The Ins and Outs of Self-publishing
I contacted the author of Houndstooth, A Game of Titans, Gods of Ceres Major and others to share his experience with self-publishing. He was so gracious to answer some questions.
How did you get into self-publishing?
I previously had five books published by traditional trade publishers in New York and some foreign editions. Some years later I wanted to make some of those out of print books available again as ebooks, and also try some new projects as ebooks. A friend of mine who was doing well with her own original ebook novels suggested that I try it, starting with Smashwords.com. That platform had good distribution and more importantly had free guidebooks explaining exactly how to format book manuscripts to work well as ebooks. I tried that, and after learning the process, began self-publishing books on Smashwords and also on Amazon, which is a larger marketplace.
It sounds like you do like it. Why?
I like being able to format the books as I want them done and do the covers the way I want them. I like being able to get the books out to potential readers quicker than with traditional publishing, which can take one or more years, and the ability to do updates or make changes. I like the higher royalties. I like the control it offers me.
What is the biggest challenge for authors who want to go this route?
Getting past the old stigma of self-publishing that was created by vanity presses, where the authors had to pay to be published, and realizing that times had changed and new technology had given writers more options than before.
Explain how you feel about marketing after you have published your own work?
Previously, the traditional publishers took care of the marketing and promotion, which helped. Doing my own marketing is harder and takes time, but it does give me more control over the methods and approach and makes it more personal. Promoting my books through social media helps, and I also try contacting book clubs and bloggers. I enjoy creating my own book trailers and websites.
What are some lessons that you have learned about conducting a successful book launch?
Advance publicity through social media helps. Setting up for advance sales on a preset release date can help by having a larger number of sales the first day, which can place the book higher in the platform system. The “algorithms” of Amazon are well known as being potentially good or bad. And lots of promotion at the start can help, including getting the word out to local news media.
What is your estimation of the control awarded by self-publishing?
Writers have much more control over their work and how it’s presented and marketed. And writers frequently try harder and longer promoting their work than traditional publishers do. With self-publishing you have more control over audiobook editions and other subsidiary rights. Retaining your own “voice” is easier if you can do your own editing, but doing your own editing and cover design requires skill and effort. Cover artists can be hired if art isn’t your thing.
Do Amazon and Barnes &Nobles make it easy for authors to publish their own work? What was your experience with them like?
Smashwords was the easiest to work with, but has now been acquired by D2D and may not be the same. Amazon and Barnes & Noble have good platforms for uploading new books that are easy to use, and they report sales fairly promptly. Traditional publishers can take six months to a year to report sales and pay royalties. Traditional publishers can be more prestigious, but I do like the new independent publishing options that Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and LULU.com offer. Many traditionally published authors keep their backlist active in this way, and more writers can get published since traditional publishers can only release a limited number of books each year due to staffing, printing costs and warehousing.
This interview was conducted over email. But Mr. Gary Alan Ruse is very close to me. I cherish our relationship. He is a careful writer, indeed a craftsman. It was my honor to interview him.
Please do visit http://www.garyalanruse.com.