Chapter eleven PWS
Once your book is finished there are a number of decisions to be made. The most important is whether you are going to try to go down the traditional route with a publisher. Or go it alone and self-publish.
Authors used to have very little choice when it came to publishing. There were two routes – either approach a publisher, a long, slow, often heart breaking process, or to self-publish. The latter seemed to be the domain of people who had written obscure works that no publisher would touch.
Fortunately this has changed and the balance has tipped in the favour of the author. Self-publishing via a company which specialises in helping independent authors has become a viable option. Publishing traditionally takes a long time. Firstly you have to find a publisher. That is not an easy job. The publishing world has, for the last number of years come under threat from the advance of digital and also the availability of self-publishing. Attracting the interest of a publisher is done by already having a large media presence so the advertising is already done for the publisher and having a book which really does have a wow factor. It isn’t impossible, but the chances of anyone coming up with this formula are pretty small. There are books, such as 50 shades of grey which began as a self published book and were then picked up by the traditional publishing world.
Normally, though, if you do manage to attract the attention of a publisher the process which begins is mollasses in January slow. You are looking at around a year for the book to be taken up by the company, there may be changes requested even at an early stage. Then once the book is taken up and the author has been paid a generally minuscule advance the editing process begins where the book is handed over to the publisher and the author who has nurtured their ‘baby’ for however many years loses all control of the process. The company will edit the book to fit in with their requirements something which may be very different from the authors vision of the book, they will use their own cover designers and the cover may be awful or completely irrelevant to the book, but these creative decisions are out of the authors hands. Then, if the book makes anything beyond its advance, the author is paid a small percentage of the book sales.
Take a book which retails at 10 to make the sums simple. The retailer will have paid 5 for it. Production then accounts for another chunk of the book leaving the author earning just 1 for every 10 retail price. It is a miniscule amount.
1) The media love stories of authors being given huge advances. The reality is very different, advances are generally small and are offset against future sales of which the author earns 10% of the cover price.
2) When you eventually find a publisher to take your book, the process of producing it takes at least a year. They buy the rights to your book and will edit and design the cover to suit their budget and house style. All control is taken out of your hands.
3) When you chose to self- publish, you have total control over the contents, design and appearance of the book.
4) Once you have finished the manuscript you can have a finished book; hardcover, paperback or e-book for sale within days, instead of the year or more that traditional publishing takes.
5) There is no reason why you shouldn’t be one of the lucky authors who get a multi-million advance – but equally, there is no reason why you can’t sell a million copies of your own book and earn the whole of the cover price.
6)With self-publishing the jobs the traditional publisher would do, such as editing, cover design and marketing need to be professionally done, but by working with an independent company who provides these services you are assured of producing a book that is as good, of not better than a traditional publisher can produce..
7) Maybe you have a wonderful idea for a novel or would like to share your knowledge in a non-fiction book. Writing a book is a fabulous way to promote your business by showing how knowledgeable you are about your area of expertise.
8) Why give a publishing house your book and let them make all of the money out of it when you’ve put all of the hard work in? Publish independently and the whole selling price goes into your pocket.
9) With self- publishing you are in the driving seat when it comes to book promotion – vital for sales.
10) Are you willing to gamble and hope you will earn a large advance from a publisher? Or is control of your manuscript and finances more important.
With self publishing the author maintains control of the book, its editing and production. However that isn’t to say that these can be skirted over. A professional author, one who truly wants to make a good career out of their writing, must have the book professionally edited, proof read and have a well-designed cover. Of course it is possible just to type out a book upload it to any of the sales sites and have it available for sale, but bad cover design won’t attract any readers and a book that is full of errors will sell once, but readers won’t come back for more.
If you chose to go down the route of traditionally publishing there are a number of benefits, in that you will have the kudos of being accepted by a publisher. That basically means someone in the publishers office has liked the book and can see its potential. They may accept it at an early stage and then, once it has had recommended changes made and even been edited by the company, may still be rejected at a very late stage if the company decide they are no longer going down the route of that book. It is very heartbreaking and then leaves the author right back at square one.
Working with a publisher will limit the amount of books you can write. They have, increasingly tight budgets for authors and book production and unless you are a huge name author the books you can write will be limited to generally one per year. Often an author will be given a contract for three books. Sales of these will be monitored and if the author has not made a good profit for the publishing company there won’t be any future books commissioned.
Anyone who runs a small business, coaching, or something similar or who has some specialist knowledge they could share would find self-publishing a book a great asset, something that can be used as a marketing tool or as gifts to customers.
The advantages of self publishing are huge. Firstly you can write as many books, as often as you like, in as many genres as you want too. For traditional published authors they are stuck in to the genre they are ‘known’ in as the publisher will generally not have the budget, or the time, or the inclination to start to promote an author in a new genre. This can be very frustrating as creative writers often have stories bursting out of their imaginations.
With self publishing, if you have the time you can sit down and write as much as you like.
The opportunities for sales are countless and increasing all of the time. Amazon, of course but there are so many others.
One of the disadvantages of self publishing is the cost of producing the book. But it is important for any author to see this as part of the product they are manufacturing. You wouldn’t go into selling a handbag you’d made without having the cost of design and production. It is the same for a book.
There is also the, still present, although it is decreasing, ‘dirty’ feeling about self-publishing as if having someone accept the book in a publishing company somehow makes it better. This is something that self-published authors have to get over. Self publishing gives authors the opportunity to control their own careers and to make proper, and often very large incomes. Why would anyone need the validation from a publisher rather than the knowledge they are making their own money from books sales. Seriously book buyers don’t look at the book online and reject it because its self-published, often they don’t even know. Going it alone gives authors the chance to build up their own mailing lists and keep in touch with readers who will be eagerly waiting for their subsequent books.
So what is involved in producing an e-book?
Once the book is completed, by that I mean its been written, has had probably countless re-writes until it is as good as the author can make it. The book has then gone through a strict, harsh and often soul -destroying session with a brilliant editor which will make it into a superb book. Then it will have gone through a proofing process and finally, then is a completed manuscript, ready to begin the next stage of its journey into a readers hands.
A self published book can be sold as a digital copy, or e-book, or it can be sold as a hard copy, either paperback, or hardback. It can also be sold as a large print book or, as is becoming increasingly popular, an audio book.
Formatting for ‘hard copy’ involves ‘setting’ they type into pages which will remain constant when the book is printed. This is a skilled job and involves something far more detailed than formatting the book into a word document. There are various pieces of software available that can format the book for you, but personally I prefer to have this done by a professional. I feel my time is better spent writing, rather than learning how to do complicated processes with software. I can send the book to one of many companies around who do this and get it back completed in a very short time. To do this myself would be frustrating and time consuming. It, for me is a matter of judging where my time is best spent.
Formatting is the process where the finished size of the book is determined and also the size of the print which will be in the book.
It is a simple process to have the book made into an audio book and this is something which is becoming increasingly popular. There are a number of companies who will record the book into an audio file and at the time of writing also companies who will produce the book for free and share the royalties of it when it is finished, thus taking out any or most of the production costs for the author.
Formatting for e-book is another process which can be done by the author, with various software that is readily available. Again I prefer to have this done professionally so I’m sure the links, to my websites and to various parts of the books remain live during the process. I have at different stages of my career invested in software which will do this process for me, but it is so cheap to get it done professionally it really is not worth my while learning how to do this.
The book should have, within its early pages and at the back, links to your other books if you have any, it should also link readers to your mailing list. This is a vital part of a writer’s armoury and one which will ensure future sales of other books and a failsafe way of keeping in touch with your readers. You, as a self publisher have to do all of the work a traditional company would do for you, building up a fan base, keeping readers informed of new books as they are launched. For some authors who just want to lock themselves in a room and write this can feel like a big ask. Often we aren’t the most confident of people, but we all need to pay our bills and so marketing has to become an important part of what we do. These pages can link into sales sites and ask readers to leave reviews for you, this is an important part of the sales process and for building up a fan base.
Anyone who has read this far and is still thinking of going down the traditional route with the hope of getting out of this interaction with readers should reconsider as increasingly companies expect authors to both come complete with a ready made fan base and who will also be prepared to do the bulk of the marketing themselves anyway.
The only other process necessary for self-publishing is getting a really good cover done. This is your shop window, what will draw readers to your book and it is vital it is done well. Readers are very discerning and a cover which does not attract their attention will not do the author any favours. Take a quick look at any of the multitude of sales sites there are available. See how many books there are online. That is your competition. You have to ensure your book will not only stand out amongst those, but will also show the reader in a second the genre of your book. That is a big ask for something that will only be seen as a thumbnail image. The cover for the hard copy version of the book needs to be designed to take into consideration the size of the finished book, the spine width will depend on the amount of pages in the typeset book. Your fabulous blurb and any other relevant information will also go on the back of the page.
There are sites where pre-made covers can be purchased at a very reasonable cost. There are also many designers online who will do a custom cover using reasonably priced images for a small cost. Of course the author can do this themselves, but truly unless you were a graphic designer in another life, I wouldn’t recommend this.
When the book is being sold your cover and a fabulous blurb are the only chances you have to attract readers to your book. It is vitally important you take every advantage of this opportunity and make the book work for you.
There are often queries about ISBN numbers and copyright. Copyright of any book automatically belongs to you, so there is no need to register it. This is just an unnecessary expense. Equally ISBN numbers. These, unless you are going to try to get your book taken up by the large retailers is quite unnecessary. It is merely an identification number assigned to a book to allow large warehouses to find and move the book easily and is not necessary for sales.
Once the formatting is done and the cover designed the book can be loaded to any of the sites available.