I’m writing this because one of the people who invited me for a blog tour asked how to do it and I thought I never really corralled all the information on one page, including links to stuff you’ll need, and if I was going to write something that comprehensive I’d make it a blog post.
First I’ll give a general view on why I went indie and why I think it could be right for people.
We’ll start with the definition of terms: indie is either micro/small/medium but recent and “doesn’t own a paper books division” house OR doing it yourself which can be technically self-published or not.
So why should you do that over traditional?
Well, I’m not saying you should. Not all of you. If you have contacts at a publishing house; if you have the type of profile that might interest them (yes, YOU not your book – a profile that interest them at least in my experience is defined as young [you are or look under 35], and with something “piquant” about you, ie what they call a “platform” only since they have zero clue about what a platform means, they apply it to BOTH having a very well attended blog [this one might be on the EDGE of qualifying] or to having an “interesting” personal life story or interesting characteristics. In both of the later cases, to give you the facts bluntly, what they mean is “politically correct.); if you live close enough to New York City to attend the various meet and greets or cons they attend and make personal contact; if you are patient enough and don’t mind the inevitable groveling in front of people who might or might not deserve it, you should go traditional. Just read your contract carefully and have an IP lawyer look at it before you sign. Another exception is if you’re writing Baen sort of stuff AND have time to wait (Baen can be slow) you should try there first. However even if you WANT Baen, going indie might be the best way to go there. (Look at Larry Correia.) When you come in and say “I sold 5k books on my own, Baen will jump you to the head of the line.
Wait! Isn’t there a stigma associated with going indie? Doesn’t it mean no one will ever publish you again? There can be. There are certain indie houses that have a bad reputation and/or whose writers are known to suck. So… before you submit to a house it’s a good idea to read some of their stuff. If you find it horrible, then they’re not giving you any advantage.
My caveat on going indie with a small press is this: the new micro/small epresses are very volatile. I am involved with one – NRP – and because our manpower is reduced and mostly part time, you can very easily have ALL of us from slush readers to webpage techs sidelined for months. If you decide to try one or more small presses, try them with only a portion of your output and not the most important part, at least to begin with.
Right now, frankly, the best route to both a lucrative career in indie and to traditional publishing is to self publish – though not technically self-publish – a book and have it do well. Your chances of this are especially high if you’re someone who’s been writing and underbedding books for the last ten years. (Underbedding totally is a word!)
If you do well enough you’ll be offered a contract, and if you’re doing massively well, they’ll offer you a million dollar contract. (And then you’ll have to watch them like a hawk, talk to an IP lawyer, and make some very tough calls.)
So, you’ve decided to self-publish. Why do I keep calling it not-technically?
Remember when I had to raise my prices because the customer perception had become that 99c to 2.99 was trash, since that’s where beginning indies congregate? (And I find that annoying, since I think 99c to 2.99 is just right for a “snack” to make you perk up in this economy. BUT I’m er… frugal.)
Well, there is a similar perception with publishing. For the public, if your book doesn’t have a publisher, then they look askance at it. There is a certain justification, since that’s what the bottom-grade, just-beginning indies turn to do.
So, first you form a company. It doesn’t need to be anything very fancy. A DBA will do – you’ll need to look at your state, to find out what you need to do for that. Some states have you register with the secretary of state. In others, all you need is a bank account in that name.
But please don’t call them “books by me” or “my name books.” If your name is Smith and you call it Smith Press you just lost all the customers who are trying to eliminate self-pub.
Call it something you find good or representative of your work. Mine is Goldport Press, after the imaginary Colorado town where I set a lot of books. My husband’s (which he hasn’t done much with yet) is Mankind ink press. My son’s is Tilted Fedora Enterprises. I think Pam’s is Iron Ax press – Right? – I know Stephanie’s is Chromosphere. Just go for it.
Okay, now that’s out of the way. Where do you put your books up?
Right now my stuff is at Barnes and noble, smashwords and Amazon. I need to put it in Kobo in my copious spare time. Of the three it’s at, Amazon is the best payer month to month, but Smashwords is starting to catch up (takes about 6 months, I hear, because of the affiliates paying.) Barnes and Noble wouldn’t be worth my time, except that it’s easy to put stuff up in it, so why not. Also I hear some people whose biggest payday is Barnes and Noble. No, I have no idea what I’m doing wrong. Probably tags. (More on that later.)
There might be a call to put stuff up first on Amazon and under their prime program for the first three months. (I normally do it.)
Okay, so now you want to put stuff up. Right. First, make an account for your press with all the services you intend to use. If your book is even VAGUELY romance, use allromance.com as well. I hear their payday is also very high.
How to do it… there are several books floating around with stuff like “How to format your book for the kindle.” Also, if you know or have a friend who knows how to code html, you have everything you need, because what all services take – except Smashwords, who takes Word files – is html code.
The way I was taught to do it, which I now call “the brute force method” is to save the word file as a filtered html file, then take the two files resulting, zip them together and use that.
My early published stories will need to be fixed, and some of them look rough or the program resurrected the original font it was written in – courier, years ago – all spidery and odd. Or other codes were activated.
What I do now is clean it up in word (using see codes,) get rid of the space between paragraphs which is my code bête noir, then bring it up in sigil and save it in ebook format, which I can then upload. After I upload it I download the preview, because sometimes Sigil lies and there are things I didn’t see.
Amanda Green did a quick workshop on how to do it over at Mad Genius Club. It think it’s nine posts. Search on the title.
Of course, before you do this, you should have your book proofread. You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars doing this – I’m sure the people who do this for a living among my readers will chime up in the comments –but you don’t have to. Proofreading yourself is kind of like being your own lawyer. If you proofread yourself you have a fool for a proofreader. BUT surely you have someone who normally proofread for you before you submitted to publishers. In my case, it was usually my husband, who is detail oriented.
If you don’t have anyone, then talk to someone else self-publishing and trade books. Unless you prefer to pay. There are people who’ll do it very reasonably.
You’re also going to need a cover – and again you can pay thousands of dollars. It might even be justified (rarely) to do so. Say your series started traditional published with a certain look, and you want to continue it.
However, remember that people will be looking at a thumbnail. It’s bigger in kindle fire, but it’s still not huge. So…
You can find images all over on line. My favorite source is dreamstime at least for short stories, because I can find DRAWN covers for like 2 or 3 dollars. Yes, other people might have the same cover, but how likely is it they’ll use it for the same type of story at the same time?
There’s also everystockphoto and a few other free sites. Be sure to read all the rights you get VERY carefully. In fact, go ahead and read The Copyright Handbook to make sure you’re within the law.
For novels I plan to enslave my son and to bargain with Travis Lee Clark, depending on what type it is (Robert does well with the more cartoonish ones. Oh, and stop cringing, I’ll PAY him. He has college textbooks to pay for, poor kid.) I just haven’t brought novels out indie, yet.
Oh, yeah, your book will need a copyright disclaimer at the front (go and look at some published book for the template.) And for ISBNS and other confusions (or I’ll be here forever) go and read Dean Wesley Smith’s New World Of Publishing and Think Like A Publisher.
When you put the book up, they’ll want you to “tag” it – that is add tags that help people find it. I’m lousy at this, and the best I can do is bug Amanda to do a post on it. I’m taking a workshop on it online with Dean Wesley Smith next month (if I remembered to book, which is not guaranteed.) Tag is where you put things like “crime” “pre 1900” but there’s apparently a way to game it. I just don’t get it.
Other than tags, the best way to sell your book that I’ve found is this: Have more than one book. At the end of one book, put the beginning of the other – ten pages or so — and a link to buy it from wherever they bought this one. (This means you have to change it in the file from Amazon to Kobo to B & N, etc, before you put it up. It’s easy.) Then when you first put the book up, do it in the Prime program at Amazon – that means you can’t have it anywhere else while it’s active, so you don’t want to KEEP it there – for the three months required. Bring two books out. Take the first free for a week. Bring the third out. Take the second free for a week. Bring the fourth out – if you’re doing it once a month, the first will have rolled off and you can now put it in other distributors.
Pricing – I’d start at 2.99 then price according to length and reading experience. I try not to have anything over 10k words for under 3.99 because people have threatened to come to my house and beat me. Novels will probably start at 4.99. This doesn’t prevent taking a book on sale (and put that on the description) for a month or so, when another in the series comes out. I hear that works well.
If you caught the drift on “series” – yeah. series or even just multiple books sell better. Fortunately smaller works do well in electronic. What that means is that if you’ve got a 100k novel that can be logically broken into two, you’d do better with it that way. (Darkship Thieves can logically be broken into three, for instance. Of course, it’s traditional, so it doesn’t matter.) And even short stories can be series.
I have a colleague who says she’s also done well with Project Wonderful ads.
I haven’t tried those, really, not for indie. So…
You put something up, haven’t taken it free and no one has bought it, yet. Well, takes time for people to discover it. Stop worrying about it, and start putting stuff up. Particularly if you joggle it by taking it free now and then, it will sell.
But… when will you get rich?
Well… you might. Or you might not. What I can promise is that the more ebooks you have up, the more you make. Right now my income from all sources is pegged at about $100 a month, but then all I have are short stories, and I’m very bad about putting stuff up (which is on the slate for this afternoon.)
What seems to be true is that at least with novels, income continues. So even if all you’re making per month, with ten novels there, is $500, you’ll be doing that for a very long time. Think about it: under the bed they make you nothing.
And as with publishing, there’s a chance lightening will hit. (When I find how to can it, I’ll share.)
And now, go work and let me get caffeine in me (I wish I could get it IV) and I’ll go work too.