While I’ve been over here in the corner umming and ahhing to myself over the challenge of attempting to become a paid, published author, a friend of mine has thrown caution to the wind and dived in headfirst. Gregory Satterford – fellow re-enactor; ex pro wrestler; fitness instructor – can now add ‘published science fiction author’ to his list of extravagant professions.
I suspect the thought of self-publishing will have crossed the minds of most writers. Who wouldn’t be tempted by the prospect of publishing on your own terms, without the hassle of submitting to multiple agents and publishers; without the gradual erosion of self-esteem as you deal with an inevitable influx of rejections; without the pressure of a publishing house bearing down on you with contracts and deadlines and obligations to fill.
On the flip side, it sounds like all of the above is replaced by the hassle of having to produce your book by yourself. All the proofreading, editing, and formatting is down to you, unless you want to pay extra to outsource those services. Then you’ve got to handle the distribution and marketing of your book, and that’s no task for the faint of heart. I’ve always been curious as to whether the effort required, and the money, to an extent, is worth the end result. What is involved in the process? What do you get for your money? I took the opportunity to grill my newly appointed author friend on his experiences starting out in the indie industry. Here’s what we talked about:
1. Obvious question first. Why did you choose to self-publish?
“No-one else would have me? Seriously though, I made some forays into various publishers but on discovering the benefits of a publisher were actually not great I decided I would try to go for myself. As far as I can tell I would be paying all the same charges, cover art, advertising, etc. and losing much of my income for the strength of a publisher’s name. In the balance I would rather be able to work my own time-frames and work with my own dreams without interference. In time I may come to regret this, but with the growth of self-publishing I’m hoping to the contrary.”
2. How did you decide which publishing tools to use?
“I chose Amazon Kindle Unlimited because I have been a satisfied user of Amazon Kindle for many years now and they have the most convenient way of publishing work to the widest audience, as far as I can see. Kindle publishing seems tailor made for the independent publisher as the editing is fairly simple for the computer savvy and there would be fewer charges to worry about, such as printing and delivery, so I decided to go the electronic route for my first foray into publishing. I had not planned to publish in paperback until I had released another few books and was more established and confident, but due to demand I located CreateSpace through Amazon as well and found them a helpful company for reformatting and cover work. It turned out paperback was also well catered for, the most difficult part being the page editing to fit their requirements and create a professional appearance.”
3. What can you tell us about your experience with Amazon Kindle Unlimited and CreateSpace?
“Publishing through Kindle has been remarkably stress free, they have an excellent review system to check the formatting and help topics covering most subjects with a responsive help team. It is excellent that I can adjust the manuscript at any time and it will filter through to the purchased copies and the deadline feature for publication really helped to motivate. Kindle Unlimited is a good feature for new authors as people do not need to buy the book and it is interesting to see how it is developing, but they do not allow usage of other ebook vendors such as Google. This is restrictive so people will need to decide which way they would rather go, but I felt I would experiment with them for a while as it seems a good option for a new name like myself in publishing.
Createspace is fairly easy to sign on to and use, and the staff are very helpful. The only issues I found were trying to adjust and match the formats from Word with their book layouts, requiring a few proofs before we got it right, but that is all just part of the learning experience. Cover art proved very different when printed in particular, with gloss and matte options and other similar things making it a bit more complicated. Once you get the hang of their system it’s a lot simpler, it just takes some patience.”
4. What costs were involved in the process?
“Aside from the writing software I also needed to spend money on my cover art (being an appalling artist myself), editing, proof-reading, and advertising mainly. The art was done through 99designs where I auctioned the image idea and discovered many fascinating interpretations from various artists, then selected the one I liked best. Then there are potential costs for editors and proof-readers but I was able to minimise these by enlisting the help of friends and family. I would recommend a professional if you have the funding available as no matter how devoted family and friends may be some errors will get through, whereas someone under contract has his payment hanging on his accuracy, which is an excellent motivator for scrutiny. Advertising is proving the easiest cost to run away with as there are so many methods of varying effectiveness around the web. The actual publishing is free to use through Amazon and CreateSpace: the companies take a percentage of your book sales only.”
5. Part of the appeal of traditional publishing is that the publisher handles a lot of the legwork, especially where it comes to distributing and marketing a book. Self-published authors seem to have to take on a lot of extra labour – how have you dealt with that workload?
“I’ve actually found publishers I checked do not help with advertising beyond a page on the website and some advice on book signings, etc. Most indie authors I’ve spoken to have the same legwork as traditional ones. I’d say the hardest to work on was editing my own work and making it good for publishing, requiring a strict timetable to hit my deadline.”
6. How do you support yourself while writing? I’m guessing the new book might not be drawing in $$$ straight away.
“At the moment I’ve only been published for a few months so I’m still putting the sales aside to pay fees. I am continuing to work as a fitness instructor for the majority of my income while writing when I can.”
7. Do you think the cost and overall effort has been worth it?
“Yes. No matter what the result I’ve enjoyed writing my work tremendously; creating a large universe of lore beyond anything I expected to do when I started. I’ve got a 5 star review that pleases me more than I can explain and I hope that it is received favourably in the future so I can continue to explore the galaxy with my readers.”
8. And finally, in 50 words, tell us what your book is about~
“It is based in a dark future where genetic engineering has created three castes of humankind: pure Lowborn, the enhanced Highborn, and the mysterious Bloodborn. Book One introduces this galaxy and prepares the four characters for a rebellion in a vassal world amid an alien invasion and great social upheaval.”
P.S. Are you an author in either traditional or indie publishing? I’d be interested in hearing how your legwork compares to Greg’s – is it true that big publishers don’t necessarily offer much support? How crucial is that big name to drive sales?