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.
This isn’t a ‘how to’ guide, I wish I had the trick, it’s just a quick run-down on how I went about the task and was lucky enough to be successful without too many false trails. There are 114 million results to ‘finding a publisher’ on Google, so there’s no shortage of advice. Try putting the same term into Amazon and there are over 100 books dedicated to the topic. In among all of this material I came across a list of UK-based publishers of crime fiction so I copied them all into a spreadsheet.
Next, I visited the website of every one of the 63 on the list – or at least those who had a website. I discarded all of those who weren’t accepting submissions or who only accepted them through an agent. I hadn’t got an agent and one of the other bits I found on the ‘net was that it’s as hard to get an agent as a publisher. This left me around sixteen possibles.
I then visited the websites again, delving in a little more, and discarded all those which appeared like vanity publishers (I didn’t want to go down that route) or where they had a specific sub-genre or target audience which wasn’t relevant to my novel. In the end I had eight publishers who I thought it worth submitting to.
I transferred all of their contact details on to my spreadsheet and visited their websites again. This time I checked the submission guidelines for their required submission format and, surprise, surprise, they were nearly all different. Some wanted one sample chapter, some none (just a synopsis), some three chapters. Some wanted a ‘short’ synopsis, some a long one, and so on. All went on the spreadsheet. Most accepted electronic submissions but, annoyingly, some wanted hard copy.
Individual letters were sent, strictly adhering to the stated, or gleaned, requirements and I waited. A small number asked for the full manuscript. One expressed further interest and if I’d actually interviewed the 63 I started with I don’t think I’d have found a more insightful and supportive one than Grey Cells Press, who is publishing A Shadowed Livery in April.
All I’m suggesting, in order to save heartache and postage, is simply do a little research before sending your baby out into the big wide world to do battle.