Indie Publishing – Part Two: How I Published

Last time I posted I discussed why I chose Indie Publishing and how I came to that decision. Today I am going to discuss how I self-published. Before I do so I am going to point out that there are many different ways to self-publish, as there are reasons to self-publish, so if you are intending to self-publish then I recommend looking at what you want from the experience before making any decisions. What you want is vital in determining which platform you use, if you use one at all. Things to keep in mind when deciding how you are going to go about publishing are what format you want to publish in, (do you want to offer only print books, or only e-books, or both?), where you want your title to be able to be purchased from, and your target audience. I wanted to publish both paperback and e-book, and I definitely wanted the title available on Amazon, and so I chose a platform that offered me both formats in what I supposed would be a relatively easy process to follow. My target audience already buys from Amazon so that was a part of my decision making process.

For The Kingston Chronicles I chose to use the Amazon services Createspace and KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). I’ve used Blurb’s services twice before during college and had pleasant results so I considered using them again. I thought however seeing as I was publishing a text based this time that maybe I would try Createspace. Blurb was fantastic for the Photo-books I previously published. Blurb gives you the option of simply using their software to print your own book or to set it up for purchase in their shop. Or at least they did. It’s been a long time since I used their services so I am speaking from past knowledge. They could have changed their service.

One of the primary reasons I chose Amazon’s services was because other authors I know had chosen this route and I wanted to be able to fall back on my friends’ experiences when I had questions. These services have paid features as well as free features which is an added bonus because it is possible to publish your title with little in the way of financial cost. If you choose eBook only I would say it is even feasible to publish without any costs. As I had to save up from my day job and Birthday/Christmas gift moneys, capital for business expenses was something that I needed to consider carefully. At the end of the day the only cash outlay I had to come up with was the cost of having proof copies sent to me to review for the paperbacks, and then the shipment of copies I ordered to fill pre-orders and to have a small amount of stock on hand. On a side note, I recommend encouraging your customers to pre-pay for their copies if you are offering pre-orders. Several of my initial customers pre-paid their books which gave me the last of the money I needed to actually get them printed. If I had published Kindle only I don’t think I would have actually had to pay anything. The price of proof copies (including shipping) was extremely reasonable and worked out approximately the price of buying a new release paperback from a major supplier like Amazon or Dymocks.

Just a note of warning to authors outside of the United States. Createspace and KDP direct their business out of the United States. In my case that means that firstly, before Amazon will make payments to me of my royalties the American IRS takes tax out of the sale price and Amazon takes a cut of the sales price. Basically, if my sale price is $30 then a portion of that goes to the American government as tax, Amazon keeps a portion and then I get the rest; and I may have to pay additional tax on this both in America and Australia. The dollar value of the royalties I get depends on the price of my title (so when I put it on sale I get a smaller royalty). Another thing to keep in mind if you live outside of the United States is that you may be required to file American tax returns. Whilst Amazon does not specifically help you with this they give you the forms you need to fill out for the IRS when you set up your account with them so that the IRS can determine what their take from your sale price is (note that some countries have reciprocal tax agreements in place which can potentially allow you to pay less tax than you normally would. Your entitlements can be established while you’re filling out this form by cross-referencing the relevant tax documents. From memory there are links to the IRS website so that you can check this information yourself.). Amazon (or the IRS I’m not sure which anymore) gives you the option to have the relevant forms that need to be filled out at tax time e-mailed to you if you are required to fill them out; as I understand it. I am in no way a tax lawyer or accountant, especially not for the American tax system, so if you choose to go through an Amazon imprint company (or really any company) be sure to read all about your obligations in the paperwork online. I just wanted to give you a heads up that if you self-publish you will need to keep taxation in mind.

On that note if you self-publish in Australia there are several requirements as well. The first is that if you are intending to make a career of it (i.e. it’s not a hobby and you are expecting to make an income from it) you will be required to have an ABN (Australian Business Number). Please discuss whether (and what kind) of ABN is appropriate for you with your tax agent/accountant. Again I am not an accountant or tax agent and am merely speaking from my own experience. The other thing to keep in mind is you are legally required to supply a copy of your published manuscript to The National Library in Canberra. This includes e-books. Providing this to The National Library is at your own expense (I.e. you are donating a copy and, in my case, paying to post it to them) and there is a form that you are required to fill out which can be found on their website.

Back to the publishing process. I found Createspace to be fairly easy to work with. One piece of advice; use the template they provide. I spent the better part of five days (and I mean days) formatting my manuscript and still not managing to get it correct (two of those days were literally me sitting at the computer focusing on formatting for eight hours). I finally broke and copy and pasted the segments into the template (because a simple copy and paste doesn’t quite work either) and it worked beautifully. The template is extremely clear with what needs to be inserted in which section and makes the process a hell of a lot quicker. I found the Createspace template especially useful because once you have finished setting up your manuscript for print they can then forward that template to KDP for you so you don’t have to waste time going through the submission process again.

There have been a few things that bugged me about the Amazon services, especially their reader review system, but setting up your title in their system was relatively simple. I intend to use the service again for my current manuscript. In my next post, which will be the 25th of February, I’ll go into further detail as to the process of reviewing your proof copies and things to keep in mind when formatting your manuscript. Thanks for taking some time to read this blog. If you have any questions please feel free to comment or send me a message via the contact page. 🙂

Indie Publishing – Part One: Why I chose Indie Publishing

I am going to preface this post with a disclaimer. I do not have official qualifications in publishing. I am simply a writer who chose to self-publish. My education is in writing not publishing and the information given here about self-publishing is what I learnt from my own experience and is in no way comprehensive of the world of Publishing; Traditional or Indie. As there are many types of writers there are also many types of publishing experiences. I share my experiences with the intention of helping, or at the very least entertaining, my readers and fellow Indie authors.

I’d also like to take a quick minute to thank Nina Smith (fellow writer and Indie publisher) without whom I probably still wouldn’t be published. I relied heavily on her advice and experience (she has self-published five novels all of which are available from Amazon) in order to actualize my own dreams.

If you’ve read the first post on this blog you will already be familiar with some of the information I am sharing in this post. I chose Indie Publishing primarily for one reason: I wanted The Kingston Chronicles published. Traditional publishing can be a very hard industry to break in to and this is for several reasons. In the interview (see First Blog Post dated Jan 7, 2018) I did with Nina for her blog I explained how one of the reasons Traditional publishing can be such a difficult avenue for authors is simply a matter of mathematics. If you look at the number of manuscripts sent in to publishers each year and compare them with how many titles are published for the corresponding periods you will see that there is a high submission rate and a low publication rate. This does not reflect the quality of the submissions. You could write an amazing story about mermaids but if the publishing house is focusing on re-telling fairy tales, for example, your manuscript could potentially get turned away simply because it isn’t what the publishing house wants at that time. I’ve paraphrased this example which was used in a class I took in university by a lecturer (although I believe she used vampires and angels as her example) who wanted us to have realistic expectations. When I was still at university Vampire fiction was seemingly petering out and being replaced with Fallen Angel fictions. Although now it seems like Faeries are the newest hot deal which doesn’t phase me because with Indie publishing I do not feel the need to be constrained to what is “popular”.  Plus my favourite things to write about are Witches, Fallen Angels and Demons, Mermaids and Faeries.

Another reason I chose to self-publish due to the difficulties of Traditional publishing has to do with the process of Traditional Publishing. As I understand it, and please correct me if I am wrong, the usual Traditional publishing route requires a writer to retain the services of an agent. As I understand it; it is almost impossible to get published without the agent’s services. I’ve heard stories of writer’s submitting unsolicited manuscripts and managing to get published but these stories appear to be the exception to the rules and not the general experience. I looked into agencies when I was still making my decision as to how I was going publish The Kingston Chronicles and, once again this is how I understand it, it seemed that it is extremely difficult to get an agent to represent you. It seems that Publishing Houses and writing Agents are looking for “sure things”, that they want to know that they are going to make money off a title and therefore are rather discerning as to who they take on as clients. It seemed at the time that the only way to get published was that you had a demonstrated history of providing quality content either by having short stories or articles published in magazines, journals or short story collections, or you had won (or at least placed) in literary prizes. The other main way seemed to consist of already being “famous” or being an authority in the field in which you were writing about. As I said before, this is my interpretation of the information that was available to me at the time and is not necessarily representative of every writer’s experience. I know I wished with every submission that I would be that author that won the “writing lottery” by winning a writing prize and then having an unsolicited manuscript accepted for publication on the first submission. I dare say that all writers harbour this fantasy even knowing that it is an unlikely outcome.

So I spent many years submitting short stories and poems to journals and competitions and receiving polite rejection letters advising me that while they enjoyed my writing that particular story wouldn’t quite fit in with the theme of the upcoming edition and to try again at a later date, if they responded at all. The majority of the time my unsuccessful submissions were unknown to me until place winners were announced online and my name was not among them. I understand that with the volume of submissions received it would be difficult to respond to every single submission, but it is still annoying at best and disheartening at worst.

I know quite a few writers, both Traditionally and Indie published, and I asked my friends about their experiences. I did some research into self-publishing hosts and when there were Author Talks that I was able to attend in my area I would go (and sometimes to ones outside my area). Two of the talks I attended that really stick out in my mind are talks given by Patricia O’Neill (author of The Hatshepsut Trilogy – which, quick plug, I adored) and Michael Barnes (author of Shot Through The Heart). Patricia was very accommodating with questions relating to Traditional Publishing as Michael was with questions about Indie Publishing, and I think this is the foremost piece of advice I could possibly give; Ask questions. Go to Author talks, if you have friends who are authors ask them about their experiences, if you’re taking writing classes with the intent to publish ask your teacher. If you’re taking writing classes then you’ll no doubt have friends looking to publish (or being published, or who have been published) so make use of those connections. Ask them the perks they found as well as the disappointments. Ask them what they wish they’d known before they made their decision. Ask me (there’s a comment button below and a contact the author form on my contact page). No one has the definitive answer of what your choice should be but everyone will be able to tell you what did and didn’t work for them. Use that information to your advantage so that you don’t make things harder for yourself than they have to be.

In the end I was unsatisfied with the Traditional publishing route and felt that if I chose the Traditional route that I may never achieve my dreams. To be honest I’m pretty sure that my friends and family where not surprised with my choice. I’m generally pretty determined (some would use the word stubborn) and unwilling to leave my fate in the hands of others. I’ve always been a bit of an outsider and focused on doing things my way. I also had several years where life was unkind to me. I felt at sea in the world and didn’t like where I was so I took steps to change that. That attitude is still with me. I still feel that our lives are in our own hands and that our actions are what push us forward. You can only get to where you are going by pointing yourself in that direction and taking one step after the other. So, while Traditional publishing has perks the call of Indie publishing pulled at my heartstrings harder. With Indie publishing I am beholden to no one and I get to manage my projects completely. It is harder yes, as this literally means that everything is down to me; cover art, marketing, editing, quality control, PR – literally everything is my responsibility and takes my time to do, but it also means I am not stuck with the choices of someone else. Things like Titles and Cover Art are not determined by someone else. There’s no one asking me to change fundamental characters or story lines in my books because they think they will sell better.  I will go more into these issues in further blog posts but it is something that unpublished authors should keep in mind. Although considering the difficulty I’m having coming up with a title for my current manuscript, a sequel to The Kingston Chronicles, sometimes having other people have a vested interest in helping you isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 😊

In my next post I will discuss how I published The Kingston Chronicles so if you have any burning questions email me, leave a comment or pm me on social media (you can find me: @b.forrester.author on Instagram and B. Forrester – Author on Facebook).

The Lunar Chronicles Appreciation Post

Ok so while my main intent for this blog is to discuss my writing and publishing journey (as well as keep you up to date with what I’m doing) from time to time I’m going to discuss other things as well; mostly books. I’m starting with books today because I really want to talk to someone about how much I’m loving The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I’m four books in and if you check out the reviews for Fairest on Goodreads you’ll notice that I used part of this post for my review.

I’ll start with a confession; Science Fiction really isn’t my genre. I don’t mind television Sci-fi (I can’t escape it either because my husband loves it) but I’ve never really been interested in Sci-fi novels; with exceptions for Frankenstein as well as Nylon Angel by Marianne de Pierres. Towards the end of last year I walked into my local library to return a book and I saw the cover for Cinder. I was instantly drawn to pick it up and read the blurb (it’s an excellent argument for judging a book by its cover by the way). The impression of futuristic re-tellings of fairy tales had me checking the book out to give it a go. I read it in two days. It was fantastic.

I’m going to segue here for a moment to say that it was literally the fact that these books were based off fairy tales that made me pick up Cinder. I adore myths, legends, and folk and fairy tales. When I was doing my degree I minored in Children’s Literature simply because that’s where all the units studying these stories were. So that was really the only reason I loaned out the book. It exceeded my expectations a thousand fold.

Over the first three books we’re introduced to Cinder (a cyborg mechanic in Cinder), Scarlet (a farmer/produce delivery person in Scarlet) and Cress (who is essentially a spy in, you guessed it, Cress). From the names you can probably guess which fairy tale the novel/character has been based off. Or I should say loosely based off because these stories, barring archetypes, show little resemblance to their originals. The main character is definitely Cinder but Meyer focuses each book on the sub-plot of the titular character just as much as progressing Cinder’s story until they all meld into one. The character growth of each is impressive and excellently written. Meyer really knows her craft and is a pleasure to read. The male characters are just as well crafted but the female characters are undeniably the stars of the show, and for the most part, the female characters don’t rely on their male counterparts to save the day. They are their own heroes.

As with all fairy tales there is of course the Evil Queen and in The Lunar Chronicles that evil queen is the Lunar Queen Levana. In The Lunar Chronicles the action and the first two books predominately take place on Earth and posture the Lunar Kingdom, that is the inhabitants of the Moon, as running a sort of cold war against Earth. They aren’t typical Sci-Fi aliens as much as they were originally a colony from Earth that over time evolved due to the change in their environment until they possess abilities akin to magical powers. This is explained in the story and I couldn’t explain it as well as Meyer does. Fairest explains Levana’s back story from her childhood through to several years before the events of Cinder.

Marissa Meyer has a talent for writing really strong female characters that it’s hard not to love. Even Cress, who starts her journey as a unempowered Damsel In Distress, really grows into a strong character. After three novels based on the fallout of the evil Lunar Queen Levana’s actions, I wasn’t expecting to get so emotionally invested in a character I’d grown to detest; especially knowing where the story would end up. Queen Levana’s story does not make her any less deplorable nor does it excuse her actions. It does however explain them. I felt sympathy for young Levana, I will not say more than this for fear of spoilers, and while she definitely makes bad choices you can see what drove her to do so. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series! 

Meyer is quickly gaining a spot on my favourite authors list and I’m waiting for my local library to get in Winter for me. I doubt that this is the last time you’ll hear about this series from me. I highly recommend fans of Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Fairy Tales check this series out because I find it difficult to believe you’ll be disappointed.

First blog post

Nina Smith AuthorWelcome to my blog. I’ll be posting soon but in the meantime check out this interview I did with Nina Smith! Nina is also an Indie Author and in this interview we discuss a little of the inspiration behind The Kingston Chronicles as well as the Indie Publishing journey. 

Nina has two books out now from the Shadow Series (a series about faeries, but not as you know them) with a third on the way, and she also has two stand alone mystery novels; Hailstone and Dead Silent. All Nina’s books are available on Amazon. 

http://www.ninasmithauthor.com.au/2796-2/