Very few talk about the blood, sweat and tears that goes into self-publishing. To me, the process seems glossed over, particularly by the explosion of self-appointed ‘experts’ and online publishing behemoths poised to tell you how ‘easy’ it is.
My agreement with Penguin/Viking meant that my works were forever bound to one territory. Like an asthmatic child locked indoors, I peered outside as all the other kids skipped about on a global playground. I was being told that my memoirs were solid, modern day riots (especially by my mother!) and I was on the receiving end of critical acclaim. But who would ever know outside my home country? I then had a brilliant idea. Why, I’d self-publish. Simple!
Every man and his dog was proclaiming how easy it is to self-publish in the twenty-first century. Yet this exercise literally swallowed up the better part of a year and today I find myself bitter towards the Mayans for claiming what is left of my time on Earth.
First I had to get my rights back from Penguin and became the proverbial pest, badgering people until they prised my claws from their backs and shook me free. Next came the all-important re-packaging, which involved freshening up my narrative. It obviously took months.
In the meantime I searched for a great cover designer. I started with people affiliated with Penguin but professionals of that ilk are still charging at publishing house prices. So I appointed a dear friend and artist. Neither of us had the faintest idea about the various specifications demanded by the different distributors and platforms, which all-but involved calculating the average circumference of the human head. I of course researched everything and passed it on, but it was a steep learning curve for us both. Two covers took over six months. And in the end, the job was passed onto a third party to ensure everything was ‘print-ready’. Done. Now what?
It was time to upload to Createspace and I leapt into the air with anticipation! Amazon’s Createspace is nothing short of a miracle. It is this platform that has revolutionised our industry. But is it as user-friendly as everyone proclaims? Personally, I don’t think so. I wouldn’t describe it as ‘easy’, but ‘doable’. It takes concentration, patience, falling over, getting up, interpreting vagaries, emailing, alcohol abuse, troubleshooting, crying, reading volumes of online instruction and a great deal of time – or it did me, anyway. And I’d like to add that I’m not a complete Luddite. Well, I am a bit, but I’m not a total moron, although many would argue otherwise. (Especially after reading the next sentence.)
It took me ten attempts to get each book right on Createspace. That’s because I used Amazon’s amazing Interior Reviewer facility and went through my books page by page, because God knows I wasn’t going to be one of those authors with an embarrassing hash tag or question mark inexplicably floating in the middle of a word sea. So I was pedantic.
Finally, finally … mission accomplished! And being that I can be accused of being my Christian-name spelt backwards (my name’s Lana) (think about it), I wanted to get my Amazon and Smashwords electronic uploads just right as well. This time I wasn’t taking any chances. I hired a professional formatter after insisting on testimonials, comparing prices and deciding on somebody who seemed just right. Little did I know that Amazon offers a free service to prepare Createspace files for Kindle. My bad.
Instead I turned my manuscripts over to a stranger who successfully prepared my files for Kindle, but submitted my Smashwords files in the wrong format. ‘Strange that a professional would not be aware of such things,’ I mused. I pointed out said error to said formatter. Said formatter apologised, re-submitted the files, only there were new errors, and we repeated this cycle a few times before agreeing that I would take my business elsewhere. By now, eight months had passed.
I found a great lady who successfully formatted my books for Smashwords. She did a good job and corrected any errors I picked up after I uploaded and re-uploaded (eight times). How did I know there were errors? Because I checked through 300 odd pages of two books (meaning 600 odd pages) in their various formats. Again, I doubt many people would be so my-name-spelt-backwards about unearthing such things. In fact I’m fairly certain they’re not.
I say this because I’m still hearing from writers a resounding, ‘Self-Publishing Is Easy!’ They practically scream it through loudhailers. I’ve heard that it ‘only takes an hour!’ and that it’s as simple to self-publish as it is to write a book – and we all know how easy that is! (Woops! I just sneezed out another one!) What with the legalities, re-packaging, re-formatting and charlatan-leapfrogging, self-publishing for me wasn’t ‘easy’. I found that trying to secure the right people on this journey was like shooting fish in a barrel. You don’t know what you’re gonna get ‘til you get it and there are too many people claiming that they know what they’re doing when most of us don’t. This is brand new territory for us all!
I’ve never appreciated my former publishing house so much. There’s nothing like working with experts, particularly if they’re gunning for your books’ success. That said, everything’s now up and running and I couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. I’m friends with my edits. My covers look fab. And my books are at last available worldwide. Yes, I get that self-publishing is a million times easier than it used to be, but easy? Not really.
PROS OF SELF-PUBLISHING
- You have a vision for your work and nobody’s gonna stand in your way. Nobody! Unleash the control freak within!
- You will never be forced to accept a cover design that looks total pants.
- You’re going to be on the receiving end of higher royalty rates. Beverly Hills, here we come!
- Instant worldwide, cost-effective distribution – unbelievable!
- You can play around with your price point and all that jazz. You’re no longer just a writer. You’re a publisher, too!
CONS OF SELF-PUBLISHING
- Wrapping your head around the myriad tech specs of Amazon, Smashwords, etc, can cause your brain to explode.
- Unlike working with the big publishing houses, you won’t have bone fide experts at your disposal – editors, typesetters, cover designers, publicists and marketers.
- Wait, there’s an expert over there! And there! And there! Why, they’re everywhere! Only they’re not. You have to carefully root out the right people.
- Bye bye upfront advance! You will be sorely missed.
- Now it’s time for perpetual, never-ending, relentless self-promotion. Look at me, look at me! And there you were thinking that writing is hard.
Lana Penrose is a former record company promotions manager, music journalist and television producer. She worked briefly with Simon Cowell and has been known for her affiliations with the pop elite.
Bestselling memoir ‘To Hellas & Back’ has been described as ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ face-ploughing into a plate of steaming moussaka. It has been optioned for film adaptation.
‘Kickstart My Heart’ chronicles separation and divorce en route to new love and is something like Bridget Jones staggering through life with an axe through her head.
Visit www.lanapenrose.com.au for more details.