I have been asked by several of my peers and friends who are writing a book or thinking of writing a book how I came to the choice I did, etc. In such, this blog was born, to help those of you on this path and not sure what to do. Part of the reason I wrote this book was not only to help students and others, but to hopefully inspire other authors out there. If I could do this, so can you!
So let me start from the beginning: the prophetic dream I had that told me to WRITE THE BOOK which allowed me to get out of my head about all the reasons it was too hard to write a book. Let’s be honest: Being an author is not an easy job. There’s a lot of solace, and no one standing over your shoulder telling you to write and how to do it; you get to figure that out as you go along.
At the time I started the book, a lady I worked with had just self published her first cookbook, using Outskirts Press. I figured it was not an accident and asked her all about her experience. In short, she said good things about them, and told me the packages she picked and why. One thing she said to me is that she did not need to edit the book, as her career was editing of sorts for 25 plus years.
I had also talked to one Balboa press author who did not have a good experience with them. She said that she was published through Balboa because somehow her book got into the right hands at a writer’s event Hay House had, and that’s how she got published. She told me though that later they called her and said she could go on tour (with her book) with a famous Hay House personality if she paid an outrageous amount of money. I have no idea if that is true or not, but it was something I took into consideration.
At first I thought I would do something like that; use one of the many self publishing companies out there to help me self publish. They often feature various packages you pay for to get your book out there, and since I had no idea what I was doing in never having done this before, it seemed the right way to go. I called both Outskirts and Balboa and ultimately decided on Outskirts Press because it felt right to me at the time. I put down a $35 deposit, and was pretty intent on moving forward with that.
When I started writing this book, it wasn’t about the money. I was doing it to help people, and if I made some profit out of that, great. I had no idea what to expect, because who can say how many people will buy the book? I knew this: I wanted both a print and ebook version. As I went into the royalty calculator to try to determine the price of my book with Outskirts, I noticed that their royalty calculator didn’t really have an option that was good for someone who wanted both a print and ebook version, to which my marketing consultant told me that most people do one or the other. In addition, to get my profits high enough to be more than$1 a book, I had to think about pricing my book with a price I was not comfortable with. I read a lot, and I knew what I would and would not be willing to pay for a book like this. I have seen similar books that are likely self published at $19.95, and that’s just too much for a paperback version of a relatively unknown other, in my opinion. I didn’t want people to be put off by price before they even found out what the book was about.
One day it dawned on me that I was ultimately going to pay a self publishing company money (roughly twice the price) to do things I could figure out how to do myself. I felt empowered to at least do some research and figure out of it was feasible to do myself.
I read several books including The Fine Print of Self Publishing by Mark Levine. What I got out of the books I’d read (the one I mentioned being the most informative) was to pay to Edit. No matter what you think you know, or if your Mom is an English teacher, PAY to edit. Preferably twice. The more professional your book seems, the more it might be taken seriously by not only your audience but to a potential publisher.
I started reading blogs of authors that self publish, and ultimately decided that Amazon createspace (print on demand books) and Kindle Direct (e books) was the way to go. For all other Ebooks I had heard repeatedly that the best way to go is Smashwords; they will take care of getting it to all other ebook distributors such as Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc. While I was reading and researching, a lot of people have not so great opinions about createspace – there was a lawsuit against whatever the former amazon company was called a few years back for having a monopoly in the market place, from what I infer. In addition, I heard other retailers complain that they did not get the normal 40% of cover price that they do with other publishers, and therefore would not order books from createspace.
What ultimately got me to go with that is that I realized that I have to take care of ME in this process. It’s not all about the money. But all of the other publishing options, ALL of them paid maybe $2 a book if I’m lucky. On Createspace, I will get $5 per (print) book give or take, depending on the distribution channel and country purchased. The thing I found appealing in that, too, is that there is a potential for worldwide distribution. I know that I buy almost everything on Amazon when it comes to books and the like, so it’s a distribution channel I was comfortable with.
Now on to the Ebook. My boyfriend got me a (Barnes & Noble) Nook for Christmas. I’ve always been a paper book kind of girl, so I was skeptical at first. Then I learned the beauty of the ebook, and soon it was delicious to me to sit down and read my nook. Then I realized that a lot of the books I was buying were cheaper on the Amazon Kindle. Some of the books on the kindle were not even available on nook, which frustrated me. So a few months later I ordered a Kindle to see what all the fuss was about. It didn’t take long for my Nook to be tossed to the wayside. The Kindle is the item I would grab in case of emergency. I now realize this all happened so that I could see through the eyes of the ebook reader during my self publishing process.
If you publish on Kindle direct, they have a program called Kindle Select. Kindle Select means that you exclusively give rights to Amazon to be the ONLY channel for your ebook for 90 days. In turn, it allows you certain privileges that you would not otherwise have such as the ability to promote your book for free for 5 days during every 90 day period you choose to go with Kindle Select. At first, this option did not seem good to me. I didn’t want to withhold my book being available on all ebook channels. However, as I continued to research what other authors said, many said that the majority of their sales come from Amazon and once they took their books that were already on other channels off and gave exclusivity to Amazon, they did just as well as if not better than they did before with the Ebook on all channels. In addition, I read a blog from one author that decided to see what all the fuss was with having his book available for the free promotion for 5 days. Now I must preface and say this was a fiction author who already had a few novels out. Anyway, he said that he did it, cautiously, and watched his book go out for free and after the 5 days the sales went up. Also, when more copies go out for free, readers can put it into the Amazon lending library, which also pays the author a profit. In some instances it’s a better profit than an author would get in an ebook sale.
I’m putting out this book to help people. But I also have to take care of me. I have been in the business world (Corporate America) most of my adult life, and to me business is business. No matter the negative issues, to me the positive aspects of Amazon’s print and ebook options outweighed the bad. My print on demand book is on createspace, and for the first 90 days it is Kindle Select (exclusive to kindle/amazon). It was hard to publish it and have readers contact me that wanted either a nook or ipad version, but kindle has an app that you can read it on if you don’t have a kindle. I think at the end of the 90 days, I’ll probably put it on Smashwords so it can go to other ebook channels.
Now, back to the technical aspects of the book. I ultimately made a choice to get a cover professionally designed (I’m left brained, so that sort of design is not for me), and also to have it professionally edited. Once. I contacted a couple of cover designers, and ultimately went with Mae I Design to do my cover. I love the cover and will likely be using them for all of my book covers. It was about $425 for both print on demand and ebook cover versions. The editing I found a bit more intimidating. Every quote I was getting was more then I wanted to spend: $600-$1200. Then, one day, I contacted EditingandeBooks.com and got a quote that was much more comfortable which I can’t remember, but I think that for both formatting my book for submission to Amazon and editing was less than $500. I wanted to also have it formatted for submission to Amazon, because for me it made the submission process easier. Also ,in my research of books that are self published, the ones that are not professionally edited get slammed the worst by the readers. Your ratings are ultimately your business, and that’s not something I was willing to risk.
The frustrating part of self publishing is not knowing how it’s all going to work out. I did not know when I finally DID submit to Amazon, that an author can order a physical proof of the book to see what it looks like before they choose to publish. I’m so glad I did that, because I ordered my first proof which was 6×9, and the book looked like a skinny little pamphlet to me. My manuscript was about 35,000 words, and that came out to be 104 pages on 6×9. My cover designer had a beautiful spine on the book which could not be put on such a skinny book, if you will. So I chose to have the book re-formatted and the cover design re-done to 5×8 so that it could ultimately have more pages (140, total) and have the spine on the book.
One other thing I had heard from self published authors is that just because you have written and published the book, you have to market it. You’re not done when the book is out. I had the opportunity to be on a free writer’s workshop call with Hay House, where Hay House CEO Reid Tracy and Hay House Author Cheryl Richardson spoke about marketing your book. Reid Tracy basically advised that if you want your book to get attention (and potential sales), create a buzz about it before it comes out. Cheryl Richardson advised to blog and to put out free chapters of your book on your blog, etc. Someone then asked about the probability of less people buying your book if you gave samples away for free, but she said that no matter what her experience was with giving away pieces of the book for free, they still always bought it. After that call, I decided to start a blog talk radio show and youtube channel to hopefully generate more of a buzz about the book.
One last thing. I had always had a homemade website, if any, and as I was writing a book I realized that if I had a book come out and didn’t have a website that was more professional, it could potentially turn some people off. I called for a few quotes and was intimidated by the $5000 price quotes I was receiving. Finally, I contacted iDesigns Solutions because they had designed the websites of some of my peers. They had a much more affordable price, with a basic wordpress package starting around $2000. I could add other options if I wanted, and they offered to let me do a down payment and then make a few payments after. I would not have been able to do it otherwise, but now I have a more professional website.
I’m going to market as I feel guided. I will probably advertise it in a local Minneapolis holistic/metaphysical magazine, and also one in Boston (where I lived previously) where I have a small client base. In addition, I am going to be making public appearances with my book. Some local, and some national and who knows what else will transpire as time goes on. The magazine marketing runs about $300 per ad, and right now I need to wait a little bit before I do that. So I am just going to go with some facebook ads because while this book is free for the next few days; It’s more cost effective and I want as many people to hear about it and download it as I can. It’s a minimal price, and it gets the word out. Any marketing is usually good marketing.
Part of the research I’ve been doing in the last few months is also watching the bestsellers charts with both USA Today and NY Times. You don’t often see books like this one on bestseller lists, but Dr. Eben Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven” has been on the bestseller list for nearly a year. So, anything is possible.
The important thing, to me, is that I wrote the book. That I have realized I can do this, and enjoy writing. This experience will help me know what to expect with my future books, and I hope these words will help you with your own publishing journey.
If you have not, already, please consider downloading my book GIFTED and leaving a review if you like it. Please note that if you are not in the USA, that link will not work. It will work through the Amazon website of the country you live in.
If you like this blog, I would appreciate if you would consider leaving a comment.
With Love and Gratitude, Lisa