E-Pub versus Indie Pub

My last topic here was on The Self-Pub Adventure. Here are my conclusions so far.

For three backlist titles in my futuristic romance Light-Years Trilogy (Circle of Light, Moonlight Rhapsody, Starlight Child), I went with Belgrave House to convert my books into digital formats. For no costs up front on my side, I had them scan the printed book, send me the file for proofreading, got a decent but simple cover, digital conversions, and all the titles uploaded to numerous e-book sites. My titles are priced at $5.00 each and I split the profits 50% with the e-publisher. They only accept works by previously published authors who have reversion of rights.

For my last remaining backlist title, I’d decided to try the indie route. One look at the Smashwords Style Guide, however, and I changed my mind. I would probably screw up my Word program forever if I followed their directions. Better I should hire someone to do the conversions than spend hours figuring this out. But once the file is ready, I’ll still have to upload it, as well as do all the marketing. 

With a cover and a conversion, this is likely to cost me up to $300…unless I stick to paying for the cover alone and uploading my doc file just to Kindle. I’ve hired a cover artist and for $125, she’ll make me a custom cover. I wanted one that’s competitive with the paperbacks out there. 

Let’s say I pay for conversions as well as a cover. If my indie published backlist book does well and I make this money back, it would be worth going the indie route again for original works. But if not, I would rather submit to a legit e-book publisher than go it alone. I’d have to give up a certain percentage of my royalties, but I need the services they’d provide. Indie authors make everything sound easy and profitable. But for how many, or how few, is that true? 

The Wild Rose Press gave me a beautiful cover for Silver Serenade, editorial assistance, digital conversions, and publicity opportunities. I get a 35% royalty for books bought at their site, where my title costs $7.00. On my own, I could be making double that amount on Amazon and control my own sale price. Yet their price point is somewhat understandable considering they have to pay cover artists, editorial, etc. as part of their publishing costs. But they also have no overhead in terms of office space, warehousing, etc. And readers want to pay $5.00 or less for an e-book.

It’s a very tough choice to make, whether to step off the gangplank on our own or swim the calm waters of having a publisher do all the work for us. You have to know what you’re taking on. But my adventure isn’t over yet. Once I get my new cover, I’ll see how it goes with uploading the file for this backlist title myself.

Here’s a great discussion on some of these topics: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/pod/

And if you’re in Florida—or not—you may want to attend this important publishing industry event: http://www.ninc.com/conferences/2011/panels.asp               

13 thoughts on “E-Pub versus Indie Pub

  1. Nancy,
    Congrats on going the e-pub & indie-pub route. I don’t think its a matter of if, but, when you make back your upfront investment so no worries there.
    Also, sorry to hear you bailed on the smashword style guide. My first time through it I almost did the same thing, but it really isn’t as hard as it first appears. If you make a back-up copy of your word doc first, all you can do is mess up the copy you are working with. I also would suggest anyone looking to do this start with a short story, much easier to go through the formatting with a short document to get a feel for it, plus you don’t really need to get into table of contents and hyperlinks and whatnot if you don’t want to.
    Fo me, the extra 35% royalty was worth the added effort and I learned a lot in the process. Good luck with the books, I look forward to reading them.

    David DeLee
    Fatal Destiny – a Grace deHaviland novel

  2. I have to admit I’m still looking at this like a kid looking through bars at animals I’ve never seen in, say, the Bronz Zoo.

    All of my books are in e-formats, so my decisions on eBooking methods are for the future, so I’m taking my time.

    I’m waiting for the established houses to start doing ebook only deals with authors. They may already be doing so, even though they have to fill book racks for the existing model.

  3. Thanks for keeping us posted! Especially about the difficulties in Smashwords formatting. That sounds like it could be a hassle, and it’s obviously not something they advertise.

    It’s a good reminder that, even if someone does take on greater (potential) royalties with e-pub, they’re also taking on greater costs – editing, formatting, finding a cover artist, etc. The effort can still be worth it, of course.

  4. Nancy, congrats on taking the plunge. The Smashbook route can be intemidating. The reason they are such sticklers for formatting is that they will become (if you want) your ebook distributor and get your book listed on Amazon, B&N, Sony, and other sites. They take a cut, but they also reformat your book to meet the specs of the other online stores. So your format is critical to begin with. Good luck.

  5. David, I’m afraid altering my Word settings for Smashwords, such as the Auto Correct feature, might forever corrupt my program if I can’t figure out how to reverse it. And even if I could determine how to proceed, I’d rather spend the hours writing another book than doing all this tech stuff. That’s the conclusion I’ve drawn, but I might change my mind down the road. John, several publishers already have ebook only imprints.

    Here’s more questions for those of you experienced at this conversion. Do you get your own ISBN through Smashwords where you can list yourself as publisher? And for revised backlist titles, is it advisable to send the ebook edition in for a new copyright?

  6. Nancy, Smashwords is listed as the publisher and assigns an ISBN number. A good example is to click on the Sony bookstore link on our collection of short stories: FRESH KILLS, Tales from the Kill Zone to see how it works (upper righthand corner of TKZ blog). We used Smashwords to e-publish our anthology.

  7. Nancy,
    This is one of those things each author will have to decided for themselves, when and how to spent that most valuable commodity: time.
    Since I plan to put up a large body of work, for me, learning to do it myself was the better way to go. That, and I’m greedy . I shudder at the thought of giving up 35% of what a novel or story will make for something I can do myself or pay a flat rate to get done.
    As for the auto correct stuff, I don’t change my settings, I simply scan the individual document (I use word 2003) using the reverse P-thingy (can’t recall the proper name of it) and so far, that has revealed any input errors I’ve had.
    Again, working with small short story documents to start has helped tremendously in the learning curve. I’ve since learned how to do hyperlinks and neat stuff like that.
    In fact, my kids are amazed because they’re still trying to teach me how to use the ‘droid phone I got for Christmas.

    David DeLee
    Fatal Destiny – a Grace deHaviland novel

  8. Nancy/Joe,

    Smashwords offers you two options with regard to ISBN #. The free one lists Smashwords as the publishers or for $9.99 you can purchase one that lists your publishing company name as the publisher.
    They do not charge up front for this, but take from your earned royalties.
    IMO this is invisible and of little interest to the casual reader, and since indie-pub is losing the stigma of the old vanity presses, not worth bother with, at least not for e-pubs.
    David DeLee
    Fatal Destiny – a Grace deHaviland novel

  9. I am toying with the idea of going to an epub publisher myself. I have five works out as indies put out in various manners of the past year. Two have professionally done covers, two have covers I made myself, and one in collaboration with a friend. I do recommend going with a professional cover artist even if it costs a couple hundred bucks.

    Going with a publisher vs doing my next book indie is mainly a consideration of time constraints and talent focus. I don’t have the time to market, do artwork, do accounting, propogate the book everywhere etc. Not if I’m going to write the next one. One thing too, all of the money I have put into publishing thus far (editors, artists, adverts, etc) I have made made back and more. While I am not making a living at this in any imaginable way, there is no doubt that even with my less than stellar marketing approach this can work.

    By the way…I’d be curious if you guys could tell which of my covers was made by whom.

  10. Self-pubbed thrillers may sell better than other genres, like cozies or romance.

    We each have to make our own choice here. What works great for one of us may not be the best option for another. But by sharing our info and tips along the way, at least we’ll make an informed choice.

  11. Nancy, when I got my two books through the Smashwords maze, I felt like I needed a certificate of graduation! LOL!

    However, that done, I’m launched, and it feels great seeing revenue from my own efforts.

    I’m also looking forward to Ninc, but I know I’ll see you before then!
    Great post!

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