I’m at the point where I am exploring the streams for self-publishing my novel.
What are streams, you may ask?
A stream in self-publishing is a source of income, or in the case of self-publishing, royalties. Royalties are earnings that we make on the sales of our books. Generally speaking, the more streams you have the more money you will make because your book is offered to more readers. As an author that self-publishes, these choices are all for you to make.
So what choices are available?
There are three main streams of income for a self-published author, but here are the two to start:
E-books are what brings the self-published author into the same arena as traditionally published books. Several self-published authors have found success with e-book publishing alone and even when they were picked up by one of the mainstream publishers, continued to hold onto their e-book rights. The two big e-readers at the moment are Kindle and Kobo. In Canada, Kobo reigns supreme over Kindle, while in the States, Amazon Kindle are the major kingpins.
Once your book has been proofed, beta-read, edited and formatted for e-publishing (something that I highly recommend), you can submit your novel directly to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Kobo Writing Life. You have to set up an account, upload your file and book cover, choose your price, and once approve start selling. I cannot comment on Smashwords or Barnes and Noble (available to US authors only) as I haven’t explored either of these e-publishers yet. You do not require an ISBN to do this, but you Canadian citizens can obtain one for free.
There is no set up fees to you as these e-sellers take a cut on your sales. Generally speaking, your royalty is 70% of the retail price – although this will depend of some factors such as your books price. For their share, they take care of the distribution of your book, including the listing, reviews and sales tax.
Never has there been such a controversial subject than physically printing your self-published book. And rightfully so. Vanity publishers, as many are called, offer their services to the self-published author that is dying to get their book into print. Maybe the author feels more legitimate, by having an actual hard copy that they can hold, give to family and friends, or sell from their own website. As Joanna Penn, from the Creative Penn website states, and I am paraphrasing, this is a bad idea for so many reasons.
Here is why:
- Your book may suck. Okay, I know that’s not a nice thing to say, but it’s true.
My father met a man that wrote a non-fiction book about an amazing chapter from Canadian World War II history. His concept was fantastic, but his writing was less than stellar. He decided to go the self-publishing route and took a second mortgage out on his house (he was already retired) to pay a vanity publisher to print his book. The end result was that it was never properly edited or beta read, and as my father put it, a bad read. So this poor man is stuck with thousands of volumes of a book he may never sell. I feel so bad for the guy, because this could have been easily prevented. There are some snake oil salesmen out there who will publish anything as long as you pay them the bucks. Joanna offers a similar story for about her first non-fiction book here.
- There may be some small errors that escaped you and your editor and your friends and family and whoever else, and as an e-book, can continue to be edited.
- You might get some fantastic feedback from readers about your e-book and want to make some changes to your novel before your dive into printing.
- The cost, and I mean a lot of $$$’s.
- You don’t have a distribution channel set up.
So what’s a writer to do?
This is where POD or publish-on-demand comes in. In fact, this is such a stellar concept, I cannot believe that it even exists. Joanna, previously an e-publish girl only, actually endorses this method.
Okay, so what is this POD thing anyway?
Publish-on-demand is exactly what it sounds like. Your book is printed only when someone purchases it. I was so floored that this is even offered, that I had to dig deeper to find out more. There are several companies that offer this service, but the one that intrigues me the most is CreateSpace. They are owned by Amazon, or are a subsidiary or some such thing, but they use Amazon’s distribution channels to sell your book. So, let’s say you offer your e-book on Amazon.ca, they can list your POD book right below it, and the customer can order it from Amazon, taking care of the sale, shipping and customer service. And like your e-book, you have your synopsis and book cover, author profile and rated reviews. How amazing is that?
How does it all work?
Many experts recommend that you launch your e-book first, and wait 6 months before offering print on demand. This way, you can tweak your book as needed (you can continue to edit your e-book as often as you want) before launching into print. There are a few differences:
- The book format is different for e-books vs. printed books. You want to have a professional reformat your book for print, as there are some subtle but significant differences between the two.
- Your e-book cover will need to be converted into a full wrap cover that can include a blurb about your book and author bio on the back cover or any positive revues. Again, I recommend a professional for this.
- With CreateSpace, you will be assigned a unique ISBN for your printed novel. You can use your own, but it cannot be the same ISBN as you e-book. This will be printed onto the bottom right hand corner on the back cover of your novel.
- Your book is not available immediately, unlike e-books. They have to approve your submission first to make sure you have followed the submission guidelines. They will send you a digital proof for approval. This usually takes 24 hours. I highly recommend that you order a proof copy or 2 before you accept it. You want to see what the final product looks like and check for any errors.
- There are more stream options available for your print-on-demand book than for your e-book.
What stream options are available on CreateSpace?
This is the part that blows me away. The most common income stream is by selling your book on Amazon.ca / .com, etc. Unlike e-books, where your royalties are paid out by a percentage, your royalties are based upon your selling price. Once you choose your book size, number of pages, page colour and black and white vs. colour options, your royalty is:
Listed price – Base price (printing cost + distribution) = Royalty
The good news is that you can set your own list price for Amazon, and decide how much money you want to make for each book sold. You want to make a decent royalty, without marking up your book too high as to deter sales. Just keep that in mind.
- CreateSpace E-store
This enables you to sell your book directly from your own website or blog. The sale is done on CreateSpace’s own website, but you can design it to look like it’s your own. It’s cheaper than ordering author copies, since the customer pays for the shipping. The best part is you make a larger royalty as the middle man (Amazon) is removed. This is how your royalty breaks down:
Listed price – Base price (printing cost only) = Royalty
As I mentioned, you can order author copies at cost plus shipping. To warn you, shipping to Canada is very expensive, so this is not the best way to stream your books. Of course, this is a great way to have copies on hand for giveaways, public appearances, and to give to friends and family.
- Expanded Distribution
What is it? For 25 bucks, this is an opportunity to sell your books through more channels: Libraries and learning institutions, book stores and on-line retailers. Your margins are lower here, meaning you will get a smaller royalty than through Amazon or CreateSpace e-store. Again, you can determine your royalty based upon your list price. So the control is all in your hands. I personally think it’s worth the money. This way, anyone can walk into a library or retailer and order your book in. Without expanded distribution, your book is limited in scope.
In my next post, I will tell you all I know about Audiobooks and ways to cheaply market your book once you have self-published.