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Self-publishing FAQs

June 29, 2017 7 comments

I get these same questions so often that I decided to turn this into a blog post:

  1.  I have a manuscript. How do I self-publish it?Before you self-publish this:
    * If you have writer friends, get them to beta-read your manuscript.
    * Get your manuscript edited.
    * Get your manuscript proofread.

    Then:
    * Commission an cover for ebook (print/paper book cover will be separate).
    * Get the book formatted for ebook (and print/paper book, when you’re ready for it).
    * Create an account on Amazon and upload formatted ebook file.
    * Set a price and make it ready for sale with a click

  2. Do I publish as an ebook, or a print book?* Start off with the ebook.
    * Get it formatted as an ebook.
    * Upload to various vendors like – Amazon.com, Smashwords.com, pronoun.com etc. You cannot upload to many international vendors (like Apple) directly.
    * When you’ve learned more about the process, learn how to upload the files for print/paper books.
  3. How do I pick an editor?Ask around. If you’ve read a book you liked, check the acknowledgment section. The author will often thank the editor.

    Talk to multiple people. Ask for sample edits. Maybe the first three chapters, to see if the editor and you are on the same page.

  4. How much does it cost to have a book edited?Prices vary widely, but between Rs. 20,000 – Rs. 25,000 for every 100,000 words.
  5. How much does Amazon charge to sell my book?There is no charge for you to upload your book and sell it. The royalties they share with you will depend on the price you set for the book.
  6. What is ‘genre’?Each book needs classification in order to find a category to sell it under. Some examples of genres are: Romance / Horror / Thriller.
  7. Give me the formula to make my book a bestseller.No one can give you that, not even traditional publishers. If they could, they would ensure that every book of theirs was a best seller.
  8. Can you suggest a ‘banner for publishing’?I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Self-publishing is when you, the author, create an account on Amazon, Apple etc, and upload your own book. You set the price, and you collect the royalties. If you give control of this to someone else, they will be the ones controlling this.

    At various self-publishing workshops I conducted, I heard horror stories of stolen copyrights, and stolen royalties.

    Do the research. Spend the time learning about what you’re getting into before taking the next step.

  9. I have a ‘package deal’ from a prestigious company. They are asking for money. Or: they want to share the printing costs.Money should flow from the publisher to the author, and not the other way around. Anything else, you need to be careful.

    Lot of reputable traditional publishers are trying to cash in on the self-publishing phenomenon. They’ve tied up with not-so-reputable vanity publishers. Since the vanity publisher often approaches the new author under the banner of the traditional publisher, understandably, authors are confused.

    A good rule of thumb: if they are asking for money to publish you, be careful. Traditional publishers do not need money from you – they already have your work.

  10. Can I get help with self-publishing?Lots of “publishers” will be desperate to sell you their services. Don’t buy packages because you don’t know the quality of editors, cover designers, book formatters etc. Join writers’ groups. Ask questions. Learn everything you can, before jumping in.
  11. What about ISBNs?Ebooks don’t require ISBNs. When you upload your book to Amazon, for example, they will assign their own proprietary ID for your book.

    When you do a print book, the vendor (like CreateSpace, pothi.com etc) will assign you an ISBN. If you want your own, apply from the government of India, though I have not bothered to do this.

  12. How do I get my royalties?When you upload a book, you set the price. If your book is priced between $2.99-$4.99 you can keep 70% of your sale. Otherwise 35%. No other charges. If your bank account is linked to Amazon, your royalties will get deposited there.
  13. I’ve self-published my book. Can I submit it later to publishers for traditional publishing? What happens to the ebook then?

    Unless you have cracked the Amazon/NY Times bestseller list, no, you can’t. Unless you can get creative and generate demand for your book, there will be a limited number of buyers for your book. Once you exhaust those, no publisher will be interested.

    In the extremely unlikely event that a trade publisher offers you a contract after you’ve self-published, what will happen to your ebook / printbook / audiobook etc. rights will depend completely on how much clout you have. You might be able to negotiate to keep certain rights though, honestly, I don’t see that happening because trade publishing contracts have gotten extremely restrictive. They are claiming rights to everything, and in perpetuity.

 

#PubNext15 Roundup Part I

September 15, 2015 4 comments

PublishingNext 2015 roundup. Part 1

I was a panelist on September 12, 2015 at the absolutely wonderful Publishing Next conference in Goa. My session on The Nuts and Bolts of Self-publishing was with these co-panelists:

  • The absolutely delightful Vaa Manikandan. He is a Tamil-language author who’s been self-publishing print books offline after a bad experience with his trade publisher. At last count he is followed by 7090 people on Facebook. Huge number for a regional language author.
  • Jaya Jha, co-founder of pothi.com, a print-on-demand (POD) company
  • Kinjal Shah, CEO of Crossword Bookstores (about 100 bookstores around the country)
  • Leonard Fernandes, moderator of the panel.

PublishingNext is the brainchild of Leonard Fernandes and Queenie Rodrigues, co-founders of the India-based POD (print on demand) company, Cinnamon Teal. Publishing consultant Vinutha Mallya is an advisor to PublishingNext. If you’re looking to keep up with the publishing trends in India, this is the place to be. Very well organized and small enough that it is easy to interact with attendees over teas, lunches and dinners.

I attended every session (except two because they were parallel sessions). Here’s my take away in bits and pieces:

  • Use only Unicode type fonts for Indian (and possibly non-English) languages in order to enable portability i.e. usability on any device, and searchability on Google and other search engines. Right now many publishers use proprietary fonts which means the digital versions of the books need a lot of effort to make them Unicode-compliant.
  • Interesting point from the eloquent Osama Manzar. The youth of rural India are using mobile phones in lieu of TV. YouTube videos are extremely popular, as are movies. He’s come across enterprising youth who’ve invested in second- or third-hand cheap Chinese-made phones with large capacity microSD cards. They fill these cards with (probably pirated) Bollywood and other Indian-language movies, and “other” videos (that might interest teen boys) and sell them.

    Osama took exception when someone said the rural population is largely uneducated, saying that equating literacy with education is a fairly recent phenomenon in the history of mankind. He said youngsters are very adept with their mobile phones, and are disseminating information via videos.

  • Publisher Kannan said the Tamil language market is more than Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka put together
  • Google supports translation into 11 Indian languages.
  • Bloomsbury and Francis & Taylor, in their Social Media Marketing session, divided the room into 5 groups, gave out five books from Bloomsbury and asked each team to come up with a social media marketing strategy. Clever. Helped both the authors as well as the instructors because some of the teams came up with really creative stuff. (Did I mention my team won? 🙂 )
  • 50% of India – which is about 500 million potential users – is under the age of 25. Mobile penetration is 900 million, but this also includes people with multiple SIMS, not necessarily unique individuals. Rural women are less likely to have their own phones.
  • Kids search on YouTube first. Google search is, apparently, for the old timers.
  • Co-panelist Kinjal Shah, CEO of Crossword Bookstores (approximately 100 stores around the country) announced the launch of The Write Place. For a fee ranging from Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs. 8 lakh ($2258 – $12,039) your book will be placed in a separate ‘gondola’ for three months. Book announcements will be sent out in newsletters, according to him.
  • Bloomsbury, India announced the launch of their ‘custom publishing’ platform. The moderator’s comment – You mean, vanity publishing. There was no response to the comment.
  • Meekashi Singh, Manager – Contracts, Rights and Permissions, with Rupa and Aleph Publishers, talked about what to watch out for in publishing contracts. I asked her to do a blog post for me, and she graciously agreed.
  • Pratham Books, publisher of children’s books, has launched StoryWeaver.org.in. Stories can be read, downloaded, translated or printed by anyone for free. They also have a publishing tool, and a choice of 11 languages. Social publishing model.
  • ReadMyStori is a mobile app with currently 80 ebooks. Shailesh Gogate says there are plans for multilingual (Indian language) books. Right now you have to provide ebooks for free download. They expect to come up with a subscription model soon. Their success story is Gauri Dange. They marketed her ebook using three teaser chapters for a period of month. This resulted in 90 downloads. According to Shailesh they don’t have an online platform because they aren’t able to secure copyright as they would on a mobile app.
  • pothi.com announced Instascribe, an aggregator for ebooks (on the lines of smashwords). No upfront free. 20% cut in royalties for each book they sell a book for you.
  • For those who’ve not heard, Flipkart no longer sells ebooks.
  • Themeefy can take any kind of content – pages sourced from the Internet, pictures, blogs – and turn them into flipbooks. Their publishing engine picks up meaningful content from the data you submit – with user override – and builds end products for digital publication. You can generate a card, flipbook or digital portfolio. Customizable. Their focus is education-related publishing.
  • Amrit Abrol, CFO, Harper Collins says that their new focus is to tighten up because marketing too many books isn’t cost- or time-effective. They’re focusing on selling less number of books at higher prices – less pressure on finance, management, warehousing.
  • Jyoti Narula Ranjan did a podcasting session for publishers. She dealt mostly with her experience, introduced a few basics of podcasting. Was a decent session, would have preferred something more focused on monetizing podcasts from the point-of-view of publishers because while Jyoti has done 39 podcasts on her platform, SynTalk, and she works with a team, money for renting a studio etc. comes out of her pocket. A few ideas that she had – release snippets of book as podcast.

Interesting statistics from mobile-based app DailyHunt (formerly NewsHunt), title sponsors of the 2015 edition of PublishingNext. These are DailyHunt-specific statistics.

  • Success of their model is based on the fact that, in India, the penetration of mobile (cell) phones is much greater than either that of the Internet or TV.
  • 2000 paid comic book downloads a month in the Malayalam language
  • Half a million ebooks downloaded each month
  • 20% of their downloads are ebooks
  • No free sampling for articles or books
  • You can sell a chapter at a time, or the whole book
  • For ebooks, Rs. 49 (74 cents) is their sweet spot
  • Publishers and authors can track sales via dashboard
  • 95% of their downloads are regional language (i.e. non-English) books
  • Most mobile phones in India have limited data plans. DailyHunt requires that file size for downloads be 1 MB or less in order to keep costs for their customers managable.
  • Audiobooks, with their file sizes are more expensive to download, and hence a harder sell
  • Both trade or self-published authors can sell their books
  • Buy an article at a time – for Rs. 2, or the entire magazine for Rs. 5.
  • DailyHunt lays claims to being India’s only carrier billing (i.e. mobile operator payment) transaction platform.
  • No plans for subscription model for ebooks or magazines because India doesn’t allow auto-renewal via credit card in order to clamp down on potential fraud
  • 110 million user base.
  • They allow for micropayments – i.e. buying one magazine article at a time, in addition to conventional payment.

Part 2 deals with the scourge of vanity publishing.

#TraditionalPublisher or #Self-publishing Scam?

May 19, 2015 5 comments

Lately I’ve been getting lots of invites from “Traditional Publishers” offering to publish my books for me. I’m always leery of such ‘offers’ because many of these outfits are self-publishing scams dressed in traditional publisher clothing.

Some quick and easy ways of checking if the traditional publisher is legitimate (though they are getting smarter by the year):

* Is the publisher’s website geared to the reader (as it should be), or are they in the business of selling you, the writer, services or ‘packages?’

* Is it a digital-only publisher? Frankly, I don’t see how this is beneficial to the author. Instead of a one-time payment to your editor / book cover designer / ebook formatter, you’re now paying a lifetime of royalties. If you have also been asked to pay for these services (in addition to the royalties) definitely stay away. Self-publishing is so easy – create an account on Amazon, smashwords etc and upload your book. Why would you hand over your rights to someone else for this effort?

* Are they asking you to pay for publishing your book? Stay away.

* Typically, traditional publishers have provided the author access to in-store distribution, which was what authors wanted / needed. But things are in such a flux now that it is hard to know whom to trust.

I wish I could say only scummy self-publishing outfits are demanding payment for publishing a book, but I find that (in India, at least) traditional publishers – the big established-for-decades ones – are also selling services on the sly. I’ve heard of a few of them offering to publish a book and provide in-store distribution for these books, provided the author ponies up hundreds of thousands of rupees. Not only that, these established traditional publishers are then pressuring the author to buy up the entire print run so the publisher can declare the book a success. If this isn’t smarmy, I don’t know what is.

Jane Friedman also deal with this on her own blog. Click here for her take on it.

#Scams in #Publishing

March 14, 2015 Leave a comment

My article today in scroll.in.

Incase the link doesn’t work for you, you can check this pdf on my blog.

Free #ISBN numbers from the Government of India

February 26, 2015 Leave a comment

If you’re self-publishing a paperback or hardback, you can apply for a free ISBN. ebooks don’t require ISBNs. I found a post detailing the steps required. Very useful. Note the the address on the form has not been updated (it is a government agency. Use the one the site below provides).

Click here for the site.

 

Can Indie Authors Afford to Quit Their Day Jobs?

July 2, 2014 8 comments

One of the questions I was asked in a recent interview –  Can a newbie writer hope to make decent money out of self-publishing?

I was startled to see this question because it seems very obvious to me (and to a lot of other Indies, I’m sure) that self-publishing is where the money is. Where else can you expect to get royalties of 65-70%?

In traditional publishing the superstars – the Stephen Kings and the Nora Roberts –  are the ones making serious money. Everyone else is obliged to hang on to their day jobs.

This is quite different from self-publishing where even mid-list authors – people you might never hear about – are quitting their day jobs because they are able to pay the bills. The reason you might never hear of them is that  they need to sell a mere 75 ebooks each day at $2.99 in order to make a living.  The amount people seem to agree is a  living wage? $50,000.

But I guess all of this may not be very obvious to a lot of people, so I thought I’d point you to a couple excellent blog posts. You can decide for yourself.

The Passive Guy: Indie Authors Are Quitting Their Day Jobs.

The second post is by the amazing Hugh Howey: Newbie Author Declines $120,000 3-book Deal

Joe #konrath’s Blistering Attack on #literaryagent

February 8, 2014 Leave a comment

The title of this could also be: Literary Agents, and What to Watch Out For

If you haven’t read Joe Konrath’s post before, you should be reading it. It is almost mandatory for those considering publishing their book.   Something’s messed up. Unable to insert link into post today, so I’m having to give you the entire link: http://jakonrath.blogspot.in/2014/02/fisking-donald-maas.html