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Thread: Self-publishing - My story

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Calder's Avatar
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    Self-publishing - My story

    I spent a quite few months writing my first novel - at least, the first one I thought may be worth other people reading - and even longer editing and "finishing" it. Then I was faced with a dilemma: to attempt to go down the traditional "Trade" publishing route - author/queries/agent/publisher - or to self-publish.

    My research indicated a few points:
    1. Around half a million works of fiction are published each year, a minority by Trade publishers.
    2. The chances of getting an agent to take you on are infinitesimal - especially since, increasingly, many agents and publishers tend to be looking for the "next big thing" in a particular genre - i.e. something very similar to what's gone before. For me "formulaic" is a pejorative term.
    3. If you are taken on by a "proper" publisher, they will assign you an editor, who will do his/her best to mould your manuscript into something more acceptable in the current marketplace. This may be some way removed from your deeply-held convictions concerning what your novel should be and do.
    4. Self-publishing is growing, both in electronic and "paper" form.

    Accordingly I decided to follow the self-publishing route.

    Let me say from the start, it can be scary. You and you alone are responsible for everything concerned with your book - from cover art to content. You can, of course, employ professional proofreaders and cover-designers, but if, like me, you feel you've invested enough in terms of the time spent writing and editing and proofing your manuscript already, you may baulk at spending quite an amount on such services - especially since, as a self-publishing author, you have absolutely no guarantee that you'll ever recover those costs.

    For some reason, I've always wanted to see my name on the front of a book I'd written, so, my first port of call was FeedARead - I'm UK based, as are they. I found them to be helpful, but incredibly slow.
    Next came Amazon KDP. The set-up and submission was fairly straightforward and quite speedy. I chose not to opt for Kindle Select, as I was also publishing the eBook via Smashwords, with its multi-retailer outlets.
    My aim isn't to make money - apart from covering a few costs - but to get my book read by as many people as possible and to learn what they think of it.

    Equalising the pricing between Smashword outlets and Amazon was a bit of a nightmare, but a little perseverance got me there in the end.

    Of course, when I received/bought my first proof copy of the paperback from FeedARead, it wasn't long before I discovered a typo - even after over thirty passes of the completed MS. Sh*t! After several more detailed and thorough passes, I was sure that one word was the only error, but I had to correct it. Revising an already published book on FeedARead costs, but I happily paid for the revision. I wanted the book to be right.

    After two weeks, I was still waiting to order a second proof of the revised book from FeedARead. It was then I discovered that KDP also publish print-on-demand paperbacks.
    It took me less than two hours to prepare, format and submit my MS and cover. As of writing this, I'm awaiting confirmation that the paperback is available on Amazon, alongside the eBook version.

    One thing I would advise anyone who is considering print-on-demand publishing is to think carefully about your trim-size. For example, with "The Janus Enigma", a 5"x8" paperback had 426 pages. This pushed up the printing costs and meant a minimum price on Amazon of $8.99. By moving to a 6"x9" format, the page count reduced to 328 and the minimum retail price came down to $7.99 - albeit with a royalty of only a few cents per copy. The one drawback I can see so far with KDP paperbacks is that they don't allow authors to purchase cut-price copies. For them, the price is the price. On the other hand, FeedARead, though much slower than KDP, do offer cut-price author copies - better for promos, giveaways etc.

    Am I happy I went down the self-publishing route? Absolutely. Okay, I don't have the Marketing Division of a big publisher behind me, but I'm happy to leave that to those who want to build themselves a writing-career, to make a living from what they create. I wish them all the luck in the world - and will probably buy their books. For me, I've already had two highly successful careers. I'm a bit long in the tooth to embark on a third. It's not about money, or fame, or anything except seeing my name at the front of something I've created, something that is entirely "of mine own." Of course, I couldn't resist publishing it in some form, or another. I need to know what other people who read it think of it. That's only natural. If people like it - Huzzah! If not - nobody dies and my life goes on - it's a very comfortable and pleasant life, so I'm more than content.
    Last edited by Calder; 10-11-2017 at 07:36 PM.
    “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”
    Robert A. Heinlein.


    "The Janus Enigma". My website My blog


    wip: "The Janus Contract"


  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW
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    Congrats!

    In terms of the author copies through KDP Print. It sounds like that may be available in the next few months. I think they posted about it in their forums. I've stuck with CreateSpace, which is also Amazon-owned, for that very reason. I wanted to order proof copies before the book was available for sale and to be able to order author copies for conventions or giveaways. (And it's free to set up and update books.)

  3. #3
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Congratulations on writing, finishing and publishing. It's a huge effort and I wish you lots of success
    Quote Originally Posted by Calder View Post

    My research indicated a few points:
    1. Around half a million works of fiction are published each year, a minority by Trade publishers.
    2. The chances of getting an agent to take you on are infinitesimal - especially since, increasingly, many agents and publishers tend to be looking for the "next big thing" in a particular genre - i.e. something very similar to what's gone before. For me "formulaic" is a pejorative term.
    3. If you are taken on by a "proper" publisher, they will assign you an editor, who will do his/her best to mould your manuscript into something more acceptable in the current marketplace. This may be some way removed from your deeply-held convictions concerning what your novel should be and do.
    4. Self-publishing is growing, both in electronic and "paper" form.
    Your second and third points are incorrect, though.

    Your fourth point is probably true, but it doesn't need to be buoyed up with a bunch of inaccuracies. It can stand on its own.
    Last edited by mccardey; 10-12-2017 at 12:44 AM.

  4. #4
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calder View Post
    I spent a quite few months writing my first novel - at least, the first one I thought may be worth other people reading - and even longer editing and "finishing" it. Then I was faced with a dilemma: to attempt to go down the traditional "Trade" publishing route - author/queries/agent/publisher - or to self-publish.

    My research indicated a few points:
    1. Around half a million works of fiction are published each year, a minority by Trade publishers.
    Is that figure for the UK, or the US, or worldwide? What's your source? How reliable is it? (I ask these questions because the number doesn't seem right to me, but I'm happy to be proved wrong.)

    2. The chances of getting an agent to take you on are infinitesimal - especially since, increasingly, many agents and publishers tend to be looking for the "next big thing" in a particular genre - i.e. something very similar to what's gone before. For me "formulaic" is a pejorative term.
    Most books which are submitted have no chance at all of ever interesting a reputable agent or publisher. A few books have very good odds. The odds are different for every book written, so your first clause is just wrong.

    Agents and publishers are always looking for good books. Not just the next big thing, but the next quite big thing, and the next competent seller.

    You're right that formulaic is a pejorative term: but as few agents and publishers are looking for formulaic books I'm not sure why you mention it.

    3. If you are taken on by a "proper" publisher, they will assign you an editor, who will do his/her best to mould your manuscript into something more acceptable in the current marketplace. This may be some way removed from your deeply-held convictions concerning what your novel should be and do.
    You're repeating a myth which has been used to unfairly discredit publishers for years. You can be better than this.

    Yes, a good trade publisher will expect you to work with an agent. But the idea that the agent is going to mould your book into something it's not is ridiculous. Publishers get hundreds of submissions each week. Why would they sign books which aren't what they want and then go to all the trouble of "moulding" them, when they can just sign the books which are right for them to start off with?

    4. Self-publishing is growing, both in electronic and "paper" form.

    Accordingly I decided to follow the self-publishing route.
    Yes, self publishing has been growing over the last decade. But if this is your reasoning, you've based your decision to self publish on fallacies.

    Let me say from the start, it can be scary. You and you alone are responsible for everything concerned with your book - from cover art to content. You can, of course, employ professional proofreaders and cover-designers, but if, like me, you feel you've invested enough in terms of the time spent writing and editing and proofing your manuscript already, you may baulk at spending quite an amount on such services - especially since, as a self-publishing author, you have absolutely no guarantee that you'll ever recover those costs.
    I used to review self published books. The majority of the ones submitted to me were very poorly edited, I'm afraid.

    For some reason, I've always wanted to see my name on the front of a book I'd written, so, my first port of call was FeedARead - I'm UK based, as are they. I found them to be helpful, but incredibly slow.
    FeedARead was the new incarnation of YouWriteOn. Both publishing schemes were vanity publishing, with no distribution, marketing or expertise. I'm sorry you got caught by them.

    Of course, when I received/bought my first proof copy of the paperback from FeedARead, it wasn't long before I discovered a typo - even after over thirty passes of the completed MS. Sh*t! After several more detailed and thorough passes, I was sure that one word was the only error, but I had to correct it. Revising an already published book on FeedARead costs, but I happily paid for the revision. I wanted the book to be right.
    What were you saying earlier about not having to edit your book?

    After two weeks, I was still waiting to order a second proof of the revised book from FeedARead. It was then I discovered that KDP also publish print-on-demand paperbacks.
    It took me less than two hours to prepare, format and submit my MS and cover. As of writing this, I'm awaiting confirmation that the paperback is available on Amazon, alongside the eBook version.

    One thing I would advise anyone who is considering print-on-demand publishing is to think carefully about your trim-size. For example, with "The Janus Enigma", a 5"x8" paperback had 426 pages. This pushed up the printing costs and meant a minimum price on Amazon of $8.99. By moving to a 6"x9" format, the page count reduced to 328 and the minimum retail price came down to $7.99 - albeit with a royalty of only a few cents per copy. The one drawback I can see so far with KDP paperbacks is that they don't allow authors to purchase cut-price copies. For them, the price is the price. On the other hand, FeedARead, though much slower than KDP, do offer cut-price author copies - better for promos, giveaways etc.

    Am I happy I went down the self-publishing route? Absolutely. Okay, I don't have the Marketing Division of a big publisher behind me, but I'm happy to leave that to those who want to build themselves a writing-career, to make a living from what they create. I wish them all the luck in the world - and will probably buy their books. For me, I've already had two highly successful careers. I'm a bit long in the tooth to embark on a third. It's not about money, or fame, or anything except seeing my name at the front of something I've created, something that is entirely "of mine own." Of course, I couldn't resist publishing it in some form, or another. I need to know what other people who read it think of it. That's only natural. If people like it - Huzzah! If not - nobody dies and my life goes on - it's a very comfortable and pleasant life, so I'm more than content.
    If you want people to read your books you have to get those books in front of those people--which is where marketing comes in. I hope your books do well, though.

  5. #5
    Livin' la vida biblia ASeiple's Avatar
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    Welcome aboard!

    It sounds like you're comfy taking the low pressure route, and aren't looking to try to get rich from this. That's a healthy attitude to have, and it'll serve you well.

    The best advice I can give is simple; find ways to keep it fun, go at your own pace, and own your mistakes. Don't get snappy when people point out errors, go and fix them. Have patience with every step of the way! This is a marathon, not a sprint.

    Keep writing! I look forward to reading your work, someday!
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  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW Calder's Avatar
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    "Is that figure for the UK, or the US, or worldwide? What's your source? How reliable is it?"

    In 2013, the IPA reported that over 522,000 new titles and re-issues had been published in the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand alone.
    An article in Forbes by Nick Morgan (again 2013) quoted a figure of between 600,000 and 1 million new publications in the US alone.
    In 2015, Berrett-Koehler put the figure at "over a million"
    In September 2016, Bowker reported that they had issued 727,125 ISBNs for self-published books. They didn't release a figure for traditionally published books.
    I think it's safe to assume that, nowadays, the number of books published each year, through all outlets, is around the 1 million mark.
    In 2015, AuthorEarnings put the split in sales between non-fiction and fiction (both adult and YA and from all sources) at a ratio of around 2:3 - i.e for every $1 million dollars spent, $400k goes on non-fiction and $600k on fiction.
    It's dangerous to apply such a split and claim total accuracy, but from an output of around 1 million books per annum, it would mean 600,000 of them were fiction. Therefore, I played safe in stating a lesser number of "around 500,000".

    I have absolutely no intention, or desire to "discredit" publishers. As I hope I made clear, I wish those who seek to pursue "traditional" publishing every success in the world, even though I personally believe that in the vast majority of cases their ambition will never be realised. As far as editors and editing are concerned, I may be fortunate in that I spent over thirty years of my working life as a journalist and editor. We all make a slip from time to time and it was a case of a single misspelled word (I inadvertently used a synonym) out of 106,000+, which even those who read the book prior to publication missed.

    In conclusion, I'm afraid I must differ with you about FeedARead, which publishes hard-copy books, and YouWriteOn, which, as far as I can make out, is mainly a peer critique forum. Both are part-funded by the UK Arts Council, a reputable body which, between 2015 and 2017, disbursed £1.8 billion in grants and funding to the arts. I have no experience of YouWriteOn, but, as far as FeedARead is concerned, every definition of "Vanity Publishing" involves the concept of payment by the author to publish their work. FeedARead is a free publishing service, just like the more recent KDP paperback option and any number of eBook outlets. Naturally, you pay for the books, just like everyone else, but, unlike Amazon KDP, at a reduced rate for the author.As far as distribution is concerned, FeedARead make your book available through themselves at no cost and they offer an optional service, admittedly at an annual fee ( around £88 - $116), which puts your book in the catalogues of most major US and UK booksellers, on a to-order basis.Like Amazon, FeedARead make it clear from the start that marketing your book is down to you, as is formatting, editing, cover-art etc.The only "expertise" such an enterprise requires, therefore, is in getting your words on to paper and between covers as you specify, which, in my experience, they do very well.
    Thank you for your good wishes.
    Last edited by Calder; 10-13-2017 at 05:27 AM.
    “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”
    Robert A. Heinlein.


    "The Janus Enigma". My website My blog


    wip: "The Janus Contract"


  7. #7
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calder View Post
    "Is that figure for the UK, or the US, or worldwide? What's your source? How reliable is it?"

    In 2013, the IPA reported that over 522,000 new titles and re-issues had been published in the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand alone.
    An article in Forbes by Nick Morgan (again 2013) quoted a figure of between 600,000 and 1 million new publications in the US alone.
    In 2015, Berrett-Koehler put the figure at "over a million"
    In September 2016, Bowker reported that they had issued 727,125 ISBNs for self-published books. They didn't release a figure for traditionally published books.
    I think it's safe to assume that, nowadays, the number of books published each year, through all outlets, is around the 1 million mark.
    In 2015, AuthorEarnings put the split in sales between non-fiction and fiction (both adult and YA and from all sources) at a ratio of around 2:3 - i.e for every $1 million dollars spent, $400k goes on non-fiction and $600k on fiction.
    It's dangerous to apply such a split and claim total accuracy, but from an output of around 1 million books per annum, it would mean 600,000 of them were fiction. Therefore, I played safe in stating a lesser number of "around 500,000".
    Thank you for the background. But note that you haven't included citations for any of that, which would have helped.

    I think you're extrapolating too much from these figures, and are making too many wild assumptions for your conclusions to be accurate. And please don't rely on the AuthorEarnings report for anything more than a fun half-hour: the data they collect is not representative of the whole, as it's based on a self-selecting model; they make assumptions based on things they'd like to be true, rather than on things the data show; and they're compiled by someone who has always been very negative towards trade publishing, and who has repeatedly shown himself to be a stranger to logic and reason.

    I have absolutely no intention, or desire to "discredit" publishers. As I hope I made clear, I wish those who seek to pursue "traditional" publishing every success in the world, even though I personally believe that in the vast majority of cases their ambition will never be realised. As far as editors and editing are concerned, I may be fortunate in that I spent over thirty years of my working life as a journalist and editor. We all make a slip from time to time and it was a case of a single misspelled word (I inadvertently used a synonym) out of 106,000+, which even those who read the book prior to publication missed.
    It's trade publishing, not traditional. Please read the guidelines for this room before you post here again.

    I'm glad you don't want to discredit trade publishing. But I didn't ever suggest you did: I pointed out that you were perpetuating a myth which was created to discredit trade publishers. If you stick to the facts you'll be fine--as you should know, with your thirty years' experience.

    In conclusion, I'm afraid I must differ with you about FeedARead, which publishes hard-copy books, and YouWriteOn, which, as far as I can make out, is mainly a peer critique forum. Both are part-funded by the UK Arts Council, a reputable body which, between 2015 and 2017, disbursed £1.8 billion in grants and funding to the arts. I have no experience of YouWriteOn, but, as far as FeedARead is concerned, every definition of "Vanity Publishing" involves the concept of payment by the author to publish their work. FeedARead is a free publishing service, just like the more recent KDP paperback option and any number of eBook outlets. Naturally, you pay for the books, just like everyone else, but, unlike Amazon KDP, at a reduced rate for the author.As far as distribution is concerned, FeedARead make your book available through themselves at no cost and they offer an optional service, admittedly at an annual fee ( around £88 - $116), which puts your book in the catalogues of most major US and UK booksellers, on a to-order basis.Like Amazon, FeedARead make it clear from the start that marketing your book is down to you, as is formatting, editing, cover-art etc.The only "expertise" such an enterprise requires, therefore, is in getting your words on to paper and between covers as you specify, which, in my experience, they do very well.
    Thank you for your good wishes.
    I know all about FeedARead and YouWriteOn. They were both vanity publishers despite the Arts Council funding they received. As you have said they charge writers for their services and as they make most of their money from the authors they publish rather than from the sale of their books, they are vanity publishers--and pretty exploitative and incompetent ones too. Note that the payment to get your books into catalogues is worthless, for various reasons, but they still take the money. But this isn't the place to debate FAR or YWO: we have a whole long thread about them in our Bewares room, here:

    YouWriteOn.com / New Generation Publishing / Legend Press

    Happy reading.

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