Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Are you ready to be an indie press?

by Maggie Toussaint

There's so much happening in the book industry today. Some folks say traditional houses are dying, others say there will always be print books. I'm of the opinion that there's room for all kinds of houses and all kinds of books.

Whether the book sells, in whatever format, depends on the quality of the story (most important), the cover of the book (very important), and getting the word out (must do this). Sounds like they're all important, and they are. If you decide to seek a nontraditional publishing venue, be sure to keep this in mind. When you sign with a publishing house, they have editors and cover artists and marketing advice/programs/budgets (depends on the house) and they are in essence your partners in the publication of your book.

If you decide to self-publish or indie publish, the burden falls squarely on you, the author.

Reasons to self-publish: your book doesn't fit a traditional market; you want to get something out there and get started on your publishing career; the top houses don't want it and you'd rather do it yourself than turn it over to someone else (creative control); you have a solid marketing plan and the time to put it into action.

There are more reasons, but the worst reason is that you're in a hurry. Don't do this in a hurry. A poorly edited book is worse than no book. Let me say that again. A poorly edited book is worse than no book.

If I haven't scared you off yet, let me tell you about my route to indie publishing. I have both traditional and e-press publishers. In time, books get remaindered or the rights revert to you if you request to get them back. One of my romances didn't do as well as the others and I reasoned that the house it was published through had less traffic for this kind of book than my other publisher. So, I wanted to give this story another chance.

I researched the idea among various writer groups, friends, and a very helpful mentor, Rebecca Vickory. I discovered that the process was very doable. To put out a book in digital, one uses a free program such as Smashwords and publishes through the Kindle store. Both have excellent instructions on how to do the formatting and the cover requirements.

Which brings me to cover artists. You can spend a lot of money for a cover, or a little, or even design your own. The idea is to invoke reader interest and to have the cover reflect the type of story inside. Rebecca recommended a cover artist to me, who I used, and I had both a print and digital cover made for SEEING RED, which is in the sweet romance genre. I paid right at $100 for both covers.

Since I plan to publish more of my "rights reverted" books in the future, I decided to give my new house a name, Muddle House Publishing, and created a simple website for it online through a free site like weebly. Since I'd already managed to format my own author page at blogger (http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/), using the templates at weebly came easy. Granted, my site isn't complete, but it is a start. http://www.muddlehousepublishing.com/.

I was also fortunate enough to already have my writing income roll into the LLC my husband and I created a few years ago. We added Muddle House as a new entity in our corporation, so that we had a tax ID number.

This was important for acquiring ISBNs through Bowker (http://www.bowker.com/). I bought a package of 10 ISBNs and a bar code, which was a bit of an investment, but when you look at it as a per book cost, it isn't much. Again, to get your books listed or placed in stores, you will need ISBNs. Additionally, I chose to use one ISBN for the ebook release (all formats) and another for the print release of SEEING RED.

Next came formatting. This was easy if you followed ALL the directions. You have to have patience because in reformatting, some things get uncentered or the font changes, and you have to be diligent about checking and rechecking. This takes time, or at least it did for me.

Because I had slow sales for this particular title earlier, I wanted to encourage sales with the new release. I chose a low price of $2.99 as a loss leader, hoping people would discover my writing and then buy other titles of mine. Some authors go as low as $0.99, but I wasn't ready for that price point.

I went through all the gyrations for the digital release first. Once I had that file prepped and published, I turned my attention to getting the book printed. I selected CreateSpace (http://www.createspace.com/). The quality of the books is very high, they are a professional outfit, and they came highly recommended. I was not disappointed.

For the print book, I needed a print cover, my ISBN and my formatted file. There was a slight fee to order the galley for proofing, but it was under $5 plus shipping. I ended up needing two galleys made because I fixed one problem, didn't see the other one, then realized I needed to read the whole thing again. I've found it easier to see the mistakes on paper than on screen. You may have a different editing experience.

Then I had both formats of books ready to go. It was up to me to upload SEEING RED in print format to the Amazon store. I believe that took a week or two. Then it was ready for order for stores and people across the globe.

For this book, I was lucky - it had already had extensive editing at the small epress that put it out the first time. However, my writing style had changed, and there were some parts of the book that needed updating, so I mucked with it a bit. That's where the mistakes came in during the galley phase - to changes I'd made in the text. But I'm glad I made those changes. The book is stronger, and it is more reflective of how I write.

If you are undertaking indie publishing with a book that hasn't been professionally edited, I highly recommend that you find an editor to take a comb through of it. Perhaps you have a critique partner that would swap this service with you. Don't rely on your friends, mother, or husband for this service.

Once the book was released, the marketing all fell squarely on my shoulders. That meant blogs, contests, signings, and more. That means conquering new social media and networking and continuing to spread the word.

Publishing, in any format, takes time. It takes commitment, and it takes a bit of luck. There's both an art and a science to the business. Getting that blend right can make or break you.

I invite you to check out SEEING RED. I hope when you look at the cover, you see a crumbling house, a redhead, and a handsome hunk who wants to sweep her off her feet.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end of this long post! The future in publishing is yours to command!

Maggie Toussaint
http://www.maggietoussaint.com/
http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/
www.muddlehousepublishing.com/

27 comments:

Bev Pettersen said...

Nice post, Maggie. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Much appreciated!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Bev,

Thanks for having an interest in this process. It isn't rocket science but it does require the wherewithal to stick to it and to follow through with marketing once you get through the process.

I hope my experience will help others decide if it's something they want to do.

Maggie

Lynn Romaine said...

Thanks for this - very useful as I am getting ready to upload a book in October.

Maggie Toussaint said...

I'm glad you found it helpful, Lynn. Best wishes for your upload this fall.

Diane Craver said...

Maggie,
This is a great article - thanks for sharing what you have learned from publishing your own works.

Diana Layne said...

It's a brave new world! Good luck!

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks for sharing this, Maggie. I've some out of print titles I'm steadily re-issuing on Smashwords. I may look into Creaste Space and print, too.

Gail Barrett said...

Great post, Maggie. There is a lot to think about, for sure.

Donna Caubarreaux said...

Love the name of your 'publishing house'...I intend to do the same.

Diana Cosby said...

Maggie,
Thank you for sharing the excellent information. Publishing is truly in a time of tremendous transition. The age of digital format readers is here.
I'm so proud of you. You're amazing and such an inspiration on so many levels. I wish you continued success! *Hugs*
Love you!
Diana

Grace Burrowes said...

The interesting thing to me about the self-publishing trailblazers is that they're saying, "this is how I did it, this is not for everybody, this takes some effort... etc," but I've yet to come across someone who regrets taking the step, or wishes they'd just held out a year longer before doing it.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Good morning or afternoon or evening, depending on where in the world you are!

I'm very excited to have so much interest in this post. Knowing how to do this, for me at least, is similar to having a fully stocked pantry. I have plenty of ingredients (publishing tools)to make any dish (book format) I feel inspired to make.

Thanks to Diane, Diana L, Gail, Donna, Diana C, and Grace for stopping in and reading about this great adventure.

Like anything else, it is less scary with a road map.

Debra Holland said...

Maggie,

Great self-publishing article. It's always interesting to see the journey others take. :)

I self-published two of my sweet historical westerns almost 10 weeks ago and have sold almost 4700 copies in that time. It's amazing and wonderful, especially since I had two agents try to sell these books (one a Golden Heart winner) but couldn't because they were sweet.

I think I'm selling so well because there are a lot of readers out there looking for sweet books. I keep adding tags when I think of them that showcase the lack of sex. Do you think this is happening to your sweet book?

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Debra,

That's wonderful news about your success. 4700 copies is a great sales number by anyone's standards.

(By the way, have you heard of the Sweethearts of the West blog? They would love to host you if you haven't already stopped in.)

I'm of mixed opinion about tags. Some people use them to shop, others don't. And on each author loop of my traditional publishers there are frequently folks begging for others to tag their books. I reciprocate when I can, but there's only so much time in the day.

One thing I discovered about marketing is that you do more of what you enjoy, and conversely, if you like a certain marketing style, you'll do more of it. I'm of the opinion that getting the word out is the key point to attracting readers. Once you have them, the story does the rest.

So for folks that rely heavily on tags, they will do well because they keep the pressure up for others to tag their books, moving them up in the tagged standings.
Your tags are helping you because you are actively work on them and with them, or at least that's one person's opinion!

Mona Risk said...

Hi Maggie, you gave us a lot of information and I will bookmark this post. On the other hand you scared the hell out of me. As much as I want to get my rights on my two first books, I wonder if I would be capable of selling them on my own. There is so much to and so many people to contact.

Savanna Kougar said...

Maggie, excellent info on Indie. Thank you!

I hadn't thought about the print end of it, and what all could be involved.

Indie is a great way to get books to the readers who aren't finding what they want through traditional and the small print/epublishers. That's the thing with trends. The readers who don't like that trend get left out. Now, that's changing. Yay!

Chris Roerden said...

Maggie, I applaud your emphasis on good editing, which goes far beyond the mechanics of grammar, spelling, and formatting. As for proofreading, every one of us introduces new errors every time we make a change! And proofing both online and on paper is essential for even the professionals. In fact, some writers print out their manuscripts in different fonts because a change in the way the text looks helps the mind see the writing from a different perspective.
But there's little value in a perfect proofread without first writing a very fine book (you did a great job writing No Second Chance), then getting a really good edit. (Have yet to read Seeing Red.)
Best wishes, Chris

Maggie Toussaint said...

I'm back again, and I see we have 3 new comments - whoppee!

Mona, I've found a little fear is healthy in every endeavor because it keeps you on your toes. This isn't difficult or I wouldn't have been able to do it. I know you can do this!

Hi Savanna, I'm never thought of myself as a trend-setter, but I suppose I'm in the trend. Mostly I'm opportunistic - if I see something I try to figure out how I can make it work for me. I think there is a strong market for indie books, and I hope I didn't scare everyone off.

Hey Chris, How delightful to "see" you here. Folks Chris Roerden is an excellent editor, if you want a recommendation for someone who knows their stuff. She has two award winning books on editing, so my comment has a very sound basis. Thanks for your endorsement of my horse rescue romance, No Second Chance. I hope you love Seeing Red as well.

I'm logging off for a bit. Continue to leave comments at will. I'm delighted to see such an interest in this topic.

liana laverentz said...

Maggie, you're my hero. I'll be in touch when the time comes :)

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Liana,

You made me smile. Hope you're enjoying the summer!

Maggie

Diana Cosby said...

Maggie,
Again, excellent post. I have a question that I'd love your take on as well as any others who have insight. As an Indie press or an author self-publishes, what recourse do they have if they find their books pirated on-line? How do they 'stop' that? Thanks a ton, and wishing you continued success! *Hugs*

Carol Ann said...

Thanks for the post and for your help! Wishing you much success with Muddle House Publishing.

StephB said...

Wow, Maggie, what an involved process. Thanks so much for sharing with us and giving us an idea what it takes to be an indie author. It's to have a "reference" if I decide to do it.

Smiles
Steph

Linda Banche said...

Go get 'em, Maggie. I hope you do great.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Thanks for the continued comments here, folks. I'm enjoying the feedback.

Diana C, You asked about pirated works. I think indie presses do the same thing that others do - keep an ear to the ground and then pursue the person/group who are infringing on our rights. There's a certain amount of trust (& hope!) involved when you send a book off for a review or giveaway a copy for a contest. If those people or others take advantage of you, you spread the word and undertake damage control. I hope that is helpful. If anyone else has another plan or philisophy, please feel free to share it.

Hi Carol Ann, Steph and Linda, It's lovely seeing familiar faces here as well. I'm always willing to try something new and I hope others will join in or blaze new trails. The topic of highest priority to me is to keep finding new readers - I'm trying lots of things to get the word out.

Take care, all!

Misha Crews said...

Great post Maggie! Lots of good advice.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Thanks for stopping in, Misha! I'm glad to be able to share my experiences and hope they will benefit others.