I started categorising my blog posts when I restyled my website and I was surprised that I had only blogged once about self-publishing. So, here is blog post number two. In talking to other authors, I realised that quite a few of them have only tried the traditional route because they are either still unaware of what self-publishing can do or find the whole process a bit opaque or even scary.
You need to be aware that when I say ‘self-publishing’ I mean Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP. KDP is basically the only game in town. It will publish your book in virtually every major market but you have to play by their rules. I talk more about this below. So, if you’re having problems with finding a traditional publisher, you should definitely read on.
Independence – as an ‘indie’ author you control everything. Everything. The editing, the proof-reading, the look of your book, the cover, the marketing; it’s all down to you. Perhaps I’m a bit of a control freak because this is something that I would not give up easily. However, as you can see below, this can also be seen by some as a negative. Once you decide you are going to self-publish, you must steel yourself for the very steep learning curve ahead. However, help is available. Amazon have some really good Help Pages and you can even ask other authors question via the Community page. As an indie you will no longer be reliant on agents and publishers to progress the publication of your book. One author noted that he’d been tied to an agent for four years but this agent had done absolutely nothing for him. As he had signed a contract he was basically stuck for all that time. It was an experience that he was not going to repeat.
The integrity of your work – I’ve heard from some authors that, although a publisher said that they loved their book, they wanted major changes. These ‘changes’ involved anything from character names to major plot lines. I know what I want to say in my books and I want it to be my ideas and my words. I am afraid that if I did get a publisher who wanted changes we might fall out seriously over this. I hope I’m not being too precious about my work but I want it to be my work and not a novel written by a committee.
The royalties – I’ve spoken to some authors who are getting as little as seven percent from their traditional publisher. If you sign up for KDP Select then you will get seventy percent of an ebook’s selling price. Of course, the big caveat is that you have to sell some books first. However, there are some authors who have built up their fanbase on Amazon and they have said that they would never dream of using a traditional publisher again as they are earning more as an indie than they ever could with a traditional publisher.
A worldwide market – Without any effort from me, when I publish, my book is available in the USA, Canada, Australia, UK, India, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, Brasil and Mexico. As I write in English, the first four are my target markets but it is nice that my books are available worldwide. I think that most traditional publishers would find that very hard to replicate.
The speed – I have my own pre-publishing process that involves readers and rewrites but, once I’m happy with my manuscript, I can upload it, check it and then press the ‘Publish’ button knowing that it will be available to readers around the world the very next day. I never have to wait while other people drag their feet and, once again, I’m not sure that this is something that I’d happily give up.
You have to do everything yourself – While an author might be incredibly talented at putting all the right words in the right order it does not necessarily follow that they will have any skills at editing, proof-reading, cover design and advertising. If you fall into this category then, having to pay to get your book edited and to get a reasonable cover, can make it an expensive business. The solution? Don’t make perfect the enemy of good. I got my first book as good as I could get it and put it out there. I was lucky in that I had someone in the family who had graphic design skills and so my covers were, well, covered. The rest I did myself. It is possible to hire a designer for your cover without it breaking the bank so, if you can do the rest yourself, then it becomes less of a problem. Your book will not be perfect and will contain editing errors and typos but what I’ve learned is that, if people like the story, then they will forgive a lot. As my editing skills increased I went back and fixed as many errors as possible so, hopefully, all my books are at a better standard now. These skills only developed because the positive feedback I got from my readers gave me the impetus to keep writing. My advice is to get it as good as you can and then put it out there and see what happens.
Being in a genre helps – If you’re a crime or romantic writer then this is not a negative but a positive. Many Kindle readers are binge readers and tend to love a series. A lot of readers will also only search via genres. If your book is hard to categorise then this might present a problem in terms of getting those important initial sales and reviews. Other genres that sell are science fiction (e.g. Andy Weir, The Martian) and erotica (E. L. James, 50 Shades of Grey). You might need to figure out if there are any other books that are like yours out there that are selling and then try to duplicate what they have done. Don’t let this put you off though, it may make it a little more difficult but that doesn’t mean that your book won’t sell.
The publishing process is not always intuitive – There are a lot of hoops to jump through but I honestly think that Amazon have made the process as easy as is possible. Publishing a book is a complicated thing so there are many things that can go wrong. When I was flailing about trying to get my first novel formatted and loaded up correctly, I told myself that I only needed to get it right once. After ten books, it now seems very straightforward to me and it will to you one day if you stick with it.
KDP is the only game in town so you will need to play by the rules – If KDP ever removes you as an author from Amazon then you are totally bandjaxed. You cannot appeal or call the police. Amazon is a private company and it can remove any author from KDP for any reason or none at all. However, this is not a common occurrence so I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s not hard to play by the rules but, if you want to publish offensive material or generate fake reviews then you do so at your own peril. However, remember that Amazon doesn’t want to be at war with their authors, after all, they are the people who help to make Amazon such a profitable company.
Having said the above though, it’s not necessarily a binary choice. There are even some authors (who call themselves ‘hybrids’) who publish some books on KDP and others with a traditional publisher. There are also many writers who have done well on KDP who have then been picked up by traditional publishers and have had great success there too. If you can get your work published traditionally then that might be the best route to take. But first, I think that every author should at least take a glance at self-publishing, just in case it might be the better option for you.
You can find out more about KDP here.