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Self-publishing your stories

Ernest Bywater

I'll start the ball rolling on this.

As an independent author your chances of making a living from your writing are damn small, unless you have enough money or connections to get in the door at some regular publishing house (major or minor).

There are a lot of Vanity Publishing Houses out there and you need to avoid them. They're easy to recognize because they ask for money for everything. An independent publisher won't ask you for money to publish your story. Some won't offer up-front money payments to you and some will.

Some of the independent publishers have some rules in the terms of service that require you to give up some of your rights as an author and give them rights to do as they wish. Always be very wary of such terms with the words irrevocable or mutual agreement in them. Make sure you've examined all the possible ramifications of what the wording says. Some sites have terms that allow them to keep selling you story after you've told them to stop, but because you told them to stop they get to keep all the money from such sales. So check all the terms before you use them.

Another thing to look at is the amount of the sale price you get to keep for yourself. If it's a print copy then it's fair to have the cost of the printing deducted from the sale price before you get your cut. But some sites also deduct a set cost of download rate, even in places where the site doesn't pay a cent for the story being downloaded. Some sites charge up to 75% of the sale price as their cut, thus you get only $0.25 cents in the dollar for what's sold. Many sites selling e-books want to keep 70% and give the author only $0.30 in the dollar, and some then take the taxes for the full sale price out of that 30%, while some take it out before calculating what they pay you. Some other sites are better payers.

Generally, as an independent author you have to do many things for yourself or arrange to have them done. Things like organizing to be in the correct format and set-up for the sale type, editing, proof reading, cover art, story summary - all the box and dice except the actual retail sale and the advertising on that specific site.

With the exception of a few stories I've got prior legal restrictions on, all the stories I've written or co-written are available on Stories on Line with those suitable for the site also copied over to Fine Stories, and all are also available on the self publishing web site Lulu -http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/ernestbywater with some at dpdotcom -https://www.dpdotcom.com/ebooks/ as either PDF files, e-pub files, or print books; options vary between sites and so do some of the content format.

I like Lulu because they take less money as their cut than any others I've seen, as well as offer print and e-book formats. They don't have the media hype that some other sites have, but are growing. Dpdotcom is the first people I published with and there are a few stories there I'm not able to put up at SOL yet, but can put up at Lulu at the same rate of payment (can't under sell them). Where I have final say I keep the prices reasonable, even taking less royalty on some print versions to keep the prices reasonably uniform and affordable.

I just wish to add, anything I can legally publish on SOL and FS are published there and I give them priority to all my stories because I appreciate the service provided to me by the sites. My sales via Lulu et al aren't much, but are enough to make the effort to use them worthwhile.

Now I've said my piece and opened the door, I'm sure others will add their thoughts.

Ernest Bywater, aka Ernest Edwards

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

You can self publish on Amazon. You can look up the details on Amazon.com.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Dominions Son

Yes, you can self publish on Amazon. Provided you don't mind giving up the rights and control of your story. Their Publishing Terms of Service have many interesting points in them. Including 5.3.4 which gives them the sole right to select a price of what you publish; and 5.5 includes you giving Amazon a nonexclusive, irrevocable, right and license to distribute Digital Books, directly and through third-party distributors, in all digital formats by all digital distribution means available (bold is a quote from their terms). Thus they decide on the price and can sell the book to whoever they want in whatever format they want and you get no say in it. Add in they can shut your account down and still continue to sell the book for their own profit, why the hell would you want to deal with them.

I know many people who used to sell through Amazon and stopped doing so once they realised the full extent of what Amazon claimed. They left existing items with them but didn't add anything new. Plus most Amazon sales only give you 30% of the sale (after taxes and download costs). Which is why I don't us them beyond freebies and one test book to see what sales there are - which is nothing outside the zero charge books.

edit to add - I get 80% from Lulu.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Yes, you can self publish on Amazon. Provided you don't mind giving up the rights and control of your story.

You have to excuse Ernest. He's got some ... particularities. One is that he reads the necessary legal documents. The other is that he refuses to publish in anything other than 6"x9" pdf (technically, he's recently crossed over to epubs, but he did so reluctantly). As such, mention any alternatives to Lulu, and you'll get the same lecture.

However, we've got a lot of expertise here. Ernest sells via lulu.com and dpdotcom (a European website that publishes your books using the otherwise free services). I've tried both, but settled on Amazon, createspace and smashwords. Smashwords used to be a burgeoning player, but they've suffered in the last year. I've also tried Google Books, but abandoned it when I couldn't sell a single book (no way to advertise to Google users). Switch also publishes, though I forget where, as well as do several other less talkative folk.

Collectively, we can guide you in formatting, networking, marketing, cover design, and other aspects of Indie publishing.

Here's where I issue the warnings. You're not likely to ever earn a living via ebooks. In order to make it big, you've got to have a ton of marketing. Sometimes someone will get incredibly lucky, but you've got to the a master at internet public relations, which few of us are.

That said, most of us earn enough to buy us dinners for ourselves, with incomes ranging from $100 to $1,000 a month (well below the poverty level in most locals). Still, it's incredibly satisfying selling books for cash. Scores are cheap, but when readers vote for your stories with their hard earned cash, it's more satisfying.

We've also discovered that it helps sell books to continue offering the stories here for free (if you want to know why, contact one of us and we'll explain the finances to you). SOL readers are very encouraging, both in downloads, readers, corrections, comments and financial support. You get better download numbers on ASSTR, but you get very little actual support, either financially for emotionally.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

To give you an idea of how well Amazon looks after an independent author, tries these stats from real life. Earlier this year I decided to compare the sales on Lulu against those via Amazon, Apple iBookstore, Kobo, and B&N; I made the epub version of Rough Diamond available on all five stores. The price I set on Lulu was my standard US$5.95, but the arrangement with Amazon and Apple is they have price break rates and will automatically drop the price to the next lowest break level - I didn't know this when I set it up. The listed price on Lulu is still $5.95 and the rest is $4.99. Of that I should get $1.92 for a sale via Amazon, yet they only made one sale and sent me just $1.80 (less than half of what I get from my sales via Lulu).

In the time since this set up was established I sold 1 on Amazon, 1 on Apple, and 5 on Lulu. That tells me Lulu is worth 5 times as many sales as Amazon and 2.5 times as many sales as the whole Sales Channel. Oh, the Apple sale paid me $3.14 - a lot more than from Amazon.

Add to that i did a search for my books on Amazon today and found they list all the zero charge books, 2 older books that I never approved for sale via Amazon, my latest book I put on the Sales Channel just for wider coverage, and Rough Diamond which is supposed to sell for $4.99 but they have listed at $3.80 and have never said a word to me about the price drop. Next time I have to revise that book I'll probably cease selling it via Amazon etc. But you can bet they'll still advertise it and sell the unrevised version without sending me any money at all.

BTW I do not have an Amazon account, so that price is what they're asking the world in general.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Sorry CW,

But back in Feb / March 2015 I finally found a way to create a decent e-pub format and all my books are now available in e-pub and print at Lulu, and the ones via Amazon are e-pub files. While Dpdotcom still sells most of what they carry as PDF and a few as e-pub.

I even did a zero charge e-pub book on how I create the e-pubs.

I don't really lecture, except to tell people to read the legal documents and make decision knowing exactly what you're giving away. If you know and agree, that's your choice, but few read and even fewer think people like Amazon will try to stick it to them so hard.

BTW Dpdotcom is an Irish site - for those who see a difference.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

As an independent author your chances of making a living from your writing are damn small, unless you have enough money or connections to get in the door at some regular publishing house (major or minor).


Even then you probably won't make a living from your writing. Only a few succeed at that.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


I know many people who used to sell through Amazon and stopped doing so once they realised the full extent of what Amazon claimed.


Every author on wattpad uses Amazon. Most aren't exclusive, but the general consensus is Amazon has the market share and they make most of their money there.

As to Amazon setting the price, I set the price of my ebook. If Amazon finds it available for less somewhere else, they have the right to match that price. But I set the price.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Swicth,

You can't prove Amazon has the market share by my sales information. I've sold 1 book on Amazon and 1 on Apple in the same time I sold 5 copies of that book on Lulu - that kind of disputes the market share claim. I strongly suspect that the claim for Amazon and market share relates to the heavily advertised books, many from the large publishers, and not the ones from the independent authors.

I set the price for sale by Amazon / Apple / Kobo / B&N as US$4.99 via the Market Channel arrangement they have. That's the price the other stores approved to carry the book have it for. Thus there is no location where it is offered at a lower price with my approval. However, Amazon acted on their own and lowered the price to US$3.80 without my approval, no email to me about doing it or why, and their terms of service allows them to screw me over like this. And you wonder why I don't like how they do things?

BTW The initial price I set was US$5.95 but they automatically cut it to US$4.99 because that was their first price break level the price I set and the terms of using the channel are to go with one of their price breaks - except that isn't in what they tell you when you select to use the channel, it's what you find out after you ask why the change. That sure sounds like they let the author set the price. Then they cut if further to US$3.80 with no contact with me at all. Sure, they let the author set the price, then they just go and arbitrarily change it on you.

And how many of the Wattpad authors actually read the full Amazon terms to start with?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
richardshagrin

Amazon--its a jungle out there.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

Actually, I thought it was a huge river full of deadly and dangerous inhabitants all set to eat you alive in seconds flat, if you didn't drown first.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

You can't prove Amazon has the market share by my sales information. I've sold 1 book on Amazon and 1 on Apple in the same time I sold 5 copies of that book on Lulu - that kind of disputes the market share claim. I strongly suspect that the claim for Amazon and market share relates to the heavily advertised books, many from the large publishers, and not the ones from the independent authors.

Your default sales site (where you tell your readers to look for your work) will be where most of your sales occur. Smashwords was working for me quite well, but my last book sold primarily on Amazon. I'm assuming the sales were mostly to current fans who switched over, but I'm wondering why SW is falling into disfavor. (Note: I added a new feature to my website, where readers can click on an icon to purchase from whichever source they prefer, so that may affect sales.)

By the way, when you say that Amazon lists books you never put up, chances are it was put on Amazon by Dpdotcom, as that's how they operate, they put your books up on Amazon under their name and claiming 50% of the sales price.

However, I've long had problems with Amazon's numbers. They always show higher sales numbers, but then pay a lesser amount. I just checked with another author who's been selling many more books than I have, almost exclusively on Amazon. He's earned much less than I have, with more Amazon sales. They seem to be clearly juggling the books, and their sales reports are purposely designed to confuse, rather than inform, authors (they mix sales periods so you can't compare any two reports).

But, Amazon remains the 800# Gorilla in the room.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Joe_Bondi_Beach
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


I like Lulu because they take less money as their cut than any others I've seen, as well as offer print and e-book formats.


I'll second a vote for Lulu over Smashwords because, leaving aside the question of where books sell best, Lulu's ePub converter gives a much cleaner and more professional-looking result than does Smashwords. Perhaps it's not the conversion software, but most books I've seen on Smashwords look like crap, without regard to content.

Plus, Lulu is easy to use. For those few (Ernest among them, and I used to) who do print books, give Lulu a clean print-ready PDF formatted exactly the way you like it, and they'll produce it exactly.

I'll stay away from the whole rights thing.

Cheers.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Joe_Bondi_Beach

Plus, Lulu is easy to use. For those few (Ernest among them, and I used to) who do print books, give Lulu a clean print-ready PDF formatted exactly the way you like it, and they'll produce it exactly.

You're right, the quality of Lulu's print books is better. However, when you compare it to the price differential, I didn't think the quality difference was worth the cost. Plus, with the size of my books, if you price your ebooks competitively, you sell few print books.

While it's more difficult to format for smashwords, I've found it produces a better result. In essence, you have to build your table of contents from scratch. You have more control over the results. So much more, I now use SW's formatting to build my Amazon books.

That's also the problem with the epubs. While the automatic conversions produce OK results, to really produce the best product, you really need to build the epub yourself. It takes time to learn how it's done, but again, the end result is worth the effort. The problems are mostly because of the poor converters, rather than the construction.

Joe, while I prefer producing my own books, I can understand your reluctance. It takes a HUGE time commitment to publish independently. However, once you figure out what's involved, you can use your basic format for each subsequent book, making the effort increasingly rapid.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

CW,

The books at Amazon I never approved are not ones Dpdotcom put up because they were never offered for sale through them. Several years ago Amazon approached both Dpdotcom and Lulu about carrying their books and when I got complaints about how terrible the Kindle versions of my books came out as due to the way Amazon converted them from PDF to their format I asked Dpdotcom to pull the books from Amazon and they did.

At that time Lulu approached me and said Amazon wanted to put many of the books from Lulu on Amazon, I approved them to be able to sell the PDF and print versions of some of my other books, but later pulled them when I got complaints about how bad the Kindle version was to read - I never approved a conversion and was specific about the format. I had Lulu pull them. A couple of years later Amazon started listing the two books I mentioned in this. Books I know they never bought copies of.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

CW,

I have to agree that the electronic versions of the bigger books sell a lot better than the print copies of them, heck that's also true of the smaller books. I've got some anthologies out there in the 600 to 700 page range and Shiloh is so big it has to hardcover.

Now I can produce good quality e-pubs with Calibre the only thing stopping me using other markets are the abuse terms of service they have. People bitch about the way the big print houses work, but Amazon and those who use the same rules as Amazon make the worst major publishing house look like friendly people - no major publisher has irrevocable right and licence in their contracts, but Amazon does. So far, Lulu and Dpdotcom are the only two sites I've found that do not include terms that say they're irrevocable or permanently exclusive. Mind you, I've not checked them all yet, but so many of the US ones, especially those that also deal with Amazon a lot, do have such terms.

Joe_Bondi_Beach
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


That's also the problem with the epubs. While the automatic conversions produce OK results, to really produce the best product, you really need to build the epub yourself. It takes time to learn how it's done, but again, the end result is worth the effort. The problems are mostly because of the poor converters, rather than the construction.

Joe, while I prefer producing my own books, I can understand your reluctance. It takes a HUGE time commitment to publish independently. However, once you figure out what's involved, you can use your basic format for each subsequent book, making the effort increasingly rapid.


Or, of course, you can take advantage of Word's style function and Lulu's conversion software. And this from someone who uses(d) LaTeX typesetting to produce his PDFs. Talk about learning curves and time commitment! (Although admittedly the basics are pretty easy.)

I sort of kick myself every time I speak favorably of Word, but sometimes it actually produces what you want, provided you beat it into submission first.

Also, if you need to do something really strange (in a good way, naturally), perhaps you do need to cook up your own.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Joe_Bondi_Beach

Joe,

here's a link to my free e-pub on how I go about making a good e-pub, it may help you, or it may not.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/ernest-bywater/make-a-good-e-pub/ebook/product-22124365.html


The same e-pub is available for free via Amazon, iBookstore, B&N, and Kobo if you prefer their offerings. Well, I let them have it for free.

Crumbly Writer

@Joe_Bondi_Beach

Or, of course, you can take advantage of Word's style function and Lulu's conversion software. And this from someone who uses(d) LaTeX typesetting to produce his PDFs. Talk about learning curves and time commitment! (Although admittedly the basics are pretty easy.)

Also, if you need to do something really strange (in a good way, naturally), perhaps you do need to cook up your own.

Actually, I used Lulu before switching to smashwords. I liked the final product, but it seemed overpriced. Again, for the size of my stories, the cost seemed prohibitive.

The most difficult part about smashwords is creating the ToC (Table of Contents), but once you master it, it's easy to duplicate and manipulate. (And when I started using images of chapter titles in different non-included fonts, that control became essential.)

You're right, learning Styles in either M$ WORD or whichever Word Processor you use is essential, especially if you produce html files or ePubs. Formatting everything at once is safer than formatting individual instances.

Arquillius

I personally like Lulu for my hardcover works, and my other stuff through createspace (amazon).

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