Self-Publishing: A Retraction :)

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By Anne Garboczi Evans

So earlier this month, I wrote about self-publishing and mentioned a 5,000 dollar price tag as one of the drawbacks. I got my facts from editors at established publishing houses who spoke at the writer’s conference I’d been to just a few weeks before.

Guess what? Traditional publishers are not experts on self-publishing. After publishing my article, I spoke to several Indie authors from the Christian Indie Authors Facebook group who have dozens or even hundreds of books out. They said they spent as little as zero to a couple hundred dollars to bring each book into print. Createspace, the self-publishing arm of Amazon, charges nothing to bring both your e-book and paperback out in print. You only have to pay for editing your book and cover art.

My jaw dropped. Where in the world were traditional publishers getting this 5k figure then? Terri Main, a self-pubbed author with dozens of books in print, explained it to me as the difference between a Mercedes and more affordable modes of transportation. Both will get you from point A (written manuscript) to point B (published manuscript), but the Mercedes will cost a ton more. Random House can afford the Mercedes, but most self-pubbed authors can’t.

I also learned that not all genres are created equal when it comes to self-publishing. With some exceptions, self-published non-fiction doesn’t sell well. Perhaps this is because people want a publishers’ stamp of approval on their non-fiction to ensure they’re getting the right facts. Or maybe they’re more likely to look in a brick and mortar store for non-fiction, rather than browse Amazon.

As a rule, self-pubbed romances sell extremely well. Of course, romances in general sell really well and romance readers are avid consumers who read multiple books a month. The jury’s still out on self-pubbed picture books. Some authors have said they’ve done really well with picture books, while others have said its a hard market to self-publish in.

So I’d like to apologize to all my author friends for spreading the false 5k figure in my last post. These days, you can self-publish for cheap and make money off of it.

Besides the technology that has cut down the costs of self-publishing, there’s another driving force behind the self-pubbing wave. Because of the economy, traditional publishers are pushing author marketing more and more.

Before signing on a new author, publishers want him to have a huge social media following, a successful blog, and a ten page marketing plan. Is it any surprise that once an author has all that in place she might think, “Hmm, I could just market this book myself.”

5 thoughts on “Self-Publishing: A Retraction :)

  1. Oh, the mis-information we’ve all been fed. I, too, gave out incorrect or out-dated information before I started hanging out with indies. Definitely, if you want information about indie-pub, speak to an indie-pubbed author. What I’ve learned over the last year has been astounding. There are a lot of reasons to choose this route. I did it only as a little project with my critique partners … and now I’m sold!!! There will be more.
    Ann, thanks for this post and … we forgive you ;).

    • Glad to be forgiven, Connie! 🙂 What book did you put out as Indie? If you would post a link, I’d love to take a look. What were the things that surprised you about Indie publishing and made you want to do it again?

  2. Anne, thank you for this! It’s true the best place for Indie information is in fact, from Indies. Boots on the ground if you will. I’d attended a workshop on Indie publishing in 2012 and was told it took $20K to successfully self-publish a book with cover design, editing, printing, etc. It was given by an ABA agent. Hmmmm…. I’d like to think now either she was terribly misinformed, quoting only on the high side, or our industry really has advanced that much in two years.

    I released my debut as an Indie in April of this year. I worked with a professional freelance editor who is an alumni of the big houses, hired out the cover designer I wanted (and my cover would go on to win the April 2014 award from Joel Friedlander—The Book Designer), hired out my interior design and formatting from the same group Hugh Howey uses, and did that all for under $2K. Among my Indie peeps in the CIA I’m on the high side of per book cost, but I made my investment back in royalties in 5 months. Epic win.

    I’ve learned enough from the CIA that when I release my historical romance next year after book 2 of my Sword of Redemption series, I will be able to cut that production cost 60% because that one won’t require a dedicated photo shoot for the covers like my series. But best of all, I have readers now. My work is being read and appreciated, and the extra monthly income is just an added blessing. I never proselytize that Indie is the way for all authors, but it has turned out to be just right for me. And lots of my Indie and Hybrid peeps in the CIA do all their own formatting from templates, their own covers, and release their books at zero cost other than their time. So lots of options, and a whole lot of them way less than $5K. I’m glad you’re helping spread the word. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the mention.

    Actually, self-published nonfiction sells very well. Just not 100,000 word exposes of the vacuum cleaner industry. Small how-tos and self-helps make many people very comfortable livings. My best sellers are nonfiction. Fiction is just for fun (and a few dollars). The difference is this. You don’t have anything like Wool by Hugh Howey. You have books that sell a few hundred to a few thousand copies each, but the books are 10,000-20,000 words or less. The authors can write them in a week to 10 days. They target a very specific need. One of my better selling series is Ridiculously Simple Self-Publishing. Each book covers one area of self-publishing from a DIY perspective. Formatting, cover design, etc. No one of them is going to make you rich, but I have out 45 Bible studies, writing books, other nonfiction and 6-7 fiction. I can write a nonfiction Bible study in 12 hours. A fiction book in 100 hours. Each sells about the same.

    You just don’t see nonfiction “superstars” like you do with fiction. And individual nonfiction books don’t sell as well at the top of the list as fiction. But mid list and down list, they might do much better. But even if not, you can write more of them.

    A good book on the subject (no not mine) is Writing a Kindle Book a Week by Alex Foster.

    The key is finding a niche market and writing a good solid how-to for that market.

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