Self-Publishing Startups

The benefits of being an unknown author

4 December 2013

From The BookBaby Blog:

It’s a common complaint. And I bet you have been guilty of falling victim to it too.

“Nobody is paying attention to me or my book!”

“I need an agent or major publisher to save me from this obscurity!”

“If only I could get a lucky break and suddenly burst onto the national scene, then my problems would be over!”

Sound familiar?

Here’s my take on it: Are you currently operating with few fans, slow book sales, and hardly any high-profile media coverage?

If so, congratulations! It’s time to celebrate and have some fun!


That’s right. When you’re at an early phase in your author career, or in the early stages of developing a new book project, you are in a unique position that more established authors wish they could return to now and again.

. . . .

As an independent author who barely shows a blip on the book marketplace radar, you are free to play and experiment. You can take chances and try things. If your new promotion or short story or public speaking event fails, there aren’t many people who will see it. The negative consequences will be minimal.

Working in obscurity gives you time to woodshed and hone your skills. It allows you to play and find your voice and your style. This smaller stage gives you the green light to experiment and happily stumble upon an unexpected win.

Link to the rest at The BookBaby Blog and thanks to Mit for the tip.

Circumventing the Gatekeepers

5 November 2013

From Publishers Weekly:

In February, Josiah Bancroft self-published Senlin Ascends: Book 1 of The Books of Babel via CreateSpace. The book received a starred review from PW Select, with our reviewer saying, “Bancroft succeeds amazingly in creating a baffling world that offers little tenderness or hope, but in which pursuit of instinct and love, dedication, and shared sacrifice can overcome barriers. If he sustains the tone of quirky menace in his planned sequel, the reader will find much to applaud.” We recently chatted with Bancroft about the changing nature of the book business and the importance of setting specific self-publishing goals.

Why did you decide to self-publish Senlin Ascends?

I decided to self-publish Senlin Ascends before I started drafting the novel. I’d spent the previous 10 years sending out queries and mailing blind submissions, and I was just tired of spending most of my time dealing with the gatekeepers. I wanted an audience, even a modest one. For all its difficulty, self-publication pretty much guarantees that: if you put it out there, someone will read it. The decision was really liberating because I didn’t have to worry about negotiating with editors, or appealing to trends, or wooing agents. I could just sit down and write the story I wanted to write.

Once you decided to self-publish, what was the process like?

I published first with CreateSpace/Amazon, and then later I put my e-book on the Barnes & Noble Store…CreateSpace and Amazon aren’t perfect, but I found them easy to work with. Most of the copyediting was done by my wife and a friend. The cover, which sells the book, was created by one of my oldest friends, Ian Leino. He’s a genius with design and has promoted the book tirelessly. I learned pretty early on that self-publishing can cost anywhere between “No Money” and “All of Your Money.” As of now, I have spent somewhat more than “No Money,” but a little less than “All.”

. . . .

Looking back on your own experience, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

There are two levels of writers who have complete control of their vision: best-selling millionaire talents and self-publishers. I self-published Senlin Ascends because I didn’t want to compromise, and in that way, self-publishing has been perfect for me. On the downside, the self-publishing market is absolutely flooded. Tens of thousands of books were self-published in 2013. The same week that I published Senlin Ascends, 460 other writers self-published fantasy books on Amazon alone. Distinguishing my work from the crowd has taken a lot of work.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Bowker says analysis of ISBN numbers shows self-publishing jumped 59% last year

11 October 2013

From Talking New Media:

The company most people associate with ISBN numbers, Bowker, said that an analysis of U.S. ISBN data shows that the number of self-published titles in 2012 increased 59 percent over 2011 to more than 391,000 – and 422 percent over 2007. The analysis was done by the company’s affiliate ProQuest.

“The most successful self-publishers don’t view themselves as writers only, but as business owners,” said Beat Barblan, Bowker Director of Identifier Services, in the company’s press release. “They invest in their businesses, hiring experts to fill skill gaps and that’s building a thriving new service infrastructure in publishing.”

A huge portion of the ISBN numbers, over 80 percent, came from eight companies, with Bowker citing Smashwords and CreateSpace.

Link to the rest at Talking New Media

Wattpad, the social network for aspiring writers, launches a crowdfunding feature

13 August 2013

From GigaOm:

Wattpad, the Toronto-based startup that runs a social network for aspiring writers, has been described by one of its investors as “the YouTube of writing,” because of the way it allows amateur creators to share their work with the world. Now the company has launched a crowdfunding feature similar to Kickstarter called “Fan Funding” that makes it easy for members to tap their fan base as a way of monetizing their work — and could also help the network monetize its own user base as well, since it charges a fee for the process.

. . . .

Despite the similarities with Kickstarter, Lau says there is a crucial difference between what Wattpad is doing and other platforms, because of the emotional connection that already exists between members and their community of fans. “On Kickstarter you typically have to beg your relatives and friends to fund you, or you create a cool video and ask strangers to fund you,” Lau said. “But in our case, the psychology behind it is very different — we are asking the fans who have been supporting writers all along, and utilizing that network to go through the crowdfunding process.”

Some Wattpad members have tens of thousands of followers of their work already, and this provides a built-in support base, Lau said. All the new fan-funding feature does is make it easier for those members to tap into that relationship they already have with fans of their writing.

Link to the rest at GigaOm and thanks to L for the tip.

Adventures in Self-Publishing

15 July 2013

From The Wild Hunt:

Over the past ten years there has been a significant increase in the number of writers who are self-publishing.  The days of literary agents and big publishing houses may be numbered.   Actual statistics are hard to come by due to the multiple modes of production.  However, several big papers have attempted some estimations.

In 2011 the New York Daily News reported that 43% of all paperbacks were self-published, with overall publishing up 287% from 2006.  The Wall Street Journal reported that self-published books were up by 160% over the same period.  Amazon’s publishing arm, Create Space, told the New York Times that “its books increased by 80% from 2009-2010” alone.

. . . .

Self-publishing has now become a very viable option for even the most accomplished and prolific of authors.  This mode of production puts the power back into the artist’s hands.

Last week I interviewed one such author – John MatthewsOver the past 30 years he has written over 90 books on Arthurian mythology as well as a volume of poetry and many short stories.  His children’s book, Pirates, reached the number one slot on the New York Times Best Seller list in 2006. – See more at:

. . . .

H: After all this time, why have you decided to move away from traditional publishing to self-publishing?

J: Partly from economic necessity, partly from a desire to get some of our old books back into print, and partly to have some control over the appearance and content of the books.

All of our professional lives my wife, Caitlin, and I have had to contend with editors who felt they knew better than we did, who wanted to change the emphasis of various things, cut things out, amend spellings, and so on. In today’s economic climate, unless you’re Dan Brown or Neil Gaiman, you can’t afford to make any kind of a decent living. So we decided that we would do it ourselves. Fortunately we’ve been aided in this by our friend and colleague Wil Kinghan, who as well as being an incredibly good artist with whom we’ve worked several times, also trained as a graphic designer. His input means that the books will look sensational, and hopefully have very few mistakes. In fact, we think they look a lot better than some of the professional titles released by the big publishing houses.

. . . .

H:   Will [your self-publishing company] Mythwood be re-publishing all of your old writings?

J:  Well, there are a lot of them to do of course!  Almost 100.  Quite a few are still in print and we’re happy to leave it that way; but the older titles which have lapsed sometime ago, and for which we now have the rights, will eventually I hope be reprinted in this format. The next one that is lined up from our own list is my book on Robin Hood.

. . . .


H:  Let’s go back to the self- vs. trad- publishing debate.  Weigh the pros and cons of the two.  

J: The pros of course are that you have control over what goes into print, though this can have a downside, which I’ll come back to in a minute. The other good thing is that you get to keep most of the money that comes in from purchases. If you think that with an average publisher the very highest royalty that you can get is 12%, we can offer our authors 60%. And that is of actual money received, not percentages of percentages, as you get from so many regular publishers.

The cons are that if you intend to do it yourself it is quite labor-intensive and unless you are very computer savvy can take quite a long time to fathom out all the different formatting problems. The other con goes back to the idea of being able to publish whatever you like. This means, unfortunately, that a lot of shall we say less than wonderful books get out there. They may have nice covers, interesting titles, and they may have an interesting topic; but they can be badly written and full of typos. That’s why you need an editor…

But there is still one thing which I personally find annoying, but which is at the moment anyway, inevitable. There is a certain stigma around publishing your own work. There will always be people out there who will say, “Well, it can’t be very good then, or he or she would have published it with a proper publisher!” There’s not much we can do about that, though the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In time I think people will realize that a great deal of really good work is coming out from smaller companies or self published authors.

And there’s no getting away from the fact that you can make a lot of money this way. I’ve heard of people earning as much as $10,000 a month from their self published books. Of course these tend to be very popular subjects, mostly fiction, and the people in question usually have a couple of dozen books out there. Even if you’re only getting 60% of say $5.95 it soon adds up.

H: Are there any other limitations to self-publishing? 

J: I don’t think there are any limitations providing you have the time and energy and the know-how to format your manuscript. That can require a lot of learning if it’s going to be done properly. But you have to start somewhere. We’ve just been very patient, and taken our time, and made every effort to ensure that every book that Mythwood Books produces will be the best it can be, will look great, and will read on just about every platform out there. That means not only all the Kindle devices, but Nook and a few others I can’t remember at this moment. Each one requires different formatting, to make it read properly, so you can imagine the time that takes.

Link to the rest at The Wild Hunt and thanks to Clare for the tip.

The Future Of Self-Publishing

12 June 2013

From Forbes Blogs:

I suspect most people can agree that publishing books, and especially ebooks, at different times in different territories is nothing but frustrating for readers, and that delaying ebook publishing until months after the hardback comes out is just stupid.

But it was the point about how much work self-publishing can be that I wanted to expand upon. Abercrombie was very firmly of the opinion that self-publishing is too much work and not of interest to him.

“I don’t want to publish, I want to write,” he tweeted. “Let me rephrase — I scarcely want to write, let alone publish…”

“Successful self-published authors are hiring editors, designers, publicists… Er, hang on,” Standage replied. “In other words they are becoming tiny publishing companies.”

. . . .

The problem that he outlined, that self-publishing is very time-consuming, is a valid issue to raise. But we’re still at the dawn of self-publishing and the infrastructure we need is still being built. Over time, it will become much easier not just in terms of the tools but also the management.

There are two scales at which we should look at the future of self-publishing: individual and industrial.

On an individual level, self-publishing efforts evolve as the person develops the requisite knowledge, skills and contacts to do the job. You don’t just have to learn the craft of writing, you also have to learn about all the things that go into putting a book out. That involves not just the intricacies of Smashwords or Lightning Source, but also about how to commission a cover designer, how to find a story editor and proof-readers, how to manage beta readers, how to create ebooks, even how to produce a properly typeset PDF.

. . . .

However, going the traditional route doesn’t come without its own overheads. As a fledgeling author seeking a deal, ie is at the same point in their career as the newbie self-publisher, one has to learn how to write compelling synopses of your work, how to write a query letter, figure out which agents are accepting unsolicited manuscripts and how to format that manuscript appropriately.

Then if you do get an agent, you have to manage your relationship with them, learning how to prod them at the right times and in the right way. If they get you a deal then you have to learn all about contracts and how to assess your agent’s advice, and then go on to learn how to manage your relationship with your publisher, deal with feedback, liaise with the various departments at the publishing house that deals with publicity, tours etc.

Having a traditional publishing deal does not mean that you escape having to manage professional relationships with the people who turn your book into a product. I suspect think that some traditionally published authors forget this because they’ve already climbed up the trad publishing learning curve and managing these relationships is familiar and mostly effortless.

Link to the rest at Forbes and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

PG says if something goes wrong while self-publishing, the author can fix it, usually very quickly.

If something goes wrong in the process of traditionally publishing a book, the author is largely helpless. Weeks and months pass and the book is trapped in a dungeon somewhere.

Atari Founder’s Book to Kickstart a Publishing Platform

15 February 2013

From Mashable:

It wasn’t until 2012 that [Atari co-founder Nolan] Bushnell sat down to write the whole story: all about Jobs and Wozniak offered him a third of Apple for $50,000 and how he turned it down. How the first mass-produced Apple computer was made with Atari parts. How he stayed a friend and advisor to the growing company over the years.

And most importantly, it’s about what you can learn from the whole experience. “It’s less of a biography and more of a book on creative infrastructure,” Bushnell tells Mashable.

But when he tried to find an outlet for the book, How to Find the Next Steve Jobs, Bushnell got frustrated with the traditional publishing houses. It would take up to four years to edit it and publish it, they said. “I don’t have that kind of time,” replied Bushnell, now 70. He also didn’t accept that publishers should keep 80% or more of the book’s sales, as is traditional.

So Bushnell turned to Net Minds, a brand new publishing platform that officially launched Wednesday. Net Minds is the brainchild of Tim Sanders, a former Yahoo executive and the New York Times bestselling author of Love Is the Killer App. It will publish regular books as well as e-books, and lets authors build a team to edit, design and market the book in exchange for a cut of the sales.

Sanders’ founding principle: books should be run like startups. “The industry is incredibly inefficient at every level,” he tells Mashable. “Frankly, for a lot of authors, it’s incredibly unfair. Advances are dropping. And there’s no reason why it should take three years to publish.”

Net Minds has built software that can turn a document into a printed galley copy (used by authors to check for mistakes) in just three days, rather than the usual few months. Flipping the traditional royalty model on its head, the startup keeps 20% of all book sales. The author gets 80% (or 90% in Bushnell’s case), and gets to apportion that as he or she sees fit. The startup says it will connect authors to freelance editors, designers, marketers and PR folks to get them going.

Link to the rest at Mashable

5 Surprises About Self-Publishing

13 January 2013

From author Jennie Nash via Rachelle Gardner’s blog:

My first six books were all published by major New York houses, including Scribner, Simon & Schuster, Crown, and Berkley/Penguin. I adored my editors and their teams, but I was a midlist writer getting midlist attention, and the midlist was starting to feel like purgatory. For my seventh book, Perfect Red, a historical novel set in 1950’s New York, I decided to self publish.

. . . .

2. I underestimated the thrill that comes with being in control – as well as the fear. I get to pick my cover! Set my own price! Make a special holiday edition for my friends and family and send it out tied up with a red bow! When I do something well, I feel like a rock star entrepreneurial author on the cutting edge of the brave new world of publishing. But book publishing is a detailed, complex enterprise requiring a range of skills completely different from writing a book. There are a thousand opportunities to screw up. Suddenly, it’s not just my writing that’s out there being judged, it’s my eye for design, my sense of how readers behave, my business acumen. I used to wonder why it took traditional publishers nine months to produce a book. Now I get it; it’s a lot of work.

. . . .

4. I overestimated my ability to sell books. I have lists of bookstores at which I’ve done appearances, book clubs who have hosted me, readers who have loved my work and bloggers who have reviewed my books. I didn’t think I had to build a platform. I thought that with a few flicks of the mouse, I’d quickly sell thousands of books and build a buzz that would carry me to even greater sales. It didn’t happen, so now I’m out doing what every writer has to do, which is figuring out how to connect with readers – only I’m doing it with a lot more humility.

Link to the rest at Rachelle Gardner and thanks to Anthea for the tip.

Hugh Howey doesn’t need a publisher, thank you very much

12 November 2012

From Charleston City Paper:

 Self-published authors have long been the underdogs of the literary world. Unable to land book deals, they often publish their work using their own money in a last-ditch effort at exposure. They send them to media outlets where, more often than not, they are immediately dismissed. If you were really mean, you might say that self-publishing is where failed authors go to die.

But that would just be harsh. And untrue, if Hugh Howey and Fifty Shades of Grey are any indication.

Little more than a year ago, Howey was just another sci-fi author trying to maneuver his way through the world of self-publishing after a not-so-successful experience with a small publishing house. Today, his book Wool is a smashing success with more than 300,000 copies sold in the U.S. alone and a film optioned by 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott. He’s the face of a new era in publishing, and he’s just as surprised as anyone.

“It feels like it happened overnight,” says Howey, a Florida resident who attended the College of Charleston in the early 2000s. Wool started out as a novella. He posted it online in July 2011 and forgot about it, deciding to focus instead on promoting his full-length novels. But through the magic of the interwebs, readers took notice of Wool and word spread. Newfound fans clamored for more, so within six months Howey expanded the story into four more installments, which eventually became a 540-page novel about a post-apocalyptic world where people live underground because the outside world has gone to hell. He published via CreateSpace (print) and Kindle Direct Publishing (Kindle book). “It was just kind of all out of my hands,” he remembers. “So by January the full story was written and I couldn’t even keep up with the media demands. I was running ragged with my job and everything, so I had to put in my notice and quit my day job at the book store and I’ve been writing full-time ever since.”

. . . .

The funny thing was, Howey didn’t need a publisher. He was doing just fine on his own. “You do so well self-published, it’s hard for publishers to compete with what you can do on your own,” he says. “I make 70 percent royalty rates on sales here in the U.S., and if I went with a publisher, that would be cut to almost one-sixth. And so, you know, we sat down with them, and they had some nice offers, but I’m handing them a bestseller with a film contract attached and all of these other things attached and what they’re offering is just not as good as what I’m doing currently. I showed them what I’m earning now, and they kind of said, I don’t know if we can compete with that.”

. . . .

“In a lot of different entertainment industries now, sole ownership is kind of becoming the new standard,” Howey says, citing Louis C.K., who self-produced his latest comedy special. “In a lot of ways, what YouTube has done for filmmakers, the Kindle, the Nook, those are doing for writers. You can control your content, produce the best work possible, and you have a distributor that has worldwide access at your fingertips. It’s just remarkable.”

. . . .

As with many other success stories, Howey found domestic promotion to be shockingly easy; he barely had to lift a finger. The word really started spreading when readers sharedWool on Facebook and Twitter. “The power of social media is that if you create something that resonates with people, it has a much greater chance of spreading,” he says. “It has dried out the underbrush, if you will. Throwing sparks can now lead to bonfires.”

. . . .

Howey released his latest self-published novel, I, Zombie in August, and his Kindle Single, The Walk Up Nameless Ridge, became available in early September. “I’ve prepared myself by reminding everyone that this will end as soon as it began. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything,” he says. “One day, I’ll look back at this brief career and marvel that it ever happened. I’ll still be writing, I’m sure. There will be many more people wanting to read my books than there was a year ago, but something like Wool happens once in a lifetime. I’m certain of that. And it makes me feel fortunate, not anxious.”

Link to the rest at Charleston City Paper and thanks to Jim for the tip.

Why I’m Choosing Indie Publishing

25 October 2012

From author Liz Long:

While on vacation a couple weeks ago, I made the decision to go with indie publishing. I’ve sent out somewhere from 20-30 agents in the last 3 months, most with the generic “No, thanks” but a few with an “Interesting premise” response.

. . . .

Some people might think I’m jumping the gun on this, that I need to take my time and do my research. Believe me, I have; I did months of research (not contacting) on agents and their desirable manuscript needs when I probably should’ve been polishing the last few chapters instead.

. . . .

[S]ometimes, we get so caught up in researching agents, writing query letters, and hiding in corners from rejection letters that we forget to work on what needs it most–our writing! And therein lies my problem-I’ve been so busy getting caught up in the whirlwind excitement/nausea of trying to put my first book out in the world that I’ve neglected working on the next adventure for my characters. I need to get working on Book 2 of my “Gifted” series. Like, real bad. After I finished the final edit and sent off a couple copies to beta readers, I took some time to relax (plus take a real vacation). But now I need to get serious and start working on the next outline. I’ve got Scrivener now, which will be a HUGE help with my outlines (I’m a pantser, not a plotter, which means I kinda throw a bunch of words on paper and go from there…okay at first, but not after you’ve written 190 pages and have no idea where to put a scene).

. . . .

Some people may ask, “You’ve already waited this long to put it out there, why not wait and keep seeing if an agent/traditional publisher will take it?” Because quite frankly, I’m done waiting. If I have an option to get my work out there, I want to do it. I’m a damn hard worker and the thought of marketing myself in an indie world doesn’t frighten me–whereas the thought of sitting around for months, praying someone emails me back to look at a full MS makes me cringe.

Link to the rest at Liz Long

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