In my last post I took a brief look at self publishing and how it has become an increasingly viable option for the modern writer. Self publishing, also known as indy publishing, has become a boom industry but many writers are still a bit unsure of how to do it and what the benefits are.
I was contacted this week by a budding writer on Twitter. (By the way, if you want to talk to me on Twitter then please follow me through @byrontinker). This writer is currently working an excellent collection of stories about cats, I really liked the preview that I read. They came to me for advice on how to self publish, and as I always like to help my fellow writers I sent an email with some helpful information.
After reading through my reply I thought to myself, ‘hey – my friends who read the Tortoise Soup blog could probably use some of this advice as well’. So, I am reproducing an edited version of my email below. In coming weeks I will be expanding upon lots of the points that I have raised so please do keep checking back in here at the Tortoise Soup blog.
“As you may know it’s incredibly hard to find a mainstream publisher at the moment, unless you’re a celebrity, and the economic hiatus means that agents aren’t taking chances on anyone either.
That’s why self publishing is an attractive option. If a book is good (and I’m sure that yours will be), and a lot of love and effort has gone into it then why shouldn’t it be out there in the marketplace? Good books shouldn’t stay locked inside a mind forever.
There are two main options: the first is using a service such as Lulu. This makes everything very easy, but the process can seem a little remote. You simply pay Lulu a fee (I’m not sure how much, around £100 I think – which is very reasonable compared to vanity publishers), send them your text, choose a cover template and hey presto in a week or so you have your book which will then be on Amazon. The quality is okay, but the cut that companies like Lulu take are very high so your book will be quite expensive for people to buy. For example, I have a friend who published a book through this route. It’s a 400 page book, and costs around £15 which is way too high really. They receive around one pound for each copy that is sold.
The other option is to use CreateSpace or Lightning Source. These are really printing companies, you have to do all of the creative work yourself but I liked that. They are similar entities, CreateSpace is owned by Amazon. I used Lightning Source but contrary to some rumours there was no delay in ‘Tortoise Soup’ appearing on Amazon and nor does it get listed as being ‘out of stock’.
I have heard people say that CreateSpace is easier for beginners to use but Lightning Source was easy enough for me – and I’m not really a computer wizard. To use Lightning Source you have to set up your own publishing company. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds – you buy ISBN numbers in a block of 10 for £120 and assign one to your first book. The purchasing of ISBN’s varies from country to country (for example in Canada it’s free), so to all my blog followers overseas Google should be your first point of call.
You then fill in a form with Lightning Source who, unless you make a hash of the form, will accept you as a publisher client. They then send you a template to fit your cover on and tell you what format the text must be in. Send it to them and again, hey presto – your book will soon be out there but this time under your very own publishing label! It’s a lot easier than it might sound.
Lightning Source gives you a choice of a gloss or matte cover and cream or white paper, I don’t think that CreativeSpace gives you that choice.
The overheads are much lower with CreateSpace or LS and you have complete flexibility on pricing. For example, my 234 page Tortoise Soup sells at £6.99 and over half of that comes straight to me from each sale. If I had gone the Lulu route the book would have cost more and I would have received less.
It costs around £40 to get the book registered with these companies, again much cheaper than using Lulu or similar companies.
There is more work involved though. I’m no graphic designer and it took me a long time to get the cover to fit their template and specifications, I managed it eventually though. I used completely free software to do it: GIMP and a free trial of Quark Xpress. The text has to be in a PDF format that Word doesn’t produce so I used a free word processing package called Open Office Writer.
Can you draw? If so then great, make your own illustrations. I can barely draw stick men but I found a great illustrator on Gumtree who did my drawings completely free. Everybody comments on how quirky and lovely there are. Keep your eyes peeled on Gumtree Artists – there are often budding illustrators on there looking for opportunities to do free work to build up their portfolios.
The other thing to consider is editing. The experts advise that you should always use an editor. You can read your own book a dozen times and because it’s so familiar you can miss glaring mistakes. If you do want to find an editor/proofreader there are lots out there so get some quotes. For Tortoise Soup I had quotes from £200-£500 – I went for the cheapest (Patricia Alderman) but I think she did a really good job, and she also helped me with my cover design. You could edit it yourself if you so wish of course, that’s your decision. I have an English language degree but I still made lots of little errors that Patricia corrected.”
I hope that there may be some points in the email that can help you, and I hope that my Tortoise Soup will continue to be useful to you in the weeks and months to come. As fledgling writers we have to look out for each other and help each other up whenever we can so if you want any specific advice then please contact me!
A lot of you have been asking about my own novel ‘Tortoise Soup’. It is out right now on Kimono Press, and can be bought directly from Amazon in either paperback or Kindle versions. It should be in some independent bookstores as well soon. I am pleased to say that it is getting some great feedback, such as this review by a book mad girl: http://mychildrensbookreview.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/tortoise-soup.html