For today's post, E. Milan (@writeflyer) has generously offered to share his writing experience and provide advice for people entering the publishing world for the first time. Dig in!
I think one of the most interesting questions that exists right now for the newbie independent author like myself is, “In which medium should I publish?” There are many different ways that someone could go and, I’ll admit, it can be overwhelming if one isn’t ready for it. In my case, I feel like I didn’t research enough when looking into the self-publishing route. That doesn’t mean that I made major mistakes, but what it means is that the more I learn, the more I wish I had known when I began to process.
I started like most writers do: I wrote my book. I wrote, edited, rewrote, received feedback, and rewrote some more. In the process, I was left with a manuscript that I had read and reread countless times and was confused about where to go from there. I didn’t have friends who wrote and I really didn’t know where to start. My wife had purchased a gift card for a self-publishing website so I went with that and didn’t think much more about it. That was for the eBook formats. I had already read about CreateSpace so I used their services for the paperback release. But now, having read more and seen other avenues, I figured I’d discuss a bit about what I learned and what various opinions are out there.
First of all, the common perception that a book must be in paper form in order to be “published” is a thing of the past. As a lover of books (I honestly have no idea how many I have any more considering they’re all over the place) I hate admitting to this but it’s true. I think the budding author needs to be a bit introspective here. We would all love to be best-selling authors pumping out hardcovers that can’t stay on the shelves, but it doesn’t hurt to admit that, though you may be there one day, you’re not there yet. This doesn’t mean you’re capitulating to the challenge, only that you understand what sits in front of you. Besides, the industry is in such flux right now, who knows where publishing will be in the next few years. Just like vinyl is now a special edition release for some artists, the hardcover may become that one day.
Going back to the main point, you have to think about your audience and who you are reaching out to. And don’t forget the rationale of the reader. What I mean by this is simply, when your book is finally in front of the reader, what is he or she looking at? Is it a paperback by an author that he/she has never heard of that costs over $10 and needs shipping, or is it an ebook that is reasonably priced? Ebooks are easy to produce (they’re simply files) and easy to disseminate. The reader will have it instantly (meaning they are more fitting to the impulse buy) and it can be priced at a much cheaper rate. Augmenting the ebook with a paperback release isn’t a bad idea considering there are still many people that don’t have ereaders but, in my opinion, the main marketing push needs to be for the ebook format.
Just because the book is in electronic format doesn’t mean it’s any less of a book. I think this hang-up can also get people. There seems to be a subconscious belief that it is inferior but, the more that people read with ereaders, the more accepted they have become. I am one such person who now (I can’t believe I admit to this) prefers reading on my Kindle. In fact, I actually have two, the Keyboard for reading and the Fire for pretty much everything else. Now I’m a bit of a special case. I’m a pilot so packing books was becoming a hassle. Taking my Kindles has made my life so much easier. So my job almost forced me to get one but the more I’ve used it the more attached I’ve become. Now I could never imagine giving it up.
There are various sites that help with ebook publishing, or the writer can format the book into the appropriate files and submit it to the various sites. One thing that I didn’t do that I would recommend others do is purchasing an ISBN number. I allowed the company I worked with (bookbrewer.com) to acquire one for me but for the cost I think it’s worth purchasing one. In the end it’s an investment in yourself. Otherwise I found Bookbrewer to be decent. They worked with me when I needed it and they took care of the submissions for me. I have since then heard great things about Smashwords and I plan on doing more research before releasing my next book. In the end, it’s about accessibility for the reader and how you market the book, so take your time and go with who makes you feel the most comfortable.
Ultimately, the writer has to think about the audience and the reality of marketing to that audience. As popularity grows, more options will present themselves, but starting out I think the writer needs to think small and efficient. What this means is a full-court ebook press. There are people who don’t have ereaders but the population of those who do is so vast now that marketing to them should keep you occupied for some time. And with the future of the industry so uncertain I think the beauty of the independent author right now is his/her ability to ebb and flow with it. Things are less rigid then and they may, in the end, be the ones who determine the industry’s fate.