Someone recently mentioned in a comment that I should self-publish my book, Errant in Iberia, to the Kindle, and after a week of investigation, I have a) Done just that, and b) Become fascinated by what’s happening in the publishing world.
First: How I got Errant in Iberia onto the Kindle.
1. I signed up for a Kindle publishing account at kdp.amazon.com
2. I edited the original .doc document of the book to take out all the blank pages real books have near the beginning (opposite dedication pages etc), and all the headers, page numbers etc (Kindle doesn’t like these) that you find in a document for a paper book. Amazon had help pages to guide me through this.
3. I saved the .doc in word in html format
4. I used a free program for the Mac called Calibre to convert my .html book file into a .mobi file – Amazon tells you what the PC software you need is. (This took a while as I had to check the .mobi file on the Kindle for Mac and Kindle previewer software to make sure it looked right, and make a few tweaks to the original .doc file a few times, going back to stage 2 and tweaking the formatting about 5 times in total, which was a bit of a pain…)
5. I uploaded my final .mobi file to the kdp.amazon.com site, and bingo, 24 hours later my book was live on Amazon.com, .co.uk, and .de
That’s it, took maybe 6 hours in total of investigating, and mostly formating and reformating, but pretty easy all in all.
Now for what I discovered about the self publishing world….
Wow, loads of people are doing it for themselves nowadays! Frustrated writers who couldn’t get a book deal are putting their stuff out in paperback and Kindle/Nook/ebook format and making a living – and most of it is coming from the Kindle!
The star case is that of Amanda Hocking, a 20-something from Minnesota, who writes young adult fiction in the vampire, paranormal romance and other similar niche genres, and has made over 2 million dollars in just over a year! You have to read her Epic tale of how it all happened…
No publisher would touch her originally, until they all found out how she made 2 million on her Kindle etc sales, then they all went into a bidding war, and now she has another 2 million in the bank from a recently signed contract with a real publisher (to publish 4 books with them).
Amanda was inspired by the tales of one Joe Konrath, a murder mystery writer who used to put real publishers first, until he started selling 1000 books a day on the Kindle, and decided to take matters into his hands from then on. His post on why you should go it alone and ignore the shackles of traditional publishing is very convincing. (He now also has a real publisher deal again, but it’s with a publisher run by Amazon that is apparently very forward thinking…)
I found this post by James Altucher useful too, another advocate of self-publishing from now on.
So will all the big publishers die out?
They’ll certainly have to change their game. Soon enough a really big name author will take this route, just as Radiohead have in the music world, and that will really stir things up…
Should you do it? Look carefully at all the extra work Amanda Hocking put in to get her books out into the hands of readers, especially things like getting involved with the book bloggers (all in her Epic tale post)…
Her work is obviously very tailored to her readers desires as well… and she had a few of them ready to launch in quick succession after a lot of very hard work writing and researching markets.
Plus she’s clever with her pricing. Several of her works form part of trilogies – she prices the first at 99 cents (“the new free”), and subsequent books in the series at 2.99 – still cheap enough to be an impulse buy, but a bit more for her, and at 70% Royalty a lot more than a real publisher might give her. Her first big success, Switched, has already been optioned for a Hollywood film. Quite a success story.
As for my book, Errant in Iberia, I wrote it many years ago, self published it in print format via lulu.com about 5 years ago, and it has sold about 2,000 copies over the years via Lulu – a bit of tapas money. It nearly got published by Lonely Planet, but then the editor in charge of the project moved on, and that project got scrapped.
So I self-published it, which made me happy. At the time it seemed like a cop out – only crap authors had to resort to self-publishing, right? Funny how things have changed. Now it’s a brave, forward thinking way to go! I don’t expect to make a living from putting the book out on the Kindle, but it’s a fun experiment, and it might give me an extra tiny bit of inspiration to write another book one day, now I know there are so few hurdles to getting it into the hands of readers.
As for self-publishing, for us it has definitely been the way to go. I suddenly realised during this whole process that we’ve actually been making a living from “self-publishing” for years via our work at www.notesinspanish.com – if all our Spanish teaching materials had been going through the hands of a big publisher instead of being designed, created, published and marketed by ourselves, I don’t think we’d have both been able to give up our day jobs so long ago, if at all. There is a huge amount of work involved, of course, but a huge amount of freedom as well.