Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Steps to Indie Publishing - Step Two: Planning

Once you have your manuscript as close to perfection as possible, it is time to plan. What mediums do you plan on using? What platforms? What price are you going to ask? Do you plan on making your own cover or are you outsourcing? Budgets, profit margins, and costs will all come into play. This is when you put on your business hat and try to keep your artistic writing side out of the picture for a bit.

Publishing Medium

Choosing your publishing medium depends heavily on your product.
- If you have a novel in hand, you probably should consider print and e-publishing, the more avenues the better. 
- If you are publishing a short story, I would recommend e-publishing, because print medium is not financially practical until you have enough short stories to create an anthology. 
-If you are considering publishing without seeking financial compensation, there are other possibilities like blogs and websites, and multiple variations of opportunities.

Multiple companies offer the opportunity to publish your work. I will list the main ones I have heard about.

                Print Platforms
                - Create Space (owned by Amazon-a Print On Demand operation)
                - Lulu (a Print On Demand operation)
                - Lightning Source (a Print On Demand operation)

                Ebook Platforms
                - Kindle Direct Publishing (owned by Amazon)
                - Smashwords (an epublisher who distributes to many of the major
                  ebook retailers)
                - Pubit! (owned by Barnes & Noble)
                - Lulu (a Print On Demand operation)

What I use and why - 

There are many options out there and more appearing every day. My experience has been with Lulu, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Smashwords. I can only speak with authority about them, and I can share why I chose them.

I started out with Lulu for print, years back. It was easy, reasonable, cost nothing to start, and I was pleased with my product when finished. Major detriment to Lulu is the shipping costs. However, they do offer frequent sales and sometimes, free shipping. Their distribution packages ranging from free to $75.

Only this past year I have branched out into epublishing with pleasant results. I chose to publish through Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords. Why these two?

Kindle books are very popular thanks to Kindle e-readers. The Amazon monster or giant, depending on who you talk to, is geared toward selling ebooks whether they are self-published or traditionally published. I wanted to be certain that my product transitioned smoothly onto their site so I worked directly with them.

Smashwords attracted me because of the ease of having most of my epublishing through one site. They offer attractive royalties, an easy-to-use coupon system, and deal with all the hassles of distributing to other venues like Kobo, Nook, Apple, and Sony. Using them eliminated the necessity of learning each retailer’s formatting requirements, converting my manuscript to that format, ironing out the errors and blips, and then maintaining the royalty side of things. Smashwords has, to date, been lovely to work with and very easy to manage.

What to charge

Pricing is a very hot topic right now, especially regarding ebooks. Most of the decision hinges on your goals. Do you want more readers or more profits? If you want more readers, offering you book at a lower price will increase your readership, perhaps increasing your revenue over the long run (that still remains to be seen). If you are more interested in profit, the solution would be to price the ebook at close to print prices and hope to entice enough readers to buy to compensate for the decreased quantity of readers. Both of these tactics are out there and there are authors and publishers firmly planted on both sides.

My personal leanings are toward a compromise. I write because I want to share. I cannot share if I don’t get readers. However, I want to make at least some money from all my hard work. Although I am constantly reminding my husband this is still a hobby, I do still hope to make it a serious business one day. My personal pricing scheme is 99 cents for short stories (for a royalty of about 70 to 35 cents a sale), $2.99 for novellas (a royalty of about two dollars a sale), and I plan on increasing as the book lengths grow. I keep the price the same regardless of venue.


Yeah, this was a lesson hard to learn, but I think I am finally learning my way about and gaining skill. If you have an eye, a sense of design, the ability to learn, and the computer skills, I believe you can put together a decent cover for little cost $20 or so.

If you would rather have someone else do it for you, I can point you in the direction of some great cover designers. I do my own covers generally. I am new at it, but learning fast. I designed the covers for The Mercenary’s Marriage, Word and Deed, Diaspora, and Duty.

Should you design your own cover, be careful to make sure you are covered legally. Use royalty free stock images, buy the licenses if necessary, and check everything a couple times, even the font licenses. Here are the sites I use most to find my images and fonts:
- Dreamstime (Their comp images are superior quality to any of the other sites I have seen.)
- Bigstock (They are consistently the cheapest at $5 for a 300 dpi image suitable for a cover.)
- FontSpace (They offer a wide range of free fonts for commercial use. If the font you want isn’t for commercial use, you can sometimes purchase a license from the creator.)

When purchasing images be cautious to buy a 300 dpi image for the quality you will need for a print cover. I use Photoscape and Paint.NET (both are free) to design my covers. I design them for 6 inches x 9 inches at 300 dpi, which works well for Lulu and is easy to scale for ebook. Before committing, get plenty of feedback on your cover from friends, enemies, and your target audience. Ask questions and be sure that that cover is worthy of your masterpiece. Be careful that your cover reflects the contents of the book.

Back Cover Material

There is an art to writing a cover blurb. I am not sure I can advise you how to do it. I do it kind of instinctively and not always well. Within a hundred to a two hundred words (three paragraphs), you need to identify the key players and hint at the main plot. Look around at other books and get an idea of what you want to write before you start. When you finish, you want the reader to want to pick up the book and read more.

Next week, Step Three: Promotion Plan

- Rachel Rossano

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