1. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fancy watching me screw up self-publishing?

    Discussion in 'Self-Publishing' started by NigeTheHat, Feb 7, 2014.

    I thought this might be fun.

    For a while, I've been writing flash fiction. 100 words each, a couple every week. I've got just over 200 now, and I've decided to self-publish them.

    And I've seen a few people here mention that they'd be interested in knowing what the real costs are of self-publishing and how the process works.

    So I figured, why not tell you?

    I don't really know what the process is going to be myself as yet. I'm not starting from absolute 0 - I've looked into it a bit already - but I'm still very much learning as I go here.

    I know what I want - initially a Kindle book of probably 50 or so, then I'd like a print book of 150-175. Not sure how realistic that is, but we'll find out.

    And I don't want this to be a hacked-together job. I want it to be professional. Illustrations, a nice cover, the works. I'm aware this'll likely involve spending money.

    But I'll use this thread to update y'all on what I've done and how I've done it - where I find images, how I go about marketing, where I get a cover and the rest.

    And yes, I'll tell you how much it all cost and how much I get back.

    This isn't entirely altruistic. I'm not very good at following through on plans, so making a public commitment here will help to keep me honest.

    (Which is, in fact, exactly the same way I started writing the flash fiction. One a day for NaNoWriMo in my Facebook feed - if I'd kept it to myself I doubt I would have made it past Nov 6th)

    So this way I've got more incentive to actually get this stuff out there, and not spend a couple of hours looking at cover designers and then get distracted by shiny things.

    And you lot get to watch me make an idiot of myself, as well as all the numbers.

    Questions, advice and mockery are wholeheartedly encouraged.

    It'll be educational.
     
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  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm really interested in knowing the cost and profit because I've never heard of a self-published collection of flash fiction being marketed before. Good luck!
     
  3. yagr
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    yagr Contributing Member

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    Since you asked for feedback...

    Want wisdom? Make a new mistake.
    Congratulations on your success. You know, the fact that you've wrote enough to self-publish even though it was hard to keep going and not quit. Not to mention the fact that you're afraid that you're going to crash and burn and you're doing it anyway in spite of the fear. That's more success than most projects get.
     
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  4. Patra Felino
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    Patra Felino Active Member

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    Great idea. Healthy upside to downside ratio if you count wisdom accrued. In my personal, non-legally-binding opinion of course.
     
  5. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cheers all. The experience should be worth it regardless of how it all shakes out.

    @thirdwind - if I'm honest, I'm not expecting to make any kind of profit on this. I don't honestly think there's enough of a market for flash, but it's what I've got and it sounds like fun. And with any luck, the results I get here will help people with books that are a bit more marketable.

    Anyhow, day 1 update: I've been making a list of the things I might need. I've come up with:

    Editor - probably not. Given it's a flash collection rather than a novel, I think I trust myself to edit to a decent standard.

    Typesetting - currently I'm thinking I'll do this myself. There's certainly people out there who can do this, but right now, for Kindle at least, it doesn't look too complicated and something you can do in Word rather than needing InDesign or similar. Having spent several years in the past beating Word into submission, I think I can have a crack at this.

    Illustrations - I don't need these, but I do really really want them. I'm talking to a friend - henceforth known as The Archaeologist - who drew this for me some time ago: https://www.dropbox.com/s/a114cjhlr3dk740/Calliope.jpg

    That's a character from a longer piece I wrote. I think her style is great and with any luck she'll be able to do some more. This won't be free since I fully intend to pay her for the work, but I'm not sure how much she'll want yet. If this falls through I'll probably start scouring deviantArt for options.

    Cover - @aClem mentioned this place in another thread: www.designcrowd.com It looks like a good option, but I want to see if I can find any individual designers that look good and aren't too extortionate. This is definitely something I want to outsource rather than do myself. I've got a copy of Pixelmator but my design skills are non-existent.

    That covers product.

    Now, marketing. This is the trickier one.

    Here's what I've got so far - a (very) small e-mail list of people who signed up to get the stories sent to them, and a Facebook page which has been running for a while. The page has 974 likes at time of writing, but that's nowhere near as good as it sounds. Facebook only shows each post to about 70 people unless I pay to promote them. Still, for $5-10 I can probably reach the lot, and that's not much for about 1000 people who are fairly likely to be interested.

    In theory I've also got a Twitter feed, but I barely ever remember to update it, and hence it's only got something like 8 followers.

    I'd definitely like more of an audience before launch day. This means:

    • Finding bloggers, reviewers and other people with an audience who might be interested. That's a job for the next couple of days.
    • Actually remembering to use the damn Twitter feed and being more proactive about interacting with people
    • Keeping the stories going - I don't intend to be doing them as regularly, but I should be putting out at least one every week

    I also want an advertising plan post-launch, but I think that's going to depend on whether I do Kindle, Kindle and print, Kindle then print or whatever, so I'd best decide that soon too.

    So, on my immediate to-do list:

    1. Hunt out bloggers, reviewers and good avenues for promotion
    2. Research print-on-demand companies. Createspace is the obvious one, but there must be others worth looking into.

    Holy hell this could get complicated.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is an interesting foray into realms that are known unknowns to many of us. I like the idea of this experiment and the information it may glean so much that I am stickying your thread. Do please keep at it and keep us abreast of your venture. ;)
     
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  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm by no means an expert in marketing, so bear that in mind, but when looking at blogs, I wouldn't look just at "review blogs", but at those that discuss travel, for example. If I'm going to be in an airplane for 2-3 hours, a book of flash fiction might be a nice way to pass the time. Ditto people who use commuter trains.

    I say this only because I'm one of those readers who rarely - if ever - look at reviews or review sites. But I have found some really good books (and yes, fiction included) when reading blogs/articles about things that affect my daily life. I think authors sometimes limit their sales when they forget their audience in favor of review sites.
     
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  8. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I'd be okay with blogging about your upcoming release. It's been a couple of months since I updated my blog, but people still follow it and check up regularly. Let me know if you're interested. And hope your publishing goes well! :)

    Just message me if you want the website.
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's a great point. I hadn't thought about it, but of course it's true. I nearly always find reading material linked to subjects I'm interested in. Great idea.
     
  10. Passero
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    Passero Member

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    When it comes to art, you should look at deviantART. There is a lot of great work available. Just send the creator a message asking for approval. Give them a copy of your book and they probably will be honored.
     
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  11. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Wreybies - I am honoured by this opportunity to have my almost-certain crash and burn remain as a warning to the others :D

    I second @jannert. That's a brilliant idea. I'll add travel bloggers to the list and see if I can think up anything else along those lines.

    @Thomas Kitchen - thank you, I'll take you up on that once I know what my marketing plan looks like. Happy to give you a link from the blog/Facebook page too, if you like.

    @Passero - DeviantArt's definitely on my hit-list. How many illustrations I need will likely depend on what I can get out of The Archaeologist, but I'll definitely be looking for a cover artist.
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm sure there's a market out there. It's just a matter of finding it. Flash fiction is great because it's a quick read, and most people seem to like that.

    By the way, are the stories you're going to publish the same as the stories on your website?
     
  13. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep. I might add one of my longer pieces as well (2000 words, EPIC) as an incentive for the people who've already read them, but I figure there's several million people who might be interested and I've got an existing audience of at most 1000, so I don't need to worry too much about saturation.
     
  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Um, don't you think it might be a dis-incentive for people to pay for something you have posted on your blog (free reading)? Even if you include one new piece?
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I was going to say the same thing shadowwalker said. You may want to consider writing new pieces for this.
     
  16. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    I've bought trade-published books which were just a tidied-up collection of blog posts. Konrath used to have many of his books available to download free from his web site, and may still do.

    Many of us will pay a few dollars for the convenience of having a web site in an e-book or paperback. But note that it does prevent you from using KDP Select, if you intend to, which doesn't even allow excerpts from those books on other sites.
     
  17. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    To some, yes. To all, no.

    Realistically, most people who see the book won't have the first clue the blog's there. Even if they do, then as @Edward M. Grant said, there's still value in the convenience of the format. I own a ton of webcomic books, all the contents of which are available for free online.
     
  18. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Realistically, people do look up authors on the 'net. I might buy something in a more "convenient" format if I already knew it was available free, but I'd feel a bit differently if I paid out good money only to find out after the fact I could've gotten it free - particularly if the author "lied by omission". If you intend to sell what you're already giving away, I'd make sure possible purchasers know that. After all, I'm assuming you want people to purchase your next book as well, and having people feeling cheated isn't really the way to achieve that.
     
  19. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not intending to hide the fact the stories are already around for free - if anything, the fact they've had a pretty good reception so far should be a decent selling point.

    Also, new update:

    I'd planned on putting up a comparison of the various POD publishers I've been looking at, but I'm still in the middle of writing it up. However, while I was doing that I got sidetracked onto ISBNs, and that threw up a couple of points anyone thinking of doing this ought to know:

    ISBN point #1: POD publishers like CreateSpace will give you free ISBNs – but if you take them, then they are the official publisher. This might not matter overmuch in the general scheme of things, but it means your distribution options are limited to what they’re happy to do. With CreateSpace, for instance, it means you're limited to selling through Amazon.

    If you want to try selling your book on your own website as well as through Amazon, or have a crack at getting it into bookstores, then tough luck.

    There’s a blog post about it here:

    http://writenonfictionnow.com/should-you-buy-your-own-isbn-when-you-self-publish/

    Some of the examples she uses as ‘cases you’d wish you had your own ISBN’ seem… of marginal likelihood, to say the least. Still, half the reason I’m doing this is because I think it’ll be fun to try some creative marketing plans (which I’ll work out at some point soon honest shut up), and I don’t really want to be limited to selling through Amazon when I do, so I think I'm going to buy my own. Each country seems to have its own official ISBN-issuing agency - in the US, it's Bowker, in the UK, it's Nielsen.

    ISBN point #2: Sweet Mary Hellfire are they expensive. The UK agency will sell a batch of 10 for £132 – and if you’re in the US you get an even worse deal. 1 for $125 or 10 for $250, anyone?

    Here’s the order form, where you can see UK prices:

    http://www.isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk/uploads/4038_ISBN_Application_Form_DEC13.pdf

    That’s the first major cost of this project, then.

    I’ll be keeping a running tally of costs and post it here every couple of weeks or so, so we can all keep track of just how much it takes to bring this to market.
     
  20. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    In which I witter about POD companies and offer to buy a book from one of you

    So, I got a bit distracted here.

    For the eBook, I’ll be going via Kindle and Smashwords. There’s loads of companies that offer their own eBook marketplaces now, but with Smashwords’ distribution and Amazon’s market share, frankly that part feels like a solved problem.

    Since I plan on doing or buying in most of the work myself, I wasn’t after a managed services pack, and that basically turned the field into either CreateSpace or Lulu.

    But then I thought… why not go straight to the source?

    Both CreateSpace and Lulu use Lightning Source for their printing (in the UK, at least – not sure if that’s true in the US) and a chunk of their distribution. Despite what the website says, Lightning Source are these guys:

    https://www1.ingramspark.com/

    (lightningsource.com is set up to deal with larger publishers, the above is the micro-publisher website)

    So I could get the printing done direct from them, and sign up to be an Amazon seller, which would cost either $0.99/sale or $39.99/month.

    This would give me more flexibility, but it would create a load more admin.

    Short version: this is totally doable and if you’re planning on publishing several books it will, I think, give you a better deal than either CreateSpace or Lulu. But I won’t be doing it, because it’s more hassle and the extra royalties won’t be meaningful until you’re shifting a significant number of copies every month.

    There’s also a strong argument for using CreateSpace for Amazon and LS for bookshops, but there’s no reason I have to do it all at once.

    So when this collection inevitably turns into a Rowling-esque bestseller I’ll reconsider.

    Here’s some further reading, for all interested:

    http://www.newshelves.com/2013/03/28/why-you-need-lightning-source-and-createspace/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/terri-giuliano-long/self-publishing-platforms_b_2810092.html

    http://polishingyourprose.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/printing-at-lightning-source-vs-create-space-the-differences-are-remarkable/

    http://www.newselfpublishing.com/LightningSource.html


    Here’s how Createspace and Lulu stack up:

    Createspace

    You can pretty much set your own trim size – there are limits but they’re pretty generous.

    Paperback only.

    Distribution: Amazon (US and Europe), CreateSpace e-store, Ingram, ‘other online retailers’ which does include B&N, libraries (but only if you have a CreateSpace ISBN).

    1 perfect bound 6x9 black and white book with 200 pages = £4.41

    Lulu

    Wide variety of trim sizes.

    Able to do paperback and hardback.

    Distribution: Lulu’s own marketplace, Barnes and Noble, Amazon (US), Ingram.

    1 perfect bound 6x9 black and white book with 200 pages = £4.55
    1 hardcover casewrap 6x9 black and white book with 200 pages = £13.85


    CreateSpace has the edge, I think. Having a hardcover appeals to my vanity, but having the book available on Amazon’s European sites appeals more. I can always go to Lulu or Lightning Source for a hardcover version later.

    Before I make a final decision, I want to check the quality. A friend of mine just got published in a Createspace-made anthology called Fauxpocalypse, so I’ve ordered a copy of that. Anyone here published a Lulu paperback I can buy?
     
  21. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    Move to Canada: we get as many ISBNs as we want for free here :).
     
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  22. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    In which I am made aware of some problems with my to-do list

    I've been spending a bit of time playing with layouts and typography.

    The Archaeologist pointed out that if I wanted her to draw pictures, some idea of how much space she'd have to use would be nice. I hadn't even considered I'd need that yet, but of course she's absolutely right.

    This is what I've come up with:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/exssfyu7vl7m4vf/6x9%20page%20mockup.pdf

    I know I want to keep it simple, with no fancy fonts and plenty of whitespace. That may not be the final version, but I think it'll be reasonably close. The box shows page size against an A4 sheet, for comparison.

    I've also been working on my website. I don't want to wait until the books are published before I start marketing - I want to be collecting contact details of interested people, so I can let them know when it goes live.

    I already had a Wordpress site but it was a bit of a thrown-together job. So, I've bought the Thesis theme and spent the weekend pushing it into shape. I haven't done much editing from the basic theme, though it did involve a small amount of CSS hacking.

    It's not quite done, but it's certainly done enough. I think it looks reasonable and people can sign up to an e-mail list for instant stories and book news.

    Site here, criticism welcome:

    http://neilmurton.co.uk/

    I'm thinking of running some Project Wonderful ads on webcomic sites, since that seems a fairly close match to the flash-fiction style, and I might have a go with Facebook and Google ads as well. I'm also going to draw up a list of other short story bloggers to contact and see if I can contribute to their sites.

    I'll put together a list of all the costs so far tomorrow, and include stuff like the website which I already had, so you can see how much it'll cost to do all this if you're starting from 0.
     
  23. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Costs so far (some of these have been in pounds, some in dollars. I've converted them all into dollars to keep things simple):

    Web domain: $9.99/year - you can Wordpress blogs for free, but your own domain gives you more flexibility with plugins. In particular, I wanted to be able to collect e-mail addresses of people who liked reading my stories. I know now you don't actually need a paid domain to do that, but I didn't when I bought it.

    Thesis theme: $197 - I spent more than I needed to here, but Thesis has the advantage of being an all-in-one solution: it covers as much design as I need and all the SEO bases without my needing to find extra plugins to do everything, so I paid a bit more for convenience. You can get a single-site licence for $87, but as I'm planning on using it on business sites as well, I got the unlimited version.

    E-mail autoresponder: $19/month - I use Aweber for this. This one I wouldn't have bothered with if I didn't already have an account, but I use Aweber as part of my business, so the marginal cost was 0. Still, I said I'd share the costs of everything, so it's here too.

    ISBNs x10: $212.60 - I am jealous of people living in Canada.

    So that's already $409.60 plus some running costs, and I haven't got round to any actual production or marketing yet. This is certainly going to be a bit more expensive than I anticipated, though anyone following along at home certainly won't need to spend as much to get to the same point.
     
  24. AES256
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    AES256 New Member

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    I ditched Thesis for mine to go with something called X. For email and autoresponding, I went with Google for business. It's a gmail interface and runs through their servers. But it sends out email from your domain name. Though I used a dedicated service like campaign monitor.

    Wishing you the best of luck, mate.
     
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  25. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hadn't heard of X - it looks pretty good, though. How are you finding it?

    If I didn't already have an Aweber account I think I would have gone down the GfB route too, at least initially. That said, I quite like being able to schedule e-mails in advance so whether you're on the e-mail list, the Facebook page or RSS reader, you get the stories at the same time.

    And thanks :)
     

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