(Logo design courtesy of Kelly deVos)
There are many myths and misunderstandings about what goes into self publishing. Today I wanted to help clear up some of those fallacies by asking my good friend, and amazing author, Katie French to share her own experience with this publishing path.
Katie and I have been friends since we first met at a writing conference in New York in 2011. At the time we were both pitching our debut novels. While her book, THE BREEDERS, went on to be her first self published novel, my own manuscript went into a drawer (where it will stay probably forever!)
Over the last several years, I’ve watched in amazement as Katie has grown not only in her writing, but in her business acumen, making THE BREEDERS an award-winning and bestselling series. So when it came time to pull back the curtain on self publishing, I knew Katie was the best person for the job.
In the post below, Katie opens up about what it takes to be a success at self publishing. She shares figures in regards to time and cost, but please remember these are her own numbers. Costs and time varies for every author who decides to travel this path.
My hope is that after reading this post writers will have a better understanding of self publishing and what it takes to go this route.
Behind the Curtain: Self Publishing
By Katie French
Since 2010 self publishing a book has become as common place as Kanye West humiliating himself at awards shows. What used to be an impossible feat has become manageable for anyone with a word processor, a desire to learn, and some guts. I’ve been self publishing books since 2012 and have four full length books and several shorter works and anthologies for sale. I am by no means an expert, but I wanted to take a moment to draw back the curtain on the process for those of you pondering the leap. Self publishing might not be for the faint of heart, but it can be awesome in so many ways.
The first thing to understand about self publishing is it is a business. It took me almost a year to get up the nerve tell people I run a small business. But I do. My book publishing business is as legitimate as any other small business. The problem was I had no business background and no marketing expertise. I am an English major for cripe’s sakes. So I spent the last three years learning about marketing, promotion, L.L.C.s. (I know, fun right?) I had to bone up on all things business and produce good writing at the same time. As you may have guessed, insanity ensued.
The good news is I like running a business. I’m one of those hyper-organized, busy-minded people who likes to have things to think about and check on at all moments of the day. You see people like me heading up the P.T.A. while organizing a fundraiser for their church and Pinteresting Girl Scout meeting ideas. You know, crazy people. But I like it. I like getting a call from my children’s book illustrator and discussing our current contract while cooking dinner. I like writing a blog post after I put my children to bed. What else would I do with my spare time, organize my recipe books? Clean my house? I don’t think so.
That’s the main thing a lot of people don’t understand about self publishing. When you self publish, you must tackle all aspects of a book that a traditional publisher would take over. After I write my manuscript and have beta readers go over it, I hire an editor. I have a wonderful relationship with a former Harper Collins editor who I love. But she wasn’t my first editor. I had to ask for referrals and try a few out before meeting Lindsey. While she’s editing, I contact my cover designer and go through concepts before settling on a cover we both like. When Lindsey gets my edited draft back to me, I fix it and then send it off to a copy editor. Meanwhile, I am setting up my book launch, contacting my street team, and setting up BookBub promotions and price reductions on other books. I’m on social media all the time, growing my platform. I write a monthly newsletter to keep my fans informed and remembering me. I hire a formatter for Kindle and CreateSpace drafts to save my last shred of sanity. This process usually takes about two months from draft to final product. It’s a tiresome but necessary two months, but I’m always pleased when I send a new book out into the bright, shiny world. I publish, social media my face off, and pray the reviews are good.
And rinse and repeat.
Finances are another factor to consider when readying a book for publishing. A good editor costs anywhere from $1500 to $3000, depending on expertise and the length of your manuscript. A cover can cost as much as several hundred dollars and it is just as important as a good manuscript. Promotions and advertising costs can vary. Mine cost me about $500 this year. You can spend less, but it costs money to make money, and from what I’ve found, BookBub and sites like it help you make money. Formatting is another seventy to ninety dollars and don’t forget ISBNs, website domains, and other miscellaneous expenses. In the year 2014, I made $19,000 before taxes and spent $6,000 to get it. And much of the money spent is upfront costs. Like any business, you invest in yourself. If you won’t, no one else will.
It’s all very exciting and a little tiring, but I love having control over my destiny. I don’t get mad or frustrated because I make the moves. I steer the ship. My job satisfaction is very high. And I make decent money, even if money isn’t the goal. The readers are the goal. And if it means doing the heavy lifting myself, I’m okay with that.
Sixteen-year-old Riley Meemick is one of the world’s last free girls. When Riley was born, her mother escaped the Breeders, the group of doctors using cruel experiments to bolster the dwindling human race. Her parents do everything possible to keep her from their clutches– moving from one desolate farm after another to escape the Breeders’ long reach. The Breeders control everything- the local war lords, the remaining factories, the fuel. They have unchecked power in this lawless society. And they’re hunting Riley.
When the local Sheriff abducts the adult members of her family and hands her mother over to the Breeders, Riley and her eight-year-old brother, Ethan, hiding in a shelter, are left to starve. Then Clay arrives, the handsome gunslinger who seems determined to help to make up for past sins. The problem is Clay thinks Riley is a bender– a genderless mutation, neither male nor female. As Riley’s affection for Clay grows she wonders can she trust Clay with her secret and risk her freedom?
The three embark on a journey across the scarred remains of New Mexico– escaping the Riders who use human sacrifice to appease their Good Mother, various men scrambling for luck, and a deranged lone survivor of a plague. When Riley is shot and forced into the Breeder’s hospital, she learns the horrible fate of her mother—a fate she’ll share unless she can find a way out.
They’ve escaped the Breeders, yet their journey has just begun.
Riley and Clay are once again on the run from the Breeders. The group may have escaped the deranged experiments at the hospital, but as one of the world’s last free women, Riley can never be safe. On the road back home, Riley and her crew are captured by a band of savage men. Their destination: the Citadel, run by a bizarre religious prophet named the Messiah. Somehow he knows their secrets. He wants them to join his group of Believers, but only if they’ll drink the baptismal water and swear allegiance.
The problem is there’s something wrong with the water. Something wrong with the people. And there’s human moaning coming from the bottom of a dark crevasse that no one wants to talk about. If they can’t figure out what’s going on, Riley and everyone she loves could become a Believer forever.
The third book in the award-winning, best-selling dystopian series.
They’ve escaped the Breeders.
They’ve broken out of the Citadel.
Now, after all they’ve been through, Riley, Clay, and Ethan know one thing for sure: nothing tastes sweeter than freedom. And no one can rest easy with Auntie Bell in bondage. The group journeys home to rescue her and liberate Clay’s town from the cruel Warden. But when an ally betrays them, they must face the very enemy they’ve been trying to avoid.
Captured and separated, Riley is sold to a slave-owner who uses human beings for sport, while Clay and Ethan become the latest in a series of lab rats to be poked and prodded. As a slave, Riley conceals her identity to survive among the other benders, but it’s only a matter of time before a dangerous job takes her life. Clay and Ethan find themselves in a war zone between a madwoman and marauders. And the odds don’t look good.
All available now via Amazon.
Katie French is the author of The Breeders series, a bestselling YA dystopian adventure available on Amazon. She’s a wife, mother, and teacher, but not always in that order. She’s represented by Amanda Luedeke of McGregor Literary. You can find her at her website, on Facebook, or Twitter.