Before I write part two of the self publishing post, I’ve just realised that, although I’ve publicised it just about everywhere else, I’ve forgotten to put my latest news about Devil to Pay on the writing blog! Anyway – the news is, the Devil to Pay website is up at http://www.deviltopay.co.uk! Please go and take a look, have a gander at the extras, and let me know what you think!
OK – on with the post…
If you’re self publishing a book with a potentially larger market I suggest that you also look at the option of Print On Demand to cater for those who either do not have an e-reader (and won’t read on the PC screen either), or those who prefer a good old solid paper book. Be warned though – it is more than likely that your sales will be far less in this format than through Kindle, Nook or Smashwords, and that it may not even pay for itself. Even so, hopefully your other sales will cover the shortfall and you will have provided an extra option for your readers.
There are several companies that provide POD and all have their pros and cons. Who you choose is very much down to your personal preferences, your geographical location, and the depth of your pockets. I shall look at a few here:
Probably the largest and most well-known of the PODs and the one allied to Amazon. It has good reviews and most people seems happy with its services, especially if they are publishing from the US, where the company is based. However, if you are UK-based, like me, it throws up a little problem – one of tax. Unless you jump through hoops to get tax registered in the US, they keep a percentage of your royalties back (something like 30% or more). It’s not just Createspace, I also have this problem with my KDP and Zazzle account – I just didn’t want yet another US company taking my money when a UK one would do the job just as well. However, if you don’t mind, or else live in the US, this POD publisher is probably your best bet: good quality and easy to use.
I know quite a few people in the UK use this company, but I have also heard some bad things about the quality of the final product, therefore they weren’t an option for me.
Probably one of the best options for anyone using POD in the UK as they are also the printers that a lot of other POD companies (including Lulu) use. But, and it’s a very big but, uploading a document to them is far more complicated than with other PODs: you must have more technical knowledge. And it’s slightly pricier than the others too. Also, you have to register as a company. Other than that, they come highly recommended if you want a professional job.
These are the guys I eventually decided to go with. They also use Lightning Source as their printers/distributors so the quality should be there. I have heard only positive reviews for FAR and my experience with them so far is that the uploading procedure is easy (with great templates although you may have to jiggle about with Word to get the pagination you require), the costs are really low (practically nil unless you want wider distribution) and the royalties paid are higher than many other PODs. The site itself is friendly and you get the feeling that they are really there to help you get published, and not just make money (although of course they do that as well!).
In my opinion book covers are one of the most important considerations when producing a book. For heaven’s sakes, unless you really don’t care, don’t go with one of the cover creators that some PODs and e-book publishers offer – the result will most likely be a pile of uninteresting visual crap.
The best and most ideal way is, of course, to design it yourself – but ONLY if you have the skills and software (otherwise you may end up with vomit-inducing visual crap). If you go down this route make it your business to look at a lot of other book covers – especially ones in your genre. Note the colours, imagery, title and author placements – and adapt yours accordingly. You want your cover to stand out – but not for the wrong reasons! You will also want to think about a back cover and spine if you are going down the POD route. If you want to know what I use, it’s mainly Photoshop – putting together the text parts and images that I’ve bought the licence for from a company such as istockphoto.com.
However, if you don’t have the time, skills, software or inclination to design your own cover, there are plenty of graphic designers out there who will do it for you, to your specifications. They are not cheap but neither are they ridiculously overpriced and most provide absolute value for money. One such designer that I thoroughly recommend is Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics (she does book trailers and web graphics too!).
As far as I’m concerned, the web is the best place to get your message across: blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc are all fantastic tools to build up your profile and your readership. But with a few provisos! Don’t spam your book to everyone unless you want to have the same effect as a buzzing blowfly in a small room! You can publicise yourself and blow your own trumpet, yes, but do it sparingly. And in between put Tweets/posts about other things, especially if they are of interest to your readers. Also, use social media for making contacts by all means, but treat them with respect – not just as faceless potential markets/resources. You never know, you might (as I have many times), make great new friends!
Blogs and social media are fairly easy to set up and manage. Web sites are on a whole new level. Again, whether you have one or not depends on you, your skills and whether it’s right for your book. Because I am a sad person that finds website design fun, I decided from the start that I would have a website for both Not Only the Ink is Black and The Devil to Pay. The site for Not Only the Ink is Black was fairly simple with only a few pages. With the Devil to Pay I excelled myself and went for a full-on job with extra content on the themes and stories behind the book. And so far it has done me a great service as far as promotion goes.
You may also want to consider having a book trailer. This is not as easy to make as some of the things above, although luckily, once again, there are designers who will put one together for you. I did try, but the images I wanted would have cost too much (especially as some of them were filmed sequences) and then there was the problem of finding the right music. In the end it all got a bit too complicated so I decided that enough was enough!
In summary then, self publishing is not an easy path to take but done right it is satisfying and new skills can be learned that will stand you in good stead for future projects. Just be as professional as you can in every aspect of the publication process and you will have a result that you can truly be proud of.