Monday, May 29, 2017

When trade publishing isn't the way to go

This weekend will be the tenth anniversary of the first time I finished writing my manuscript. It sucked then, but I had no idea. I thought it was a victory. I'd overcome my demons and turned them into something that would help someone else overcome theirs, or at least help a loved one understand. And so I set out on a journey to get it out there to all the someones and the people who love them.

I committed rookie author sins. I submitted my 38,287 word first draft manuscript to agents. My query letters were embarrassing. Worst of all, I didn't really know yet what I had to say.

Then, I started to learn. I took classes and workshops, attended conferences and critique groups, and I read books and blogs. Your blog is one of my favorites. Also, through following you, I met others whose help was invaluable. But in submitting to you, I was given something even more precious. You answered me. Not a form rejection, but an answer. With you, I felt heard. Your rejection was fair, so please don't fear I'm asking you to do consider my work again. You've also been very generous in answering questions. For all of this, I sincerely thank you.

If I may be so bold to trouble you one more time, this silly anniversary has prompted one last question. As I worked over the years, I also prayed for the words God wanted someone to see. Now, despite the constant rejections I receive, I feel a responsibility to get my work to  the right eyes. My story is finally ready. Following a professional edit, I'd like to self-publish. I'm not a career writer, nor do I expect to make any money through this venture. I can't, however, afford to make books on my own.

Are you aware of a way in which I could have books printed and sold at cost?

Maybe I'm being foolish. Perhaps sharing this victory is what I need to make it real. I don't know, but I have to do something.

You're not being foolish, and it's not a silly anniversary.
You tried something new, and persevered to get better at it.
That's something to celebrate.

And if anyone says anything to you disparaging your accomplishment, punch them in the nose. Well ok, maybe just a pithy retort will do. Something akin to "even your dog knows you stink."

But on to your question.

There is indeed a way to have books printed and sold at cost.  But that's not what you want to do. You want to self-publish and use POD.  I don't know how to do this, but a lot of other people do.  You can sell your books on Amazon, and you can have a buy button on your website.

Do what you did when you researching trade publishing: google, find people who know what they're talking about, ask questions and listen to the answers.

And when you publish your book, let me know. I like to support writers, even the ones I don't represent.


Kitty said...

The fact that you completed that manuscript is quite an accomplishment, too.

Check into Amazon's CreateSpace.

Gigi said...

Hey OP - I've published a bunch of travel guides as Print on Demand (the POD Janet mentions) and I'd be happy to chat and talk you through the process if it's helpful.

You can reach me at (Janet, if it's not okay to share this here, feel free to pull it down) or tweet at me at @gigigriffis on Twitter.

Susan said...

OP: This time last year, I was almost exactly where you are. I'd just finished querying my first full-length novel (after a couple of newbie faux-pas), and while I believed so much in my book--while I knew it was going to help people and change the way a disease was understood--I had trouble finding the right people to believe in it enough with me. I'd had a positive experience with self-publishing before, so after a similar email which bolstered my resolve, I determined to get the book out into the world.

It's great that you have a similar determination and belief. That is going to carry you so far.

You have options as far as financing your endeavor, too. I ran a successful crowdfunding campaign for my first book, so that's one possibility. For this second book, I had little-to-no operating budget so I hired a cover designer and then did my own edits (which, granted, is my profession, but man did it throw me into a tailspin of self-doubt. Options for you: beta-readers for development (one can't underestimate their help), friends who have editing experience, or even a local college's English department). Services like CreateSpace or Amazon KDP (which now offers both e-book and print services) can get your book listed for free. There is a ton you can do on the marketing end for free that can help to spread your reach and get your book--and its message--out there. And if you do decide to sell it for more than cost (which, like Janet, I recommend), you can put those proceeds back into your budget to spread your reach and readership even more.

Count every victory, OP! And keep believing in what you're creating.

Susan said...

I debated adding this to my comment above because it's incredibly sentimental--but who am I kidding, sentimental is who I am. =P

I just want to say that this community is an incredible one--filled with some kindred spirits and the most gracious (and talented) people. And Janet, who not only created this community but nurtures it through her generosity and support, really is a champion for writers. I just wanted to share my appreciation for this space and the people in it when I could.

Unknown said...

Happy Memorial Day all! OP, I second the recommendation for Amazon's CreateSpace. I'm helping a relative do what you're doing, researched a lot of options. CreateSpace won. Now I'm off to shovel out my house before the company gets here!

Theresa said...

So much great advice here, OP, starting with Janet's. Good luck with getting your beloved project out to the world!

CynthiaMc said...

If it's stuck with you this long, there's someone who needs to hear what you have to say. Best of luck!

CynthiaMc said...

If it's stuck with you this long, there's someone who needs to hear what you have to say. Best of luck!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Today's comments? I am taking notes.

On this (from dough-boy to third deployment solemn day) I am thinking about my family, their sacrifices and service.

Also thinking about you guys. Thanks for being here.

Donnaeve said...

OP, there are traditionally published authors whose publishers also use a POD service if their contract is for digital only, simply meaning it's used as a cost efficient way to provide a print copy of a work for those who want it.

Like Susan mentions, you should also check into digital (e-books) b/c you'd be surprised at how many people will be more apt to buy that way vs a print book. I believe my e-books always rank higher on Amazon than the print version - which is usually always cheaper (sale or not) than a print book.

And yes, Googling will bring you loads of resources and ways to learn - just like Janet mentioned. The good news is you had the right mindset all those years ago after you realized the mistakes you made initially, and you had the desire to learn how to correct those mistakes. That is a big plus for you, IMO. The way you push ahead today versus how you approached this in the past is all about that ten year journey. You've taken the time to learn all you needed to learn once before, which only proves you've got the tenacity and perseverance to do it again.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

OP, I love your last sentence: "I have to do something." That speaks of passion and a belief in your story. YAY, you! From writing the first word of your manuscript to finishing it, right on through educating yourself about the journey to publication, you've had a ton of victories. Not one aspect of this is foolish or silly.

As I was reading the letter, I thought to myself, "I hope Susan shows up to offer advice." :-) HUGS to you, you sweet sentimental girl.

OP, Wishing you all the very best.

Lennon Faris said...

OP, I wish you all the best. Sounds like a lot of good advice here.

Susan - toasting a glass (of OJ) to that!

Thankful for the freedom to write and be with people I love today. Wishing everyone the same.

Amy Johnson said...

Opie, Congratulations on your work and on getting to where you are now. I was about to comment on your first sentence, then I saw Melanie Sue's comment on your last sentence. "This weekend will be the tenth anniversary of the first time I finished writing my manuscript." After reading that, I was eager to read more.

So, you've gotten good advice today, and you've gotten people saying they like your writing. Onward for you! :)

Colin Smith said...

I have nothing to offer by way of advice, Opie, especially since more learned minds have given good tips. I will however, echo Janet's encouragement to share with us when you publish. I'll be happy to add you to the List of Blog Readers' Published Works in the Treasure Chest. All the best to you! :)

Unknown said...

A friend of mine published her book through this company:

They will do an editorial pass, provide cover art for you to approve, and publish the book as an ebook. If anybody wants to buy a print version, they'll print on demand. They also position the book on pretty much every place you can buy a book - amazon, goodreads, barnes & noble, and a bunch of other booksellers.

She was happy with her experience.

Becky Mushko said...

If you're determined to self-publish, CreateSpace is a good option— It costs you nothing (until you buy a proof copy or your author copies) the book is on Amazon, and you get modest royalties. Best way to begin is to read the tutorials, watch a few YouTube videos, and download a formatted template in the size you want from here:

Do NOT use a "self-publishing company" that asks for money upfront. These are vanity publishers that will keep trying to sell you more and more "services." Plus they will price your book too high and you'll be spending big money on author copies.

BJ Muntain said...

POD: Print on Demand. (In case anyone isn't clear on this terminology.) Many self-publishing companies offer this. Basically, when the person wants to buy a hard copy, the company will print a copy off and send it to them. Simple, easy, cheap.

I know a number of science fiction authors who make some good money self-publishing their work. They're prolific and have built a fan base. They also use professional editing and book covers - the two most expensive and most important part of selling your self-published novel.

I know, OP, that you said you can't afford a lot, but I do recommend a professional book cover. You're already going the way of a professional edit, which will make your book better than many out there. A bad book cover can turn off any possible readers. In fact, there's a whole blog full of bad book covers somewhere. It shouldn't cost too much - the editing will cost quite a bit more, and you can find cover artists through several freelance sites, and even take bids from freelancers (Note: Don't necessarily take the cheapest bid, unless you're impressed with the work they do.)

Good luck, OP! I hope you get your words and your message out there.

John Davis Frain said...

I have no knowledge in this arena, Author, so I'm the guy in the back just applauding you. Go get 'em!

roadkills-r-us said...

As others have noted, Amazon's CreateSpace does POD. They take a chunk because they have costs, and because they are in this for a profit. You can buy copies through CreateSpace cheaper than the normal Amazon price. For instance, I buy copies for book signings and gifts cheaply enough that I make more selling at $12 in person than at $13.95 on Amazon. I sell two for $11/ea and three or more at $10/ea. At $10, I still make a little more than I do when someone buys through Amazon. (This is all for paperbacks.)
The expanded distribution option will get you onto B&N's website, among others, but really eats up the money. I'd make only a few cents at $13.95 off a B&N sale. Instead I plan to also publish through Lightning Source/Ingram to get into other distribution channels.
If you want the same ISBN for all of the above, you need to buy your own vs letting Amazon assign one.

RosannaM said...

OP-several years ago I self-published a middle grade novel after about a dozen rejections or no-responses to my query. (I know now I should have queried more.)

I used Amazon Createspace. Everything I needed to learn, I did through their site. I did spend a few hundred dollars for a professional cover. I would recommend it. Congrats on this special anniversary!

roadkills-r-us said...

CreateSpace is absolutely free up front- that's zero up front costs!
As of a few months ago, Lightning cost something like $50 up front. Far less than the "all in one self-publishing helper" houses.
I would take the money you planned to use for that (apart from books you buy to sell yourself) and put it into an editor and a designer. A good cover and interior layout will get the book into far more hands, and increase the likelihood people read it. What looks good enough to the author isn't always enough for the readers at large. Aesthetics matter.
My email is in the bio if anyone wants to discuss more than really belongs here.
Janet, you may be the eighth wonder of the world. Thanks again.

Barbara Etlin said...

Good luck, OP!

I self-published a POD book of poetry through CreateSpace and sell it on Amazon and I'm very satisfied with the quality. I agree with what everyone has said above: quality editing and cover design are essential. Because the reader is judging your book literally by its cover (in thumbnail size) you need something that stands out yet fits into your genre.

RosannaM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

roadkills: For my second book, I went with CS for Amazon and print copies, and IngramSpark for all other distribution. I'm not thrilled with IS, to be honest. Especially their set-up fees (they also have revision fees if you have to reupload covers/interiors), but they do have certain months of the year where these are waived, and I liked that I could set up pre-orders, which CS doesn't have. I also like that if my book is ever unavailable from CS, the distribution channel for Amazon from IngramSpark kicks in. It probably can't hurt to use both (though IS is more costly for print books, I noticed). I'd be interested to know what your experiences/thoughts are on them with your next book.

Melanie: You're too sweet. *Hugs* right back.

Lennon: Cheers to you!

Steve Stubbs said...

Ten years seems like a long time, but it appears to be the normal learning curve based on what people are reporting. If you have spent ten years learning and improving, that is ten years well spent.

There are two comments in your post that suggest why you may be getting rejected. I am probably the only person in the world who is not interested in writing an autobiography. With tens of millions of people in this country alone banging away on laptops writing literary selfies, the market is a wee mite crowded. That makes it a real challenge to stand out.

Also, 38K is a little on the short side for a book. You may need at least twice that.

You can self-publish with zero manufactring cost by producing an eBook, Write the thing using Microsoft Word, go on, and out comes a pdf file free of charge. E-mail is free, so there is no shipping cost. The problem is finding customers.

If you want it to look professional, go online and find a book designer. I've no idea what that costs.

If you just want an artifact for your bookshelf, you can self manufacture for less than self publishing. Get it printed at Kinkos on whatever quality paper you are willing to pay for, and get it bound by a bookbinding company in whatever quality binding you are willing to pay for. You can get it printed on vellum and bound in leather if you want to shell out. You may have to search to find companies that offer that.

Donnaeve said...

Hopping back on to point this out, "I like to support writers, even the ones I don't represent."

Oh, yes, indeed she does, OP, as I can personally attest! :)

LynnRodz said...

And that's why you are the QOTKU in my eyes!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

What a great community here. Thank you, Janet, for this blog and nurturing this Reef of writers.

OP, I'm learning right alongside you. Although I've read, as others have pointed out, cover design is crucial in getting readers to look at your book. Congrats on your persistence and best of luck as you proceed forward. Do let us know how you go on.

Panda in Chief said...

Congratulations, OP! Finishing after 10 years is truly an accomplishment.
I'm adding my endorsement for CreateSpace. I've looked at Ingram/Spark, but their publishing process was a bit more opaque and they also have the upfront costs. The one advantage to them, as far as I can tell, that if you want to get your book into bookstores, they are more likely to take an Ingram book as opposed to one from CreateSpace.

Personally, I found CreateSpace fairly easy to work with. I ALWAYS order a hard copy proof, as some kind of wonky errors can pop up. When I did my first book, half of the pages were printed sideways (all the lefthand pages, as I recall). They have a live help line both online and by phone. I've had better luck getting things straightened out over the phone and they'll talk with you as long as it takes to solve the problem.
Being able to buy them at cost for my own "out of the trunk of my car" sales is great.

I add my agreement that any "publisher" that wants upfront money, should absolutely be avoided. (Paying for cover design is a different story.)
Good luck, OP!

Heather Wardell said...

Congrats, OP! Janet's right, this is a huge accomplishment and you should celebrate it!

And then self-publish both electronically and in print. I've sold over 170,000 copies of my 18 self-published novels (and given away nearly 400,000 copies of the one I keep at free) and by far the majority have been electronic sales. You want to be in all possible formats - the easier it is for a reader to choose your work the better!

I have used for some of those books a company called Primedia eLaunch. I have NO affiliation other than being a happy customer - they can get you to a variety of retailers and they're great people with whom to work, super-responsive to emails and speedy at getting books uploaded/changed.

You can do this! Great good luck - self-publishing has changed my life in a million ways for the better and I'm sure it can for you too. :)

Craig F said...

I had never thought of POD books as anything other than the spawn of some demon vanity company before. Now I can see several dozen uses for them.

Thanks for the post and for the information in these comments.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone who said to self-pub through Amazon and CreateSpace. Don't pay anyone up front to do something that has become a very easy and simple process to learn.

If you want to distribute to other sites as well (B&N, iBooks, Kobo, etc), you might want to consider using Draft2Digital ( I haven't used them, as I chose to upload to those sites individually (tedious, but not difficult), but I've heard several authors say they like the service for conversion and distribution. They do take an additional cut of proceeds, but nothing up front.

In your first paragraph when you said you thought it was a victory to complete that first draft-- you were absolutely right. It's just the first of many victories, but don't dismiss it. Finishing a project is hard work and a rare accomplishment. You deserve to feel proud of yourself for that. Best of luck to you.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Steve, I also have no interest in writing an autobiog, though I have been asked about it in the past.

L O V E the term 'literary selfies'!

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Forgive me, Your Sharkness, if this gets overly long. I am motivated by helpfulness.

Opie, you sound like the perfect candidate for indie publishing. You have a book for which your focus is more getting it out there, rather than making a profit. Indie publishing (aka self-publishing) is a perfectly valid way for you to accomplish your goals. Congratulations on finishing a ms, on realising how to make it better, and by being willing to get it out there. Don't worry about word count.

1. Professional edit. I believe you are on your way.
2. Professional-looking cover. This is more vital than most people realise.
3. Opt for both print copy and ebook. Print is nice to hold in the hand, but you will reach a significantly larger audience through ebook, which is your main goal.
3a. Go Amazon, and Smashwords and/or Draft2Digital. SW and D2D allow you to easily set a price-point of $0.00, which will make your freebie ebook oh-so-easily accessible. (Also SW does regular promotions for books set to free, which will help increase visibility.)
3b. I've had an excellent experience with CreateSpace in creating my print versions. Yes, you will need to set a price point that makes back printing costs. Really, this is necessary. However, I recommend rounding up your price to the next highest $x.99.
4. Marketing. Now, if you're clever, this doesn't have to cost you a cent. Who is your audience, and how are you going to get your book into their hands? (Handing out hard copies is one way, but not the only way.)

Opie, feel free to reach out to my via my Google profile. I'm a hybrid author. I'm happy to share my experiences with you.

AJ Blythe said...

I've nothing to add as there are many more experienced voices who have already spoken (love this magical place). But I wish OP the very best with their "book of the heart".

Julie Weathers said...

I have a friend who has an indie publishing company, which does POD books. I've been very impressed with the quality. I bought some to support the authors and were comped some.

I'll join John and cheer you on as I have nothing of substance to add. Here's a Shiner Bock or two in your honor!

Gina Black said...

The Writer's Cafe at Kboards is an amazing source of information and help from self-published writers. The archives are full of information as well.,60.0.html

roadkills-r-us said...

(The dreaded Fourth Comment. I'm so doomed.)

I set up my own imprint since I eventually want to be in book stores. If anyone wants to explore using Nine Realms Press, let me know. It would be either free or dirt cheap, depending on details (more authors on an imprint helps everyone). And I can hook you up with an editor, illustrators, and a designer.

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LongTermNewbie said...

Wow! Your support is overwhelming. Thank You all! Looks like I have some work to do.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Some great advice and congrats here! I would also suggest you look into joining Independent Book Publishers Association. Along with invaluable advice in every stage of the process, they offer membership benefits that will pay for your dues many times over. The Ingram Spark deals alone (free setup on ebooks and print, free revisions) can save you a ton if you're going that route.

And Joel Friedlander's Book Designer site has pages of info on book design, uploading files, etc.

Good luck!