My Journey Into Self Publishing: The Magic Word

Self publishing. The magic word. When I first heard of it, I felt as though a door was opening right before me, leading into a world of possibilities, or impossibility becoming reality. Maybe, just maybe, I could see my own novel, the words I had written, on a printed page, or even an e-page. The idea was, and still is, intoxicating.

If you’ve just heard the magic word for the first time, I encourage you to read on. I hope my experience can help you with the choices now in front of you:

1) Where can I get my book self published?

2) Will my book be visible enough to sell if I self publish?

3) What about editing?

4) Can I use the book cover I made myself?

Points 3 and 4 will be covered more in future posts, but I can give a short answer to number 4 now. Yes, as long as any images are legally yours to use. More on that later.

Here are the answers I discovered.

Question 1: Where can I get my book published?
Answer: Lots and lots of places! I heard of several sites through Wattpad, and on further research seem to be good places to go. Please note I’m mostly going to be talking about ebooks here, and not really go into print publishing. I might cover print in a later post when I know more about it myself.

Lulu

A friend told me about this website, and published his own book on there. I did a bit of research and found that although you can buy ebooks directly from Lulu it doesn’t get a great deal of traffic except from other writers. Lulu does distribute ebooks to the iBookstore and Barnes & Noble. You also get 90% of royalties through them, which is the highest percentage of anywhere I’ve looked.

Kindle Create Space

Amazon was a logical step in my search for information. I signed up to its “CreateSpace” site (free sign up) to see what it was all about, and I have to say that even after reading all the information and the FAQ’s I’m still a little confused. There are different percentages of royalties depending on what country you live in and what country the buyer of your book is in, and Australia is on the lowest ranking. Also, because I live in Australia, they will only send me my royalties via cheque (Direct Debit option not available) and only after I have accumulated over $100 for them to send me. I worked out that, at 35% royalty, an ebook that retails at $2.99 (a fairly standard price for a new ebook by an unknown author), I would have to sell 97 copies of my book before I see any money. Naturally I started thinking, “What if I never sell that many? I’ll never get any money from what I do sell!”
Quite frankly, I’m not too keen on that arrangement. While I’ve heard of others who have used it and found it fine, I don’t think I’ll go that way. It doesn’t seem to be the most user friendly site around, but maybe that’s just my frustration at the lack of Australian support coming out.
CreateSpace also has a “select” program, but I haven’t really looked into it, so I can’t really say anything about it. I just thought I probably should mention it.

Smashwords

I had never heard of this before, but I saw it mentioned on a Wattpad discussion board, and looked it up. It’s similar to Lulu in that it sells on its own site as well as distributing to other retailers. If you qualify for their Premium Catalogue (there are a list of quality control requirements) Smashwords will distribute to iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Baker & Taylor, Sony’s Kobo store, and a number of other smaller retailers I’ve never heard of. Their reach seems to be greater than either Lulu or CreateSpace, and they give you 85% of royalties regardless of what country you’re in. They use PayPal, which is pretty convenient, and will pay your royalties quarterly as long as there is a minimum of $10.
I’ve decided to go with Smashwords when my book is ready to hit the cyber shelves. However, I did just read on their website that they are limiting their Amazon distribution, so I might have to go directly through Amazon as well. Smashwords is not exclusive, so they don’t care if I distribute in multiple places.

So that’s what I’ve learned so far about self publishing platforms. If you google “self publishing” you’ll find a gazillion more sites that you can use, but these three are the most well known among the writing community.

Up next: Editing!

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Quest for Revenge: excerpt 1

Here’s a short excerpt from my first book, “Quest for Revenge.” If my Pozible campaign is successful, the ebook will be available in July/August. Enjoy!

Melina lunged to the side to dodge a dagger thrown at her. The sudden movement put her off balance and she slid sideways in the saddle. She scrambled for a hold. If she could get a good grip on the pommel she would be able to pull herself back up. She clutched for it, her fingers brushing the pommel, but she couldn’t get her hand around it.
A harsh laugh came from somewhere nearby but out of her line of vision. She surveyed her awkward position, and knew she wouldn’t be able to climb back into the saddle. She released a long breath and let go. She tumbled to the ground and rolled to her feet, drawing her sword in one quick movement. She dodged again as another dagger was thrust at her. This time she kept her footing, free from the need to keep her balance in the saddle. She swiftly brought the hilt of her sword down, intending to connect with the back of the man’s neck, but a large sweaty hand grasped her wrist in an iron grip. Her foot automatically swung out and connected with his shin. He cursed and let her go, stumbling forward. Taking advantage of the momentum, she slashed her sword across his thigh and he fell groaning to the ground.
She pulled a dagger from her right boot, holding both it and her sword at the ready. Her gaze darted around, taking in the scene. The stranger was duelling fiercely with the two remaining men, who each had a sword in one hand and a knife in the other. The stranger seemed to be holding his own but was favouring his left leg slightly, and his pant leg had a growing dark stain near the knee. Melina swiftly moved behind the smaller of the two men and used a quick manoeuvre she had learned from a guest of her father’s from the East. The sword flew out of the man’s hand with a clatter. The man cried out in pain, held his dislocated fingers close to his body, and ran out of the conflict. At that point she saw the stranger’s face.
“You!” she gasped.

My Journey into Publishing: The Beginning

Ok, I’ve been sitting staring at the “Add New Post” screen for maybe fifteen minutes now, thinking “Where on earth do I start?” Then, finally, the logical answer has come to me. I’m going to start at the beginning. Yeah, I know, that’s a tired old cliche, but where else would you start?

This first post of mine will outline a bit about me and how I started writing, and why I’m launching into the publishing scene. If you’re not interested in my life story, skip down to the “Wattpad” and “Publishing” sections.

Where I Started

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An inspirational spot on the farm

I’ve been completely in love with reading, writing, and storytelling my whole life. My dad used to read storybooks to me (with all the voices), giving me a love of storytelling and fiction. Both my parents read prolifically and my grandma used to have a library in her house (seriously! It was the church’s lending library), so I always had plenty of access of all kinds of books and loads of encouragement to read. I also found that creative writing at school quickly became my favourite subject (other than recess and lunchtime, which were my favourite because it was cool to say that), and I was incredibly disappointed when my piano lesson was scheduled at the same time as that once-a-week class. I loved music too, but I tried to convince my teacher that I should be having my lesson during maths instead of creative writing. For some reason she never changed it…

When I was a teenager I discovered that a family friend of ours also loved creative writing! We instantly went from ‘family friends’ to besties, and started writing a series of ridiculous mystery stories, the first of which was titled, “Jessie Spaghetti and The Girl Named Betty.” We thought we were pretty awesome…

Our relationship really kick-started my novel writing. We wrote several stories together, but pretty soon we both branched off into our own projects and wrote more independently, reading each other’s work and giving feedback. She loved to write about the things she knew: her farm, her friends, and above all, horses. I loved to write about things I hadn’t experienced before: detectives, overseas travel, boyfriends, and fantasy worlds.

This was in the time before I had a computer, so I wrote everything in an exercise book (which I still have). To get inspiration I would go on long walks around my parents’ farm with my notebook and find somewhere to write. A creek bank, a cluster of comfortable-ish rocks, up a tree, in the middle of a paddock of chest-high canola – you name it, I sat there and wrote.

During this time I wrote a couple of short romances, and started a high fantasy called “The Secret of the Sword.” The romances will never see the light of day, and I’m putting them down to “learning experiences” and “developing my style”, but the fantasy – well, you’ll hear a lot more about that later.

In 2004, the introduction of several things into my life – university, living in the city, and a boyfriend – made me put my writing away as a childish hobby. However, I never deleted any of the things I’d written and always kept a backup. This is one thing I recommend to all aspiring writers. Never delete anything you write, no matter how crap you think it is at the time. It’s good to look back on it, if only to remind yourself how far your craft has come. I get a good laugh out of rereading “Jessie Spaghetti and The Girl Named Betty.” You could pull my fingernails out before I’d ever show that manuscript to a living soul but it reminds me where I started and helps me to appreciate where I am now.

The Wonderful World of Wattpad

Sometime in 2008 I rediscovered my manuscript for “The Secret of the Sword” and started rewriting it on a whim. I’d almost forgotten how much I loved writing, and it was fun to get back into it. I never thought I’d actually go anywhere with it. It was just a fun way to pass the time. I wrote off and on for a few years, while hopping from one temporary teaching job to another. Then in 2011 I discovered Wattpad. I actually don’t remember how I came to find it or why I decided I finally wanted to share my work. I think I was researching something for the story and stumbled across it. Anyway, I joined, and it has changed the way I view my writing completely.

For those not in the know, Wattpad is a free website for writers, both amateur and professional, to post their works and to network with other writers. People can comment on each chapter of your story and give you feedback, and can vote for stories that they like that can potentially end up on a “what’s hot” list. There are also discussion forums on all topics to do with writing, and a very strong writers community there. Unfortunately, because it’s all free and anyone can sign up, there are a lot of teenage girls writing dreadful fan-fics about One Direction, Harry Potter, and every other fad, but there are also a good number of good writers who work hard to improve their craft and also seek to help others.

Wattpad has really helped me to gain confidence as a writer and has also taught me a great deal about the craft of writing. It was also a “safe” way to begin to allow others to read my work. I was previously so afraid of rejection that I didn’t let anyone see my writing, not even my husband! Wattpad was a good way to get some feedback from people I’d never met, and a much safer option than showing it to people whose opinion actually mattered to me.

The Next Step: Publishing

This is where I am now. I have two completed novels and another one well on the way. I’ve learned a massive amount about the craft of writing from Wattpad and innumerable blogs and websites (I’ll post links to some of my favourites in future blog posts), and feel like I have something that’s worth sharing with the rest of the world.

Many hours of online research into publishing options taught me several things.

1) There’s a lot more involved in the publishing process than I thought.

2) If you send your manuscript directly to a publisher, expect to be rejected (cold, but true).

3) Traditional publishing is not the only option! Behold the magical world of Self Pubslishing

The third point was a huge relief to me. I didn’t want to go through the emotional roller coaster of sending my manuscript to publisher after publisher. But there’s actually an alternative, one that more and more authors are choosing to take. Self Publishing.

The posts that follow this one will take you through my journey into the land of self publishing and everything that I learn along the way. I hope other aspiring authors launching themselves into this scary place can learn from my experiences.

One more tip for writers? If you really love writing, don’t stop. Write every day. Read everything you can about how to write better. Try to write better. Don’t be scared of the publishing world. Square your shoulders and jump in!