Monday, September 19, 2016

The Journey from Traditional Publishing to Indie Publishing: Part 1

I'm working on the next installment of the crafts/gift post, but it's been awhile since I've written a writing post, and for those of you interested in indie publishing, here's a bit about what happens when a traditionally published author decides to begin indie (or self) publish ebooks along with some resources for anyone interested in publishing their own ebook.
 Babies and a Blue-eyed Man by author Myrna Mackenzie
I won't bore you with the reasons why I walked away from a thriving traditionally published career other than to say that I wanted to have greater control over my writing time. And at first I just enjoyed having more free time to write, to blog and most especially to read.

But eventually, I had to face the fact that publishing, not just writing, was important to me, and if I wasn't going to go back to traditional publishing, I had to learn all about indie publishing. Or...at least I had to learn enough in order to publish my books. Of course, what I soon realized is that I had a lot to learn. The whole process is very different from traditional publishing where I knew the ropes. Changing directions was daunting...but it was also exciting.

Here's how I began:

I had (have) books I'd published with Harlequin where the rights had reverted to me. That left me free to republish them, but first I had to learn how to do that. If you find yourself in the same situation or writing a new book, here's a brief introduction to some of the decisions that need to be made. I've told this from my own perspective, as if I was just setting out to self publish my very first book.

1. First of all, if I had just set out to write a book from scratch, I would need to know if my idea/plot/chain of events was working, but since I no longer had an in-house editor to guide me, I would need to look elsewhere. To that end, I might hire a developmental editor to help me decide whether an idea/book is viable and what I might do to make it viable (if it wasn't). Or...I might choose to get involved with a critique or brainstorming group of writers to elicit feedback. I might eventually want a few trusted readers to provide feedback.

2. I would also need to hire a line editor to help me correct any errors.

3. When the book was almost ready to publish, I might also hire a proofreader to check for typos or other glaring errors that had gotten past the first edits or (more likely) that had been introduced when I was keying in changes made in the previous edits.

4. Once the book was completed, I would need to either hire someone to format my book so that it could be uploaded to the various booksellers or I would have to learn to format it myself. Because I like to know how things work, I chose to do my own formatting, and I discovered that people take various avenues. Some people code the book using html, and there are resources online that will demonstrate how to do that (more on that in another post). Some people use Amazon's instructions for setting up a book and saving it as html. And some (like me) use a third party program to convert the book (I use Jutoh, which isn't free, but is easy to master and is also reasonably priced, but there are other programs, and at least one of those, Vellum, is just for Macs. I've heard it's very good, but as I don't have a Mac, I can't personally vouch for that).

5. All books need inviting covers, so a cover artist would be necessary. If I also chose to publish a print version (print on demand, more on that later), a print cover would also be needed, although that decision can be made later if one wants to wait, since for now, we're just discussing ebooks.

6. After the book was ready (edited, formatted and with a cover and descriptive material for marketing purposes), the choice of which bookstores or distributors to upload to comes into play. Would I publish directly to bookstores or would I rely on a third party distributor or a combination of both? What would I charge for the book? What countries would I want it to go to?

7. Once the book was available at online booksellers, how would I market it so that people could even find the book? What were the marketing possibilities? How could I make my book stand out from the crowd, given that it was not available in brick and mortar bookstores?

8. There are also numerous other questions that need to be answered along the way. What about registering a copyright (something traditional publishers usually handle for their authors)? Or (in certain cases where an ISBN was necessary), did I want to buy an ISBN or allow a free one to be assigned by the bookseller? Did I want to pursue an audiobook version? If so, how does one go about finding (and paying) the person who narrates the book? Was I interested in joining Kindle Unlimited (KU), which offers some perks but also requires an author to publish exclusively via Amazon? And...I'm sure there are many other questions I faced along the way, but which I've forgotten. (Not to worry. At some point I'll face them again).

All of this was quite challenging and very different from what I was used to with a traditional publisher. At first, I was almost paralyzed with fear, and from time to time I still end up scratching my head. Finding one's way through this maze of information and learning how to remake oneself as in indie author can be confusing at times, but gradually I'm beginning to feel more comfortable with certain aspects of this type of publishing.

Of course, along the way I read voraciously and located all sorts of resources which I still keep at my fingertips and refer to often. Here are just some of the many resources I've turned to for information.

My very favorite:
I strongly recommend J W Manus's website. Writers can hire her to format their books, but she has also written extensively about how to format. She made the process much easier for me.

Paul Salvette has some useful tutorials on his website.

Amazon's KDP forums (Lots of questions, lots of answers from those who have already traveled this road)

Amazon's KDP help pages (I haven't visited here very much, but if you're going to publish with Amazon (and who isn't?) the information you need may well be here.

Joanna Penn's The Creative Penn

I also highly recommend Mark Coker's Smashwords Style Guide. It's long, but it's also very exact and easy to follow, and it results in a file that will be clean and will upload without problems.

There are many other fine articles and websites with helpful advice, but it can all be a bit overwhelming, and the ones above are a good start for someone just dipping their toes into the indie publishing water.

Myrna Mackenzie









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