Lindsay's invited me to post here and you are a fantastic group.

Linda Blanche asked about amazon. In the UK my book went up on amazon.co.uk automatically via the ISBN. A salesman phoned to see if I was interested in their fulfillment programme (send them 50books for their warehouse) and helped me set up the picture and links. The USA version is pod via Createspace so automatically appeared on amazon.com. As soon as I find a small block of time and one of my technically minded sons is available I'll try to get it set up as an ebook.

The quality control points have clearly struck a cord with you all. The best feedback is when readers come back for more copies.