Where Angels Fear to Tread: the Joys and Perils of Self-Publishing

WebDon’t blow your own trumpet, I was taught. It is unseemly. Attention seeking. Narcissistic even.

Fair enough.

This is the problem though: when you’re a self-publishing author, you don’t have a wingman taking care of the brass section. Any laudatory trumpeting will have to be done by yours truly, for you are not only an author, but also a blinkered editor, a dilettante publisher, a lethargic sales manager and a goofy media liaison officer. And don’t start me on the joys of completing business activity statements…

You get the picture: there is a point where writing a novel feels like the easy bit. Continue reading

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Print on demand: my self-publishing experience with IngramSpark

When it came to publishing the paperback version of my debut novel, IngramSpark seemed the obvious choice: it was a big player, with credibility in the industry and a massive distribution network. It had been recommended to me by authors and academics; and its website was brimming with helpful tools and tutorials about virtually every aspect of the publishing process. Continue reading

Unboxing that first novel!

All day I had waited for that first delivery from IngramSpark. I had skipped my daily walk. Five o’clock, I thought—he’s not coming now. Just as I laced up my runners for a belated stroll, I heard a low rumble in the street and looked down the driveway. A massive delivery truck pulled up; a stocky guy leapt out, opened the tailgate, lifted out a cardboard box and started labouring up the driveway and the 20-something steps from the carport up to my particular ivory tower…

“Boy, what a climb,” he sighed. “That was my last job for the day.” “Yes, and it’s the first box of my first novel,” I blurted out like an overexcited idiot. He looked at me strangely, handed me a stylus. I signed on a chunky electronic gadget that looked like a 1980s mobile phone, callously wishing he’d hurry back to his truck so I could open this box.

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I happened to be home alone that afternoon, except for the cat of course, but Jebedie Paw Paw’s interests tend to be culinary rather than literary and anyway, he had sought refuge in the furthest bedroom at the first sign of a man (= tradie = infernal noise = feline doom) approaching. So I grabbed my iPhone to document the unfolding of this milestone.2018-11-28 17.04.16I loved the warm colours of the cover (thank you Dane at Ebook Launch).

2018-11-28 17.04.28Then the joy of holding your book for the first time. Pressing that Publish button on Amazon and Smashwords had been a thrill, but not nearly as satisfying as feeling the weight of your book. The end point of the writer’s creative process. The transition from a mental construct to a physical product. The moment also where it can be shared with readers for the next part of the journey.

I could feel I had my stupid happy grin on my face, the one from ear to ear.

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Then there’s the panicky little voice inside your head that reminds you to check everything. Title, author name, yep, all there. Nice print quality inside, no printing or binding errors, just this thing that looks like a Real Book.

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And look, I can make piles of them. And my wife comes home just before I start mentally composing a love letter to IngramSpark, my new print-on-demand and distribution heroes.

Forgive me, Dear Reader, the exuberant narcissism of this post. Let me assure you that my novel is free of navel gazing and instead explores social and mental health issues that affect many of us. I just thought that, after seven years of hard work, a little bit of curative bragging was in order… Thank you for your forbearance.

And please check out the homepage of my book for more details about its plot and availability.

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bait: what are the chances?

BaitLoResCover

My latest short story, Bait, went live this week. It is the tale of three young men from Antwerp who set out on a camping trip to the Belgian Ardennes in the 1970s. When they arrive, the place is teeming with gendarmes (Belgian para-military police)…

Bait is not crime fiction but a portrait sketch of headstrong young men whose plans are thrown into disarray, with surprising ramifications. It is available only as an e-book; check my author website for links.

self-publishing: seven stellar starting guides

© jijomathaidesigners 2015

© jijomathaidesigners 2015

At the start of this year I decided to look into publishing some of my short stories. I signed up for Euan Mitchell’s Digital Makeover course provided by Writers Victoria at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre and started reading up on how to produce an e-book.

Now, half a year later, I am about to self-publish my second short story and I intend to go down the e-book path again when Resilience, my debut novel, is ready for publication.

The hardest parts about self-publishing are the writing and the marketing. The bit in the middle, creating and uploading an e-book, is quite enjoyable and relatively stress-free.

There is so much advice out there for anyone planning to create an e-book and I would like to share with you the books that I found particularly helpful.

Continue reading

resilience update #2: back to school

My big news over the past month is that I have attended Euan Mitchell’s Digital Makeover course organised by Writers Victoria at The Wheeler Centre. The 12–hour program was spread over four weeks and I found the course both comprehensive and stimulating. Euan gave us an overview of self–publishing and then taught us practical skills for formatting e–books and uploading them on Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle. It was a fantastic course, ranging from purchasing ISBNs to marketing your work. Do not despair if you’ve missed the course: Euan’s immense practice wisdom can be found in Your book publishing options (2014). A fantastic resource, especially for Australian authors. Check out Euan’s website for details.

Meanwhile I keep hammering away at my novel. I am up to 63,000 words now (~58% into my first draft). Joy. Bliss. And yes, I intend to put Euan’s teaching into practice. I am planning to publish two short stories later this month. Check back here for details or on my brand new author’s page on Facebook.

newbie guide to digital self-publishing

My first experience with self-publishing was in the early 1970s. Think Jethro Tull and corduroy flares. I had written 30-odd poems and an uncle who taught young people with learning difficulties had run them off at work on a stencilling machine. His charges had created a rather lurid psychedelic pattern of bright red and teal blobs for the cover design. It had no discernible link to the contents of the slim volume, except that, like my poetry, it was a bit all over the place. It was all very high tech and professional, at the time. Distribution proved another challenge. The first five copies were easy of course (thanks Mum). As none of the local bookstores were interested, I ended up peddling my poetry at the end of pop concerts. That sort of worked, as people were generally in a good mood. I would target couples, handing a sample copy to the girl. If I was lucky she would say something profound like ‘oh, poetry’ and look up at her beau. The guy would then buy a copy, mainly to get rid of me I think. At least in those days you didn’t have to compete with long-stemmed roses. I think I sold some 60 copies and gave away another 25 (out of a print run of 100 copies).

Fast forward a couple of decades and I am once again contemplating self-publishing. This time, the whole publishing industry is in turmoil, with book store chains collapsing faster than you can say incunabulum. The likelihood of an unknown author landing a commercial contract for a novel is way outside the probability curve; just about as plausible as someone completing a PhD thesis on the Afghan Navy.

Yet, in a sweetly ironic way, the factors that led to this state of affairs, such as globalisation and the digital age, also contain solutions for aspiring authors.

I decided to ramp up my writing this year, as I have spent too much time on other people’s priorities and life is short. I also started thinking about publishing again and felt bewildered. Sure, I had downloaded and read e-books, but had never thought about them from an author’s perspective. Do you just upload a Word file? What about copyright, plagiarism and piracy? How could authors possibly survive with novels priced from $0.99 on Amazon?

I started googling and felt incredibly lucky that one of the first resources I came across was David Gaughran’s blog: Let’s get digital. How to self-publish, and why you should. The blog contains a wealth of information, including a link to David’s 180-page Let’s get digital guide published in July 2011.

The first part of the guide starts with an overview of the publishing industry in this era of digital revolution. David believes that ‘print is doomed’, bedevilled by rising costs, fewer outlets, short sale timeframes and reducing market share. The e-book, by contrast, will profit from an upward spiral driven by growing acceptance, low production costs and the capacity to maintain backlists almost indefinitely. David debunks a number of myths about self-publishing and shows, for example, that a self-publishing author can recoup production costs and earn royalties comparable to the advance offered by trade publishers.

The second part of the guide provides an overview of the self-publishing process. David explains how you can prepare your e-book for submission to different publishers (such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords) and emphasises the need to engage professionals for final editing and the book cover. He canvasses a number of pricing strategies and explains how you can use blogging and social networking to develop a marketing strategy that can continue to drive sales.

The third section consists of testimonials of more than thirty writers who have gone down the self-publishing path; and a final section provides advice on a range of issues including international markets, short story publishing and a list of writing resources.

This comprehensive guide testifies, not only to David’s professionalism as a writer, but also to his generosity of spirit in sharing this valuable resource – the product of hours of hard work – as a free download with anyone interested. As a fellow writer I seriously ask anyone downloading the guide to make a donation to David (there is a link to his PayPal account). The price of a long-stemmed rose maybe…