I decided to become an ‘Indie’ and Self Publish

To independently publish a novel of equal quality to what might come from an established publishing house is an expensive thing to do. It means hiring editors, book cover and book interior designers, proofreaders and printers and arranging distribution through online portals. It also means establishing a social media presence as an author and having a book marketing specialist advise you on how to create market awareness. It now made more sense to me as to why self-published books often don’t sell well. Individuals generally don’t have the stamina, finance or marketing strategy to compete with a publishing house. Low sales volumes result. 

Looking under the covers of this though, I found that only a very few self-published books get any marketing at all. Additionally, few go through the processes end to end that is needed to arrive at a quality product. Some might not bother with all of the 3 stages of editing or some might skip the final proofread. Almost all do without formal marketing. A poorly designed cover can be a death stroke before the starting line because many purchase decisions are made on the look and feel of the front cover and the story summary on the back. Contrary to the popular saying, in this scenario, people do judge a book by its cover. Taking all of this into account, after a family meeting, we decided to invest and see how far we could take this work as an independent author and publisher.

That decision landed me back on search engines to look at what options were available. There were lots of places to get a book printed. There were lots of offers of paid-for editing and proofreading services and even end-to-end consulting services that came at significant cost, with all risk remaining with the author. After a week or so of research, I decided on a company that provided a range of publishing packages that stretched from very basic to comprehensive. The more comprehensive packages included a marketing plan as well as assistance in creating an author’s online presence; so very essential in working to get noticed in such a competitive field with millions of competing products. Critically, and this was one of the main decision swingers, the company I was looking at also offered the service of having your published book listed with the major online retailers, including Amazon. Amazon is critical in that over 70% of online books are sold via that platform.  They also offered the service to have the files delivered to Amazon, Booktopia, Dymocks and Walmart, to name just a few of very many distribution points. This is the path we chose. It meant giving up 15% of my potential book sales profits, however, I just couldn’t get my head around how I could break into and then manage a relationship with the corporate book distribution systems. This solution also offers a global Print on Demand solution, so there was no need for investment in stock on anyone’s behalf. My experience in Australia has been that the time taken from when an order is placed until the book is printed and delivered through the Amazon portal is around 48 hours. That was never going to be the case if I’d taken on trying to organise that personally.  

Once that decision was made, it took almost another 6 months to go live. First, there was the substantive edit. That involved a professional editor looking at the overall quality of the manuscript, with suggestions on how I might possibly improve it. Once I had that feedback I made a few amendments to the story. I adopted some of the suggestions, but not all. I wasn’t willing to compromise on the integrity of how I had portrayed the main characters and many of the events described. As I have mentioned, much of that content is from actual events and I wanted that to be represented without compromise. That round was followed by a copy edit, involving such things as a deep look at grammar and spelling errors, broken syntax, sentence structure and style. I was astounded that this late in the cycle, there were still spelling errors to find, but there were a few. Although frustrating, I was glad that they were called out. It was another proof point that one often reads what one thinks, rather than the words on the page.

In parallel, we were working on the book cover and interior design, how distribution would work and the marketing plan. Some half a year after signing on, The Shadow’ was ready for public examination via publication.