As an author I still believe that most satisfaction comes from having a novel accepted by a publisher who then takes it to a finished work on the bookshelves. For me, there’s a vindication in it that someone else is prepared to commit time and energy into something I’ve written. Also, the experience of working with a publisher to hone the writing is incredibly beneficial. When A Shadowed Livery was published by Grey Cells Press in 2015 it was nothing like the draft I’d sent to them a year earlier, I thought it was improved immeasurably.
However, finding a publisher or agent is very difficult, the competition is enormous, so, in this digital age, self-publishing has become an option. It isn’t easy, nor is it a guaranteed route to fame and fortune, but neither is the traditional route. Having co-ordinated the self-publication of two pieces of work – a memoir and a collection of short-stories – using both Amazon’s CreateSpace and IngramSpark, I have a some insights which might be helpful to anyone considering this path. There are more extensive comparisons available but these are just some basic thoughts from my own experience.
When considering self-publishing, one of the first questions is whether you want a printed version or are you happy with putting it out as an e-book. This decision will affect the budget you require and also the marketing plan you’ll devise. I don’t think either is best, though there’s nothing quite like the feeling of holding a book, your book, in your hands for the first time.
My recent (Nov 2016) project on Ingram’s cost a little over €900 euros for printing and shipping (from UK to Ireland) of 200 copies of an 8″ x 5″ paperback plus setup costs of €49 and cover design costs of €135. On CreateSpace there are no setup costs, the cost per copy is a little less but they ship from the US so this can be considerably more if you’re in another country. The shipping costs of the books when I used CreateSpace was around 44% of the cost of printing. This compares with around 5% using IngramSpark. This can, of course, make a huge difference in the financial viability of the book.
There can, however, be a saving on cover design. CreateSpace has free cover templates to modify and the process is fairly simple. IngramSpark does not, and you need to design and produce your own cover. They do provide a size template in a couple of formats but the actual design needs to be provided by you.
There’s also a difference in the complexity of the process. CreateSpace allows uploading of Microsoft Word files, which is handy. IngramSpark only allows uploading of PDF files, which requires conversion software or add-ins, and can be a bit tedious when errors in the draft are spotted (as they inevitably will be). With both providers, the process for e-books seems to be a lot simpler. The most complex part with IngramSpark, I found, was the cover. This needs to be produced using the size template provided, with no variation, probably using something like Adobe InDesign, then converted to PDF format for uploading.
IngramSpark provides distribution to a wide range of on-line and physical outlets, CreateSpace, I believe, only goes through Amazon and affiliates, which is still substantial.
On the memoir I helped publish, I found CreateSpace easier to use, but the shipping costs were so high outside the US it meant we changed to IngramSpark for the second print run. I’ve also found IngramSpark’s support desk really knowledgeable, understanding and helpful each time I’ve used it – a massive advantage if you’re not an expert.
This is just a quick run-through of some differences. If you’ve any questions please feel free to get in touch.
So, after only five months from starting our project on putting together a collection of stories from our writers’ group, MEAS Writers, the book and ebook are now out. Wild Atlantic Words hit the shelves this weekend and we’re very proud of it.
We went down the path of self-publishing through Ingram Spark and found it relatively painless. They require files to be submitted in pdf format and images need to be quite high quality so it can be fairly stressful at the point of pressing the ‘send’ button. However, there is an online checking service to make sure they’re technically correct then it is good practice to order a proof copy before splashing out on a few hundred copies. The proof copy service was very good and we actually had it in our hands three days after I placed the order. Admittedly, we paid (only) a few euro more for the rush printing service but it was definitely worth it on the single copy.
We’re now starting to work on the official launch and on finding reading spots. What fun.
If you’re wondering why ‘MEAS Writers’ – meas is Irish for respect and although it is the name of the community group which spawned our writing efforts, it also sums up the way we treat each other’s work when we read and critique. We’re a group of authors based in Donegal along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Have you self-published? Who did you use and what was the experience like?
In my last post I referred to a short story collection I was working on with six other writers and was looking forward, with some trepidation, to digging out and polishing some old stories as my contribution. I’m now surfacing from that exercise and we’re hoping to begin the publishing process of Wild Atlantic Words in the next week or so. It’s been an interesting exercise, not least being navigating the tricky waters of editing and proofreading as a collective endeavor. Lessons have been learned and generally the process of working with others has been fun.
Would I recommend it? On balance, I think so, but I’d do it differently if I went that way again. It is one thing to meet regularly to share writing but quite another to pick up a complex task with a deadline when the participants are all good writers but may have different skills and preferences when it comes to design (e.g. which font to use? how far to indent?), competency in some of the murkier corners of Word (e.g. paragraph styles), and what a book cover should look like. We should, I think, have spent more time at the beginning working out some of the practicalities and thinking through a timeline to meet the crazy deadline we set ourselves – out for Christmas market!
I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who’s been down this path.
I’m a member of a small writers’ group – the group is small, not the writers – and we meet regularly in members’ houses to share our scribblings. There’s usually five of us, three writing novels and the other two concentrating on short stories. Another three members attend occasionally but geography and other commitments sometimes make it difficult for us all to be together at one time. So it is, I imagine, with all such groups.
Recently we decided we would compile an anthology of our short stories and aim to self-publish. The technology is now fairly straightforward and the costs can be reasonable if you shop around. The important thing for us about the venture is it would allow all of our writers to participate, even if they can’t make meetings. We decided the theme would be our county, Donegal, in the north west of Ireland, or, perhaps more broadly, the area now widely known as the Wild Atlantic Way, which stretches 1,500 miles along the coast from Derry in the north to Kinsale in the south.
So, with due diligence, I started to trawl through old, forgotten, short stories I’d written over the years, trying to decide which could be reworked for this new enterprise. What an experience. Some still made me smile, some made me cringe, most made me wonder if I’d actually written them. They were like friends not seen for many years. Those you went with to school or college half your lifetime ago. Vaguely remembered but somehow changed.
I know I’ll need to work at it but I’m enjoying getting to know them again.
So the final draft of my Inspector Given sequel is finished and with my publisher for consideration, it’s also been submitted to a couple of agents and I’m sitting here with fingers crossed – making the typing much more difficult than it needs to be. I’ve had some excellent help from my daughters and their spouses with the final edit. Two spotted the villain quite early so that’s been changed!
I’ve started a new project, significantly different to the detective novels and I’m finding it both challenging and thrilling. It’s certainly something I couldn’t have written a few years ago because I simply wouldn’t have had the skills nor the confidence to make it work. I’m not sure that I have now but I’m enjoying trying to write it. It only has a simple working title for now, so I can file it, and I’m finding that the time spent learning to use Scrivener was worth it because it is a complex structure, switching time, point-of-view and voice frequently.
Basically it tells the story of three generations of a family through the medium of a mother sitting at the bedside of her daughter who is in a coma. The timeline begins at the height of the Irish famine and ends in the last days of the Second World War – so not much danger of historical accuracy errors there then.
If you’d like to see a draft of the opening scenes, or maybe ask a question about my use of Scrivener use the form below.
Yesterday I received a rejection email from a literary agent and I was pleased to get it. Disappointed in the rejection, naturally, though happy someone had been courteous enough to let me know. I’m old enough and life-experienced enough to understand I won’t always get what I wish for, so I can cope (just!) with being told my book isn’t good enough or suitable for their list. What I find difficult to accept is that agents and publishers don’t seem to understand this.
In scouring the submission guidelines on the websites of literary agents I’ve found quite number saying ‘we try to make a decision within three months and if you haven’t heard from us in that time please assume we won’t be proceeding’. I’m aware that many agents are extremely busy – but they haven’t time to drop back an email saying ‘thanks but no thanks’? One agent justified their position by saying they receive 1500 submissions a year. By my calculation that’s around 6 each working day – consequently possibly ten minutes a day, maximum, to email a standard rejection letter to six authors waiting for a reply. Authors who’ve spent years writing the book, not to mention spending ages researching a particular agent’s guidelines, writing a synopsis, constructing a covering letter and making the submission.
I’m not having a blast at agents, just asking for a little professional courtesy.
What’s your experience?
On Sunday afternoon a wonderful thing happened. I finished the first draft of my second novel. I’m not a Stephen King-type 2,000 words a day writer but I had been consistently pushing out 600-1,000 words every day for the past two or three weeks trying to get the job done. Coming to the end was a strange experience, different to A Shadowed Livery, and, because I’d decided to put the manuscript to one side for a while (they say you should do that), I suddenly felt bereft and I’ve been the same for the last couple of days. Not quite knowing what to do with my time. So yesterday evening I began another project. I say ‘began’ but I was actually returning to a novel I last worked on two and a half years ago. I’m not sure where it will go but there’s 7,000 words in the bag and a fairly comprehensive draft plan in place. I think I may have given it up when I started the editing of my first novel because the date coincides with receiving a contract from the publisher.
I’ll only work on the new project intermittently because I do want to get back to the real job of editing ‘Let Venom Breed‘. The first task will be to re-sort the chapters – some are an acceptable 2k-3k words but some are as high as 7k, just a result of expansion in the redraft. Then I’ll check the whole thing with Pro-writing Aid, a great tool for finding all the repeated words and phrases, cliches, over-long sentences, etc. I had a note they’ve released a version for Scrivener so I’ll have a look at that one soon. These steps are really a bit of a slog, but necessary (even without Pro-writing Aid I’d have to find all that stuff).
I’ve already made some project notes as I’ve worked on the first draft, such as checking for conflict in every scene, strengthening my protagonist’s internal goal, ensuring there are barriers to achievement of his internal and external goals, etc. So I’ll work on these larger themes next.
Then to reading the manuscript again. Slowly, sentence by sentence. Can I say this any better? Have I said this before? Does this need to be moved? Underlying this is the check for spoilers related to this and the previous novel, completeness of the narrative (e.g. have I left anyone standing at a bus-stop for ten chapters?), are my characters rounded and the overall shape of the novel.
All of this, of course, is only the first phase of the edit, getting it as good as it can be before it’s wheeled in front of a publisher. If they think it’s good enough then the process starts over again – only this time it will have the benefit of external eyes.
Actually, I’m looking forward to it. Let me know your tips and tricks.