On Self Publishing

The question I get asked a lot by writers looking to get their work out there - what route did I choose for getting my books out there?

Well it wasn't really a planned thing, and my first book, What Ukulele Players Really Want To Know was put out as a bit of an experiment. I finished writing the book about the time that the Kindle Publishing platform launched in the UK and I thought I would give it a go.

The Kindle publishing system really is a joy to use, and doesn't really require any extra formatting if you don't want to. In fact you can simply upload a Word document and it will publish. For me though, as my book is a reference manual, I wanted to have a table of contents for my chapter headings and therefore needed some free software (MobiPocket Creator) to do that for me. Other than that though it is a case of just uploading the file, a cover image and some back cover blurb and you are online and available to buy in just a couple of days!

That system only allows for Kindle sales though, so what about the other eReaders on the market such as Nooks and Kobos? For me the free Smashwords service was then a godsend. Smashwords also accept a Word file as your manuscript and, provided you pass their test on formatting, will then put you in their premium catalogue which puts the book on sale at (amongst other places) Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Nook, Sony and iTunes. But.... about that formatting. Beware - Word is a funny piece of software and leaves all sorts of hidden formatting in a straight document. You can't see it, but it is there and Smashwords will reject it. In fact, my first book took a couple of weeks of fiddling to get it to pass the entry requirements. My tip - start with an absolutely clean manuscript and minimal formatting unless you want a headache. Acceptance into their premium catalogue is worth it though.

Having published in ebook format, (and the books going on to do rather well!) the common question I was then asked was "do you do a paperback"? There are several options for authors in this area, but I chose the print on demand service called Createspace (an Amazon subsidiary). Their system is very easy to use and comes with a very handy cover creator - the results of which I went on to use on all my books, whether ebooks or paper.  The standard Createspace submission gets your paperback on Amazon (and recently, on Amazon EU sites too) which is great. For a small fee though you can take out  something called "Enhanced Distribution" which gets your book on a whole raft of other booksellers such as Barnes and Noble, Tower, Sears as well as into lending libraries. This is also well worth it in my opinion and allows bookstores to buy your title direct, in bulk, and at cost. The royalties are lower, but I think it's worth it for a wider spread of your work.

Of course, there are also other options - writers in the US can upload direct to Barnes and Noble, and Kobo has launched a similar service.  Just make sure that if you do have a choice, to compare and contrast the terms and conditions!

So how do they all fare? Well it may come as no surprise, but the Kindle store represents by far the most successful channel for all of my books. Smashwords direct sales are pretty limp, but the sales from their premium catalogue partners are just great too!  What really surprised me though was the success of the paperback version - that is to say a MORE EXPENSIVE version than the ebooks - they have sold bucket loads around the world from a variety of shops and I know that some of my books are now on shelves in libraries which is a nice feeling!  In fact I have now had some music shops get in touch asking to buy some direct and in bulk for their shelves.

And for that success of course, as an independent author you need to put in a lot of hard work beyond just writing the thing. Amazon will do minimal promotion of your title and you cannot just assume that because it is there along side the hundreds of thousands of other books on the store that anyone will even find it. Make sure you tell people it is there!

So if you have some work that you have been meaning to try to get published, my advice is to give it a try. The services above are pretty painless really and it has been a great ride over the last year or so too.

My thanks must also go out to the friends I have met on the Facebook Writing Kindle Books group who have been totally fantastic and supportive, offering plenty of tips and opinions.

Give it a go, and if I can be of any help,  just get in touch!

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