Adventures in Self-Publishing Part Four: Words are Flowing Out…Across the iUniverse (Apologies JL & PM)

The old adage of “you get what you pay for” rings true with anything, and self-publishing is no exception. When I made the choice to go with iUniverse I knew that the bills could get pretty hefty. So I told myself that although the returns may not be promising, I knew I was giving my novel Raincloud the opportunity to be the best it could be. Short term pain for long term gain? Perhaps. But definitely not for those prone to “buyer’s regret”. 

 After paying the inital start-up fee to iUniverse I submitted my manuscript, bio, cover photo and headshot. Within a couple of days I received a personal phone call from my Publishing Assistant, whose name was Michael. He seemed to take a genuine interest in making my book into something special and always returned calls and emails with promptness and courtesy. Big thumbs up for Michael!

Everything was off to a great start and I waited anxiously for the results of my Editorial Evaluation, which was included in the Premier Package I purchased. And to my delight, the evaluation turned out to be pretty good. They provided me with grades for different areas such as title relevance, characterization, structure, plot, pace, dialogue and spelling and grammar. One thing though – although the editors were generally impressed with my manuscript they highly recommended I purchase their Developmental Editing package for a mere .053 cents a word.

Sound reasonable? If you have a manuscript, do the math on .053 cents and decide for yourself. Like I said, short term pain. But if you’re going to do it, do it right. So I gave them more money and waited again, this time for the Developmental Edit to be completed.

Again, I was duly impressed. I received my document back with all the suggested edits and changes, leaving me with the power to accept or decline each one. And when I was done, I can honestly say that Raincloud was much, much better than before. As I’ve said previously, you won’t be sorry if you invest in preproduction.

It was almost like watching a child develop and grow, which although rewarding can also become dangerous. Getting too emotionally invested can lead you to the poorhouse. I read somewhere about a man who bought virtually every service (production, marketing, and otherwise) his self-publisher had to offer. His final bill: a whopping $35,000! This is all well and good if you can go without that new car or believe in spending your way to success. But I think for most of us, investing this much of your money in a self-published novel is somewhat excessive. Don’t get confused and keep your eye on your budget, unless you plan on living in the box your first shipment of books come in.

Of course this sage advice is all in hindsight. I did wind up purchasing a few more levels of editing (Line and Content Editing and Proofreading) but none of the marketing services (to be discussed in a future blog). And was it all worth it? From strictly a financial standpoint, no. From virtually every other standpoint, most certainly. Raincloud has been garnering some great reviews which it wouldn’t otherwise have. You can link to some of these reviews on the Events & Testimonials page at www.richard-todd.com .

Tip of the Week: It’s your story and no one can change it but you. But keep an open mind when it comes to editing suggestions. That fresh set of professional eyes will see things that you may have missed. Honestly, do you think even James Patterson’s work goes straight from his hard drive to you local retail bookshelf?

During the course of production I was disappointed that Michael, my PA, had been moved to another project. I was assigned a new PA, and from there iUniverse’s high level of customer service began to level off, and by the time I was on my fourth PA (yes, fourth) it had taken a serious nosedive. More about that in my next installment.

www.richard-todd.com

Coming soon: Adventures in Self-Publishing Part Five: How My PA Got Me Really PO’d

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Raincloud Reading Series

With major publishing houses investing more in severance pay than in new authors, the challenge of the first-time novelist to see their work on retail bookshelves has never been greater.

As a result, an increasing number of new and established authors are venturing into the self-publishing arena. By taking advantage of free online social media promotion and earning profits on what can be a low-cost venture, these self-starters help legitimize this much-stigmatized sector of the publishing industry.

Author Richard S. Todd reads from Raincloud, his critically acclaimed self-published mystery thriller, and discusses the developing self-publishing world as part of his Raincloud Reading Series, taking place in and around the Greater Toronto Area, Canada. Dates have been booked for Bradford, Richmond Hill, and Aurora, with Barrie, Toronto, and other locations to follow.

If you would like to have Mr. Todd speak to your writing group, please contact him through his website at http://www.richard-todd.com.

Adventures in Self-Publishing Part Three: Shopping Around. And Around. And Around.

Your mama told you right. You better shop around.

Just like with any investment (and really, that’s what this is) you need to be careful and find a self-publishing package that’s right for both you and your book. The time you spend researching is well the effort down the road. I know – you want the finished piece in your hand today. But even the major publishers schedule new releases months down the road (unless your book pertains to a very hot topic of the day), so take the time now because – it’s your money!

First comes the easy question. What exactly are you publishing? A novel? A how-to book? A biography? An album for a family reunion? These genres and more will all require different of editing and marketing. For example, if you’re already a well-known chef and want to self-publish a book on cooking, your developmental needs will be vastly different than a relative unknown (like I was) putting out a mystery novel. With a little research your cookbook can come together with relatively little effort and cost. But if you’re in my shoes, a first-time novelist heading into the literary fray, you’ll want to go with the company that offers the best developmental services available.

Now, before I go on, I want to be clear that I’m not to trying to sway anyone away from or towards any particular self-publishing house. I’m just going to tell you what happened to me and you can take from it what you will.

Finding information online was easy. There’s a wealth of comparative studies on self-publishing companies, as well as testimonials from personal bloggers (like me). Put on a tea, crack your knuckles, and give Google a workout. After a few hours of research and assessing my needs I whittled the dozen or so companies to three: iUniverse, Author House, and Lulu.

Lulu looked a good option for the above-mentioned chef. They offered no-charge publication-on-demand (POD), which sounds great, but limited their editing services to what appeared to be “global editing suggestions”. Big strike for me, as I wanted to invest heavily in pre-production. I actually read a Lulu-published novel online.  It could have used a lot of editing. Perhpas Judge Judy was on to something (see Part 2). Again though, great for the chef or for the personal family historian, but not for the first-time novelist. Second-time novelist? Perhaps.

I spoke with Author House a few times and found their sales reps helpful, if not a little too anxious to sign me on. The publishing pacakage for my genre was $598; not as attractive as the $0 at Lulu but it still won;t break the bank. The editing packages looked pretty good with quick turnaround times, and books were returnable if (God forbid) bookstores could not sell them. They also offered marketing packages (posters, postcards, etc) that, to the starry-eyed beginner, sounded like a dream. Imagine the thrill of being on a poster at your very first book signing!  

Take a breath. Don’t get caught up in the dream of celebrity. I realized I was losing touch when I was asking more about the posters than about the editing services.

iUniverse was the most expensive but also offered the most comprehensive packages. Their packages started at $499 and ranged up to $1,o99, with varying degrees of services in between to suit many different types of writers. Pre-production services appeared detailed with many different layers (content editing, line editing, developmental editing, etc). iUniverse also offered incentives to authors who invested in these add-on editing services, one of which was priced at .018 cents a word. Doesn’t sound like much, but when your book is over 100,000 words, it adds up quickly. The “per word” cost is also an annoyance because you’re paying for words like “a” and “the”.  

There was one very important marketing fact that stood out: Chapters-Indigo (the biggest Canadian bookseller) seems to have an exclusive deal with iUniverse that makes it the only self-publisher accepted into its catalogue. As an author living in Canada,  this made iUniverse all the more attractive. And my novel would also be available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, as well as thousands of other online booksellers. The only thing missing: a book returns program (which they have since introduced – for $700)

 So what did I do? After doing a little more comparative research I went with iUniverse. Why? Their packages seemed a good fit for my priorities and their customer service had a good reputation for guiding their authors through the entire process. And as a first-time author I needed all the guidance I could get.

Tip of the Week: Once again, invest in pre-production rather than any ‘marketing’ package the publishing houses offer. This way, your book has a better chance of being the best it can be; besides, there are many no or low-cost marketing solutions out there (which I will cover in a future installment). I found many of the marketing packages the self-publishing houses offer over-priced, impersonal, and not finely targetted.

Bonus Tip: Don’t pay someone to review your book. Many bloggers and campus newspapers will do it for free, which will also result in instant grassroots publicity. And it’ll be free. You can read some of these reviews of Raincloud at my website, below.

www.richard-todd.com

Coming soon: Adventures in Self-Publishing Part Four: Words are flowing out…Across the iUniverse.

Don’t miss another installment. Click at the top right of this page for your Free Subscription!

The Morning X Live with guest Richard S. Todd

Tune in to The Morning X Live at about 10:45 am ET (7:45 PT) on Monday, March 9. I’ll be discussing my novel ‘Raincloud’ as well as the state of the publishing and self-publishing industries with hosts Mike Leier and Amy Williamson.

The link to the show’s new Myspace page is: http://www.myspace.com/themorningxlive. If you wish to watch the video, the simplest way would be from the source at Stickcam: http://www.stickam.com/atticprod or through the embedded video player at: http://www.para-x.com/morning.html . The video feed is also available at other places on the web.

The audio feed is available on most wireless networks for cell phones and handheld devices, such as, the Nokia Radio Network, UpSnap, etc.

If you can’t listen in I’m going to try make it available for podcast.

Literally Yours,

RT

Adventures in Self-Publishing Part Two: The 3 R’s of Becoming an Author: Readin’, Ritin’, and Rejection.

It’s supposed to be an easy process. You write a book, hire an agent who sells your work to a publisher, and then you watch your book climb the bestseller lists while picking out a new outfit to wear on Oprah.

Chances are if you’re reading this you have a grasp of the hard truth. Sure, you can write a book. Yes, you can shop for an agent. And after that, you can watch your  mailbox  fill with the torrent of rejection letters that will inevitably clog your recycle bin (both online and off).  We’ve all been through this exercise of persistence which, more often than not, results in futility.

And it’s really no reflection on you or your work. Competiton is stiff. The publishing industry is evolving. New writers (such as I was with Raincloud) are at the bottom of the bailout list. It gets harder and harder to keep your chin up.

So, being a noted self-starter, I decided to self-publish.

There were two paths I could have potentially taken. One was to do everything myself: register an ISBN, learn about layout, find a printer,  design a cover, negotiate with online and brick-and-mortar booksellers, etc. In short, research everything there is to know about the whole book printing, publishing, and marketing process. Or, on the other hand, I could hire a company to do all that groundwork for an upfront fee and worry more about an effective sales and marketing plan. Being I had skills in the latter area, I decided on the second route and began looking at the different service bureaus.

Tip of the Week: When researching the different self-publishing outfits, be it iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Lulu, etc, think of your venture as a night at the casino. Don’t spend beyond your limit. Although the royalty programs are reportedly better than with traditional publishing houses (because the only investment to recoup is your own), chances are you won’t be buying many Cadillacs with the proceeds of your first book. Be prepared for a loss, in the short-term at least. Do up a budget, set a sales goal for the first year, and stick to it.

There was one dissenting cringe among my non-writing peers. When an old boss of mine learned I was self-publishing, she told me that Judge Judy (of all people) once condescendingly claimed that these companies publish books “when no one else will”. What an ugly stigma to put on self-starters! Good thing I’m not one to let Judge Judy do my thinking for me.

www.richard-todd.com

Coming soon: Adventures in Self-Publishing Part Three: Shopping Around. And Around. And Around.

Don’t miss another installment. Click at the top right of this page for your Free Subscription!