My Path to Independent Self-Publishing
By Lloyd Kaneko, Author
First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tina-Sue Ducross for inviting me as guest blogger on the Virtual Book Tour and for the opportunity to be creative with this post.
Many of you following the tour will probably have learned much about me and my book from other appearances on previous sites. I thought this time around I’d be a little different and share my path and experience leading to my becoming an independent author/publisher.
Like so many aspiring writers, I too had grand visions of becoming a famous author and receiving a 7-figure advance on my book. I diligently sent out inquiry letters to literary agents and often was disappointed with rejection letters saying that my project wasn’t suited for their needs. Then, I finally secured an agent through an online advertisement, knowing little about the agency’s background or history only to find out later that it was doing questionable practices that would be considered unethical. I even went to the extent of having the manuscript professionally edited myself after shopping around for an editor that would do it at and a reasonable and affordable rate.
So, after a stint of travelling down the path of the”traditional publishing” road, I decided to set out as an independent. After all, why do I really need a middleman when I can do most of the things myself?
I began researching a wide spectrum of publishing opportunities and discovered a whole range of companies that said they were “free services” to those who would publish the book for thousands of dollars. So, here is reality check number one: nothing is free!
After ruling out the subsidy publishers who wanted a fortune to publish my book, I joined networking groups and writers clubs to get recommendations and also to get feedback on my manuscript. In the process of doing so, I received some very good advice on how to proceed next as an independent. My first objective was to publish the book in hardcover first with secondary thoughts to trade paperback. Initially, I didn’t even give any consideration to publishing electronically for at the time, e-books were just started to being talked about in publishing circles.
One literary agent said that agents and publishers were mainly interested in authors who already had an established base. This I did not have. How was I going to create my base of followers?
Facebook and Twitter were nice ways of starting. Besides, I already had my own website (www.lloydkaneko.com). I eventually became active on MySpace as well, then added Linked In and Plaxo to the mix. And later on, Bebo and Digg were added to my networking sites. I also have an opinionated blog which is an extension of my book at http://kamijin1951.blogspot.
So, my social networking had been established, where was I going to find a publisher that would produce my book at a reasonable price? I began to look at various e-book publishers. Then, I came across a publisher that converted and published my manuscript electronically, for free. All I had to do was follow their simple guidelines for converting my Word document into their pre-processing format, and it would be a piece of cake! It took a little effort, but I managed to successfully convert my document to their requirements. From there, it converted into seven different e-book formats automatically including Kindle and Sony.
The other requirement was that I have a respectable book cover to use in order to place the book in their premium catalog for distribution. Reality check number two: find a professional graphic artist to design your book cover.
A well designed book cover is going to go a long way in the publishing process. Even though I have the illustration software to produce a well-made cover, I personally do not have the experience to produce a professionally designed cover. If you shop around, you will find a good graphic artist for a very reasonable and affordable price. Get references from other writers or look to art school students who may be looking to add to their portfolios. Always request to see samples of their work.
I published Kami Jin initially as an e-book in September 2009. And by a stroke of luck, the publisher also recommended a partner company to publish a trade paperback edition. The paperback edition was delayed for 6-months because I received an offer from another publisher who was interested in the book. But after waiting and not receiving any response, I decided to take full control of the book myself and proceed with self-publishing. The trade paperback of Kami Jin was released in March 2010.
Unfortunately, an earlier version of Kami Jin had been released without my knowledge. I discovered that the September 2009 version of the book was released when I assumed that the March 2010 version was going to be released in trade paperback. The 2009 version does not contain all the editorial corrections that were made since then. So, the publisher will be releasing a newly corrected edition of Kami Jin to the market soon. Reality check number three: Keep in close contact with your publisher by phone.
During this time, I also sought after affordable marketing and PR services for additional support. Again, I shopped around and compared the services and personalities of various sales representatives. I came across a wide spectrum of services and interesting people. I am happy to say that I have found a service provider that is very pleasant to work with whose rates and services are extremely reasonable: Authors Promoting Authors (and this is not a paid advertisement ~LK).
I have taken public relations and journalism in college and have attended marketing workshops and seminars for the arts. Since I already had PR and marketing knowledge and skills, I was able to comfortably transition off the route of the traditional publishing and become my own entrepreneur. I have been used to this already since I already have my own small business. For those just starting out or pondering taking the self-publishing path I offer some advice:
- Enroll in business and marketing classes at your local community college and/or take marketing workshops, seminars and conferences. Besides writing, develop other skills that will be valuable to you. Learn how to write press releases, log/taglines and develop the “elevator speech.”
- Get involved with your local community library. Your local community librarian and staff will become an important ally to you when promoting your book in the community. They also might invite you to a book signing in the library! Not only this, but they can also help you with interlibrary loans, research, information on publishers, writing groups, etc. It’s one of the writer’s greatest free resources.
- Besides becoming active on social networking sites, get involved with your local chambers of commerce. Take every opportunity to network for yourself.
- You own the product – your book. You are totally responsible for it! Take pride in it – promote your work as best as you can and get a professional to help you out.
- Learn how to create a project and business plan. This will help keeping you disciplined not only on your project, but will also help you plan your work, time, and resources. Invest in a good self-project management software program like Project Planner Personal Edition. I recommend this particular product over Microsoft Project because it’s an inexpensive download and it’s much easier to use.
- Set realistic goals and expectations for your book. If you are prepared to wait for a very long time, then the traditional publishing road will be fine. But be forewarned that larger traditional publishing houses are becoming more picky and demanding of the clientele they choose to do business with. This also holds true with literary agents. Be open for publishing alternatives – there are excellent choices out there – especially if you do not want to wait forever to get your book published. But do your homework diligently! Some companies aren’t in it for your best interest nor your pocketbook!
- If you decide on becoming independent, you are truly the CEO and project manager. Therefore, learn how to prepare a project budget. View your expenses as a “business investment.” And, with all business, there is a degree of risk involved. As a writer/business person, you must be mentally prepared to take these risks. Allocate money that you can afford to invest in producing your book. If you can get publishing partners/investors, that’s great. But don’t spend a lot. There are inexpensive publishing alternatives that won’t cost an arm and a leg. And, especially for U.S. writers, track your expenses for income tax purposes and business deductions.
- Find ways of doing things yourself. Think “Home Depot.” There are many things you can do online without hiring a contractor – or like for writers, professional services or attorneys. There are services that offer to register your book to the U.S. Copyright Office for varying fees – some inexpensive, others a complete rip-off. Some copyright attorneys will provide these services. For a mere $35, you can register the manuscript yourself online and do a copyright registration search yourself and save a lot of money. http://www.copyright.gov/eco/.
Since the Copyright Office can take months, almost a year to register your work, you might want to consider protecting your work by registering the manuscript through the Writers Guild of America, West for $20 at http://www.wgawregistry.org/ webrss/. This process takes several weeks and you will get a registration number and a certificate in return.
- ISBN Another item to consider is purchasing an ISBN number (International Standard Book Number). Some e-book publishers say you do not need one. But if you want to sell through the Kindle Store on Amazon, it is required. In this instance, purchasing an individual number yourself may be the least expensive route. But compare the prices first before making a purchase. Some publishers offer this service for you. In some cases, the purchase of an ISBN number may be packaged with another offer, like distribution services. Therefore, the price of the ISBN number may be substantially discounted because the number is part of the publisher’s block of numbers. This may be a better option than purchasing the ISBN independently. So, weigh your options carefully.
- LCCN Another number that you might want to consider looking into if you are in the United States, is the Library of Congress Control Number. Again, you can obtain one on your own at http://pcn.loc.gov/pcn007.html
. Or, work though your publisher to obtain one. The LCCN is different from the copyright number and usually, libraries will not accept your book without one.
- Professionally edit and proofread your book. Some self-publishing houses provide this service for a fee. You might be able to find someone to edit your book for much less (flat fee) elsewhere. Nevertheless, get your manuscript professionally edited and proofread. Even then, expect that errors are going to slip through the cracks. Be prepared to pay for the service. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune as some services do, like charge a few cents for each word. And if your novel is several thousand words long, the dollars (U.S. or Canadian) can add up very quickly. Many graduate students offer their services on Craigslist.com. Some moonlighting editors also advertise the same way. A lot of them will offer a flat fee which will result a few hundred dollars, rather than thousands of dollars. Nevertheless, get a neutral assessment of your manuscript.
- Set realistic, measurable goals and expectations for your book. Even with the best publicist, best edited book, best story, etc., you may not sell millions of books! Look for entry points! Develop your own personal strategic plan. If you want to become the famous author, do it in incremental steps – it is not going to come overnight very easily. Don’t expect your publicist to be a magician. You must work realistically with him/her. Their efforts are not going to magically or instantaneously produce a million dollars in book sales overnight. Your publicist is only there to help you create the “buzz” for your book and to help you identify your focus on your target audience. A lot of this also depends on your own effort and work after the book has been published also.
- Look for alternative marketing opportunities. I call these the online “farmers’ markets.” New ones are frequently starting up and they are also good to network among your peers, such as:
- Authors Supporting Authors – http://authorsnetworking.ning.
- Book Market Network – http://bookmarket.ning.com
- Creative Artists Kettle – http://creativeartistskettle.
- Creative Artists Kettle Blog – http://creativeartistskettle.
- Create multiple streams of income. This is so true and I’ve learned this from my failed and terrible experiences tied up in shady MLM’s. But this is a good thought. Don’t depend on the income from your book to be your source of income. But also, don’t get trapped into online “work at home” offers either. They promise that you will get rich overnight. Actually, you don’t get anything but lose a lot of money up front. I have created an online gift store to supplement Kami Jin by offering logo merchandise to offset my publishing costs through Café Press:
- If you look hard, you can find viable sources that you can use to supplement your income without paying for anything up front (i.e. startup costs).
- Network and collaborate. Don’t do this on your own. Even though you are an independent – there is an entire network of independents out there willing to impart their talents, skills, experiences and wisdom. This will also give you an opportunity to share your work – spread the word. Outside of writing circles, I am collaborating with non-profits and environmental groups to promote my book as part of special causes such as planting trees, helping homeless causes. In short, plan on giving something back to the community in order to strengthen your ties with you municipality.
- If you need anything printed, become good friends with the nearest print broker in your local community. Print brokers are easy to find on the internet. They can save you from 40-60% of your printing costs.
- I have attempted to share a little about my path to publishing Kami Jin and some of the traps and pitfalls I encountered along the way. I hope my suggestions and advice will be of some help, especially to those contemplating becoming independent self-published authors. I highly recommend this route – especially if you are looking to build your audience base and a point of entry. Rather than waiting around for some magical moment for something special to happen, this will give you an opportunity to add something to your resume, portfolio and profile on Google. That’s way better than someone still waiting for something to happen. The investment you make is not necessarily in your book, but more in yourself. The dreams you achieve through your book may be small. But the ultimate rewards will soon follow.
- For writers wishing to contact Lloyd, write to him at creativewritertskettle@gmail.
- Lloyd invites guest art reviewers to post articles on his new blog. To become a guest reviewer, write to him via the email address above.