Week 3: Check Your-shelf Before You Wreck Your-shelf

Taylor P -

Greetings, friends! Welcome to week three of my senior project blog. This week, I came upon a lot of new, fantastic information as I researched the depths of self-publication (and might I say, the depths are vast!). I also scheduled six interviews with local authors in March that I am really looking forward to sharing with you all. Overall, it was a productive week!

First, I had a great opportunity to attend a writing workshop with one of the editors/authors that I am interviewing in March. The demographic of the writing group was certainly much older than I.  However, I was able to speak with quite a few experienced writers who loved to hear about my project. One thing I learned is the value of finding a writing community. Indie authors all share struggles of finding the proper self-publication path when traditional publication fails them. So, with that struggle comes invaluable advice and experience! Also, I took pages of notes during the workshop on how to stay organized when writing a book. It takes a lot of self-motivation to write a book; learning how to find that motivation will help me publish by my deadline of April. 

My notes from the writing workshop 🙂

Additionally, I did extensive research into the many different paths of self-publication. Like traditional publishing, there are self-publishing companies, but their services are entirely different. Some of the top companies include: Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble Press. So, what defines self-publishing? The author pays money, and the author does all the work to edit, format, design, and publish. For example, KDP will formally assign you an ISBN* and publish you for free, but they subtract the printing costs from every sale made. I researched KDP for hours and started to discover that this method of publication might be the best option for my project because it would allow me to implement everything I am researching into the making of my book. Also, for a broke high school student about to go into burdening college debt, this option would cost me little to nothing. That is certainly appealing to me.

When self-publishing, here are some questions I learned authors need to ask themselves before they get into it: what audience/market am I trying to reach? Am I capable of editing, designing, and formatting myself, or do I need to hire freelance professionals to do those tasks for me? Is this my career goal, or is traditional publication my career goal? Which companies are the most cost-effective and realistic for me? What is my budget?

As aforementioned, writers can hire freelance professionals to edit, design, and format their books. Those costs differ greatly, but self-publishing authors can expect to spend anywhere from $1,000-$10,000 for professional services. You may ask, is it worth it to spend that much? And, that answer depends on the author. If an author never uses a comma properly, readers will turn away from their books because it would be difficult to read—that author should consider professional editing (the same goes for formatting and design).

Overall, I want to weigh the pros and cons of this method of publication:

PROS: the author maintains creative control; the author receives much higher royalty rates, even up to 100%; it takes a lot less time (KDP can publish in 24 hours); authors can receive tax breaks from that income because of what they have to spend first; there is no manuscript rejection; and, you can establish your authority as an author if you sell well.

CONS: authors have to shoulder potentially hefty costs; there is less professional support; there are no hard deadlines, so you must be very self-motivated; there are more responsibilities; and, there is a more difficult retail distribution due to the stigma of self-published books not being worth it (the tide is quickly changing, however, with the online world only growing). 

Therefore, self-publishing is a complex, difficult realm of publication that requires a lot of research for authors to fully understand before diving in. However, during my research, I discovered that there are a lot of easy, convenient, cost-effective choices that I can make for my book. I am grateful to be able to research all of my options before I decide which path is best for my writing career.

Until next week, in the wise words of The Hero’s Spirit, remember that a sword wields no strength unless the hand that holds it has courage!

Copyright Page
I wrote up an example of a self-published copyright page, the page you see at the beginning of the book telling its publishing story.

*ISBN is an internationally-recognized number that publishing companies assign to each book to officially copyright them. It is a different number for each book.

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    Wow! It seems like you had a super busy week, and I’m so excited to hear about your upcoming interviews! Are the self-publishing companies fairly similar in their processes, or are there significant differences between them? I can’t wait to see how your personal publishing process goes! :)
    Hi Taylor! I can't wait to hear what you learn by talking to other authors! What topics are you planning on discussing with them? Are you just going to focus on how they published their books, or are there other parts of being an author that you are interested in learning about?
    Taylor Phelan
    Hey, Maddie! Great question! It totally depends on the company which makes it difficult to give a clear answer. For the most part, the significant differences lie in who gets what share of the profit. However, as for editing, designing, and formatting, most companies have the same process (if they offer those things to authors).
    Taylor Phelan
    Hi, Zoey! I am planning on discussing their process of publication from start to finish which includes a lot about their writing process. I’m highly interested in learning how older, wiser authors manage to successfully write. Also, I’m seeking their general advice—for publication or writing. I can’t wait to interview with them!
    Hi Taylor! The workshop sounds like such a cool opportunity! Do they do those a lot in Prescott? With the questions you provided for self-publishing, I am interested to know if you have chosen a target audience for your novel and if that had nay impact on your company selection?

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