Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Thinking of self publishing?

So you've decided to go it alone. The next question is, print book or e-book? Well, Philippa has talked about her experiences of using print-on-demand services. And this may well be the way you want to go (there's no reason why you can't do both). But I chose to take the route of self-publishing on line.

The first thing you will need is a cover. It's important that this cover is one that will still look good reduced to a thumbprint, one that will stand out and mark your novel as professional. And I'm afraid that, for that, you will have to pay. The company I used was called 2h Design Consultancy www.nedof2h.net and the guy I dealt with was Ned Hoste. It was pricey, but the service was excellent. It didn't take more than a few days before six options were winging their way to me. The one I chose wasn't exactly one of the ones he sent, but had elements from several incorporated into the final result. I recommend them.

Now I'm no technophobe, and I guess I thought I would find the next part easy. I'd spent quite a bit of time on-line, investigating sites which gave you information on how to do it yourself, sites which offered to do it for you (for a fee) and sites which promoted themselves as e-publishers, and had gathered a considerable amount of information. Well it wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. For a start I was a bit bewildered by the information on the type of formatting that was required. It seemed that different e-book sellers required different formats, and so just reading the instructions put out by Amazon for Kindle would only go so far. And I didn't want to limit my market to just one seller. So in the end I chose the company that seemed to have the strongest reputation, which was Bookbaby.

Were they helpful? Well, yes and no. They claim that you can just send them a Word document and they will do the rest. So I sent them a Word document, along with the fee (which isn't extortionate). Not so fast. Apparently, I discovered, although this was indeed a Word doc., it had the wrong formatting. Well, I had thought (and to be honest, I still do think) that putting in the correct formatting was what I was paying them to do. Now I was lost. It wasn't that I couldn't understand what was needed. It was that I couldn't work out how to take out all the formatting I'd put in.

So, and I totally advise this to anyone who is struggling with technology, I went to a geek forum, and I asked the question. As it happened I'd been chatting on this forum for a while, ever since I developed my own website, and so I wasn't just a newbie asking for favours. That can get right up people's noses. And there I found a Good Samaritan who DID IT FOR ME! She even reformatted the book correctly and said it only took her about twenty minutes.(Of course I now needed to learn to do it myself, and when I've mastered it I'll post the details).

Once it was in the correct format, the new, smart cover attached, I re-sent it to Bookbaby and soon it was on all the e-book retailers' lists.

Wow! Now everybody's flocking to buy it, yes? Well, er, no, actually. Because here's the rub. Whether you choose to self-publish through print on demand, or through e-sellers, the marketing and publicity is all down to you. It can feel really heady initially, when friends and acquaintances are reading it, they're recommending it to their friends, you're getting some fab reviews on Amazon. Philippa even got her book taken up by a reading group. But once that's over, you need to be thinking of how to get your book out there, and noticed (and bought and read, obviously). So how?

Well, the standard response is: Social Media. Of which there are many forms. I'll have a look at them, and what's worked for me, in the next post, but let me tell you this much: it's a long, slow haul.

Paula K. Randall

Monday, 5 August 2013

Marketing and Publicity by Philippa

You will not sell or share your book without somehow telling people it exists. Word on the block says you must have an e-profile but if you’ve never been out there on the net it can be hard. You have to realise that with an e-profile you cannot totally control who reads your details and it’ll be open to all. I joined Linkedin which felt quite safe, and was already on Facebook as an individual, but had always used it with caution.

I continued with the personal approach and e-mailed everyone on my private e-mail contact list asking them to send details of the book on to their friends too. Everyone I met or bumped into had to listen to my pitch about the book, and these contacts as well as a fabulous book launch evening at Wivenhoe Bookshop have resulted in over 300 sales. Relative strangers now come up to me in the street to say how much they’ve enjoyed the story, so it had obviously moved beyond simply family and close friends reading it, which is exciting.

I was able to put the paperback on Amazon but I don’t believe that has resulted in any sales so far, so the next decision is whether to e-publish. The big question now is whether my IT skills are up to it and I suspect the answer is ‘no’ so I’ve asked for help from Wivenbooks and that is going to be the next stage of the journey. We want to try to get it on to multiple e-readers in order to support independent bookshops which often stock e-readers other than Kindle. Once ‘There’s No Sea in Salford’ is digitally available I aim to give it it’s very own Facebook page.

I’m also hoping this blog from Wivenhoe Writers, a small group of local writers who meet up once a month to share their work and discuss writing, will continue to raise the profile of my writing. It feels safer than trying a blog of my own and I hope will be stimulating in it’s own right – we’ll see. So it’s blogging and short story writing now till the autumn, then head down for the second novel as the nights draw in.