Publishing is changing every day, it seems. Indie pubbed authors are getting publishing contracts and traditionally pubbed authors are putting out their back lists as indies. The stigma to releasing your own work is finally beginning to ease as authors realize there is more than one path to publication.
I had a lady email me the other day wanting to know what she needed to do to release a title she’d received the rights back to from a small e-pub, and I thought it would be a good blog post. She’s probably not the only one wondering.
When we sign contracts with publishing companies, be they New York traditional or smaller e publishing houses, we give up our rights to that work for a length of time. Contracts themselves usually run from one year to fourteen, with three to five being the average. During that time, the publishing house prepares and distributes the work. There should be a section of the contract dealing with the length of the contract and directions on how to request your rights back from the publisher. Follow those directions closely. On some contracts, if you don’t request your rights back during the window specified, the contract itself renews, locking you in again.
Once you receive your reversion of rights, you can prepare to put it out yourself.
~~~There are some things to remember. When you signed the contract with the publishing company, more than likely they took over the cost of production. They bought a cover, they paid somebody to edit the work and they put their own ISBN on it. Now that you own the book again, YOU CANNOT USE THE OLD COVER OR ISBN. You, as the new publisher, have to provide a new cover, a new ISBN and possibly new editing.
Here’s what you need to do to release your reverted-rights, backlist title:
- Once you receive your Reversion of Rights letter from your publisher, read over your manuscript. This is a chance to remake the story into what you’ve always envisioned. When you read it over, you may find sections that you’d like to change or expand on. Maybe you’ve always wanted to give it a different ending. Or turn it edgier. Make the hero a little nicer. Well, now’s your chance. Make the story into what YOU want.
- Choose a cover artist and cover. There are a lot of up and coming, fabulous cover designers out there. I’ve personally used The Author’s Red Room, Melody Simmons at ebookindiecovers.com and Viola Estrella, and all were fabulous. If you follow this link, it will take you to an updated list of 52 cover artists I’ve listed on my website under Author Helps. Some publishing houses barely ask your opinion about the cover, let alone what models or scenes to use. If you’ve ever cringed when you’ve gotten a cover from a publisher because the heroine’s hair color is wrong, or the scene is off, this is your chance to make it right. I put this a little higher in the list because some cover artists take several months to create a custom cover. Or it may just take that long to catch a break in their schedule. You can order the cover while you’re doing everything else. If you plan on taking your book to print, you’ll need a wrap cover, which will take a little longer to create. Tell your artist what you need before you start. Cost– can be any amount. I’ve seen pre-made covers for as little as $5 up to custom covers for several thousand.
- Edit your work. While the original publisher probably, hopefully, edited your work competently, you still want to have it checked over, especially if you modify or change anything from the original manuscript. Every editor I’ve had has worked differently, but they’ve all been fabulous, luckily. I’ve heard horror stories of editors that couldn’t edit for shit, and if you’ve ever had one of those, you have my sympathies. I think every piece of work about to be published needs to be re-edited, because just about every book I read -Traditional, e or indie- has a typo in it somewhere. Cost– any amount. If you have a critical reader good at spotting issues, it may be free. If you use an actual editor, expect to pay out $50 up to several hundred dollars for a critical read through. I currently use Mary Yakovets. I hate to give her name out because she really is awesome, and I want her to still have time for me!
- Buy ISBNs for your work. I’ll explain this out a bit, so that everybody knows. If you publish on Smashwords, they offer you a free ISBN, but THEY are listed as the publisher, not you. If you actually buy the number from Bowker, YOU are listed as the publisher. It took me a while to figure out, but from now on, I want MY work to be under MY name. Cost-You can buy them at Bowker; 1 for $99 or 10 for $250. I bought the 10 pack, because each book that you put out will need 3 numbers. One ISBN for digital, one for print and one for audio.
- Format your work. This isn’t as easy as it sounds and I’ve resigned myself to be one of those that CAN NOT format, no matter how long she tries. But it’s turned out for the best. I have a formatter at BBebooks that absolutely rocks formatting, affordably. When I send Paul my doc file, for $50 he turns it into 7 different versions, for each of the distributors. WELL worth the money. Cost– depends upon your file size and the number of different versions you need. $50 and up.
- Register yourself and Publish at all of the distribution sites. Some, like Apple, take a long time to check you out and approve you as a publisher. Like, several weeks. If you don’t have a Mac computer and have to upload to Apple through Smashwords, ARE or one of the other distributors, be prepared for it to take several weeks for your book to go live. The rest of the sites go live fairly quickly. Smashwords is live immediately. Amazon takes about a day, Kobo and Barnes and Noble take a few days to a few weeks. ARE is also a quick one. Your book will be available as soon as you upload it, but I will say that their upload process is a pain in the butt. When you upload to Createspace for your print book, the proof will take 24 hours. Once you approve the proof, you can hit print and your books will be available. Cost– None of the sites charge you to publish a book through them, although they will take a portion of your royalties. Read the information at each site to see how much.
- Start Marketing! This is probably something that you’ve been doing anyway, no matter where you were pubbed. Keep doing it. The advantage to this, though, is that now that you’ve pubbed your own book, you can see real-time sales at all of the sites. If you do a blog-hop or targeted advertisement, you can see immediately if it was effective or not by following your numbers. You had no way of knowing that when you were pubbed with a publisher.
This is a highly simplified version of what you need to do, but you can now call yourself a self-published author. If you have any questions at all, either comment here or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading!
I know, I know. You can smack my hand if you feel the need. I’ve been very remiss in blogging. All I can say is, I’ve been busier that a three pecker puppy. Sorry, is that wrong to say? More about my bizzy-ness later.
I received a note from an author friend who I greatly admire, and it hit me that one of the great things about publishing in these times is the amount of support we get from other authors. Indie authors, in particular, are some of the most open, welcoming people you’ll ever meet. I think it may have something to do with a shared solidarity. Not necessarily US(indies) against THEM (traditional) but more of an Us for THEM- THEM being the READERS.
There’s a lot of angst in the traditional publishing business these days. I think they’re floundering, trying to figure out who suddenly staged a coup when they weren’t looking. I think they view indies as invaders. I kinda don’t think the indies care, though. We’re more concerned about what our readers think than anybody else.
Small presses also encourage a congenial atmosphere. They’ve had to do things differently to step out of the Traditional shadow and make a name for themselves. That means depending upon all aspects of your business (authors, editors, readers, reviewers) to build each other up. I really believe I’ve landed in an ideal situation for my publishing career. My owner at Decadent goes out of her way to promo my indie books, and I promo Decadent any chance I get, because of the great guidance I’ve received from her and the editors there. I genuinely believe I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for my experience with Decadent.
SO, on to the bizzy-ness, then I’ll tell you about some fantastic FREE books.
In July I released A Needful Heart . August 28th I released Tempt Me, Book 2 of The Awakening Society, and the culmination of the question I asked readers in Book 1 (which is now FREE!!)**** side note- Amazon decided to raise the price on TAS. Grrr. So, here are some links to other outlets where it IS free. Smashwords– Barnes and Noble– and at the time of this posting Kobo was down. Sorry about the inconvenience folks.**** September 21 I release Love On The Line through Decadent, and I also may release the first in my as-yet-unnamed wounded veteran series. I’m working on the second book of Love on the Line, and may have a Christmas story percolating as well. So you can understand why I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to my blog recently, right?
So, to make it up to you, I’m going to tell you about some awesome free books from indie authors I admire. They were the first taste of indie publishing I got, and made an incredible impact on me. Feel free to pass this information on.
Donna McDonald sent me the note that inspired this blog, and lucky for you she has a couple of free books you need to check out. Very different series’, but each wonderful in their own right.
Dating A Cougar in the Never Too Late series.
The Demon of Synar in the Forced to Serve series.
Masters at Arms in the Rescue Me series.
All three books are super fantastic and deserve to be read.
So, you’ve got 4 free books now if you follow the links! Happy reading and stayed tuned for more to come!
|Click the box to take you back to the link list!
A little over a year ago, a woman joined our local RWA chapter. She was a super nice lady, and admitted very hesitantly that she had just self-published her first book. Self-publishing, at the time, was just catching fire, and her experience and success were very intriguing to me. We had talked about the process as a group, but had no real-life examples to study until Donna walked in our door.
Donna has been, to me, one of the most important influences in my self-publishing career. She did not hesitate to talk to us about the steps she’s taken in her career, good and bad, and has consistently been a cheerleader to all of us.
I read the first book in her Forced to Serve series several weeks ago, and when the chance came to promote another one of her books, I jumped at it. I chose The Demon Master’s Wife, the second book in the series, and man am I glad!
Donna started out as a contemporary romance author, but she’s found a wonderful niche in science fiction romance. The Demon Master’s Wife was fantastic! Fast paced, tangled plots, and romance to set the pages on fire! I didn’t know how she would do transferring genres, but she did freaking awesome! The situations were realistic and evoked a strong emotional response in me, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I can not wait for the third book to come out.
The Demon Master’s Wife. Here’s the blurb-
Ania Looren would have chosen death over becoming a demon host, if she’d
had a choice. But Captain Liam Synar, master of the Demon of Synar, and
her mate, made that decision for her in order to save her life. For the
two years of their separation her spiritual gifts have failed her, but
Ania has learned that hosting the demon Malachi is to blame. Her spirit
grieves for what she has become because evil lives inside her again now
and Ania fears the great harm she can cause using the demon’s power.
Unfortunately, Liam’s reluctant embrace of being the demon’s master,
along with his refusal to discuss Malachi with her, leaves Ania facing
her destiny alone. Their personal relationship war vacillates between
full out conflict and a cease fire, yet she is drawn into becoming one
of his crew. Worse, she discovers she is drawn to Liam as well, despite
his past rejections and the pain his abandonment caused her. But can she
really let the only male she’s ever wanted back into her bed without
risking her heart?
While you can read the second book alone, it may be easier to understand them in order, with The Demon of Synar first. Besides, it’s only $.99!
I sincerely hope you enjoy this book! Check out Donna’s Amazon page here. She’s actually put out twelve other books as well this year, so there’s plenty to browse through and choose from once you get addicted to her writing like I have. When I grow up, I want to be like Donna. ;-)))
One lucky commenter will win a $5 Amazon gift card, the perfect amount for book 1 and 2 of the series. Imagine that! Open to international participants.
Thanks so much for stopping!!!!
|JA Konrath (left) and Blake Crouch (right)
Far and away the best demonstration we went to was by Blake Crouch and JA Konrath, self-publishing phenoms. They were the funniest, had the most common sense advice and the most data to back up their claims. Robyn, the lady I drove up with, is not yet published and wants to go the tradition, Big 6 route. But even Robyn admitted it was the best class she went to all week.
According to Konrath, he knew self-pubbing was going to be the thing to do, and he badgered Crouch for months before Crouch finally decided to put out 1 book. Run made 12k the first month it was out. Konrath asked him how much he’d made this year already. As of 4-12-12 Crouch admitted he had made 150k for the year.
Konrath has also made incredible money in the time he has been self-publishing, and says you need the perfect cover, perfect price, a good description and finally a good book for LUCK to strike. The more books you have out there, the more chance luck will find you. But he says to always put out the best product you can as often as you can. The best promotion you can do, he says, is to put out another fantastic book.
Konrath is a natural comedian, and he had the audience laughing most of the hour they spoke, but his information was like gold. Quiet Blake Crouch was the perfect straight man to counterbalance Konrath’s craziness, but I felt a little bad that he had to put up with him.
If you look closely, the design on Konrath’s shirt is interconnected skulls and crossbones, which I thought was appropriate considering where he was. There was a definite anti-self-pub flavor to the air at RT this year, which was disappointing. I think he dealt with it in his own rebellious way. He carried his own beer to the e-book signing and the book sale later on that week, and in spite of the people that wrinkled their noses at what he did, I thought he and Blake were both FABULOUS.
In spite of his audacious behaviour, the man is brilliant. He spoke about apps for smart devices, such as iphones, ipads, androids, tablets. Rather than having an app for an author, why not have an app for each book created? Where readers can go into the app, read author commentary, see videos of the author talking about the creative process, listening to play lists or even interacting with readers in a forum ON THE APP.
He also talked about advertising. He said he could see, in the future, money being paid to the author by advertisers who place their ads in the author’s books, perhaps between chapters. Already we deal with little ads everyday, but we would be more likely to put up with them if the book itself was free. Right?
One of the people in the audience asked him about piracy, and Konrath laughed. It’s such a miniscule threat to him that he conducted an experiment. He posted one of his books for free on one of the piracy loops, and he watched as sales for the same book soared on the legitimate sites. This led to his greatest quote of the hour:
“If you’re a writer, you should be a whore with no integrity.”
Meaning, use free days, and lend books, and don’t worry about piracy because all it does is get your name to an even wider audience. Don’t use DRM on anything.
Hire a website designer he said, and sell your own books from your own website. Then you get to keep all the profits .
In the bottom picture, he’s showing us ‘Autography’, which is an app that the author can use to sign the cover sheet of a book for a reader. Similar to Kindlegraph, but with Autography, you actually sign the sheet with a stylus in your own handwriting. It was beautiful.
The two of them were fantastic, and kept me laughing all day.
At the original demonstration, they had author Ann Voss Peterson sitting in the front row, and he was talking about how collaborating had worked very well for him, and it helped to have somebody take on half the load. He and Ann have collaborated on 2 books. She stood up for a second then sat back down quickly. Ann seems to be a quiet lady, totally opposite of Konrath, and I went to one of her panels later in the day. Three authors were speaking for 15 minutes each. The first author spoke, then it was Ann’s turn to talk about plot. She pinkened, and it was obvious she was uncomfortable speaking in front of so many people. Then troops in Blake Crouch, Konrath and Konrath’s wife. They sit in the front row and STARE at Ann. I too was in the front row, and I watched as a wave of bright red crept up her neck and into her face. I felt so bad for the poor woman. Then Konrath pulled out his cell phone and started snapping pictures. Now, he’s not sitting any more than about 7 feet from the woman, so the camera is basically in her face. I have to say, though, she held her ground and made it completely through her demonstration without stumbling. As soon as her demonstration was over, the three of them stood up and trooped back out of the room.
I spoke to her at the end and told her she needed to kick his ass when she had a chance.
But it was damn funny.
I’ve had several writers tell me they have no idea where to start when it comes to self-publishing their own work. And I understand the sentiment, because I was the same way not too long ago. I’ll let you in on a secret. Deciding to self-publish is one of the hardest hurdles. Once you decide to go through with it, your tension will immediately ease. A friend mentioned this as well the other day on one of the loops I am part of. I don’t know if it’s because you gain confidence by having a direction or what, but you will soon be overcome by a drive to get your work out there. Immediately. Yesterday. But that enthusiasm needs to be tempered. You have several things to do. Now mind you, this is for beginning writers and this is only a list of suggestions.
1) Decide on WHO you are–
Are you going to write under a pseudonym? Or do you want the fame (and potential privacy issues) attached to your actual name? You need to seriously consider these issues. Whatever name you use will be seen, possibly, millions upon millions of times, over the life of your career. Yes, you can change your pseudonym, but your digital footprint will already be out there. Good or bad. I know of several authors that can not go to the local grocery store because rabid fans try to follow them home. If, by chance, you make it big, how would you deal with this?
Many writers take several names according to the genres they write. I, personally, have two, although I know others that have taken several. Just remember that however many names you write under is that much more promotion you have to do to build that name and its following.
Part of deciding what name to use is availability. You need to purchase your domain name at some point, and with the way things are exploding in the writing community, I would say sooner is better. There are several websites, such as Godaddy.com, where you can check to see if the name you want is taken. Blogger also has a service. The domain names usually only cost $10-12, but they’re good for a year. If you’re undecided, buy a couple of variations.
2)Build Your Platform–
Though this sounds a little ass-backward, you need to something you build your writing credibility upon before you put out a book. It may be a blog you update once a month, a website space you’ve staked out as your own, or a review site where you talk about other people’s books. Most people start out with blogs, either at WordPress or Blogger, to talk about their writing journey. Readers sympathize with struggle and everyday life, so even though you may not think so, your journey may be interesting to other aspiring writers. I talked about my animals a lot when I started blogging, and I still make updates on things that happen, but I’ve gradually focused more on writing and my books.
A blog also gives you an outlet to write. It makes you sit down and organize your thoughts, and will ultimately make your fiction writing better.
3)Hone Your Product–
Your book. Your pride and joy. Your mother loves it, your sister loves it, your neighbor’s second-cousin’s wife loves it. That’s fine. But if you are going to approach being an independent author as a professional, you need to take the steps to present a professional product. That means going through the process of writing a good book, then making it better by learning more craft and rewriting it. And possibly re-re-writing it. Some authors work years on one masterpiece, then are too terrified to let it into the world. If you are confident in your skills as a writer, it will be easier to release the book. There are many craft workshops listed everyday, check Savvy Authors, surely something will appeal to you. You know what your weaknesses are, so take the steps to make them better.
4)Have a Professional Support Team–
Editing- I don’t mean your family or neighbors or post-man. I can’t stress this enough. You may think you are a good writer, but until you go through the editing process and see how many things you missed, you’ve got your head in the sand. Everybody makes mistakes. You can read your manuscript 500 times and still miss letters or commas and sometimes complete words. Our minds fill in the gaps of what we read, so that the manuscript looks right.
With the rise in authors self-pubbing, so too are those stepping forward to edit. Take advantage of them. Most editors don’t charge very much, sometimes as little as a dollar a page, especially if they are starting their own business, and the investment is worth its weight in gold.
Consider the revisions you receive back with an open mind. Ultimately, you are the one who decides what goes out in front of the public. If you rush to get the product out, and don’t take the time and attention that your book needs, you will have reader back-lash. Honestly, there’s a lot of crap on the internet right now that has not been edited, or correctly formatted, or properly covered, and readers are tired of wasting their money on it. Visit any reader forum and you will get an earful about trash littering Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Unfortunately, ANYBODY can publish a book. It’s up to you as an author to put something out that you can be proud of and can stand behind. And will bring the reader back for your NEXT book.
The Cover- The cover sells the book. Period. Spend the money to hire a professional cover artist that will take as much pride in your work as you do. They can start as low as $20 and go up to $3000 or more. If you are a newbie author, you will not have as much insight to a buyer’s mind as an artist who creates covers everyday. If you are a graphic designer and do this for a living, fine, try your own cover. But make it look professional. I am building lists or service people right now. I have a huge list of cover artists here.
Formatting- If you are not at least computer literate, you may want to hire somebody to do the formatting to the distribution channels for you. It can be very confusing. Every channel, Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, takes a different format of your manuscript. I thought I was fairly savvy on the computer, but I had issues I couldn’t work out. My buddy Donna McDonald saved my butt and helped me format my first self-pubbed book. She’s indie pubbed 10 now, or thereabouts. Will I try it again? Yes, probably, because I hate failing to be able to do something. But if you know you can’t do it, hire a formatter. Again, they only charge about $50 bucks and up.
5) Decide Where to Upload–
You need to decide where you want to sell your book. If you want to sell everywhere, your best bet is to go through Smashwords. Download their style guide and follow the steps. Once you’ve had your manuscript formatted, you upload a version to smashwords and their ‘meatgrinder’ churns out all the different format variations for Kobo, Sony, Apple, Diesel and Barnes and Noble if you want it to. Amazon you have to load to directly, and Barnes and Noble gives you that option as well through Pubit. For the most part, I hear that the meatgrinder does ok, although it does seem to take several weeks to distribute to the other channels. All Romance Ebooks is another valuable seller for your books. The channels Smashwords distributes to pay out quarterly. Amazon and Barnes and Noble( I think) pay out monthly.
For my first book, I chose to go with the Amazon Select Program. It targets their Prime members and gives you the option to run 5 free promotional days. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it actually boosts your ranking incredibly, leading to more sales after the promotion is over. You are required to stay with the program for 90 days, but after that you can upload to Smashwords and distribute everywhere. My 90 days will be up in the middle of May, and I plan to distribute then.
Unfortunately, there are advantages and drawbacks to either way you choose. But, the advantages and disadvantages seem to be different for every author.
6) Write your next book–
You thought I was going to say promo, huh? Well, not exactly. The general consensus with indie authors is that the best way to make an impact in the market (more money) is to have multiple books for sale, particularly series. Yes, go ahead and announce on all your loops and social media that your book is available, but don’t spend hour upon hour on promo, to the exclusion of writing. Having product available is the most important thing.
Imagine this: Jane the Housewife goes to Amazon and downloads your book, reads it and thinks it’s the best thing since microwaveable veggies in steamer bags. She LOVED it. She tells all of her friends, the ladies at the playdate, her hairdresser, her dentist, everybody she knows. Then she goes back to Amazon hoping to find something else that you’ve written, and is so incredibly disappointed when she can’t find anything else. Will she remember you in 6 mos or a year when you release a new book? You hope so.
Promotion deserves pages of info, but I’m going to keep it relatively short. Become proficient at social media is the biggest thing I can tell you. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube, and more other options than I can list. Get all of your author pages, personas set up, and learn to streamline. I use Tweetdeck to keep Facebook and Twitter together, so that I’m not bouncing everywhere all day. It’s all on one page, as well as several streams of tweets that I keep track of.
You will find that you will have a preference where you hang out. A chaptermate, Kallypso Masters, has developed a rabid following on Facebook. She takes the time to respond and interact as much as she can, and it has been a boon to selling her books. She actually spends very little time anywhere else. Facebook is her niche. And it works for her.
Personally, I am published at 3 e-publishers, as well as self-pubbed. I will probably continue to submit to e-pubs simply because it broadens my reader base. As my e-pubs grow, my backlist titles are discovered and more people connect with me on FB and my website.
8) Develop your own Path–
Other authors can tell you what has worked or not worked for them, but everybody’s experience is different. We’re all different people, different authors. We write about different things. So it’s only logical that all of our career paths will vary. Find what suits you. Ask questions. I can honestly say that the indie authors I have met are so much more forthcoming than traditionally pubbed authors.
The advantage that we have as indie authors is we drive our own careers and can change what we are doing at any time.
I hope you find this information useful. It’s certainly not all-inclusive, but it should answer some questions. Over the coming weeks, I’ll try to develop posts for each of the 8 suggestions. If you have questions, please list them in the comment section. Authors, post your suggestions as well. Was there any 1 thing you really wish you had known before you started on your indie journey?
Thanks for stopping.