Why Independent Publishing?
Authors work hard, with little acknowledgement, begging publishers to pluck them from the mob and tell them their work is valuable. So it is understandable that recent stories of ebook millionaires and how Barry Eisler, an established author, turned down half a million dollars to self-publish is a beacon of hope. We could be in control? And be paid for what we love?
Those eBook and Kindle stories, such as Amanda Hocking (who now has a 4-book deal), are accompanied by a lot of disagreement and, to be blunt, arguing. Traditional publishers feel threatened. I’d still love to use them, but I also am incredibly pleased that authors have more options.
But hearing about the option didn’t make me truly understand it. How does the market work, and if I choose to put my book up will it be difficult to format? To price? To understand it better, did a dry run with a previously aired short story to which I still own the rights. Reselling a short story doesn’t bring much money from a magazine, so I’m not taking a huge risk. Before publishing, remember to ask yourself what your goals are. Self-publishing may bring in money if you are willing to promote it, but it can make selling to a publisher much more difficult.
Publishing on the Kindle
Now, if you haven’t tried this, publishing to the Kindle is far easier than you may think. Assuming that you have a cover and a polished text it takes only the amount of time needed to create an account, write up a blurb, and upload your cover and word document. Simple, but you do have to wait up to 24 hours for the book to appear online. It’s so easy, there’s a five minute youtube video you can follow along while you submit.
Publishing on Smashwords
Submitting to Smashwords took much more preparation and time. I followed the instructions in a very long guide to format my document according to their specifications. My story was simple text with very little formatting. I cannot imagine the headache of books with elaborate tables or special fonts. I’m especially glad I tried this with a short story and not my novel. After a few struggles, I loaded my story and it entered a queue to be formatted that took several hours. Still, Smashwords will make the story available on many markets (e.g., .pdf, Mobi, ePub) so I consider them well worth the time. See it here.
Pricing my Ebook Short Story
For me, the hard part was pricing. Should I offer Undergrowth, my science-fiction/horror short story, for $0.99 or something higher? I chose the lower option, even though it makes only 35% royalties, since this was my first work and relatively short. Even so, I had self-doubt and second thoughts. Had I been pricing my novel, I know my qualms would have been much worse. Debates rage in online forums and over twitter about pricing. Are authors devaluing their work? Will a lower price get more downloads and therefore a higher income, or at the very least drive enough sales to move you up in the ranking? But aren’t royalty percentages lower at low prices? In other words, the same questions that have driven markets since time immemorial.
Putting a single short story on Kindle for $0.99 isn’t going to have much of an impact on my income, but if it goes well I’ll use stories I already have for an anthology. And hopefully that will lead readers to the important purchase, my next novel. I’m working on it now, and I value it highly.
I hope others will also.