Hi Everyone. I’m going to deviate from my normal post topics and talk a little bit about business today. I’ve been getting a lot of recent questions from new and aspiring authors in regards to why I chose to be a self-published author and how I conduct my business. I say business, because that’s what being a self-published author is. By self-pubbing, I opted to go into business for myself.
Now, there’s no right or wrong way to choose to publish your books. Whether you go indie or traditional, your publishing journey has to be right for you and that doesn’t make it right for everyone else. I truly believe that self-publishing is the right path for me. I’ll give you the cliff notes version as to why.
Now, this isn’t the case for EVERY traditional author, but it is the case for MOST traditional authors. The author writes a book, they send it to their agent/editor who makes changes or requests the author make changes that may have minor, or significant affects on the characters and the story as a whole. The author more or less, has to listen. Some fight back on feedback, or justify why the scene/story needs to remain the way it is, and some get their way, others don’t. After that, the book undergoes more edits, there’s some copy editing, proofreading, ect. The book gets formatted and the author has no say over the interior design. They get a *hopefully* attractive book cover, that again, they don’t really have much say on because the publisher knows best, and a *hopefully* compelling blurb that gets slapped on their book, and then wam, bam, thank you ma’am, you have yourself a book.
What is the author’s responsibility here? To write a book. That is all. I view this relationship like an employee and their employer. The author works for the publisher. They are given tasks and deadlines they need to fulfill and the publisher has the majority of the control and takes over when the book is finished being written, in exchange for providing the author with a paycheck. Most authors do a little promo of their own but a lot of this also gets handled by the publisher who also controls reviews copies. Now, there are definite benefits to going traditional, don’t get me wrong. You have a lot of support and industry professionals to lean on. There are perks! I’m just too much of a control freak for all of that.
My books are my babies. I poured my heart and soul into these stories and there is no way in hell I’m going to hand them over to someone else. I have a vision for my covers that I want to see come to life. I want a beautiful interior design. I believe the relationship between author and editor is sacred and you have to find the right match. I want the ability to choose my editor. Also, I want to promote the heck out of my books and know that their success is because of my efforts. I’m proud of my work. I chose to be an indie author. I never submitted to a publisher and I don’t have any plans to for the foreseeable future. Another reason that I’ll mention, is that I, like most authors, want to make money from my books. Yes we write for the joy or it, but we publish in the hopes of making a living of some sort from our work and self-published authors receive a higher royalty than traditionally published authors. On average, most self-pub authors retain 70% royalties while most traditional authors receive 10-30% depending on their contracts. This is likely why many authors are becoming hybrids and well-established, traditional authors have self-published books now. We all want to be paid for our work.
Anyways, we’re getting off track here. Back to business. If you’ve decided to be a self-published author, then you need to freshen up your business skills because you are the contractor of this project and you are now responsible for every step of your publishing journey. YAY! *I say that with genuine enthusiasm* This is a good thing, if you’re anything like me. If you do not like being your own boss, being a self-published author may not be the right fit for you and perhaps the traditional route is the better choice.
To get started, build a business plan. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I suggest checking out Finding Your Indie and checking out How to Build a Kick Butt Business Plan. Mine is a little different because I adapted it to suit my needs but this is a good starting point. You can always make changes along the way like I did to make it fit your needs.
Also, go find a support system. I’m a member of RWA and joined my local chapter. We meet monthly, we have a Facebook group and an email loupe to chat on, and we do critiques of one another’s work and get together for write-ins. Having a support system is a must, even if its just a virtual group online, and getting to ask other authors questions about their journey is really helpful as well.
Some highlights to consider are…
- Publishing Timeline/Calendar: How many books are you planning to release per year? How long does it take you to write and edit your books and what kind of publishing schedule do you want? Would you like one book per year, two, three, more?
- Budget: You need a budget so there aren’t any surprises. Publishing can be expensive. Here is a pretty close breakdown of expenses for Cursed by Fire, which is just over 50k in length.
- Cover Design: $495
- Editing $600
- Formatting $150
- PR & Marketing (Blog tours, media outreaches, Ads) $2000
- Netgalley $75
Grand Total: $3,320 upfront. I paid more later on for some Ads and marketing whatnot as well. Also, this does not include audio anything, which is something we’re looking into now..cha ching..that’s more money going out with upfront costs.
I’ve trimmed back my expenses a bit as I’ve grown more knowledgeable and determined what services work and what ones don’t for me, but I’d say a good average for me is $2k per book in expenses and I do a lot of my own Marketing now and just started doing my own formatting. Now I earn this back, so the upfront costs are a justified expense but its something you have to consider. All of this gets paid upfront. Once you start making money and selling books, you’ll need to reinvest some of those earnings to keep your books alive and in reader’s line of sight.
- Branding: Like any business, you need a brand. When someone says your name, or pen name, there are certain expectations. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy but here’s an example, when someone mentions Ford, what do you think of? I think “built Ford tough.” They’re known for touch and rugged vehicles. When someone says Danielle Annett, I’m assuming they’re thinking about books that feature “kick ass heroines, with heart.” That is my brand. You need to discover your own brand and start fulfilling that expectation and remain consistent. You won’t find a damsel in distress story in my collection because I write fierce heroines and my readers expect that from me.
- Taxes: This is huge. Do not wait until the last minute to figure this out. I suggest getting an accountant that is familiar with authors and start researching whether it is in your best interest to be a SP, and LLC, or a S-Corp. All have their benefits and downsides so do your research, it’s important, and be meticulous in your expense records.
Okay, this post is getting way too long. These are the basics. If you want me to delve into this deeper, I can. Leave me a comment and let me know what you’d like more information on. I’m by no means an expert but I have figured a few things out along my three book publishing journey and during my time working for a publisher and as a freelancer.
My last bit of wisdom for you is, You Can Do It. Self-publishing can seem scary. There are a ton of steps and we didn’t even cover distribution, which by the way, I recommend just listing your books yourself. It will take you a couple of hours max and you get to keep all your money. I do not see the value in using a company like Draft 2 Digital or Smashwords, but that’s just me. If self-publishing is the right course for you, the stay the course, don’t doubt yourself, and take yourself, your work, and your business seriously. Your name and your books are your business. Treat them as such!
Okay, I’m done. Catch you all later!