So, we all know about the Indie Revolution and have read many blogs and news articles stating that 2012 is the year of the Indie author. I have read this, at least. Like many others, I am intrigued by the success of Indie authors like Amanda Hocking. I've done a lot of research into the self-publishing option because of all the recent buzz. It turns out that there are numerous other people looking into this option as well.
I'm not usually one to follow the crowd, but in this case, I'm chasing after it. I feel like I'm ten steps behind everyone else, but the good news is that there seems to be room for all of us.
I first looked into self publishing five years ago. I was just getting into writing fan fiction and was becoming pretty popular in that area. It was then that I realized I could write fiction. Traditional publishing scares me to death. All of the restrictions I hear about it, all the changes that can be done to a storyline, seemed too overwhelming to me. So, I decided to look into self publishing just to see what it entailed. Just to keep the record straight and as an addendum here: I don't discount mainstream or traditional publishing by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just scared of it.
Five years ago, around 2007, self publishing wasn't looking like a good option at all. It was expensive. Many companies required you to buy a certain amount of books and you would be left wondering how to market the hard copies. I was reading articles about people selling books from their basements. Storage was quickly becoming the next part of that research and the entire process seemed so cumbersome and, quite frankly, not conducive to profit at all.
The author would be so far in the hole by the time he/she made a deal with one of these companies, spending thousands of dollars, that the author would be spending the life of the book simply trying to pay that money back. That wasn't an acceptable option. At that point, there wasn't anything on the web about publishing through an e-reader, not to mention the stigma of vanity press to begin with, so I quietly snuck away from it and never looked back.
I continued writing fan fiction. I was giving myself away for free, but it was such a rewarding experience that I couldn't stop. I was having so much fun. I got to know people, helped them with their own story lines, gave reviews, and got lots and lots of reviews in return. Those darn reviews were like a drug. I literally couldn't stop writing. I needed that review fix.
Then, around 2009, someone I knew got a publishing deal. I shared with her what I was doing with fan fiction and she blogged about me. Several more reviews came in. I was tickled pink about it.
She later shared a little advice with me: Stop writing fan fiction and start writing my own world. She boosted my confidence by telling me I had talent. Sure, I was getting positive reviews for my fan fiction, which were confidence boosters themselves, but this was a published author telling me I have talent. She even helped me outline a book with an idea that was stuck in my head. Still, though, I was scared. I continued writing, but it was still only fan fiction.
Next thing I know, I get an email from a friend in California who knows all about my writing aspirations. She said very little, encouraging me just to click on a link that she had included. By this time it was early 2011. The article the link led me to was about self publishing sensation Amanda Hocking.
I was in a frenzy to understand how this Amanda Hocking person did this and my Cali friend and I exchanged numerous excited emails discussing it. After all, I had looked into self publishing and it was virtually unattainable. How was this even possible? The article was talking about Indie publishing being so easy and I scoffed at that.
The more I read, though, the more I began to realize that I might have missed something, or that something wasn't there a few years before that was there now. It spoke of the Kindle and Amazon and I decided my research needed a reboot.
The Kindle came out in 2007. I knew of it. I knew other book companies were making and marketing their own e-reading devices. I just wasn't paying attention. I had no idea of the possibilities for unpublished, unproven authors like myself.
Well, I am paying attention now.
I am certain that there must be other people out there with a story similar to mine, scrambling to understand this Indie Revolution with the hopes that they can become a part of it. Perhaps what I have learned in my research will help someone to get the ball rolling. Perhaps everyone already knows all this stuff. I'm behind the power curve, as usual. However, I can't be the only beginner and we all have to start somewhere. If this post helps even just one person, then it is worth it to share.
Amazon with the Kindle e-reader is the big fish in the sea. Kindle Direct Publishing is a way to get your book out there for free. They have a great publishing platform. You can find their home page here: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin.
They have a wonderful Kindle Publishing Guide that coaches you every step of the way: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help.
They also offer pretty large royalties: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A30F3VI2TH1FR8.
The sad news about Amazon is that they have introduced a program, KDP Select, that allows people to 'borrow' books for free. Many Indie Publishers were doing very well selling books between 0.99 and 2.99. At that price, it's like giving away books for free already and gobs of people hopped on those prices. Now, however, if someone can get a book for free by 'borrowing' it, then why pay? Even if it is only 99 cents.
This new program is concerning. Amazon says the author gets part of a pot of money when people borrow his/her book for free. This would conceivably work, if you are a top selling author. However, I'm not seeing the benefit for new, unknown, authors.
Even though this is scary, there are still a couple of upsides. First of all, in order for readers to borrow books for free through this program, they have to be members of Kindle Prime. Readers get a one month free trial, but after that they have to pay $80 a year and are only allowed to borrow one book a month.
If someone is using the Kindle to buy and read 99 cent books, and I'm sure there are people out there who do this, then Kindle Prime will not appeal to them at all.
Since the reader is only allowed to borrow 12 books in one year and has to pay 80 dollars for those 12 books, then the math is in our favor. Kindle Prime members would have to be borrowing books that cost way more than 99 cents in order for that to work out for them. Because of this, it may be that books selling for 0.99-2.99 are safe. I would assume that if someone is paying that much, then that person would be going for books that cost much more than 0.99-2.99 just so that they'd be getting their money's worth in the subscription.
The worst news about KDP Select is that if you choose to be a part of it, then you can't publish your book anywhere else for an allotted amount of time. For this reason alone, I will never use this 'service.' Thank goodness being a part of KDP Select isn't mandatory. You can still publish through KDP and not have to be a part of the Select program.
The second upside to all these new scary things that Amazing is doing is that, while Amazon may be the biggest fish in the sea, it isn't the only fish in the sea.
With that thought, I now introduce Barnes & Noble's publishing platform:
The PubIt! homepage can be found here: http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/pubit_app/bn?t=pi_reg_home.
Through PubIt!, you would be selling your book through the NOOK e-reader. They have similar royalty payments as Amazon. Information on their royalty can be found here: http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/pubit_app/bn?t=support#more_support. Look under 'Pricing and Payment Terms.' This is also a pretty good support page. It's not as good as Amazon's and it took me awhile to find it, but there it is.
One thing I've noticed Indie authors doing is publishing on both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble platforms. Apple also has their own platform, as well as Kobo.
Apple is complicated and you need a Mac to work through their system. I do not have a Mac, so I didn't look into them any further.
The technical requirements for kobo are also a bit daunting, but if you want to give it a try: http://merch.kobobooks.com/help/images/A_Vendors_Guide_to_Kobo.pdf
Kobo is also working on the developement of a self-publishing portal and you can submit your email address for notification of when it will be available: http://www.kobobooks.com/companyinfo/authorsnpublishers.html.
Hopefully when they get that finished, it won't be as difficult to publish through their system.
AGGREGATION SERVICE PROVIDERS
Not all of the e-reader companies are working together. They each have their own thing and they, understandably, want to make money through their own products. The great thing about being an Indie author is that you can publish through all of them. The only thing they ask is that you not sell your book for less with another e-reader company. In other words, if you sell your book for $2.99 through, say, PubIt!, then you will have to sell your book for $2.99 through all the other e-reader platforms.
There are companies out there that will publish your book through several e-reader platforms at once. Amazon, however, likes to stand on its own, but there are some companies that will distribute to them too.
One suggestion would be to publish through Amazon and then publish through an aggregation service provider in order to get to all the other e-readers. Just remember, don't choose to put your book in KDP Select if you are doing this, because you can only sell through Amazon if you put your book in that program.
It looks like the easiest aggregate is:
Check out their website here: http://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords. They reach Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony Reader Store, Kobo, and the Diesel eBook store.
Royalties are 60% and they only take 15% of the net each time they sell your book. They have a very good support page with a wealth of information on how to publish through them: http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq. They even provide free ISBNs. For information on what an ISBN is, take a look at this page: http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/isbn/us/isbnqa.asp.
As with anything that seems fairly easy, there is a downside to KDP, PubIt!, and Smashwords: You have to format your ebook to fit their platforms. Depending on your skill level and patience, this can be a discouraging task. Each website for each publisher gives directions on how to format your ebook to fit each of their e-readers. It can be a long and arduous part of the self publishing ebook process.
There is a program that can help you in these conversions called Jutoh. This is an ebook editor for $39.00. You can find it here: http://jutoh.com/.
There are numerous individuals that you can hire to do these formats as well. I am not to this point with my own book, however, so I don't know any to recommend. I'm simply sharing what my limited research has turned up.
If you're not up to it, never fear. There are aggregate providers that will do it for you for a fee, of course.
The homepage to eBookit can be found here: http://www.ebookit.com/index.php.
This company charges $149 to convert your book for just about any and all e-readers, including the Kindle. They will even help you with your cover. They seem to have a pretty solid plan and will distribute your book to all the major e-reader platforms. For another fee, they'll even advertise your book for you. You get the most profit if you sell through their store, of course, but even with their take on what you sell through Amazon, B&N, Apple, etc., this might be a low stress way of getting your formatted book out there.
The only worry I have with this company is the fact that they say that updates to your book are billed at "only $49.00 per hour." That seems steep and the 'only' part made me laugh a little. I'm not sure if this means they periodically have to update your book or if all updates are only done if requested by the author. They have a pretty good support page, though, which can be found here: http://www.ebookit.com/thefaqs.
This company seems to have a pretty solid plan as well. The home page to book baby can be found here: http://www.bookbaby.com/.
Book Baby's motto is "Self Publishing Made Easy." They will publish your book for as low as $99, which includes all conversions, and will distribute it to Apple's iBookstore, Amazon, Sony Reader Store, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Copia, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, and eBookPie.
This company does not take any commissions at all, but they do have a $19 annual fee.
Here is their pricing list: http://www.bookbaby.com/pricing.
Book baby will help with your cover, with conversions, and will provide an ISBN for an additional $19. Here's how it works: http://www.bookbaby.com/howitworks.
That concludes the extent of my research. I have not tested any of these options myself, but having it all in one place will be helpful for when I get to the publishing stage of my books. Hopefully this was helpful for you as well.
I also found this blog post by Henry Baum. It has some helpful information about eBookit and book baby and the comments are very helpful too: http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/blog/2011/04/ebookit-book-baby-publish-green/.
Let us all now go and help make the prediction for 2012 true. Perhaps this really will be 'The Year of the Indie Author.'