The echo chamber: that’s the great trap for the self-published author, as Michael J Sullivan has talked about on his blog. You send out messages on Twitter or social media, but the sound bounces around the room without creating that much-needed buzz. Without a physical book, it’s even harder to do a launch because you have nothing physical to show people: no fancy covers lined up on a stand.
In fact, you could take the word ‘self-published’ out of that first sentence, because silence is the reaction that many authors get. Just walk around your local specialist SF bookshop and look at the number of titles on the shelves. Forbidden Planet in London has row upon row of books by both the famous and the obscure. Sometimes, I wonder how anyone gets noticed at all.
If there is one thing that I have learned about publishing, both working in traditional publishing houses and as a self-published author, it is this. You don’t have to be the best, the most original, the funniest or the most extreme author to enjoy success. Sometimes it’s enough to be the last person standing. Determination is all.
Over the course of my self-publishing odyssey, I have discovered that self-publishing is neither an easy option nor is it simple. It can be time-consuming, frustrating, lonely and confusing. Often the temptation is to throw your hands up and say “who cares anyway?”
Thankfully, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing has been a huge boon for me because their system is incredibly straightforward.
If you are an Amazon user, you can register using your existing Amazon account. To upload your book, you can simply place a Word document on the site and the formatting takes place automatically. There is no need to employ a freelance designer to set the text. I did everything myself, although it is useful to use Word styles to set the text rather than other means such as tabs. I had to upload my Word files several times before the text looked professional enough to publish.
I had already commissioned an artist, Angel Perez to design a cover image but I still needed to add text. In fact, I did this using Paint on Windows 8, simply uploading a jpeg image and adding text boxes. The default cover layouts that Amazon provides didn’t give me enough freedom to place the text where I wanted.
That was it. The only other thing was to choose the royalty. I of course went for 70% royalty (70%! You would be lucky to get 10% from a legacy publisher).
One other strange decision on my part was not to purchase an ISBN. You can buy ISBNs online but you have to do this in your country of residence. In the US or the UK, it’s a relatively simple procedure and Amazon directs you to the key sites. In Spain, the application process is much more long-winded and bureaucratic so I opted just to use the Amazon numbering system. My book is up on the site as B00LGJLOQS.
Once you have used Amazon’s online preview function to see how the book looks on different platforms (Kindle Fire, iPad etc.), you are ready to go. Hit the publish button and your magnum opus will be on the site within 24 hours (it is not an immediate process).
For me publishing an eBook made perfect sense. Printing lots of physical copies can be expensive. Without any means of distribution, you could end up with boxes of unsold books under your bed.
That brings my self-publishing odyssey to an end. It has been a long, exasperating process but also a deeply rewarding one. There is something special about having control of your own destiny, even if it sometimes seems like you are adrift on perilous seas with powerful forces ranged against you.