Self-Publishing: Advice from an Author
June 26, 2012
The Fresh Outlook
First-time author Steve Hinsley successfully self-published his novella Fire Bond. He shares his experience of self-publishing with The Fresh Outlook.
My name is Steve Hinsley. I am a writer. When you tell people you are a writer they generally ask if you have written anything they might have heard of, what sort of things you write, and most of the time they will then try to ascertain whether or not you are successful. Nearly all writers expect this and respond affably.
A lot of my own writing experience has involved academic writing or journalism. Until recently, I was a sports journalist for over a year, reporting on over 500 stories. Prior to this I had several university papers published in the library. Throughout these times I was always writing fiction – short stories, poems, fairy tales and a novella length act of my first book which I published myself.
This piece is called Fire Bond and is currently available on Amazon. The process of getting the book for sale there, from its genesis to the paperback copy and the newly available ebook, happened in parts.
The first half of this act was written throughout university over the space of three years. The second half was done in a month or two when I was in-between jobs. The actual process of getting it published took around a month, but a large portion of this time consisted of waiting for the proofreader to return it.
Making your 40,000 word document into a book which someone can buy and have delivered to their door actually couldn’t be easier.
The company I chose to use is called Lulu.com, a print-on-demand self-publishing website favoured by many big name bloggers, including, but not limited to, David Thorne, creator of hit website 27bslash6.com.
I found Lulu.com easy to use, with lots of helpful advice. I changed the font and layout of my book to meet the demands in their upload guide, uploaded the document and set about making my cover.
I wanted something crisp and simple for the cover. It had to be a powerful image which complimented the themes of the book. I found a picture of log stood upright which had a single flame coming out of the top. As it happens, the fire burned in such a way that it looked like there was a woman in the flame, which couldn’t be more strongly linked to the themes in the book. I then put a file together, adjusting its size in order to conform to the guidelines and submitted the whole thing for approval.
A couple of days later my book was approved and available to buy with a three or four day delivery time. A few days later, the books fell on my doorstep.
During this time I had been converting my book document into a format which can be read by Kindles; I then submitted it for sale as an ebook on Amazon. This process was also straightforward and before long Lulu.com was advertising the physical copy of my book on Amazon as well.
Not only is publishing your own book really simple, it can also be very profitable as you get to keep around 70% of the royalties depending on how much you charge per unit. It is said the average author traditionally selling books through a publishing house gets around 70p for each copy of a £7.99 book, whereas publishing yourself you can receive £1.20-£1.40 for each £1.99 unit.
This, coupled with the ease of access and the increasingly accessible nature of ebooks through Kindles, tablets and smartphones, should mean that self-publishing authors will find it easier and easier to get their work out there.
Spreading the word
Having your name and book appear on Amazon is one thing, but making sure people know about it and, more importantly, spend their money buying it, is quite another. The book has been really well-received and I’ve had lots of people asking me to write a second act so they can continue the story. This is very flattering but it is also important to make sure the book sells, which all comes down to marketing.
Marketing the book once it’s published is much more than half the battle – it’s certainly much harder than I thought it would be. Writing the book was hard at times – I got stuck in places and distracted by other things – but I loved writing it. I still love writing it. But publicising something you released yourself is infinitely harder than the actual writing of it, especially if you have no idea what to do.
In order to learn more about marketing, I regularly read Writing Magazine as numerous articles offer advice on self-publishing. I started a Facebook group for my book and invited all of my friends to it, asking them to invite all of their friends too. I posted threads in forums and spoke to lots of people to get as many word of mouth sales as I could.
Marketing your work is a constant process, but so far the book has sold a few dozen digital copies and a few dozen physical copies.
If you are thinking of publishing your own novel but are unsure, my advice would be: just do it! I love writing and it’s a part of my life. If you have anything that you have written, be it a full novel, a short story, play, fairytale or anything at all, let people read through self-publishing. It can be a good way of gaining exposure and may attract the attention of a literary agent and further enhance your chances of success.
By Steve Hinsley
[Image courtesy of Steve Hinsley]