Once upon a time, self-publishing meant “vanity publishing”, and was indelibly associated with anoraks trying to flog their memoirs, gentle local historians and aspiring poets. With the advent of ebook self-publishing, the landscape has changed. Vanity publishing (a terrible term, to be fair) still exists in the context of small-run print publications, and it can be an attractive option in the right circumstances (or as a complementary route to market; imagine lovingly-crafted limited editions of books otherwise published only electronically).
But other creative industries such as music and film have long taken advantage of the freedom online media has provided. No one talks about “vanity recording labels”; no one thinks of YouTube as “vanity broadcasting”. Much has been written of the disruptive impact of electronic self-publishing and today it is no longer a poor cousin to the mainstream publishing world. Of course there are challenges to be faced – technical, logistical, promotional – but they can be conquered. The aforementioned Writers and Artists Yearbook has actually added a great deal of ebook self-publishing guidance and services listings in its last couple of editions, and its website has an entire channel devoted to the topic.
The primary challenges to be overcome are:
- Conversion of the work into one or more of the main ebook formats supported by the major distributors and devices.
- Sourcing a good cover design.
- Selecting the right distributor(s).
- Getting an ISBN and navigating the US tax system.
- Marketing and promotion.
They aren’t the only ones, but they are the main considerations. Many self-published authors deal with these matters by themselves but I’ve read many horror stories of ebook conversion gone wrong, not to mention awful cover designs and US tax problems.
Also, it is time consuming. What’s that I hear you say? I’m unemployed, haven’t I got stacks of time? Not any more matey! Nearly a year to the day since I was made redundant, I have a new job. Yay! But I want to get Infernal Prey out there, and do it well. Using the Yearbook’s listings and Google, I easily found a selection of self-publishing service providers who would handle one or more aspects of the process for me. In the end I settled on the eBook Partnership to help me get Infernal Prey to market. I chose them because they are a full-service provider: they handle conversion to multiple e-publishing formats, distribution to all major ebook retailers, securing eISBNs, handling US tax issues and even cover design. They have a very professional image and lots of credible testimonials on their website. There is a cost, and it runs into hundreds of pounds, but I think it is a good investment.
This is not an endorsement from me, as my relationship with them has only just begun, but I will share my experiences via WittlerLog as I go. What can I say so far? The lovely Diana Horner has exchanged emails with me promptly and politely, providing detailed quotes and answering my questions. They provided a cover design brief template and an ebook information form, along with terms and conditions, all of which were clear and straightforward to use. They claim they will work with me closely to see Infernal Prey to market in a way I am happy with.
It is worth noting that all of the formatting you do in Microsoft Word for a traditional manuscript needs to be revised for an ebook. Agents and publishers want double spacing, chapters starting halfway down the page with six lines between the chapter heading and the text, and so on. The eBook Partnership wanted no more than 1.5 line spacing and you can get rid of all of that white space too. There’s more, and their website provides some guidance, but there is a lot missing which required follow-up questions from me. Also, I didn’t realise that I would need to provide my own prelims and copyright notice as well; the eBook Partnership can provide a template but I needed to ask for it. In fact until I mentioned it I had wrongly assumed they would do it for me.
Additionally, I had long since decided I would use a pseudonym, mainly because my real name is very common and already attached to a couple of journalists and an author (I’m serious!). Having chosen “Mark Winter” to represent me to the world, and made changes to my presence on WitterLog and Twitter to reflect my new identity, I had questions about the legalities involved. How should I assign copyright for example? Which name should appear in official records? The eBook Partnership couldn’t really help there so I had to do my own research. So whilst dealing with them has been positive so far, there is a lot more they could provide by way of guidance.
There is no more to say for now as I’ve sent on my forms and manuscript (I did it on Friday, early afternoon, but have yet to have receipt acknowledged, which is a little annoying). Rest assured, I will keep you posted!