A writer can self-publish a book nowadays through many different sites; Kindle Direct from Amazon, Smashwords, Pubit from Barnes and Noble, Lulu and CreateSpace, just to name a few. Many authors have decided to go this route and skip the endless query letters and rejections from literary agents and publishing houses. If a book is successful, the profits are lucrative. Self-published authors can bank up to 70% of their own revenue, compared to the 5-10% they would receive with a publisher. But entering the world of self-publishing has its own twists and turns and pitfalls. In many ways the journey is like entering the Land of Oz.
Yes, the world is in black and white. Your life is at a status quo.
Then inspiration strikes like a tornado! A main character or plot creeps into your brain and suddenly words are flying, swirling around you! You cannot type fast enough into the computer to get it all down! A week or a month or a year later you step away from your brand new wonderful next-best-thing manuscript and think, “AH HA! I’ve written a book. It’s done.” You are not in Kansas anymore.
Except the book is not done. In fact, it’s just the beginning. You read the book to your children or students. Those little munchkins think you are marvelous and it is clearly the best story they have ever heard. They praise you and ask, “What happens next?” They draw you pictures of the characters! It is a wonderful magical world in full Technicolor.
The Yellow Brick Road
And so, after quite a bit of deliberation, you decide to follow the road to self-publication. Glinda says, “Just follow the yellow brick road!” Technically, it takes exactly five minutes to submit a book to be self-published. There are only five or six things you have to fill out in the form, but the yellow brick road is longer than you had originally expected. It has twists and turns and sends you through some not-so-nice parts of town.
You know that a first draft needs to be edited and polished. So you enter the revision process. This step alone could take a year or more. You join a critique group at the local library, and join one online for kicks, too. Every sentence is scrutinized, and suddenly your beautiful manuscript is now pulled apart like the scarecrow! Every word tossed around. Whole paragraphs lay useless in the field. Fortunately, you put it back together again, stuffing the pieces in bit by bit until it resembles a book once again. Except this time the manuscript is even better. It has a cover! It has illustrations! It’s ready to go.
It’s time to connect with people and share your book, so you join the world of Social Networking. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest seem likely candidates. But metal gets rusty if you don’t oil it. You have to cultivate your presence on these sites. It takes time and patience to follow and be followed. Go ahead and purchase some followers and likes from sites such as Public Monkey, but those people don’t care about you. No, in order for social networking to work, you have to oil that website a little bit everyday and eventually it will stop creaking.
The Cowardly Lion
You have a polished manuscript and cultivated a small online presence. It’s time to format the book for epub. Then it starts. That horrible choking feeling when you realize that all of your ideas – your book – your BABY! – are going to be out in the real world. For real. People will read it and judge it, and maybe you should just turn around and run as fast as you can in the other direction, and tuck that book back under the house that fell out of the sky and leave it there for another… while. But what’s that in the distance?
The Emerald City
You approach Amazon Direct Publishing. It is time. You meet the gatekeeper and fill out the simple book details. No problem. You get into the Wizard of Oz’s chamber. The ground rumbles and there are puffs of green smoke, but you are steady on your feet and in the home stretch. Then the wizard asks you for one tiny thing that suddenly throws you for a loop. It says, “Enter your ISBN (optional).” You have to go to the castle of the wicked witch (sorry for the metaphor ISBN number people) and bring back the witch’s broom! (purchase ISBN numbers). Yes, they are optional, but the only reason you would not put an ISBN number on a book is if it were for private use only. ISBN numbers contain all of the metadata of your book. Without one, it basically doesn’t exist… anywhere. You can purchase 1 number for $125, 10 for $250 or 100 for $575. Yes, they are that expensive for a few numbers in sequence, OH, and if you want a barcode, add another $25 per ISBN. If you publish through Lulu.com you can get one for free, except that in the metadata Lulu is the publisher and it does not get linked to the author – you. The outlook is looking grim. Where is that pail of water?
The Pail of Water
Kickstarter.com is a crowdfunding website dedicated to making peoples creative dreams come true. Need a little money to purchase ISBN numbers and some paperback copies of your book? Write about your book, make a little video and voila! Start a kickstarter campaign. (Shameless plug for my own campaign which is currently 70% funded on Kickstarter.)
Who is that Man Behind the Curtain?
Congratulations! You’ve brought back the broom, uh, ISBN #’s. The rest is smooth sailing from here. Simply enter your book details, verify publishing rights, target your book to customers, upload your book cover and book file, fill out the rights and pricing and click those heels. You’re self-published! Now the real work really starts…
Have you ever considered the land of self-publishing? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with the Writers’ Rumpus!