Read Part 1 of this article here.
My name is Catherine Kullmann. I am the author of six novels set in the extended Regency period (roughly 1800 to 1830, when George IV, the former Prince Regent, died) and I shall publish my seventh novel in 2022. My books feature regularly in the Amazon best-selling lists for their genres. As I write, on 13 December 2021, the rankings on Amazon UK for my latest book, A Comfortable Alliance which was first published on 25 March 2021, are:
- Best Sellers Rank: 5,703 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars 315 ratings
You will not find my books on the shelves of any bookstore in Ireland. Why? Because I have published my books myself. I am an Indie (independently published) Author. In this series of articles, I shall explain why I chose to publish independently and share my experience with you.
What Must the Indie-Author Know?
Self-publishing is expensive and requires a considerable up-front investment, both in terms of money and time. It is more than likely that you will not recover this investment on your first book. Initial costs include:
- Cover design, including the cost of cover images
- Layout and formatting for different edition—eBook, paperback, hardback, etc
- Purchase of any rights you need for quotations, illustrations etc. (Be careful. It can cost a fortune to quote one line of a poem or the lyric of a song and the owners of rights are quick to sue.)
- Access to ARC sites such as NetGalley and editorial reviewers
- A print-run—if you decide to take this route (more below)
- Setup of author website, including purchase of domain name and host
Indie authors are deeply involved at each of the above stages. You will need good commercial and organisational skills to manage all this. You must be ready to go back to editors, designers etc. again and again until you are satisfied with the result (for which you are paying). You will take ultimate and final responsibility for your books which must equal or surpass the standards set by traditionally published books. That is how your readers will judge them.
How much will it cost? You are looking at anything between £/$/€1,000 to £/$/€5000 depending on your choice of publisher/editor/designer/proof-reader etc and whether you opt for POD or have your books printed directly in an agreed print run. If your book has a complicated lay-out with colour illustrations, you can add several thousand to this.
The advantage of POD is that you do not have the upfront costs of paying for hard copies of your books, nor do you need to store and distribute them apart from the ones you order as author copies e.g. for a launch or as gifts to friends and families. It is the simplest way to sell paperbacks on Amazon, to the extent that some traditional publishers avail themselves of it too. To my mind, it is the best option for fiction and for unillustrated non-fiction. If your book has a lot of illustrations and requires a complicated layout, then I recommend finding an experienced publisher such as http://www.gandon-editions.com/ in Kinsale who specialise in books on art and architecture.
There are many companies who offer assistance to the Indie publisher. Of those who offer a one-stop shop, some are more flexible than others. Beware of those who insist you take their whole package, as offered, as you can find yourself paying for services you do not want. Others will offer a tailor-made quote just for the services you require. This is my preferred option. For my last three books, I have used Dublin-based https://booksgosocial.com/ for cover design, extended proof-reading, formatting of all editions uploading to IngramSpark (see below), provision of ISBNs and initial promotion including NetGalley.
Whoever you opt for, it is essential that you retain all rights to your work. Do not be fooled by so-called publishers who offer a traditional-style contract and then ask you to fund some or all of the costs of publication, while offering a meagre royalty. You are the publisher. Do not agree to a royalty-share or anything that leaves control with a third party. Pay a flat free. Ensure, too that you have full control of and access to your accounts with Amazon and other suppliers. Without this you will be unable to promote your books properly.
Associate membership of the Irish Writers’ Union https://irishwritersunion.org/join/ and the Alliance of Independent Authors https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/members/join/is open to aspiring i.e. unpublished authors and you can seek advice from either about contracts before you make your decision.
Although very few bookshops are interested in stocking Indie-published books, many are willing to order them on request for their customers, just not from Amazon. It is therefore advisable not to select expanded distribution for your Amazon paperbacks but to upload them to another POD company https://www.ingramspark.com/ as well. For this you will need your own ISBN, not the free one supplied by Amazon. Bookshops can order IngramSpark books through the standard distributors and you may find that they pick up your book for their online stores. My paperbacks and hardbacks are also available online from, among others, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository.
Amazon’s online book subscription service Kindle Unlimited (KU) is open to KDP authors whose eBooks are exclusive to Amazon. Authors are paid per thousand pages read. The rate varies from month to month; e.g. for October 2021 it was €3.74. Pages are normalised as KENP, and the number of KENP pages per book is greater than the number of pages in the equivalent paperback. My books of roughly 100K words, work out at around 500 KENP so the royalty per book read is approximately €1.87. Romance, Fantasy and Mystery are the most popular genres within KU and if your book falls within these genres, it is worth trying KU. It has a huge, worldwide readership and the page reads mount up very quickly. Page reads also affect your Amazon rankings, boosting you up the best-seller lists. I usually wait for a couple of months to put a new book into KU. In that time, it is free on NetGalley and I can also offer free review copies elsewhere.
If you do not wish to use KU, you can ‘go wide’, i.e. make your eBooks available on platforms other than Amazon, including KOBO. You can do this via https://www.draft2digital.com/ While I have no personal experience of this, many writer friends have done so with varying success.
As an Indie author, you set the price for your books. Don’t undersell yourself. You have invested a lot of time and money in producing your book. Check how comparable books in your genre are priced and aim for the middle range. I don’t think it is a good idea to reduce prices regularly e.g. to €/£/$0.99 for an eBook as readers get used to this. I have seen comments such as ‘I’ll wait until the next time it is on special offer’. The only exception is if you are offered the possibility of participating in an Amazon promotion where Amazon will spread the word for you and lead you to new readers.
You are responsible for paying tax on any net income you earn from your writing or writing-related activities such as talks, and will need to keep accurate accounts of expenditure and revenue as well as making your tax returns each year. The simplest way to do this is with Excel. For my own information, I also keep a monthly record of sales and page-reads per title. The information is easily retrievable from Amazon and IngramSpark.
If you are resident in Ireland, income you earn from the sale of your artistic works may be exempt from Irish Income Tax (IT) in certain circumstances. You can find out more here: https://www.revenue.ie/en/personal-tax-credits-reliefs-and-exemptions/income-and-employment/artists-exemption/index.aspx
(c) Catherine Kullmann
About A Comfortable Alliance:
Can they open their hearts to something much deeper and passionate? Will their marriage only ever be a comfortable alliance?
Six years ago, Helena Swift’s fiancé was fatally wounded at Waterloo. Locking away all dreams of the heart, she retreated to a safe family haven. On the shelf and happy to be there, Helena has perfected the art of deterring would-be suitors.
Will, Earl of Rastleigh, is the only son of an only son: marriage is his duty. One of the great prizes of the marriage market, he shies away from a cold, society union. While he doesn’t expect love, he seeks something more comfortable. But how to find the woman who will welcome him into her life and her bed, and be a good mother to their children?
When Will meets Helena, he is intrigued by her composure, her kindness and her intelligence. As their friendship develops, he realises he has found his ideal wife, if only he can overcome her well-known aversion to matrimony.
Will succeeds in slipping past Helena’s guard. Tempted by the thought of children of her own, and encouraged by her mother to leave the shallows where she has lingered so long, she accepts his offer of a marriage based not on dangerous love but affectionate companionship and mutual respect.
But is this enough? As Will gets to know his wife better, and the secrets of her past unfold, he realises that they have settled for second-best. Can he change the basis of their marriage? Will Helena risk her heart and dare to love again?
Order your copy online here.