Lulu and Smokey

Lulu and Smokey (Photo credit: TCL 1961)

See: Joe Konrath (A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing:; Barry Eisler (; David Carnoy (; and Joanna Penn (

Let’s get this straight first up: In self-publishing you keep the rights to your book and publish it yourself. You can do this via Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony, who act as distributors of your book. You retain 70% of the price instead of 17.5% offered by legacy publishers for digital editions.

One of the biggest criticisms of self-publishing is that badly written, unedited books (published by vanity presses?) can reach the market and possibly flood it. But I see the readers and reviewers as the new gatekeepers of quality, and the rubbish tends to sink to the bottom of the slush pile quite quickly. We still all need good editors or self-editing (or feedback from peers) for our self-published books.

Authors have started employing the term “indie” author to give credence to the new self-publishing pathways, and to underscore the hard work involved. The indie authors do everything the traditional publisher does: they own their own ISBNs and are paid by the retailer/distributor directly.

Many of the big-earning indie authors are happy to be picked up by traditional publishers. Amanda Hocking is famous for her $2 million deal with St Martin’s Press ( And John Locke, one of the first self-published authors to sell a million e-books, let Simon & Schuster handle sales and distribution of the first print run of his recent books.

AmazonEncore is attracting authors, as it uses information such as customer reviews on Amazon websites to identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors that show potential for greater sales.

The whole e-book market is rapidly evolving and a lot of self-publishing companies are offering e-book deals along with their print book publishing packages. If you want to do it yourself, you need to start with a quality product and an arresting cover. You can do this with a quality Jpeg, but it has to look good in thumbnail as well.

You have to price your book competitively, $5.99 or less, according to Smashwords. Lulu recommends even lower prices than this. Amazon’s 70% royalty for e-books only applies to Kindle e-books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.

Marketing is all about author/ book discovery. Ideally you need to build a platform via social media before you publish.

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing: (KDP). If possible you should upload your file directly to KDP and create your own cover to maximise your profit. You can format your e-book from a Word file using Mobipocket E-book Creator (or Calibre) in order to convert it into Amazon’s format AZW. However there are formatters available at a small cost if necessary. You need to use an aggregator such as Smashwords or Lulu to get into the Apple i-Book Store.

BookBaby is for someone who wants a little more assistance throughout the process. There’s an upfront payment of $99 or $199, which can be recouped rapidly if you make sales quickly.

CreateSpace, iUniverse, Xlibris, AuthorHouse, and other Print On Demand self-publishing companies offer e-book conversion services and distribution–and sometimes hybrid print-publishing packages (these companies usually charge a few hundred dollars for converting your e-book). In some cases, this can work out OK for authors, but be aware that you may not be able to name your own price.

Hopefully I’ll get back to blogging about writing issues next blog post.


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