Adriel Castaneda's picture
Adriel Castaneda from Van Nuys CA is reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson October 26, 2011 - 2:46pm

Has anybody self published an e-book for the kindle or nook. I just set-up an account on amazon to publish for kindle but I havent uploaded anything yet. Anybody have any horror stories or good experiences going this route? Any words of wisdom or advice?

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin October 27, 2011 - 12:48am

http://litreactor.com/columns/the-case-against-ebook-self-publication

A lot of people on this forum have expressed negative views on ebook self publishing and self publishing in general.

Which is fair, it is not like self publishing is a mark of quality. If you want to self publish an ebook you need to look forward to fighting that stigma. But your book had better be up to snuff if you do want to be able to do so.

And, well, what does your marketing plan look like? If you think that the book is good enough to get published, but that for whatever reason the "industry" path isn't working, you need to have a real clear plan of how you are going to proceed after publication.

(I do not share this general prejudice against self publishing, http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/88089, smashwords has some problems, but I've also heard most places are worse (your post has illuminated to me the source of their problems with Amazon which they admit to, but there are a number of retailers that are supposed to have the ebook and don't)

We can't wait for other people to provide us with a working business model. If you want a working business model you have to build it from scratch.

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If you go the traditional route, with a literary agent and a publishing house you have to frontload your effort a lot. You need a really good synopsis, your summary of your story has to sell it, your query letter has to make you sound experienced. If you pull off these things and get representation and a large corporate machine behind your work then you can expect them to do a lot of marketing for you, to work to "get the word out" because that is their business model.

If you go with self publishing you still have to do all of that pre-publishing work, in fact you should do more. Hire a copyediter if you can and do everything you can this book look as professional as one that rolls off the Random House presses. Doing the work of a well connected multi-million multinational corporation by yourself is not easy, but it is possible. If you really want it. With self publishing you are in a situation where you need to do much more work after the book has been published.

The way I look at it is this, how do underground hip hop artists sell CD's? They carry them around in the trunk of their cars, they sell them on a person to person basis, they don't go for big fish, they get a lot of little fish. I try to go in this direction with my marketing, it involves a lot of work with bloggers, distributing complimentary copies in exchange for a review, I print up my own posters and put them up in coffee shops and anywhere I can stick them while going about my day, it involves trying to save up enough revenue for proper ad space. And none of this is profit, this is all just going back into the process so that I can try to compensate for the absence of that multinational corporate support.

It is a labor of love. And it requires the utmost persistence.

.'s picture
. October 27, 2011 - 12:22am

If you go that route, I'd say professional cover, super polished rough draft and basically everything that nkwilczy said.

Andrew Moore's picture
Andrew Moore from Belfast Northern Ireland is reading The Dark Tower by Stephen King October 27, 2011 - 2:15am

I did it with my book and haven't had any major issues. The biggest pain was properly formatting it for the Kindle so it didn't have large sections of blank space and the like. 

But yeah I put mine through two proof-readers/editors and my friend who illustrated it and produced the cover is a professional animator/character designer which just lifted it to a whole other level. Once it's out there the hardest thing to do is simply plugging it and self promoting it everywhere, which can feel like a bit of a fruitless task at times but if you're proud of what you've achieved then you will have no problems there :) 

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 27, 2011 - 8:19am

My publisher allows us to retain electronic rights to our books, so it's up to us if we sell them as e-books, and I do. It's nice to make an extra hundred dollars or so each month from the ebooks (which is sometimes more than I make for my print books). So I'm essentially self-publishing books that have a publisher in their print forms. I also have to do the formatting myself, which is pretty easy and takes about half an hour per book to do.

As far as books that are sold exclusively as e-books, I don't see much of a reason to go through a publisher for them. But definitely either hire an editor before you publish them or get a kind friend who has the skills of an editor to do the work for free. And make sure the cover art and design is good. I can usually recognize a self-published book based on its cover.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin October 27, 2011 - 12:27pm

A friend of mine went the self publishing route before I did, and I asked him a lot about his experiences before I did it. He talked a lot about the cover, it is a big deal.

For instance, I don't know why, but his cover is this door, in a dark room, a little open, and purple light is coming out of it. It kind of evokes the idea of being outside a room where someone is playing on a desktop, which I think is what he was going for, but on the other hand, looking at the cover what you see is a purple-ish door. It is not a good introduction for a story about hacking and anonymous internet gangs.

My own cover is a little better, but there are still obvious problems, I'm trying to get the outline around the bike cleaned up so that it seems more part of the background, but at least you can tell what sort of stuff Upright Citizens is about from the cover:

Andrew Moore's picture
Andrew Moore from Belfast Northern Ireland is reading The Dark Tower by Stephen King October 27, 2011 - 12:47pm

I decided long before I self published my book as an e-book I was also going to get outside help in for the front cover and the illustrations. I can write to just about a competant level. I'll be brutally honest and say I can't draw or design anything in an art context to save my life. Though I needed a lot of patience during the whole process, the results were genuinely magically. I wouldn't write another book without Gillian's contribution for as long as I keep doing it. 

That's the cover of mine there, the illustrator did several versions revolving around a certain object from the story and I'm really happy with the results. Think a lot can be said for the type of font used in the workings of a cover too, experiment a bit :)

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin October 27, 2011 - 1:24pm

That is a really nice cover, I can see why you would want to hold on to the illustrator. Simple, well textured, coherent. Compared to purple doors I felt like I had done a good job, now I'm thinking I should have spent more time seducing art majors. Or paying for the work.

With fonts, as with most of the stuff on my cover personally I went with a "simpler is better" approach, but despite all the warnings people still go around judging a book by its cover, and maybe I could have added a bit more flair, but I am less conflicted on this issue than I am jealous of your cover art.

Adriel Castaneda's picture
Adriel Castaneda from Van Nuys CA is reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson October 27, 2011 - 1:26pm

This is really great advice, there are a few things I overlooked when looking into this side of the publishing spectrum. I hadnt even thought of the cover art yet. I have some computer knowledge but graphic design is a whole nother world. Any ideas on where to start. Do you get an artist to traditionally draw the cover and just scan it? Or is it all done on the computer, using a design program? Or is either route okay?

Adriel Castaneda's picture
Adriel Castaneda from Van Nuys CA is reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson October 27, 2011 - 1:29pm

Also editing. I definetly need an editor. Grammar and punctuation are not my strong suits. If its not already evident. Need an intern or some college undergrad that needs the practice. Any ideas on this front?

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 27, 2011 - 1:44pm

You can look for some awesome art online to use for the cover and ask the artist's permission to use it. If you do so, it is unlikely that they will ask for money. If you ask an artist to draw something specifically for your cover, they will most likely charge you. Also get someone who knows what they're doing (perhaps the artist) to do cover design. You may have to hire someone to do that. It's easier to design a cover for an ebook that a print book since you only have to deal with the front cover rather than the back cover and the spine.

Hire an editor if you don't know anyone with the skills to edit who will do it for free. DON'T USE A COLLEGE UNDERGRAD OR SOMEONE WHO NEEDS PRACTICE. I can't really conceive of anyone wanting to edit a book with the intention of practicing their editing skills. To put it bluntly, I feel that if the book is not properly edited, it should not be published.

 

Adriel Castaneda's picture
Adriel Castaneda from Van Nuys CA is reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson October 27, 2011 - 2:04pm

Awesome, thanks Bradley Sands.

Andrew Moore's picture
Andrew Moore from Belfast Northern Ireland is reading The Dark Tower by Stephen King October 27, 2011 - 3:59pm

@nkwilczy Yeah, the illustrator is one of my closest friends. Someone I can bounce ideas off too. She's the Blake to my Dahl or whatever :) I do pay her though, I'd feel guilty if I didn't give her something for the immense amount of work she put into the visual aspect of the book.