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  1. El_Scubadiver
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    El_Scubadiver New Member

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    Self-publishing as a serious alternative?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by El_Scubadiver, Aug 25, 2007.

    Hi there,

    I've self-published a book (a thriller called 'The Melting Pot') and wanted to:

    1. Share a bit about how I did it.
    2. Find out if anyone else is in a similar position / thinking about it?

    In the UK it's notoriously difficult to get a literary agent. I spent several years honing my submission material and getting nowhere. Eventually I decided that my work was good enough and self-published it. I didn't use a Print-On-Demand company as I found that even though there's little cost up front the cost of printing books one at a time ends up roughly three times that of doing a larger print run.
    I wrote a list of what needed doing and took my time. The main things were:
    - Got friends to proof read, then hired an professional editor (there's a society of registered copy editors and proof readers online)
    - Got an ISBN number (from Nielsen bookdata in the UK)
    - Chose font & layout / hired a typesetter (someone who knows how to use Adobe and put the edited manuscript into PDF format
    - Worked on a cover design with a graphic design friend
    - Found a local printers / agreed a print run of 2000.
    - Registered a copy with The British Library (legal requirement

    At every stage I made sure that the book looked as good as any sold by a big publisher - (Contrary to popular believe most people do judge books by their covers!) The books were delivered to my ware / house 2 months ago, and I've sold 10% so far - via Amazon (which is free to set up), viral marketing, blogging and direct to shops.

    It's very labour intensive and cost me over £3K all in, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it, slowly making progress and getting good reviews. Also, I think that if you believe in your work you shouldn't let agent indifference stop you.

    It strikes me that if anyone else is doing this we should read each other's work and possibly cross promote.

    What are your thoughts?

    Martin Cororan

    P.S. For anyone in the UK - check out my book on Amazon. Cheers.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    three thousand pounds?... you're clearly in a better financial position to do this than most new writers...
    so, how much did your 200 sales go for, per copy?... did they all sell at the listed price, or were they discounted, as i see happening to most on amazon?... if so, what was the original price and what are they selling for now?

    i'm glad to see you're happy with the path you took... it's surely not for everyone, but it's good that you're sharing the info that it's important to do it as well as possible, keeping the physical quality of the book itself as a top priority...

    best of luck with sales... hugs, maia
     
  3. El_Scubadiver
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    El_Scubadiver New Member

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    Hi,

    GP Taylor - the guy who wrote 'Shadowmancer,' sold his motorbike to pay for the self-publishing. I used some of my savings. Whilst it's a considerable amount of money for one person, it's a drop in the ocean compared to what publishing companies spend, and for me it's worth losing if it allows me to make a concerted effort at getting out there. As you say - it's not for everyone.

    I'm selling 'The Melting Pot' at full price in shops (I will sell at discount as soon as I can get a better deal with the wholesaler) and discounted on amazon / direct. I need to sell about 40% to break even, but at the moment I'm more concerned about getting the coverage.

    Cheers,

    Martin
     
  4. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    Self-publishing can be a serious option if you're serious about the option. :p It's not nearly as good as traditional publishing, but self-publishing can work. However, for every successful self-publisher out there there are thousands of unsuccessful ones.

    I'm glad that self-publishing for you, Martin, seems to be off to a good start. You've made quite an investment in it. Please keep us updating on how things progress.
     
  5. ForsytheTragedy
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    ForsytheTragedy New Member

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    Costs too much!

    Ack! I'm sad to hear that self-publishing took that much out of your pocket, as I would never be able to afford that at this time in my life. I'm not sure whether I'm fortunate or unfortunate to be naive in the publishing world, as I've never even attempting to have anything published by a publishing company. Is it really that cut-throat out there? I'm starting to wonder if self-publishing will turn out to be the only option I have. I suppose I'll never know until I try.

    Good luck with your book, Martin. I hope you are successful, not necessarily financially, but in fulfilling your dream.

    Take care and good luck again!
     
  6. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    I found a publisher for my first work without the services of an agent. I self-published the second via print-on-demand (total outlay from yours truly: £0.00).

    I wouldn't recommend self-publishing fiction.
     
  7. El_Scubadiver
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    El_Scubadiver New Member

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    This is true - Zero outlay is a huge pro for Print-On-Demand (POD).

    However, a huge con of POD is that it (normally) costs over £4 a copy to print one at a time (as opposed to less than £1:50 for bulk printing). With retail mark-up and postage most sites seem to sell them for £8:99. Compared to all the 3 for 2 offers kicking around the problem of no one knowing who you are is further compounded by your book being uncompetetively priced.

    The issue with self-publishing isn't the process of producing a finished article - it's the marketing afterwards - really tough without financial backing to blitz shops etc.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    excellent point and one that needed to be brought up, senor wet one...

    every time i see someone brag about how pod cost them nothing, i want to scream, 'sure, nothing up front, but what about the bleepingly ridiculous prices they charge you for the books?! and how much do you lose when you have to sell them for less than you paid, 'cause next to nobody's gonna buy an error-rife [due to lousy or no editing] pb for twice what a regular one costs?'
     
  9. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    You don't pay a ridiculous price for the book. You never pay for it at all.

    The customer pays $9.99. Lulu pocket about $7.50 for the printing plus their commission, leaving the writer with $2.49 gross profit per book.

    Because the book isn't printed until someone places an order, the writer never owns copies of the books (never has to store them, never has to sell them directly, probably never even sees them).

    Editing's important, of course! Find an editor--which doesn't mean your boyfriend or your mum or even your English teacher, it means a proper editor--who will work for a percentage of your $2.49 per copy. This is hard.

    You also need either (a) to learn to use a program like Quark Indesign to do the layout or (b) to pay someone to do a professional layout job, again for a percentage.

    You also need to pay the person who creates your cover art, again for a percentage.

    None of this is easy or simple and I don't want to minimise the difficulties involved. But, let's not get stuck with 20th century notions of what self-publishing is; the world's moved on since the days when self-published writers had to store five hundred copies of their paperback in their garage and sell them at weekends!
     
  10. jj3125
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    jj3125 Member

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    hmm... interesting... makes me wonder if its worth it... but at least its good to know there are other options out there.
     
  11. ForsytheTragedy
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    ForsytheTragedy New Member

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    Yeah, after all is said and done, it sounds like you'd struggle to make even a small profit! I guess it's a good way to get your name out there, but in the end, is all the work really worth it?
     
  12. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    Several answers.

    First, not everyone writes for money. Mammamaia doesn't. What makes it "worth it" for some people is to be read.

    For example, if you were the kind of person who distributes your material over the internet for free, then why not get Lulu to print it for you as well? Printed text is easier to read, and if it's something like a novel, then a Lulu book is cheaper for the reader than printing it. Particularly if they've got an inkjet printer.

    Second, not everyone writes mass market fiction.

    Imagine you're (say) a university professor. You're a leading expert in a very obscure field. After half a lifetime of research, you're ready to write your enormously complex and technical book. So you take a sabbatical, sit down and bash away at the keyboard, and a year later, your 400,000 word magnum opus entitled Recent Developments in High Temperature Fluid Dynamics is ready for publication.

    Who will buy this book?

    Some people, but not a lot. You're widely recognised in the small field of high temperature fluid dynamics, you're active on the e-groups and the messageboards, and people know who you are. You can put the book on the reading list for your graduate students, too, and you know of a few hydraulics companies that'll want copies for their R&D departments.

    You decide you'll probably sell five hundred copies. But you can charge $100 a book.

    For you, a publisher or a traditional offset printing house are about as much use as a chocolate teapot. You know the people who need this book. They know they need to buy it. Why the hell would you allow these middlemen to take a slice of your profits?

    In such a situation, print on demand makes an enormous amount of sense. Because instead of the traditional royalty of maybe 10%, our self-publishing professor is taking home $90 per book.

    It's a perfectly valid business model, just not for mass market fiction.
     
  13. poempedlar
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    poempedlar Senior Member

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    self publishing

    Hello there Martin, as you say self publishing is a good idea from many points of view and is in itself a wonderful experience. I have self published a book of poetry for children The Poem Pedlar and it doesn't half concentrate the mind to get the whole thing absolutely perfect. There is much advice given about self publishing but not a lot about self selling. Like you I trudged round the bookshops and sold quite a lot and even branched out into Australia and New Zealand. Now living in France, selling is a bit more difficult but I have still sold most of the books. For poetry I would suggest getting together with other authors and compiling an Anthology which split between you would reduce the cost. Also, several authors could get together and publish a book of short stories. My book was printed by ProPrint, Riverside cottage, Great North Road, Stibbington, Peterborough PE8 6LR and did not cost a fortune. There are book fairs all over the country where you can flog your work. I think the best idea is to get together with other authors and perhaps get a stall anywhere, even Car Boot Sales. There is no time restrictions on how long it takes to sell the books so you don't need to underestimate how many you think you need. I was thrilled to see my book in the centre of the window display at Ottakers. I will have a look at your book Martin through Amazon and perhaps you will have a look at my website youngbookworms.org Adults find some of the poems very funny. Good luck
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you certainly do, if you want to sell more than a few copies to friends and family who'll buy it sight unseen, since you'll have to buy them from the pod publisher to resell at book signings and all the other clever marketing ploys the smart and dedicated self-published author uses to get it sold... and, even at the bulk purchase price reduction most pods offer, you'll still be hard-pressed to make any profit selling the thus still vastly overpriced books to a book-buying public used to a price several dollars below that...
     
  15. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    Sure, Mammamaia.

    What I was trying to say with the university professor example was this:

    Self-publication is for--

    1) People who are selling to a small marketplace full of people who already have reasons to buy from them;

    2) People who write stuff traditional publishers won't touch (e.g. most poetry);

    3) Small print runs of things that'll only be sold locally (e.g. a small-town local history book where you know the bookstore owner);

    4) Non-commercial projects (e.g. a class project where the schoolteacher turns the class's stories beginning 'It was a dark and stormy night' into a paperback they can take home).
     
  16. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    I could not have put it better myself. At the end of the day making money off you written work means nothing if it is going to be a paper weight or something to just sit and look good on the shelf.

    Best of luck with the self publishing and I do so hope that it all works out for you and your work gets out there into the hands of as many readers as possible.

    Torana
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    absolutely, ww!... and, it's worth it for all those who think it is...
     
  18. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    You know, I suppose that's true. If you're satisfied with self-publishing and the money it potentially costs you, then it is a good method for you.
     
  19. poempedlar
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    poempedlar Senior Member

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    The Poem Pedlar

    I self published The Poem Pedlar. Poetry for children. I found it a lot of hard work and did it all entirely by myself with illustrated drawings. I tell a lie, I got a 12 yr old boy to do the cover. It is a great experience and very rewarding. Not financially of course but that does not seem important when you are clutching your creation. I trudged round the bookstores and found most shops would order 3 or 4 but I was over the moon when I saw my very own book as a centre piece in Otokar's window. I only had a small print off and now living in France it is difficult for me to sell the rest but I have covered my costs. Not to worry I shall still be able to sell these books even years later. I have read some poems on BBC Radio, won prizes and had people throw lunches for the author, ( me would you believe) Nothing succeeds like success, so throw yourself out there on the unsuspecting public. You will be surprised what you can achieve. Faint heart never got published, (or something like that). I suggest getting several writers together to publish an anthology of poetry and split the cost, or if writing novels, get several people to write short stories and publish them. More people to sell them of course. I am sure you will think it a worthwhile experience.
     
  20. badlandscafe
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    badlandscafe New Member

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    i will chime in here. self-p? i have gone down both highways. & considering self-p. again only because, a: my agent died, B: i have dozens of short stories & want to see them in print. (let me add i also have a novel but that will travel the traditional highway). So here is my take: h. miller said: publish u're own work & give it away. Now that means not 2 thousand or more copies, but a few hundred; then just send them off to used bookstores or lib.'s. i know it sounds wacky, but hey how many publishers are willing to market a short story collection? nadda. any thought on this thought? thanks.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    [1] how many publishers are willing to market a short story collection? nadda. [2] any thought on this thought?

    ...1. next to nil, to none...

    ...2. imo, you're right in that self-publishing is the only viable alternative for such a thing... but only if you can afford what it will cost to give the books away...
     
  22. badlandscafe
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    badlandscafe New Member

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    self-pub.

    the cost, & i did this in 96 for a rather short novel running 99 pages, was about a thousand for 2 hundread. Funny that book at least in Madison, Wi, can be found online. I just decided after finishing the story that there was little chance of this novel selling, & if it did sell what a few hundred copies. my pont here is that yes we all want to earn recognition & fame & oddles of cash. my first novel sold 20+, earned me about 10 grand. Well i spent 2 years on that. so that is 5 g. a year. i also earned 15 minutes of fame in my city. i thought: what a scam. will anybody remember this book in ten years? (it can be found on googl books). No, not really.
     
  23. badlandscafe
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    badlandscafe New Member

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    that should be 20 thousand copies. so to continue.
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a good run, regardless!... so, why didn't the publisher of your first book take on the second?... or was that self-published, too?... if so, how on earth did you sell so many?... i'm sure all the self-pubbed folks here would love to know...
     
  25. badlandscafe
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    badlandscafe New Member

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    the first book was way back in 1980. that is a 18 year span. but that was not it. the 1 i self published was not a book per say but a novella...too short to work as a novel & too long for a short story. What bugs me is that I have 7 novels between them & was unable to find a publisher. What I failed to realize is that my agent, a nice man, was ill, & so much as too infirm to handle the task yet ever hopeful & never informing his clients. But in the end it was my own fault. I was too busy writing, thus paying little attention to anything else...to such an extent I passed on signing with the Ant. Damient agency; but i also am ever hopeful...i now retain all these novels & a new one which i believe is a fine piece of work & very commercial.
     

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