Horror Writers Association

Horror Roundtable 12 – The Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing


When: 12 September, 2013
Time: 3pm EST (use the Time Zone Converter to find your local time)

The Nuts and Bolts of Self-publishing

This is not another discussion (= argument) on the merits or otherwise of self-publishing vs traditional publishing, but an actual nuts and bolts chat covering how you go about self-publishing. What things should you look at, what needs to be done, to ensure your book is as good as it can be, and available in all the right places? What mistakes do some self-published writers make that hurt their careers and turn others off going down this route?

We will be starting this Roundtable with the view that you are planning on self-publishing, and will take it from there.

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR THIS ROUNDTABLE: no comments will be allowed that deride those who plan on self-publishing, nor those that seek to belittle self-published works. As it says above, this is not another discussion on the merits of self-publishing; please take those arguments elsewhere. All comments should stick to the topic and offer advice on self-publishing, or they will be deleted and the the user blocked.

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You can follow the Roundtable discussion in the comments section of this post.

Note: the page will not auto refresh, so please you the refresh option on your browser to keep up to date with the discussion.

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Special Guests:

Joe Nassise     Michaelbrent Collings     Graeme Reynolds

Joe Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling TEMPLAR CHRONICLES series, the JEREMIAH HUNT trilogy, and the GREAT UNDEAD WAR series. He has also written several books in the popular Rogue Angel action-adventure series.

His work has been nominated for both the Bram Stoker Award and the International Horror Guild Award and has been translated into half a dozen languages to date. He has written for both the comic and role-playing game industries and also served two terms as president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror and dark fantasy writers.

Joe has successfully been indie-publishing both backlist and frontlist titles since late 2010 and regularly teaches a class on doing so at Litreactor.com.

Michaelbrent Collings is a #1 bestselling novelist and screenwriter and one of Amazon’s Most Popular Horror Writers. His bestsellers include Strangers, Darkbound, Apparition, The Haunted, The Loon, and the YA fantasy series The Billy Saga (beginning with Billy: Messenger of Powers).

He hopes someday to develop superpowers, and maybe get a cool robot arm.

Michaelbrent has a wife and several kids, all of whom are much better looking than he is (though he admits that’s a low bar to set), and much MUCH cooler than he is (also a low bar).

Michaelbrent also has a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings and can be followed on Twitter through his username @mbcollings. Follow him for awesome news, updates, and advance notice of sales. You will also be kept safe when the Glorious Revolution begins!

Graeme Reynolds was born in England in 1971. Over the years, he has been an electronic engineer in the Royal Airforce, worked with special needs children and spent a summer as a teenage mutant ninja turtle.

He started writing in 2008, and has had over thirty short stories published in various ezines and anthologies before self publishing his first novel, High Moor, in 2011, and the sequel, Moonstruck in 2013.

When he is not breaking computers for money, he hides in a remote Welsh valley and dreams up new ways to offend people with delicate sensibilities.

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Rules and Etiquette

Please be respectful when posting a comment.

Any spam or comments posted for the sole purpose of self-promotion will be deleted, and will see you banned from further Roundtable involvement.

102 comments on “Horror Roundtable 12 – The Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing

  1. I’ll make one last point, about covers. There are a lot of places out there that will do you a cover for about $50. Often they will use a stock photo cover that you don’t have the rights to and will get redone for other clients. I’ve lost count of the number of book covers that I’ve seen repeated on multiple titles. Go on places like Deviantart, look for artists who knock your socks off and talk to them. I get original artwork done for each of my covers, that I hold the exclusive rights to, and costs me £150 a go (or about $200). The old addage that you can’t judge a book by its cover is crap. Even the best artists in the business don’t charge more than about £350. It’s a small investment that is one of the best ones you will ever make.

  2. On behalf of the HWA, I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Joe, Graeme, and Michaelbrent for a very informative Roundtable (and a personal thank you for the answers to my question). Very much appreciated, guys.

  3. Thanks, Joe and Graeme! It’s been a pleasure and I always learn something myself.


  4. I don’t know about nifty, but one of the worst tactics I ever saw was someone signing up with sock puppet accounts and giving themselves 1* comedy reviews. They then moaned about it on Kindleboards and Amazon forums, asking for people to post good ones to counteract the bad ones, with the intention being to then remove the 1*’s. There are no shortcuts and people will see through that kind of crap pretty quickly. Especially if you are dumb enough to crow about how clever you are via PM.

  5. Okay gang – looks like we’ll wrap things up for now. The discussion will remain open until the 18th and we’ll be checking in periodically to answer questions/comments so don’t be shy!

    Graeme, Michaelbrent – thanks for being with us!

  6. Graeme – excellent point. My wife works as an editor (tighterwriting.com) and the stuff she gets in that is supposed to already been edited is frightening sometimes. Get a sample edit, talk with other customers, etc. Know who you are working with – as any good business person should.

  7. If I knew any nifty tactics for selling books, I’d be doing ’em!

    The reality is that the tactics you hear about are products of a mountain of legwork. I mean, when you send a book about a serial killer to the newspaper along with a dish of what looks like intestines but are really fine truffles, that sounds awesome. But what you don’t hear about is the years the PR guy (meaning you, the self-pubber, who does everything) spent being friends with the folks at the newspaper so that when he did that, they let the package through the door in the first place!

    Work on your craft. Meet the people you think will love your stories. Introduce them. Then stand back and hope for the best.

  8. Just remember that there’s a difference between being an “author” (meaning you write stuff), a “professional author” (meaning you expect to get paid for stuff you write), and an epub/selfpub author (meaning all that stuff before PLUS you have to know everything else in the universe).

    Unlike a lot of people who do self-pub, I don’t hate traditional publishing. There’s a place for it. There’s a place for self-pub. But there’s no place for someone hoping to barf up magic words and expect the public to come along and shovel it up no matter how poorly edited, formatted, marketed, or otherwise presented it may be.

    Sucks that we can’t just sit and write? Maybe. BUT it’s also amazing that we have an excuse and encouragement to learn all these fantastic new things. I am an editor, a marketer, a graphic designer, a typesetter… it leads to long days, and some sleepless nights, but it is a very cool thing to do.

  9. One thing that I would want to say is that just because you pay an editor, it doesn’t mean that they are doing a good job. There are hundreds of people offering their services. The book that I am bringing out this month, Whisper, was previously self published and it had been edited by two pay services. And the quality was not there. We ended up cutting about four whole chapters and re-doing a significant amount of the dialogue. Ask for a sample edit of the first chapter. When I send my first book out, I had quotes from $6000 (ha! as if!) to $300. The $300 quote said my first chapter was almost flawless, and I knew it wasn’t. Shop around, find someone who you can work with. There are a lot of scam artists out there.

  10. That is one of the great things about being an indie. If a book isn’t selling – drop the price, change the cover, edit your blurb. You have the luxury of playing around. When I brought High Moor out, I would religiously monitor its sales rank, and if it dropped below a certain level, I’d drop the price to $0.99 for a couple of days. You don’t get that kind of flexibility anywhere else.

  11. The other thing about pricing is that people are more likely to actually read a book they paid $3.99 for than a $0.99 or freebie. I do it myself. My Kindle is full of books that I got on a free download that keep getting passed over for full priced stuff. Remember, you want to create an audience, not a group of people waiting for your next freebie promotion

  12. Going back to the question re making a big splash with a new title: that’s hard. The best way I’ve found is to have 20 other titles done, and fans ready for the next one. If you don’t have that, then it’s rolling a snowball uphill.

    For my first book, I created a website for it, recorded the audiobook version of it (which I gave away for FREE), and that website had 250,000 hits before the book even came out. So there’s a lot of branding you can do if you get creative. But again, it’s a lot of work. Start now. Make an author page on Facebook. Don’t have a book, fine, don’t call it an author page. Call it YOUR fanpage, and publish funny quotes, or new movie information, or trivia about medieval chicken laws, or whatever. Then you’re building an audience for your first release. Momentum takes a lot of effort to develop.

  13. I agree, Graeme. Pricing is a tool. The way you create your book description is a tool. How you format the front matter in your book is a tool. An indie publisher has to be thinking of all these kinds of things and experimenting with them to see what works best.

  14. Clickthrough rate on any website for a GOOD at is 2 for every 1000 impressions. I have yet to find a website that gives me a good return on that. Websites are good for saturation marketing – if you’re Toyota, and you have ten million dollars and you wanting everyone thinking about your cars all the time. Or if you’re a blockbuster movie coming out and you want to create awareness. Indies have to be more discerning.

    Magazines are even worse. Because not only are they expensive, the “Clickthrough” is nonexistent. They have to actually put DOWN the magazine, then walk to a computer and buy something. You always want to market someplace as close to the “buy” point as possible. It’s part of why Girl Scouts sell at supermarkets, right? Plus, if you’re doing epub, the fact that someone is reading a (gasp!) MAGAZINE already tells you they’re not fully engaged in electronic media (most likely), so you’re better off spending your dough elsewhere.

  15. Something that I learned from Joe on the HWA boards a while back is that pricing is a tool. Some people use that tool well, others don’t. A permanent $0.99 book can put people off because the assumption can be that its only worth that. Short term sales, widely publicised seem to work best for me.

  16. When I started out, I tried Facebook ads and Google Ads. Both were worse than useless. In Facebook Ads defence, they had excellent targeting algorithms. Every time you click “Like” on a page, you get added to their ad database. It’s incredibly powerful, but resulted in pretty much no sales per click

  17. Yeah, I’m at $3.99. Most people starting should probably start at .99 – it’s a sucky price point since most places you have to take a royalty cut, but it gets your work out there and gets you noticed. My first big hit was at .99 for a long time, and it’s only in the past year and a half that my audience has gotten big enough I have been able to price my books at 3.99 and still sell. Again, I tinker with it all the time. For me, it’s not about total sold, it’s about total MADE. I have to feed my family (who knew children insist on EATING?), so if I can make more at .99, I’ll do that. If I make more at $3.99, there I am. Right now it seems like the popular indie horror guys – Konrath, Crouch, and the like, are around $3.99. So I thought, “Hey, I’m as good as them!” (authors all have weird mixes of narcissism and cripplingly low self esteem), and I priced my books where they did. It worked out. Other people it sucks rocks when they price their books there: they sell nothing. Play with it.

  18. Hi Myoung – glad you could join us!

    Personally, aside from the aforementioned attempt to use Bookbub, I’ve never paid for advertising. I dont’ find it all that effective with my traditionally published material so I’ve avoided it for my self-published work. Other people may disagree.

  19. Another way to get advanced reviews leading up to a launch is to do giveaways on places like Goodreads and Librarything.

  20. With a new title, I have found that Facebook launch parties can be very effective. I give away signed paperbacks, t-shirts and ebooks, post caption competitions as well as random giveaways for people sharing that they bought the book. Price it low for the launch, so that you get a good chart rating, then put the price up. I price mine at £3.99, but when I started it was $2.99, which is the magic price point where the 70% royalties kick in from Amazon. I sell slightly less at $3.99, but make more per book and its working out in my favour. More than $4.99 for an ebook is pushing it and I think that sales will suffer

  21. I will echo the comments about Bookbub. I’m an established author with a good size following and I’ve been rejected four times. You have to have the right book at the right time with the right window and price to have them take you on.

  22. BookBub is a great product… and almost impossible to use if you don’t have a track record of success. They vet the crap out of the people who want to advertise with them (yes, you will AUDITION to PAY them to advertise your books), and most new people have zero chance to get in right now. They actually just sent an email to a lot of their regular advertising authors saying (nicely) “We’re about to turn into bigger jerks as far as letting you pay us, so get ready. ‘Cause we can.”

    Others are BookGorilla (similar but much less popular, and their emails are not nearly as professional looking), Bargain Booksy (which I think is terrible), and Facebook ads (which are the equivalent of setting fire to your money and dropping it down a bottomless well right before tumbling in after it yourself).

  23. I see Michaelbrent is at $3.99 for most of his work. I’m the same – $3.99-4.99 for novel length work. $9.95 for omnibus editions. $2.99 for shorts and novellas. Occassionally I’ll do some free giveaways but I’ve gotten away from that in the last year.

  24. Definitely. Reviews are absolutely key. A great way to find review blogs is to look at the reviews that other authors are posting, then add them to your list. Chat to them on Facebook or Twitter, cultivate a relationship and send your book in. The ones that cross post to Goodreads and Amazon are worth their weight in gold.

  25. There’s no magic bullet for any of this. Lots of hard work.

    Another thing, though, is that since epub/self pub is about ROI, both as to time and money, a great wellspring that is rarely tapped is book reviews. Not talking about Kirkus or PW, here, but those soccer moms or nerdy guys (there are normal people who do it, too, I suppose), who run book blogs that are followed by thousands. I send them books when I can. An ebook costs me nothing, and if they review it and a few hundred of their followers buy it, it’s been a great investment. Because of the shifting economics of ebooks, I don’t have to sell MILLIONS of books a year, I can sell, say, 30,000 at $3.99 each (coincidentally, that’s my price point for most of my books) and make a very nice living. So those bloggers with influence are people I look for and cultivate relationships with.

  26. Heide – you’re welcome. I tinker with mine fairly regularly, as it helps drive new traffic.

  27. and of course, as Michael says, there are links to the second book in the series embedded in the back of the book I just did the promotion on.

  28. Doing promotions can help. Bookbub is currently the #1 paid marketing site for ebooks. Every time I’ve done a freebie promotion through them, I’ve spent 5 days at the top of the horror freebie list, with around 15,000 downloads each time. Just be aware that if they feature you as a freebie, they won’t accept the same book for $0.99. Now I think that the $0.99 bracket is the way to go

  29. Today no one is interested in yesterday, just tomorrow. If you have a breakout hit that is the highwater mark of a genre (The Shining in horror, or 2001 in scifi), then sure, you will sell it forever. But by definition there can only be a few of those. So you’re better off focusing not on getting people to pay attention to your old TITLES, but to YOU as an amazing writer. Seriously, it’s kind of like a cult. Or an Amway thing. Only they’re selling YOUR WORK, and they get NO COMMISSION. So you have to work that much harder and faster to reward them with new and exciting product – the worlds you create.

  30. Amazon’s algorithms run on a 30, 60, 90 day cycle, so releasing work every 3 months or so is key, as Michaelbrent noted.

  31. I’ve never had a problem tying the paperbacks together, to be honest, Joe. I started off with Createspace and the cover laminate started peeling, plus their distribution (2 years ago) was awful. I would have had to charge another $5 per book to make anything from their advanced distribution channels. Its easy enough to tie them together via Authorcentral (another Amazon site) or by emailing Amazon customer service

  32. Best way to sustain interest in a title: write another title. ;o)

    Seriously, people will come to your new work. If it’s made of AWESOME, then they will seek out your other work. I have hyperlinks in my ebooks that lead them to my other books, so hopefully they just click a button and keep on reading an older book when they get to the end of the newest one.

  33. The key to sustaining interest is to sustain visibility. I would experiment with categories (when you are high in the lists, be in a big category, when you start to fall out, drop to a smaller category so you can shine more easily) and watch how I work with my keywords in both the listing and the book’s description.

    Guys? What say you?

  34. As far as “real” books, I publish through CreateSpace. They’re linked with Amazon so the process is streamlined, the quality is good, and (most important for lazy, er, EFFICIENT me) I have a template that I have developed that enables me to basically format a book for both Kindle and CreateSpace as I go, so that when I’m done writing the layout and publishing process (cover aside) is the work of only a few hours.

    I mostly sell paper copies when I speak at conventions or things like that, so I’m not too worried about getting the books into stores. Especially since most stores aren’t going to put my books anywhere but the dustiest shelves in the darkest corners anyway. And, again, the ROI on that is bad.

  35. To answer my earlier question, yes, I do produce paperbacks. I want to reach the widest market possible. I do them through createspace, which makes it easy to tie the two editions together on Amazon.

  36. Smashwords are also rumoured to be signing people up to a “Netflix for book” channel by default, but have not yet published any official details about royalties etc, which seems a little dodgy.

  37. Evening Heide! Glad you could join us. Marketing is a pretty big topic – any specific area you were interested in?

  38. Graeme brings up a good point. Do you both produce paperbacks to accompany your ebooks? If so, why?

  39. If you DO go to Smashwords, though, be aware that one of their big draws is that you can dump your file into their processors and they will convert your book for you. Sounds good. But what it means is you will have a book that is poorly converted, you will get dinged for it, and they will take a portion of the profits for it. They work on bulk, and like a lot of bulk producers they care a lot less about quality product than they do about getting a penny or two out of every one of their two trillion books. This is good for them but, I think, ends up hurting a lot of writers in the long run who get a bad rep for cruddy-looking books.

  40. To be honest, I’m Kindle only for ebooks. Amazon is by far the most lucrative platform and it’s widely rumoured that books in their Select programme get preferential treatment from Amazon’s algorithms. I tried a few other platforms and sales were so close to zero as not to be worth it.

    As far as paperbacks go, I use Lightning Source. They are not the easiest or cheapest to use, but they put your books through the Ingram catalogue, so are available everywhere. Plus the quality of the end product is far superior to Createspace or Lulu

  41. I utterly avoid Smashwords because it started out well and has since become 80% erotica and stuff that verges on kiddie porn, and I don’t care to have my readers have to wade through that to get to my work.

  42. I am exclusive to Amazon for most of my work. They offer some perks that make it worth it to me (like paying me when my books are “borrowed” through their Prime program), and I think they’ve positioned themselves well as market leaders. ROI dictates that I stay with them for now, though I anticipate in a year or two I will spread to Apple’s iBooks. The others are dwindling, if not already dead. There’s room for surprises, but B&N is kind of self-destructing right now and I don’t think their plan to include an app on other makers’ tablets is a viable commercial solution, so I’m not dumping time into converting my books to their platforms, much as I’d like to have that availability.

  43. My work is available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes/iBooks. I’ve avoided Smashwords because I don’t like the storefront/interface and dislike the formatting requirements they imposed early on. Some of that has changed, but not enough for me to want to get involved with them again.

    I’ve found Amazon and Kobo to be the easiest to work with and the ones that bring in the most income.

  44. HTML coding is incredibly important. There are so many ebooks that don’t display correctly because of special characters in the text. There are plenty of good tutorials that deal with it, and its a mistake that traditional publishers make as well. I tried to link a couple but the spam filter stopped me 🙂

  45. How about platforms? Are you guys using a single ebook platform or do you make your work available widely? Any platforms you prefer? Dislike? Why?

  46. Coding in HTML for formatting is incredibly important! If you don’t understand how HTML code works, you should really hire someone to convert your book… and lots of people out there will do a good job for under $50.

  47. We’re a half hour in so we should be opening things up to the audience for questions. Fire away folks!

  48. I hear you, Graeme. I started re-releasing my backlist, so I think it was an easier jumpstart. That said I don’t think it is a requirement in order for a publisher to succeed – just look at you!

  49. Great list of resources, Michaelbrent. I personally use Word or Scrivener for the writing, code in html for the ebook formatting, and then convert the file with Calibre. I hire out the art and use the usual social media tools for promotional purposes and to interact with my readers.

  50. I chose the difficult route, in that I self published from the start, so had no existing fan base apart from those people who’d read my short fiction. Getting noticed among all of the noise was incredibly hard. I approached it by making sure I got review copies into the hands of as many reviewers as I could, by fair means or foul. Buying a block of ISBN’s, sorting out a good website and essentially presenting myself as a small press meant that I got reviews from places that wouldn’t touch self published work with a bargepole.

  51. The biggest challenges in self-pub are learning the craft and then getting the word out, definitely. Being published is easy. Being READ is another matter.

  52. I know the regular content issue hurt me this past year. I had four books due to traditional publishers and only put out one indie project. As a result, I lost some of that excitement over my indie lines and will need to build those back up over the next 6 months with new content (finally!)

  53. There are lots of free resources. Like I said, if you type in, “How do I create an ebook cover for Amazon” (or iBooks or whatever) on Google, you’ll get a heap of answers. I myself produce all my books, start to finish, and each costs me a whopping total of $40. Here are the free tools I use:

    Word (not free, but you’re a writer so you should have it). Very useful and powerful and can do a lot of nifty typsetting stuff.

    Calibre and Mobipocket – these convert files to epub and mobi and all the other ereader required formats. You can play around with them and learn how to use them best. Hint: don’t drop a Word doc directly in. The formatting gets all screwy.

    Shutterstock – this is a huge library of images I use for covers and interior artwork. Nice and fairly inexpensive BUT it often doesn’t have exactly what I need so I also use…

    GIMP – a FREE photo manipulation tool that is very similar in power and ability to Photoshop (at least for purposes of this roundtable). It is NOT something you just pick up and “learn on the fly,” but it can do some awesome stuff. My book covers are all at michaelbrentcollings.com, and I am fine with putting any of them up alongside “professional” covers. I also took about a month where I learned to use GIMP ON TOP OF my writing. Busy bee.

    Hootsuite – lets me tie Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a bunch of other media sites together so that I can post all over the place efficiently, thus mobilizing my hordes of followers. ;o)

  54. There are writers groups out there that can help. I’m lucky in that I’m in a fairly small group, and we each workshop each others stuff, a chapter at a time. That can help sort out story inconsistencies and some of the typos’s and grammar problems. Some editing is better than none. I then go through the book with a text-to-speech app while reading it, which picks up a lot more errors. However, invariably, once it goes to the editor, they find even more, so it’s still worthwhile making that investment, even if you have to save up for it.

  55. What do you see as the biggest challenges when it comes to self-publishing? We’ve already mentioned the need for regular content…

  56. Great point, Michaelbrent. It goes back to our earlier observation – this is a business and it has to be treated as one. Knowing your ROI is key.

  57. Personally, I’ve learned to do a lot of it myself, like Graeme and Michaelbrent. I farm out my editing (I’m married to an editor, fortunately :)) and my cover art, but that’s about it at this point. It costs me less than $200 to bring a book to market and I make that back in the first week.

  58. It also depends on your purposes. If you’re doing this so you can make your story “available” (meaning a theoretical person can get it if such a mythical being wants to ride in on his/her unicorn and do so), then the bar is lower. Just click “publish” and it’s there, along with twenty bijillion other works. But if you want to make a business of you work, you have to treat it as a business, and determine return on investment every step of the way. That means you have to weigh questions of, can I do it myself better, or have someone else do it better; can I do it myself more cheaply, and will that burn me on the back end if quality is sacrificed? Lots of math goes into it. Me writer. Me hate math.

  59. I’ve heard of people spending thousands of dollars to create an ebook, while others spend in the hundreds or less. If you don’t have the cash to plunk down, how do you get started?

  60. There are certain things that I do myself. I’m quite technical, so I do my ebook creation and paperback typesetting myself, because I know that I have the skillset to do it. However, while I could knock a cover up in photoshop, I know that for a relatively small amount of money, I could pay a professional artist to do it and the result would be so much better. And as for editing – lets face it, if Stephen King needs an editor, so does everyone else.

  61. I know I do the same – I’m a writer, not a graphic artist or illustrator. I couldn’t design and create a decent cover if my life depended on it. (Well, maybe then.) So I hire it out.

  62. Look at lousybookcovers.com for a lot of examples how NOT to go about preparing your work.

    Graeme speaks a lot of truth. There are a lot of aspects to self-pub, not just the writing, but editing, layout, cover design, marketing. If you want to do those things yourself, fine, but you have to do them AS A PROFESSIONAL. You can’t say, “But I did it MYSELF,” and have people cut you a break. So either hire someone better than you to do the work, or learn to do it flawlessly on your own. Both have ups and downs, in terms of time and money expenditures.

  63. So Graeme, you’d advocate hiring third parties to do some of the work rather than learning it yourself?

  64. I totally agree, Graeme. I don’t know how anyone manages it these days. I was a panelist at Salt Lake Comic Con last weekend, and one of the panels was something like “How to Write and Have a Full Time Other Job.” I wasn’t on that panel, since I shed my lawyer skin a few years ago, but I heard the other writers discussing it, and the consensus seemed to be that they could just not show up and simply pile their favorite energy drinks at the front table as silent testimony that they were too tired and busy to show up.

  65. The way that I see it, is that self publishing is like a bricklayer deciding to build their own house. They can get the walls up, but then they need to get professionals in to do the other things – plumbing, electrics, plastering etc. You need to find the right people to do those jobs, and you need to pay them. Just because your friend thinks he can plaster a bit, doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s the person you want doing the job.

  66. Agreed – self-publishing shouldn’t be a shortcut to learning craft. Period.

    I started in the early days, so I think it was harder then than it is now. If I were starting over, there are a lot of different online classes that teach how to produce professional looking ebooks (such as the one I teach every few months over at Litreactor.com) and there are plenty of groups of self-publishers willing to help each other out. We didn’t have that when I got into indie publishing.

  67. As for learning the different elements… I will assume that anyone who wants to be a professional author has at least a bare ability to read. That’s helpful. ;o) The easiest places to look are a) the marketplace of other self/epub’d books, and b) Mr. Google.

    You should constantly be buying other indie books, both to support them and to blatantly rip off the good aspects of their marketing and design.

    And when starting out, Google is a great way to go. You can literally type, “How do I publish an ebook” and get a load of answers that will start you in the right direction. Obviously a lot of it isn’t helpful, but that’s a great way to start looking when you are completely unsure what to do. The interweb, folks – it’s here to stay!

  68. That’s often the problem, Michael. Doing all of the things that Joe mentioned, plus getting new material out is hard work. Once you throw in a full time job and home commitments, it can be incredibly daunting. I had people hassling me for my next book maybe a month after the last one came out.

  69. Not to harp on the issue of quality, which (rightly) came up over and over, but… a lot of people see self-pub as a shortcut. Which it is. It can be a great shortcut to bypass slush piles. It can also be a shortcut to finding out how badly your work is still in need of polishing and practice. I hear a lot of people complaining about how no one notices their work, when in reality their work still isn’t ready to come out and play, as it were. Quality is a serious requirement, especially if you want to get not only read by others, but have those others form a weird cult that involves convincing THEIR friends to read your work.

  70. Okay, so we all agree its quality and regular content that make a huge difference in a self-publisher’s success.

    There are a lot of elements that go into making a quality ebook – the writing, obviously, but also editing, proofing, formatting, cover art, promotional content like descriptions, etc.

    Where do you learn to do this? How does one get their start?

  71. First of all, no matter what kind of publishing (e, self, trad), the secrets to longevity and success tend to be quality AND quantity. People may have one breakout hit that everyone agrees is crap, but those folks disappear. Others have one great book, but don’t follow it up and in today’s media-hungry environment they are quickly forgotten. To make it as a professional writer over time, it’s WORK. You have to learn the craft, get a good book out… then go back and do it again. I’ve gotten about two dozen books into the public’s hands in the last THREE YEARS. These are full-length novels, and the pace of today’s consumption expectation is staggering. Gone are the days of lazy writers who lounge in their pj’s for half a day, grind out their dozen words for the afternoon, then descend into a stupor of imaginative bliss. Commercial success requires a LOT of work.

  72. For me, I’d say:

    * Produce a quality product
    * Understand the marketplace
    * Be willing to act as publisher-publicist-pr manager all at the same time
    * Stay active on a regular basis with new material

  73. The single most important thing is making sure that you have a quality product. Self publishing is a business, and that means making your book as good as it can possibly be. That means professional editing, cover design and ebook / paperback layout. You basically need to do all of the things that traditional publishers do.

  74. Great! Generally speaking, what do you guys see as the most important elements of self-publishing? What are the things an independent publisher MUST do in order to succeed?

    I’ll add my thoughts in a moment…

  75. For me, I’ve written around two dozen books, almost all self-pub/epub’d. (The distinction between those two is fading fast.) Every one of my books published in the past year has hit one of Amazon’s major genre bestseller lists, and I have spent the great majority of that past year listed as one of their most popular horror writers (peaking at #2 on that list, sandwiched between Stephen King and Dean Koontz, which was spiffy-keen!).

  76. Hi, I’m Graeme Reynolds. I self-published my first novel, High Moor in 2011 under my own imprint, Horrific Tales Publishing, and the sequel, Moonstruck in March 2013. Both novels have so far been very well received and the first book made it to the long list of the 2011 Stoker Awards. I’ve now begun expanding the imprint. I released a charity anthology called Great British Horror Volume 1 in August with seven other self published authors, and we are due to publish our first “proper” novel, Whisper by Michael Bray in the next few weeks.

  77. Okay, straight up 3pm EST so let’s get underway – we’re here to talk about the “nuts and bolts” of independent publishing, focusing specifically on the how-to aspects of the issue. We’re assuming you’ve already made the decision to indie publish and are looking for practical methods and means of doing so.

    To start, let’s get a sense of our panelists’ experience with the issue. Speaking for myself (Joe Nassise), I’ve been indie publishing for the last three years, republishing my backlist and adding new front list titles while also continuing to write series for a couple of traditional publishers at the same time. I will most likely continue from this point forward with some kind of hybrid career – publishing both traditionally and independently.

    Michaelbrent? Graeme?

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