Self-publishing – How I did it at Mercia Books
So you have written your book and are looking to get it published. In brief there are several choices of how to do it:
- Mainstream Publisher. Find an agent, impress him or her. They represent you to a publisher who likes your book, offers you a fat advance and takes your book and publishes it and then pays you royalties. You retire to the a sun drenched Island on the proceeds. This is the dream of course BUT it was always very hard to make this a reality and in these difficult times even more so. Put bluntly few publishers are taking on new writers and although it is absolutely sensible to try this route ( Get hold of the Writers and Artists Year Book to find listings of agents) it is very likely that even if you have a very marketable book you will fail to land a book deal. If you DO have a good book you need not give up hope. Read on.
- Small Press Publishers. There are many little publishing houses who offer assisted publishing options. You approach them and they will still need to be impressed by your book and feel it is a marketable option. So even if they think a book is good but they don’t think they can sell it they may reject you. Many of these publish 1 or 2 books a year so do not be surprised if they send you a 3 page rejection letter praising your book but saying it is not for them (I speak from experience here). If they do take you on it will be on the basis of NO ADVANCE payment and reduced Royalties. So only if the book sells with you get much from it. On the other hand they will offer professional services which may include editing and cover design (or you may have to do some of that yourself) and will sort out typesetting, printing and distribution for you and SOME marketing. Small Press Publishers are often interested in a NICHE area eg Welsh Poetry or Italian Romane Novels so research is needed. Check out: http://www.pw.org/small_presses
- Vanity Press (Subsidy Press). The internet abounds with services offering to print your book for you for a upfront fee which is usually substantial. Â Quite often there is some offer of editing and cover design thrown in but the quality varies a lot. In many cases you will either have to pay Â a lot OR commit to buying say 50 or 100 books, at a cost of (for example: £10 to 20 each). They usually have NO distribution, meaning that they don’t list your books in the ISBN databases NOR do they organise distribution via Amazon etc. They will normally do very little to publicise the books although they will often promise to. The way they make money FROM Authors and NOT from book sales so they don’t care if you sell any books. The ONLY advantage of these services is that if you have NO IT skills at all you can get a book published but at a high per unit cost, often with limited come back if there are errors and with no support for sales or marketing. It’s just cost you £1000 and you have a box of books, possibly printed upside down and that might well be it. This route is NOT advised.
- Print on Demand. If you have SOME IT skills then a better option is the partial Self Publishing Route of using Lulu.com or Completely Novel or similar services. I used these services in late 2009 and Early 2010 when I was just starting out self-publishing. They offer an online service where you upload your word document (possibly preset to a certain page size) and they convert to the print ready PDF.You can design a cover online using stock art, upload a full cover or engage a cover artist. There may be a small cost per title to set it up but it will only be a few pounds. After that costs are ONLY accrued when you ORDER books from them. They have access to distribution networks (at an additional cost often) and will supply Amazon. The main draw backs are the PER UNIT costs are often high and you will have to sell your books at too high a price to be marketable. So they are a good option for short runs, where you just want a few books to give to friends or sell at clubs etc but not ideal if you are serious about attracting sales. Never the less a good way in to the self publishing buisiness and not a bad way to get copies in order to garner reviews on your books.
- Self Publishing. Full self publishing is when you set yourself up as a Publisher, get your own ISBNs and get the books printed via a printer. There are some printers such as Lightning Source and Anthony Rowe which will ONLY deal with you if you are a Publisher. Once you are they will connect to the distribution networks directly for you. The other option is to get the books printed by any old printer and then handle distribution your self. The term Indie or Independant Publisher applies to small publishing concerns often individuals or small groups publishing just a few titles.
Above: A Small Press Publisher in 1903.
A quick guide to becoming an Indie Publisher
So then about February 2010 I decided I was going to SELF PUBLISH. I was going to enter the work of the Independent publisher. How did I go about it. Well it was bumpy round but here are some pointers to make it easier for you.
- Before you start publishing anything I strongly recommend engaging the services of a Professional Line editor. These will go through your book and help you polish it into a professional product. Your Aunt Flo does not count as she is A) Not objective and B)Probably not a Professional Editor. You can read about the sorts of skills that an editor brings and the type of errors she will look for here: Helen Hollick and JO Field’s Guide to Polishing your manucsript. Jo is my editor and is superb. You can find a link to her on my website. http://www.richarddenning.co.uk
- To further enhance the book you need a good cover artist. I use Avalon Graphics. Cathy there also did my websites and publicity material. You CAN judge a book by its cover and we all make our first judgement based on the cover.
- Go to the Nielsen website and register as a publisher. http://www.isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk/controller.php?page=123 is the New Publisher page there. Nielsen handle registration as a NEW Publisher and also allocate your ISBNs. All books need International Standard Book Numbers if they are to be available on Amazon, show up on various biographical registers etc. For £118 you can become a Publisher and get 10 numbers. Just down load and fill in the forms. I found Nielsen very approachable and the lady I corresponded with really helpful.
- Now you are a Publisher you need a printer. You can go and talk to local printers OR use a professional book printer. I use Lightning Source. A word of caution here. Lightning source is NOT for novices, You MUST be able to supply Print Ready PDF using Adobe Professional not just a Home version. See http://www.adobe.com. This means you have to be able to FORMAT the word document to size it right. Lightning source will not talk to you if you are not a publisher and even then they will try and persuade you to use Lulu or someone else. But if you convince them that you have the skills and ability to cope then they take you on. You will have to sign contracts to set up payment routes as well as distribution agreements in the UK, UK and Europe.
- Download and read the extensive notes and guides on the LS site on converting WORD to PDF, how to set up titles etc. Ready to set up a title here we go:
Setting Up Â Title
1.Click on Library, set up Title. Select Full Distribution OR Print to Publisher (the first if you want to access Amazon etc). Then fill in this page with books Name, author etc.:
2. Go onto the next page where you have to set up the books size and type – paperback or Hardback, choose the price and set up theÂ descriptionÂ and options for where you want it available.
3.Â When you have done this get onto the cover artists and send them a template. Once you have setup the title LS will generate a cover template with the ISBN in and bar code etc. Send that to the artist.
4. Open your word document. Its probably in A4 size. You need to set the size to match the dimensions of the book you just set up on LS. Set margins to maybe 13mm, make sure you have a gutter (the wider bit of the page that is always on the side. Make sure that you set up the book with mirror pages. Play around with fonts for your titles, page number styles and location etc. Make sure the book STARTS on the right hand side and all chapters start on a right side page. make sure the text is Justified – aligned to left and right . Only having text left aligned is a sign of an amateur (my early books did that!!). Then PRINT to PDF but go in and change settings as per the LS instructions on PDF format. This is where you need Adobe Pro. Make sure Fonts are embedded.
5. Upload the PDF and the cover PDF to your title and submit. LS will crunch the files for a couple of days and then the title will show up as Proof Approved assuming there are no issues). Order a proof (£21 cost)and in a few days you have a copy of you book. Approve the title and in 2 weeks it shows up on Amazon but you can immediately order copies from LS. Get started with promotion and linking in Sales buttons on your website (a whole other subject)
HowÂ muchÂ does it costs to take this approach?
Setting Up costs: Buy cover design off Artist (price ? £100-£400)
Cost of editing by editor (£250 to £500)
(Lets say £500 for above – you CAN get cheaper but have to be sure about quality)
Purchase ISBN c £10
Setup cover cost at LS £21
Setup Book Block cost at LS £21
Keep ISBN on catalogue at Lightning Source £7 (per year)
Get into Ingrams catalogue £20 for UK and same for US = £40
Order Proof x 1 = £21
Setup costs = £620.
Then cost of printing a book would be somewhere between Â£2 and Â£8 dependant on the length, type of books and the quantity you order. Offset printing is traditional stype printing. It is VERY cheap per unit if you can sell 2000. But if you can you can print at £2 or so per book.
If you only want say £100 books you might be looking at £4 for a 350 page book.
At first glance you might say “Hang on a minute, 100 books just cost you £1020. Thats the same as that Vanity publisher – what’s the advantage?”
Well a lot of that £1000 I spent via Mercia Books went on a professional edit and a good cover so I am happy that quality is good. I also have full distribution and my books will show up on Amazon and CAN be ordered by book shops if desired. Best of all I am in control. Every aspect of the process I can monitor. If I don’t like the cover I tell Avalon etc
You can see my books via my author page here: http://www.richarddenning.co.uk/
Or Via Mercia Books here: http://www.merciabooks.co.uk/