by Kris Tualla
Copyright © 2013 Kris Tualla
Originally published by 1st Turning Point
You have a really great story but it doesn’t fit into the big publishers’ “boxes?” Boy, do I feel your pain. While I have an agent and two requested manuscripts currently submitted to four publishing houses, I also have a Historical-American-Norwegian trilogy in the outside-the-box position. Great characters in a unique setting and unusual situations—and no publishing home. What’s an author to do?
Look into Independent Publishing—the accepted term for “self publishing” among professional authors. This market is exploding, both in print books and e-publications. And, why not? Technology today is lowering the cost, making printing one book as cost-effective as printing a thousand books. New distribution agreements are being negotiated daily. New authors should know by now that they have to market themselves, anyway—why not retain control of their product?
By control, I mean deciding the book’s title, approving the cover design, not worrying about word count, and choosing your pen name—all components that would be determined and/or changed by a traditional publisher.
#1: Think Cost
The biggest problem with newbie authors and self-publishing is that they don’t do adequate research before they sign up with a vanity press. These companies take their money directly from authors’ wallets, much the same way modeling companies (not legit agencies) make money by selling classes to wide-eyed hopefuls.
Think about it: if you are paying them, why should they work for minimal royalty checks? They recoup all of their costs from the impatient and ignorant, and have no reason to do anything more to further those authors’ careers. A 20-minute internet search and sampling of self-publishers and their costs (I say “self,” not “independent,” because these publishers prey on amateurs) turned up these horrifying package prices:
Infinity Publishing: $500
Dellarte Press $600-$1600
Author House: $600-$4000
Xulon Press: $800-$4300
Dog Ear Publishing: $110-$3500
These companies then set the price for which the books must sell—and those prices are inflated above the market standard. Next come the royalties that the press skims from every sale on top of the start-up prices that the author has already paid! Add to this grim scenario the stipulation of minimum sales requirements: if your book doesn’t sell, you have to buy the extra copies. What are these poor authors thinking? This investment will not be recouped and, in most cases, these books are not distributed beyond Amazon.com.
If an author hopes to succeed, or make any money at all, they must keep their investment to a minimum and their distribution at a maximum. There is a sane and profitable alternative for those who want to independently publish their print books: CreateSpace by Amazon. Cost to publish your book: $0 or $39 for the highly worth it PRO plan. Cost to have your book distributed through every major channel: $0.
You do have to edit, format, and proof your book yourself. You can design your own book cover (I did all of mine on Word then converted it to a PDF) but they do have several pre-designed templates if you need them.
Be aware that it’s free to publish on Kindle, and soon on Nook. Plus Kindle, Apple, Sony, and all other e-formats can be published for free through Smashwords. That’s zero dollars, in case you were confused.
#2: Think Quality
After all is said and done, the free market will allow good books to rise over time, and bad ones will stink. I mean sink.
Let’s assume your manuscript is completed and you already have combed through it many times. You have critique partners—other writers—who have evaluated your plot and characters and their goals, motivations, and conflicts. Your grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been checked, either by an editing program such as PerfectIt or by hiring a freelance professional editor.
You think your manuscript is finally in good enough shape to put it “out there.” How can you get it ready for print?
The answer, in my humble opinion, is:
1) Print three-four copies in the form the book ultimately will take.
I learned when publishing my “Primer for Beginning Authors” that it does no good to proof a book that is not in book form; a completely wasted effort.
2) Recruit a battery of beta-readers.
I ordered four copies of my debut novel, “A Woman of Choice,” and gave it to four friends to read. (They cost $5.05 each through CreateSpace—comparable in cost to printing the 104,000-word manuscript at Office Max.)
When they found a mistake, they were to mark it, dog-ear the page, and then keep going. Mistakes could take any form: typos, scene breaks that fell at an awkward spot on the page, action descriptions that didn’t make sense, etc.
When I got the books back, 25% of the pages had mistakes on them—in a manuscript that I thought was clean. And here’s the kicker: they all found different mistakes!
3) Do it again.
I tweaked the cover, adjusted lines on the pages so the scene breaks didn’t overlap the top or bottom of a page, fixed every skipped or repeated word, adjusted the font size to be more pleasing, and clarified actions described.
Then I ordered four more copies. Four different friends got the fixed copies.
They came back with 10% of the pages dog-eared, marked with mistakes that were missed in the first round. Again, they all found different ones. *Sigh.*
4) Do it yet again.
Ditto on the changes, but this time I only ordered two copies. And they went to two different friends.
But I already spotted two mistakes myself. Really? Really??
5) Do it again, with hope, for the last time.
I have two more friends waiting in the wings for Round Four.
Does this process take time? Yes. Is it worth it? You bet it is! I don’t want my books to look shoddy either in print or on e-pub. I don’t want to give anyone a reason to say, “You can totally tell she published this herself.”
#3: Think Career
I am setting about building a readership. I respect those who spend their money to take a chance on me and my stories. I want to give them the best experience possible, whether the book is electronically, independently, or traditionally published—even if they only paid $2.99 for the e-book.
I’m in this for the long haul. And the long haul demands that I go the extra mile: My books are extensively proofed. I listen to critiques. I give 100% effort to creating a quality product. By publishing independently, I know my books will never be “out of print”—no matter what the format—because I am in control of them. I own the rights. I decide where and how they are sold.
I also take every single opportunity to promote myself that comes along: teaching online classes, reviewing books and book trailers, presenting at conferences, blogging and guest blogging, going to book signings, arranging book signings, creating author/reader events, and joining author groups. No exposure is insignificant at this point.
I also want to help other out-of-the-box authors build their careers. To this end, I have created a “publishing” label: Goodnight Publishing. Here authors can learn how to independently publish their own work. They also can link virtual arms and present a familiar face to the world with which readers will resonate.
Independently publishing can be an end to its own, or a stepping stone toward traditional houses. It does require tenacity and plenty of hard work. But the possibilities are unlimited. Are you up for it?
Kris Tualla, a dynamic award-winning and internationally published author of historical romance and suspense, writes with a fast-paced and succinct style. Her plots are full of twists, passion, and very satisfying outcomes! Kris started in 2006 with nothing but a nugget of a character in mind, and has created a dynasty with The Hansen Series and its spin-off, The Discreet Gentleman Series. Norway is the new Scotland!
Kris is an active member of Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, and Sisters in Crime. She is an enthusiastic speaker and teacher, and created Arizona Dreamin' - Arizona's first romance-reader event: ArizonaDreaminEvent.com - and it's author-focused companion: BuildintheDream.com
"In the Historical Romance genre, there have been countless kilted warrior stories told. Well, I say it's time for a new breed of heroes! Come along with me and find out why: Norway IS the new Scotland!"