Learning Curve of Self-Publishing

Self-Celebrating Self-Publication

Since the beginning of December I have been running up the increasingly steep learning curve of self-publishing. I’ve completed several versions of my manuscript working on copy-editing for the specific media outlet where I want it to appear. Additionally, there is the formidable and expensive work necessary for registering my work in all the appropriate locations.

If you have read past the first paragraph and are still interested than you have probably found and read the volumes of often conflicting information available to a self-publishing author on the web. All that is just scary, and quite often confusing. It would be less that productive if I simply added to that cacophony. And so, this post should not be read as a how-to, but rather “what I did.” Keep in mind that I have a budget for my first book (although I’ve had to adjust it several times) and I this means I’ll know when my work will start to make money.

Imprints and Other Identifiers

I thought the first decision I would be making would be where I was going to publish. It turns out that there are a million and one good places for the self-published author to get his or her work into the market. But, each of these has requirements and, I’ve learned, while you can wing it and simply skate along using only your Amazon registration number those books tend to do poorly in the long term.

ISBN

Thus, I think its important to register your manuscript with, at a minimum, an ISBN number. I tried shopping around and if I had a pile of money to pour into the process I would have realized much better value on my imprint purchase. Guess I’ll just have to wait until I’m swimming in my J.K. Rowling sized swimming pool of cash for that.

In the mean time I financed a small pile of imprints at about $25 dollars a pop. For this book I’ll be using two of them. So if you’re budgeting along you can add $50 clams to your ledger. Not a hefty sum, but considering its for a registration **number** I feel its wicked sting.

Copyright

Another cost item you should know about. I always thought that copyright was a free (meaning tax subsidized) public service. Not only is it not a free public service it is a very slow process. The US Copyright office is telling me that current wait times are three to five months (using their electronic service).

So that’s the bad news, chock up another $35.00 on the ledger. But its not necessary to cry over the wait, per the Copyright office. Add another $35.00 that total because, (and you almost forgot about this part didn’t you) you need to copyright the cover art separately.

For works that are determined to be copyrightable and that meet all legal and procedural requirements for registration, the effective date of registration is the date the Copyright Office received the completed application, correct payment, and copy(ies) of the work being registered in acceptable form. You do not need to wait for a certificate to proceed with publication.

In the future I may decide while I’m working on a manuscript to make my application for the work long in advance of its completion. But I’ll need to navigate that maze separately. What I did was send in my manuscript and resolve to wait out the determination knowing no one else wrote this work.

Library of Congress Control Number

This was surprisingly easy, fast, and cheap obtain. Their website looks like something designed in 1993, but seriously those hard working librarians can be forgiven their mottled grey background and fat table borders. The whole process took less than twenty-four hours and cost a big fat goose egg out of pocket.

As an aside, gaining an LCCN does require that you have an ISBN assigned to the work prior to applying. Also you wont find mention of LCCN on their website, rather look for “Preassigned Control Number Program” or go straight to the program website www.LOC.gov.

UPC

I’m using CreateSpace and joining in both the KDP Select program and Kindle MatchBook program with this title. I’ll save my reasoning for this until later, but as a requirement of choosing to make available printed versions of the story I’ll need a bar code assigned to the title.

I obtained the UPC code through Bowker along with the ISBN imprints. Add $25 to your ledgers and then sing a merry tune. “Its great work if you can get it ….”

Amazon Standard Identification Numbers

I knew about this registration number previously, but it took a little while to understand who Amazon manages books within this domain. At first, it appeared that they would just generate the number for my manuscript once uploaded. But after uploading the manuscript (currently saved as draft since I’m waiting on cover art) I could not find any mention of it. That’s a bummer since this is what I was expecting.

Some more research revealed that Amazon uses a book’s ISBN in place of the ASIN. This greatly simplifies things form my point of view because its one more imprint I don’t have to worry about.

Publishing Outlets

Until I started looking into it I had not realized the number of self publishing resources there were available. And while there are a lot of different ways to get your work out there, this choice has always seemed made for me — start with KDP move out from there.

Why Amazon KDP?

Size may not matter in bed, but it certainly does here. In fact, the size of the distribution network is, at least to me, one of the single largest considerations under review. Like a lot of independents and grinders out there, I’m splitting my time between what I can write and what I can sell. I’m certain that my stories are worth reading and so I’m looking to maximize the effectiveness of the sales channels I engage with.

Without a staff of people standing behind me, supporting the work, I’m left going it alone. What I want to do is spend the least amount of time reaching the most number of people. Read my story and its likely you’ll enjoy it, and perhaps return for the next one in the series. So for this first run I’ve chosen the most pervasive network.

Why CreateSpace

First, most of my book reading of late has been of the electronic variety. I really love audio books, that’s where most of my entertainment money goes these days, and I enjoy reading on my iPad (using Kindle software). But, I’m looking forward to seeing words I wrote on paper. That’s going to be cool.

Better, I have friends and family that will enjoy it more if they can flip through the book. I imagine that this dichotomy extends outward from my circle of comrades and relatives into the general population. So while I enjoy reading one way I’m still aware that its reasonable for people to enjoy the sensation of opening a bound stack of pages.

Why Kindle Select

I’ve already mentioned I’m looking for an expansive market. What it comes down to is that in exchange for 90 days of exclusivity (which isn’t much) you have the ability to reach a lot more people. Select was a no brainer because I am not currently looking to publish elsewhere.

If they ever change their exclusivity clause I may migrate away from the program. Three months isn’t a lot of time. I imagine that if someone were interested in acquiring something I’ve written the wait would be tenable. Most publishers are not able to turn around all the requirements of a release in six months so as long as Amazon’s requirements remain shorter than that I can still shop independent work around for second edition release.

Why Kindle MatchBook

MatchBook is one of those programs that, if you have already done KDP and CreateSpace. The work is already done, its just a toggle in your KDP bookshelf. Not clicking on it seems like a derp move if there ever was one.

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4 thoughts on “Learning Curve of Self-Publishing

  1. I’m in the same boat as you are. I’m putting my final touches right now. Not really sure what I’m getting myself into but I’m sure I want to do this.

    How do you plan to market and publicize your ebook?

    • There will probably be another blog post for that, but I know I’m going to order some ARCs to pass around. Friends and family, readers who send me an email, and some organizations that I know will be interested will get a free ARC on my dime.

      Beyond that I’m going to use social media. I’ve already started an author page on Face Book (http://www.facebook.com/MatthewAlanThyer). As soon as the book is released I’ll have author pages at GoodReads, and Amazon as well. Plus, I’ve already got a lot of followers on Twitter and Face Book. I know there is a real fine line between “convinced you to buy my book” and “I AM A SPAM BOT” so I plan on taking care to walk the left side of it.

      • Thanks for the tips. Twitter and Facebook really is a good platform to advertise but me writing is something I don’t want my friends and family to know yet. I even made a separate twitter account yesterday for my writing purposes but so far it only has two followers.

        By the looks of it, I might have no other choice but to use my personal twitter and facebook accounts to advertise.

        Best of luck for both of us.

      • With the separate twitter account start posting, that seems to be the best way to get followers. Its takes time, but its worth the effort. I’ve tied my blog to my Twitter account, and my Twitter account to my author pages. This means that I can post to all of these outlets by writing on my blog or inserting comments (especially little ones) and tid bits anywhere along the line as I see fit. Really makes it a lot easier.

        Keep in mind that even if your manuscript is about done, you’ve still got some time between its completion and the point at which you’ll be able to get it on the market. Right now I’m waiting on cover art from my friend and former Army buddy Jeffrey Witty and, not wanting to post just the manuscript, I’m trying to generate some more interest prior to release. I almost feel like delaying it a little would be a good thing (even though I also want to get it out there right away).

        Anyway, keep the time you’ve got in mind, it may allow you to generate some anonymous interest and build a base of followers.

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