For those of you contemplating epublication, I offer my experience as a guide to what you can expect of the process.
The initial idea for my novella, Ninth-Month Midnight, arose out of the questions, What if the souls of the dead linger among us for a while? Would we be able to communicate with them on some level? Two years later I had a final draft in hand.
I knew critical objectivity would be essential to the success of my venture, so the next thing I did was to ask for comments on my manuscript from two trusted readers (not family members and friends—they’d worry about hurting my feelings) before sending it out to a professional editor. I made some revisions suggested by responses that seemed valid based on what I was trying to achieve.
Still my journey was far from over. It became apparent, at least to me, that traditional publishers considered only agented manuscripts and were providing less and less support in promotion and marketing. I decided to try the direct approach.
Before long I realized I didn’t have the technical skills to go it alone on this project, so I searched the Internet for people who could assist me and who charged reasonable rates. Ultimately, I hired Polgarus to do the layout and Ellie Augsburger of Creative Digital Studios to create the cover.
Then I turned to Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, Amazon’s paperback arm, to produce the Ninth-Month Midnight ebook and paper edition.
The hardest lesson I learned in the course of my journey was that the most saleable book in the world—think Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code—won’t sell a single copy if your readers don’t know it exists.
And wouldn’t you know it, by nature I’m a private person. Promotion and marketing were huge challenges for me. But I bit the bullet: I established a website and blog, and joined Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.
Then I started to worry that maintaining a media presence would become so all-consuming I would have little time to write. And what would I have to promote if I stopped producing fiction?
I decided to focus primarily on writing and do the best I could to promote my novella. To avoid the conflict, next time around I might hire a social media publicist.
So what’s the take-home for writers considering epublishing? Go for it if you’re organized and multi-talented, or willing to hire people to do what you can’t do yourself. Self-published authors exercise control over content and pricing, receiving royalties up to a whopping 70% (as opposed to about 25% minus the agent’s fee for traditionally published authors).
Once you’ve settled on a final draft, instructions on Amazon’s site take you through the process step by step. The turn-around between manuscript download and epublication is about 24 hours. If I remember correctly, it takes three or four days for the paperback to come out. That’s a lot sooner than the usual yearlong wait between contract signing and traditional publication.
There’s also a middle road, called hybrid publication, which might suit some writers. Hybrid publishers offer varied levels of editorial and distribution support for a price while taking a share of the profits from book sales. Google hybrid publishers for specifics.
I’d love to hear from readers with additional advice or comments on this hot topic.