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Announcing: A Self-Printed Summer

Writing.ie | Guest Bloggers | Self-Printed

Catherine Ryan Howard

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Starting June 1st, it’s going to be a Self-Printed Summer here on Double-Spaced! Over eight weeks I’ll be telling you everything you need to know to self-publish a POD paperback and e-books, and how you can sell those books using free opportunities such as social media. So if you’ve been thinking about getting that dusty manuscript out into the world, this is your chance.

So I have a little announcement to make here on Writing.ie this morning: starting at the beginning of June, it’s going to be a Self-Printed Summer here on Double-Spaced!

As you may already know, this week I released a new book, Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing, which is (I hope!) a clear, concise guide to self-publishing a book and selling it the way I did, i.e. by using CreateSpace to produce a Print-On-Demand paperback, Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing for e-books and then using free social media platforms such as blogging, Twitter and Facebook to help sell copies of it.

Starting June 1st, I’m going to take you through the process of self-publishing, from making the decision to selling your book. There’ll be posts, detailed technical instructions, videos, checklists and other resources – everything you need to self-publish your book cheaply and well.

So if you’ve been thinking about e-publishing that dusty manuscript in your drawer or putting your short stories into a book you can hold in your hands, why not take the plunge this summer and do it with Double-Spaced? You never know: you could be a best-seller this Christmas.

In the meantime, here’s the introduction to Self-Printed, which also works as an introduction to a Self-Printed Summer. I hope you’ll be inspired to join us.

“My favourite piece of writing advice has always been “write the book you want to read” but in this case it was more like “write the book you need to read” or “write the book you’d need to read if you could find a quantum physicist to build you a time machine that would allow you to go back to a year and a half ago, to before you self-published, and thus instead of having to figure all of this out for yourself – and figure out some of it by making very costly mistakes – you could have read this book and got it right first time.”

Writing things I could’ve done with reading once upon a time has become a bit of a theme with me. My first book, Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida, started life as the travel memoir I wish I’d read before I moved to Florida without a driver’s licence, anywhere to live or indeed the first clue of what lay in store for me.

When I decided to self-publish that book and started to research the topic online, I couldn’t find any “How To” books or websites that didn’t offer self-publishing advice served with a generous helping of “Traditional publishing is dead!” propaganda, or that wasn’t written by someone with a literary agent-shaped chip on their shoulder who could clearly benefit from attending some kind of Resolving Your Bitterness self-improvement course.

It all seemed so angry. There was talk of evil “gatekeepers” and a shadowy group known only as “The Big Six.” (I was surprised to learn that these weren’t in fact horned demons but merely literary agents and major US publishing houses.) These people weren’t just self-publishing their novels or trying to sell e-books; they were sticking it to The Man, man! They were going to prove that their book was as good as anything Stephen King could produce. They were gonna show ‘em all, just you wait and see. As soon as their novella, Complicated Stuff That Happens in Space During a Bleak Time in the Future, hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, they were going to send a reply to every one of the 1,532 rejection letters the book had received along with a photocopy of the list and a crayon drawing of a middle finger.

Oh yeah. Take that, Big Publishing. Take THAT.

There was also a very strong smell of eau de delusional in the air. One self-publishing website advised would-be self-publishers that writing a book actually wasn’t all that hard – if you could say it, they claimed, then you could write it. Another said that agents, as a rule, never responded to unsolicited submissions and only used their slush piles for kindling. And don’t bother pursuing your dreams of traditional publication – publishing is like a business class lounge us civilians aren’t allowed into, and anyway all publishers want to do to aspiring writers is point and laugh. Hard. A parade of the usual Bad Writing, Big Selling suspects (Dan Brown, James Patterson, Stephanie Meyer) were regularly dragged out to prove the point that Big Publishing wouldn’t know good writing if it set up camp on their desk, as were famous stories of missed opportunity, such as J.K. Rowling  repeatedly being told there was no money to be made in children’s books while she and Harry Potter were getting rejected up the wazoo. And everyone seemed to think that by uploading a file to a website today, their book was going to be stacked in a pile just inside the door of every bookstore in the world no later than Tuesday.

I just wanted to self-publish. I wasn’t angry, or bitter, or on a list of Persons Unwelcome at the security desk of a major publishing house. Yes, my book had been rejected, but I wasn’t taking it personally. I was also brutally realistic and knew that by self-publishing a paperback with a Print-On-Demand site like CreateSpace and e-books with Amazon and Smashwords, I was not going to get rich, famous or rich and famous. In all likelihood, I’d be lucky just to recoup the cost of the coffee I’d have to drink to get me through the formatting process. And I knew that despite what the Self-Publishing Evangelists claimed with their James Patterson arguments and the like, most self-published books were rubbish. This was just a fact, and a fact that could be easily proven with a quick trip to the store on any self-publishing service’s website. While I would try to ensure that mine was as not-rubbish as it could possibly be, I wasn’t under any illusions that it wouldn’t get picked out as the impostor amongst a line-up of “properly” published books.

So where was the information for people like me?

I couldn’t find it, so just as I had written Mousetrapped, the travel memoir I’d needed to read before I moved to Florida, I started posting about self-publishing on my blog, making it the blog I’d needed to read before I started this whole self-publishing adventure. Whenever I collected some information, I’d run it through a Delusions of Grandeur filter and spray it with common sense, and then post it under the heading “self-printing.”

Because that’s what this is: self-printing. It’s not publishing. It’s printing copies of your book or making it available to download in e-book form, and then whatever happens after that is entirely up to you.

The posts became popular, and soon I was getting e-mails from other would-be self-publishers – or self-printers, I should say – asking for the answers to questions I hadn’t covered, or that they couldn’t find in the ever growing collection of posts I’d written on the subject.

Mousetrapped was out a year in March 2011, and my thoughts turned to writing its sequel. Before I got started on that though, I wanted to do something for the new visitors to my blog who perhaps didn’t have the time or inclination to trawl through what was now more than a year’s worth of posts. Maybe I could consolidate them into a downloadable document, and copy and paste them in chronological order. A PDF maybe? A little e-book? I sat down one weekend to start doing just that, but soon realised that there was so much more about this whole self-printing business than just the stuff I’d blogged about.

So I started writing a guide, from scratch. That guide became Self-Printed, the guide I – yes, you’ve guessed it – wished I could have a read a year and a half ago, back when I didn’t know what POD meant, or what a Kindle was, or anything about the migraine-inducing horror that is formatting your manuscript for e-book conversion.

There’s two things I need to tell you before we proceed, one thing about me and one thing about this guide.

The thing about me is that in the self-publishing world, I’m small fry. Yes, I sold 4,000 copies in a year of a book about the strangest collection of things that agents and publishers assured me had no market – and I did it without spending any money on marketing or promotion – but if you’ve been within spitting distance of the internet lately, you’ll know that there’s self-published e-book authors selling 4,000 copies of their book every weekend. So why would you want a self-publishing guide written by someone like me, if there are thousands of other writers out there selling a lot more books?

Perhaps you’ve heard of Amanda Hocking, a writer who made a few million dollars from her self-published books and – while I was writing this book, actually – reportedly signed a seven-figure deal with a major publishing house. Her success has been truly amazing, and utterly deserved. But there’s only one Amanda Hocking and if there’s ever another one, the odds are you won’t be it.

On the other hand, you have every chance of being the next me or someone like me: a writer who has used self-publishing to build an author platform, find a readership and start to earn a living from their writing, maybe even enough to enable them to do it full-time. It’s not impossible. It’s achievable. So instead of reading this book and thinking, “That’s great for her, but this couldn’t happen for me,” you can read it and think, “What am I going to spend my first royalty cheque on?”

(Tip: I like presents.)

The thing about this guide is that when I say “self-publishing” I mean:

– publishing a Print-on-Demand paperback book* with CreateSpace

– publishing an e-book with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

-publishing an e-book with Smashwords.

I won’t be telling you anything about other types of self-publishing or how to use other services, because Self-Printed is about how I did it, and how I did it was the cheapest way possible to get a book out into the world without said book being a total embarrassment, but in fact with said book looking pretty good, if I do say so myself.

And what I will be telling you is everything you need to know to do just that.”

Find out more about Self-Printed on SelfPrintedBook.com
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