Ooh, I’m excited. I have another guest blogger over at the Divas today.

Angela Verdenius has made quite a name for herself in the e-publishing world. She has a brilliant, very popular Sci-fi series with Wings Press called Love, Heart and Soul. I first met her when we worked on the Boys Down Under Anthology together. Angela wrote a novella called Operation Seduction that blew me away. I couldn’t believe I was in an antho with an author with that much talent. (Yeah, I was more than a little jealous.)

Since then, Angela has written several more books, and most importantly (for the sake of this blog), she’s delved into that big, scary world of self publishing. Her first self-pubbed book, a horror called Zombie Hospital, is an unexpected delight. Absolute hilarious, scary as hell and a huge twist at the end, the book isn’t a romance, but it’s definitely a short story worth a read.

Her second self-pubbed book, Doctor’s Delight, (yep, a romance this time) is currently sitting on my iPad, waiting to be read. I cannot wait to tuck in.

But…enough from me. I could go on forever about this super-talented writer. But let me rather hand over the reins to her, she can tell you all about her trip to publishing her own books!


Self Publishing – the Forbidden Pathway

By Angela Verdenius

For years the self-published author has been seen as the bottom feeder of the writing ocean.  Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but it’s not far off the mark, is it?  Really?  Come on, be truthful!  Even if one, or none, or most of us here don’t think that (ever or now), self-publishing was, and still is at times, regarded as something that authors, not good enough to have their books published by a ‘proper publisher’, finally succumbed.

Well, the tide is turning.  More authors are self-publishing, and some of these authors have contracts with traditional publishers.  I read a blog from a big name author who had a million dollar contract with a big publishing house, and he was writing a book he intended to self-publish.  I just wish I’d kept his name and blog link!!  Some have done it for different reasons, i.e.  because they’ve had bad experiences with publishing houses, while others have used it as a stepping stone to success and ended up signing huge money-making deals with a big publisher, namely Amanda Hocking – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/books/amanda-hocking-sells-book-series-to-st-martins-press.html?_r=1

Admittedly, I’ve read self-pubbed books that have made me gag, but then, I have to say, I’ve read books from big publishers that have made me gag as well. Hey, maybe my books make some people gag!  It’s all up to the individual reader, and if an editor doesn’t like your book, you won’t get a contract.   It doesn’t mean you don’t have a great story, so why shouldn’t you have a chance to spring it upon the world?

I’ve decided to dabble my toes in the field of self publishing.  I currently have 18 novels and 2 novellas with small publishers.  It’s been a great experience.  But lately I’ve been hearing more and more about self publishing and the benefits.  There’s also a darker side <g>, but hey!  A walk on the edge never hurt anyone, right?  Or maybe I’ll stop saying that until I see how successful I’ve been.  It’s no guarantee it’s going to work.

First – why did I decide to try self publishing?  Several reasons.  I have sole control over my story, I retain ALL rights, I can change my price for the story, and I get a bigger slice of the royalties.  I figure after all those hours (weeks, months – you know what I’m talking about, fellow writers!), followed by all that promotion, both free and paid for, that I deserved a bigger slice of the cake.  And I quite like the idea of having sole control and ownership.

The road hasn’t been easy, as Jess Dee will attest to, I’m sure, seeing as how I would send a little moan her way now and again <g>.

(Note from Jess: I love her moans and groans. Learn something new every time she mails me!)

There are several things to consider.  Do I want e-book?  Print?  Both?  What about distribution? ISBN?  Promotion?  Tax?  Learning different formats and programs?  Editing?  Covers?  Time to worry about it all as I already work full time?

Here’s what I ended up doing.

For e-books, I chose Amazon.com, because they are one of the biggest stores around and very well known, and I have my other books up on there as well from Wings ePress.  I also chose Smashwords because one of my favourite authors has e-books there from when Dorchester had their huge shuffle into POD & e-book.

Amazon Kindle is fairly simple to learn and upload, as long as you follow their instructions.  Make sure you read their terms (and boy, was that a headache for me!).  It is a bit involved.  They provide you with an ASIN (Amazon version of ISBN).  Their royalties for Aussie authors are only 35%.  You can set your own price.

Smashwords has a more complex style for you to do your manuscript, but follow the guidelines and you’ll be fine.  If not, Smashwords will supply you with some contacts who, for a fee, will format your manuscript for you.  Your royalties are about 60%.     Smashwords will provide you with a free ISBN, or you can by one.  They distribute your e-book to many places.

For print, I decided on Lulu.com.  Yes, Amazon.com does have Createspace, but OMG, I tried to understand it all, and it was way too much for me.  Lulu.com was a lot simpler, and the formatting easy.  Plus it really is a Print on Demand.  No upfront fees.  They take 20% of your profit in payment.  Sounds very simple, but really read into it, as then you come into the ISBN, which is what retailers require for selling your book.  If you’re happy to sell your book straight from the Lulu.com site, you don’t need an ISBN, and you’ll get a nice chunk of revenue.  If you want an ISBN, they will provide one for free, or you can buy your own, and now it’s available for retailers as well, but you also go from revenue to royalties.  If you go for the ISBN, Lulu.com is listed as your publisher.  If you choose no ISBN, they are not listed as your publisher.  Either way, you still retain all your rights and ownership, but read carefully the ISBN agreement for a clearer picture of where you stand.

There are other print places you can go to, but most want up-front fees and a bulk order, whereas Lulu.com don’t – what you see is basically what you get.  I’m waiting for my first print copy to arrive so that I can see how it has turned out.  Even though it’s available now for sale as print, I want a look at it before I put the links up on my website and announce its print availability.

The other nasty you come across with self publishing overseas is TAX.  From what I’ve read, it seems all of the self publishing companies for e-book and print keep 30% of your royalties back for tax.  There is a treaty with Australia for 5% only, but you need a special form to submit.  Basically, you get a letterhead from the publisher, submit to the IRS along with the required form, get a number sent back, and you submit this form along with the number to your publisher, and they then with-hold 5% only, rather than 30%.  Which makes me realise that most of we Aussie writers are probably getting 30% of our royalties with-held by our US traditional publishers!

Amazon.com, I have heard from the forums on there run by the kindle authors, are not forthcoming in helping their overseas authors by supplying the letterhead, even though they mention it in their agreement.  Smashwords is very happy to supply the letterhead once you have $10 in your account.  It takes awhile, I’m still waiting for the letterhead, but it can take up to 6 weeks or more.  So I’m guessing about 6 months all up.  But once I have that magic number, I can apply it to ALL my self-publishing.  So it’s worth going through the hoops.  I’m going via Smashwords for it, as they’re the easiest to deal with, I have found.

Covers can be done through independent artists.  Smashwords provides you with a list of cover artists. The lady who has done my two covers is lovely, she’s reasonably priced, and I own the cover!

Editing is of paramount importance.  Being self-pubbed means you have to raise the bar high.  Once you throw out a badly edited, self-pubbed print/e-book, you’re in the running to be verbally smashed.  You need to keep your bar high, your covers great, your blurbs interesting.  You need to make it the best book you can produce.  The pressure is on even more, being self-pubbed.

I’ve read books from big publishers that have had the worst editing, and I’ve cringed, but because they have been published by big publishers, it’s more accepted by readers.  Once you self-pub, word will get out if your books are badly edited.  So people, if you’re contemplating self-pubbing, and you’re not confident in your own editing, please, part with the dough and pay a good editor!  Yes, Smashwords will also provide you with a list of some editors.

Smashwords helps you heaps, I’ve found.  Amazon.com is quite good.  Lulu.com can be slower in replying, and their support forums aren’t always crash hot, at least, not for me.  Others may say differently.  They do have a live link, but you need to organise your time zone to get them.

Distribution…well, I know how Smashwords, Lulu.com, and Amazon.com distribute.  I have yet to find out about Fictionwise and other e-book stores, and what percentage they’ll take of my profits, or if they’ll even touch my book, seeing as how it’s self-pubbed.  I need to look into my marketing.  I also need to look at how far do I need the e-book spread, in regards to the percentage of money I get back.

So the road has been a huge learning curve, and it remains a huge learning curve.  I still come up against hurdles, and mange to fall over them inelegantly.  But it’s been rewarding, too.  The hours, the headaches, the mind-boggling agreements.  But the control, the power, the knowing that I totally OWN this book, is awesome.  Will I do it again?  You betcha!  I’m working on my next book to be self-pubbed.  I’m waiting for a short story in an anthology to be available, and I intend to pull it and self-pub that as well.

Will I end up with egg on my face?  Will I end up with less money? Will bookstores want my books?  Will review sites suck their breaths in sharply and refuse to review my self-pubbed manuscript?  I don’t know.  I’m about to find out.   As Smashwords said (and this is now in my words) some of their authors sell heaps of books, one of their authors made $100,000, but some of their authors sell none.  No different to the traditional publishers, when you think about it hard enough!

I will leave you now with something that anyone who is considering self-publishing really needs to do – read EVERYTHING on the website of whatever publisher you are thinking of trying.  Research them well.  Read their agreements and conditions.  Don’t go in blind and hoping for the best.  Make sure you know what you’re signing.  It may be for you, it may not.  You may decide to stay with the traditional publisher, you may decide to experiment a little with self-pubbing.  As one author pointed out, if you have a following already, it may work well, but for a new author, you can get lost amongst the other self-pubbed authors.

Whichever pathway you choose, I wish you many sales!


The books currently self-published:

Zombie Hospital – available in e-book fromAamozn.com & Smashwords (short story)

Doctor’s Delight (Book 1 in the Big Girls Lovin’ trilogy) available in e-book from Amazon.com & Smashwords, and print from Lulu.com

For information on both my traditionally published and self-published books in print & e-book, visit my website at www.angelaverdenius.com

A great read is A Newbie’s Guide to Self Publishing http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/.