Sunday, 17 March 2013

Lessons Learned on the Self-Publishing Road

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Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Bill Longshaw
It’s a good thing I have a curious mind because the deeper I get into the self-publishing realm the more there is to learn. Some days it gets just a little overwhelming but then I either go for a walk, do some yoga or read one of the startling 5-star reviews that have been posted on Amazon already! It motivates me to keep plugging along.

 “There’s so much to learn, such as how to do (or hire) cover art, how to format for all the many types of eBooks, how to format for print, blogging, social media, interviews, distribution, marketing, getting reviews, how to choose effective paid advertising, how to choose the most effective price point… it goes on and on. We have a lot of freedom, but every aspect of publishing comes down to us,” said India Drummond on her video blog that I watched yesterday on formatting for CreateSpace.

Formatting the print layout for CreateSpace was one of the things I actually paid really good money for because I thought it was a critical piece of the puzzle and one of the most finicky and frustrating. I saw India’s post and thought I’d take a look. After watching her 35-minute step-by-step video do I think I could do it? Sure! Will I? Um, not likely. I think I’ll let Graham at Creation Booth do it again next time. He’s a pro and I only have two hands!

Lessons Learned

Lesson #1
There’s no end. As long as your book is in print there’s more to do! You are the publisher. Accept it. Embrace it. Move on to the next item on the checklist.

Lesson #2
Some of it is really easy, common sense, no-brainer type stuff and some of it is, well, yank your fingernails out tough.

So, here are a few of my experiences thus far I’d like to share:

Easy-Peasy

In my opinion, the easy part of the whole process is getting the book written. Do I hear a collective gasp? Now, I admit some days are ribbons and rainbows and others are like walking on hot coals. But, the main point is that writing is our forté, right? In the grand scheme of things, it’s naturally going to be the easy part of self-publishing a book, which I had never done before unless you count the short eBook on doing your own PR that I wrote to test out the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) piece of the process.

When I launched the mission, the parts of the process that involved writing copy were also easy for me. The profiles, press releases, pitches, blurbs, newsletters, announcements and blogs, for example. I've been doing that for years!

The social media part was not so bad… time consuming but not difficult. I already had a profile on Facebook and an Anne the Writer page so I just added a book page for Mental Pause, invited everyone to join and promoted it on my other social media (like Twitter and LinkedIn).  

Fair to Middlin’

Okay… so now comes the finicky part. Setting up on KDP is pretty straightforward once you have your manuscript properly formatted for Kindle upload. However, when doing a print version using CreateSpace for print on demand (POD) as I did, the finer details of setting up your account are a little more daunting, but not insurmountable. They break it down into phases and pretty much walk you through each phase with helpful articles, handholding and a 24/7 helpline to boot. Selecting price points and distribution channels as India alluded to above, had me pulling out my hair and I had to walk away a few times, but I eventually wrestled that gnarly troll. I did pay the extra $25 for expanded distribution so I'll let you know if it's worth it. They say it can take 6-8 weeks before it appears in the Ingrams and Baker and Taylor retail catalogs.

Here’s a warning! 

Once the print proof on CreateSpace is approved, it can take 5-7 business days before it’s live. I just about had a heart attack when I saw that because I assumed it was immediate and waited until the day before launch day thinking I was being smart allowing myself a whole day in case it was a little convoluted! I took a deep breath, realized it wasn’t the end of the world (and that I was a moron not having checked that out in advance but made a mental note for the next one… and a big bold note in my timeline), heaved a sigh of relief that the Kindle version was already up and crossed my fingers that the print version would appear sooner rather than later… then prayed. The angels were definitely on my side this time as the print version did actually go up the very next day in time for the launch. Hooah!

Another lesson I learned was that after the struggle to get the print version done and all the right forms filled and information submitted, CreateSpace will do the Kindle conversion for you! It would probably have eliminated the ‘few minor formatting issues’ that reviewers have mentioned.

Navigating Amazon

As a global nomad with friends spread all over the world, I'd love to make their purchase of my books as painless as possible. There’s a lot that happens automatically with Amazon but there were also issues that cropped up that I naively assumed would have happened and didn’t. For example, they don’t automatically link the print and Kindle versions unless you ask them to. And, if you go to Amazon.ca, it only shows the Kindle version. So someone in Canada has to go to Amazon.com to order the print version, which is shipped from the US. However, Amazon.co.uk does have both. Go figure!

Those are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned so far but it’s only a little over a week since Mental Pause launched so I’m sure there will be more to come… like eBook conversions. I did promise I would cover that issue this time but I’m still grappling with it so don’t have much helpful information to share just yet, but I will when I do.

If you have any 'lessons learned' that you'd like to add, please feel free to comment below!

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