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.
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!