Even An Indie Needs Patience

When viewing people’s reasons for self-publishing, one I often see is ‘I can get my book out faster.’

Today, I have to say this feels like bullsh!t to me.

In some ways, I’d rather a gatekeeper hold on to my book and say “No, you can not release it, because it hasn’t had enough edits/beta reads/marketing etc.” Instead, I need to be the sole person who tells myself that.

And it’s not easy.

I received a book on InDesign CS4 in the mail today. My wife’s had the program for two years and I finally have a reason to use it. Looking at its power, knowing I can set up my book the way I want and have it printed that way is empowering and very tempting.

In the back of my mind I think, “I have a finished book. It’s had some editing. Why not get this party started and publish the damn thing?”

But my calm, rational self has to intervene. It says “But you want this to be a long game. If you put out trash and kill your reputation from book one, this whole dream is over.”

Still, a boy and his toys are a hard force to control.

I’m probably more frustrated because my rewrite of Chapter Four is being a bear; that I woke up during hibernation season.

Don’t poke the sleeping bear….

I have to keep repeating my mantra,

“Better to have it ripped apart in Betas and put out a finished project people will love.”

I have to consider my GI system’s feelings when it reacts to a review on Amazon that could’ve easily been prevented if I had just taken a little more time.

And that’s what it boils down to, time.

I need to have patience. I need to tell myself that these steps are making the book better. Refer to the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Will my book see the light of day faster than a traditionally published book? Yes. But just as I need to learn some things about marketing and book construction from the Traditional industry, I also need to learn from them about taking my time.

Becoming a Publisher

During my post on my decision to go indie, I mentioned that I had also decided to create a publishing company, Red Bucket Publishing.

I’m going to discuss this decision and some of the hoops I’ve found while working on this the past few days.

First off, I’m in Ontario, Canada. My initial decision was whether I go all out and incorporate a new company or whether I just register a Sole-proprietorship in Ontario.

Had to give this some thought.

Incorporation

Incorporating a business means that, as far as the federal government is concerned, it is a separate and “living” organisation. This means you need to file taxes for the company itself. It also means that any judgements of liability rest mostly on the company’s shoulders. On another note, when it comes to dealing with suppliers & such, being incorporated can add a bit more weight to your credibility.

However, the incorporation process is more involved. Most people will suggest you have a lawyer walk you through it (although, you can do the whole process online yourself if you wish). Since the corporation is a separate entity, regardless of income, you must charge, and remit to the government, taxes.  It also means that should you end your business, there’s more paperwork to file to cancel the whole thing.

I incorporated a business years ago. The business never went anywhere and I found the constant additional obligation of the corporation a bit of a strain.

Sole Proprietorship

The simpler, cheaper, choice. For $60, you can register a business online with the Ontario government. This allows you to operate under the business name, but all the income is declared on your own taxes. It also means that so long as you keep below a $30,000 a year income level, you do not have to charge your customers taxes.

You do not gain the same level of cred with a sole-proprietorship that you do with incorporation. You also don’t have the same legal rights and protection for your company name.

In the end, I decided to go with a sole-proprietorship. It was cheaper and for now, since I don’t know how big this thing will get, easier to manage.

The other thing I realized is that dealing with the suppliers I am, they really don’t care a bit whether I’m incorporated or not. Library and Archives Canada has no care whether you are a sole or inc. All they care is what you are publishing. Lightning Source? Same thing. In fact, Lightning Source is meant for indies and small presses as opposed to big corporations.

For now, Red Bucket Publishing is a sole-proprietorship. But, if the business gets large enough, I will give serious consideration to incorporating. Incorporation does provide some legal shields that being a sole does not. Also, if the money really comes in, I don’t know if I want my personal taxes taking that kind of a hit. Being an incorporated business does allow some tax perks that being an individual does not. But for now, I’ll wait to see if that comes to pass.

Finally, let me say that my decision to start a “publisher” was not born out of necessity. As far as I can tell, there’s no reason you need to do this if you want to self-publish. For me, it was a decision based on who I am and what I want to become. My wife is a photographer. I would one day like to publish her work. I also hope to produce a variety of series and novellas. I wanted a single point of contact for all the works we intend to produce and I didn’t want it to be this website. I’ve also longed to own my own business. Red Bucket Publishing fulfills all those desires.

However, it also means I not only have to market myself, my latest writing, but it also means I need to promote a company as well. More work? Maybe, but I think the rewards in the end will outweigh the extra effort now.

I’m still working on things, but if you want to bookmark for future reference, or just see the work-in-progress, you can head over to redbucketpublishing.com

So fellow indies, what do you think? Do you have your own publisher imprint?

Getting ISBNs in Canada

Self-publishers have it good in Canada. We can get our ISBNs for free.

If you’re unfamiliar, ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique number used to identify your book. Most places that you will publish, be it physical or Ebook, will require you to provide an ISBN for your work. As I understand it, some companies will allow you to pay an additional fee and they will provide you with an ISBN.

In Canada, the process is rather simple.

Go to http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ciss-ssci/index-e.html and click on Join CISS on the left hand side. There’s a form you need to fill in that asks about your publisher information as well as one of your current or upcoming publications. Once you’ve submitted that form, you wait. They say it can take up to ten days, but I think I waited for three.

An email arrives with your username and a temporary password. You login to their site, and fill out some more paperwork. The process is simple and can be done all online. If you need an ISBN, you just login, provide information about the book and within seconds, you have an ISBN.

If you’re using a service like Lightning Source, you will need at least one ISBN in order to complete the signup process on their website. The great thing with the Canadian system is that since it is all online, you can complete information for your first book before it’s published, yet you can go back and edit that information at any time. This means you can obtain an ISBN for signups, but go back and edit it when you know actual details like book size, weight & page count.

As I said, an easy and painless process in Canada. Dear readers, how are things done in your part of the world?

Going it Alone or Call me “Indie”

So I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and I’m finally ready to say for certain that I am going to self-publish.

Almost every indie writer has a blog post where they justify their decision to skip the traditional publishing model. I suppose this my post. But instead of belaboring the point, I’ll sum it up in two words, three syllables; Control Freak.

After all the work to write a book, if someone were to decide the title or cover design of my book for me, I think I might explode. To me, a book is artistry. Not just the words, but the design, the cover, the layout, even the font used. These things are elements of a book’s creation and I want my hand in all of it.

There’s other reasons as well, many that merit little mention. But the overall deciding factor here is that I want to call the shots. If this series succeeds or fails, I want it to rest firmly on my shoulders.

Yeah, I was the kid in school who hated group projects too.

Simply put, I believe in this series. I think it can do well. I want to be there for every step to see that it does.

So where do I go from here?

My first step was to create my own imprint. I wanted to publish my works under a publisher name. I suppose that’s vain, but to me it was just one more step in the creative process. Not only am I creating an identity as an author, now I get to forge an identity as a publisher.

To that end, I present to you Red Bucket Publishing. No logo yet, no live website yet, just a registered domain and a Paypal account. More will come, just as I will officially announce the name of my series and book one specifically in the next few days (remember, The Veil was just the working title).

I’m looking into Print-On-Demand companies to do physical copies, and I want to learn how to format ebooks myself (told you I wanted to be in on every level of creation).

As I go along in this process, I’ll post the things I learn. My writing journey is growing from just writing the books to also include publishing the books. I can’t explain how much that excites me.

So wish me luck. If you have any wisdom to impart, please do so. This is going to be a huge learning experience for me and I’ll need all the advice I can get.

When Did You Become a Writer?

A bit of a personal blog entry this morning.

Was there a defining moment for you? A point where scraps of stories hidden in folders became work aimed at being published? When was that moment that you started including “Writer” in bios of yourself?

When I was in grade school, I loved to write. There was only one type of assignment I looked forward to and that was creative writing. I was that kid who was assigned a “short” story and turned in a binder with chapters. In those creative and heady moments of youth, seeing my name on a book cover was my singular goal.

But as with most dreams of childhood, I strayed from that path. Other interests and influences pulled me away. Over the years I wrote less and that vision of my name on a cover dimmed.

Fast forward to me in my thirties. I had rediscovered writing, but had no focus. Every story I started was left only partially completed. I had ideas, pages and pages of ideas, but I couldn’t translate that into a finished product. My wife developed a look that said “Will you just shutup and write” that I saw on regular occasion when I started a conversation with “I had an idea for a story…”

My defining moment, the thing that finally made me focus on finishing something, anything, was the death of my father.

My dad left an impression on people. Even now, two years after his death, I still have people that stop me in my work life and tell me how amazing my father was and how he influenced/helped/changed/supported them at some point. I have a set of morals that I can easily trace to my father.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my love of science fiction, fantasy and reading I can trace to hours spent sitting next to my dad watching classic Star Trek and Doctor Who.

When my dad took early retirement, he looked forward to trips with my mom and had thoughts of writing a book about his paramedic days called “Life Under the Lightbar.” You can imagine his dismay when he was diagnosed with lung cancer two weeks after his retirement party. And then a year-and-a-half later, he was gone.

So much planned and dreamed. So much left undone.

As the grief subsided, I realised that dreams shouldn’t be put off. I looked at my pile of half-finished writing and loose ideas and thought, “If I die tomorrow, I don’t want a bunch of half-realised dreams left behind. I need to finish something.”

And now, a first draft is done.

My dreams are larger than just one first draft. What I truly want to leave behind is still incomplete. Which is fine, because I intend/hope to have more time to finish it. But I’m on the road. I feel that I can call myself a writer. I feel less unfulfilled than I did before.

Did you have a defining moment? Was there something in your life that finally pushed you hard enough that you were able to type “The End?”

Facebook

So I’ve decided to take the plunge and enter into the world of Facebook.

I mean, in a different capacity I’ve been mulling around Facebook for years, as many other people have.

But it occurred to me that if I was truly going to give this writing thing a shot (especially if I go Indie) I’m going to need some presence on Facebook. After all, it’s only one of the largest social networks on the planet, right?

I suppose my two biggest fears are that a) Few people will like my author page and it will turn into another vehicle for self-pity. b) It will become a massive time-suck that will pull me from other, more important, tasks.

What do you think community? Is jumping into Facebook a wise move? Will my writing/publishing career suffer or benefit from it? I’m wondering what your thoughts and experiences are.

In the meantime, I’ve set up an author page. Going to make it just one more place that people can find me.

If you feel so inclined, you can find it at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Justus-R-Stone/250724508276754 Give it a LIKE, I’d appreciate it. And if you have your own Author page, let me know, cause I’ll return the like in return.

 

Why The $0.99 Ebook Should Go Away

My wife, Carolyn, is a professional photographer. We had a discussion sometime ago about how it was difficult to convince some people to pay the appropriate price for professional photography when so many non-professionals charge cut-rate prices. I thought that people looking to hire a photographer would recognize the difference in quality and would therefor pay the higher price. I now think that was naive.

I visited writer Nathan Bransford’s blog yesterday and read an article on how attitudes toward e-book pricing seem to be changing.

So why the change? Why do people suddenly view the e-book as being worth less than they did a year ago? My simple answer, and it was the same for some of the commentators on the article, is the $0.99 e-book.

Why Charge $0.99 For an E-book?

There’s a number of reasons authors give to justify a bargain basement price for their e-books.

  • Readers are more likely to take a chance on something new/unknown if it’s cheap.
  • Price is the way indies can best compete with publishing houses.
  • I don’t care about money so much, I just want my book to get out there.
  • If I make this one cheap, more people will buy it & get hooked on my writing. Then I can charge more for the next books.

To an extent, all of these points are valid and true. But the question I find myself wondering is; Are we helping build these expectations in readers? Are there other ways to accomplish the same thing without selling ourselves out?

My Problem with the $0.99 E-book

I admit, this is mostly a perception thing. When I think of a book on sale for $0.99, I envision a garage sale. In that garage sale is a box of old paperbacks that have sat unloved and unread for years. Their spines are broken, their pages yellowed, and to be frank, they smell.

I have a problem thinking that a piece of writing I have dedicated possibly a year or more to would be valued on par with that when it’s brand new.

The other factor here is royalties. Amazon will pay 70% to the author for any e-book priced $2.99 or higher (though I understand at a higher dollar value, over $10, they drop the percentage again). Any book priced under $2.99 is paid a royalty of 30%. I understand this isn’t all about money to people. And if that’s the point, if you really want to get your book into as many hands as possible, give it away for free on your website. What you choose to do on your website is your business.

But when a book is for sale in a marketplace for such a low price, it devalues all comparable books. If a large percentage of well-written Young Adult novels are priced at $0.99, then after a while, won’t readers expect that all well-written YA novels should be $0.99? Aren’t we creating our own demon? If every book priced at $0.99 was an aberration, this wouldn’t be a problem. But apparently, there are some really well written books sitting in this price range. So readers are getting the message; Good e-books not written by a huge name author are only worth $0.99.

Why do you think virtually every hardcover, trade-paper, and mass market book are priced in a similar range by the big publishing houses? Because over the years they’ve built that expectation in readers and they know readers will pay those prices. Funny thing, new authors published by a big house are priced the same as established authors. Why? Because the big publishing houses have agreed that if they think it’s worth putting into print, it’s worth a certain price-point. For a great many number of years, readers have agreed.

So why would indies seek to set the bar so low when they’re finally getting some respect and recognition for their work?

Alternatives to the $0.99 E-book

First off, indies should take a page from the big publishers and agree on a standard pricing scheme for e-books. Perhaps stories less than 10,000 words should be $0.99, novellas at 20,000+ words are 2.99 and full novels are 4.99. This is all ball park, but if indies could establish a “norm” of pricing, it would condition readers.

Am I saying an indie should never offer a promotional price? No. But for a full novel, a good promo price should be $2.99, not $0.99.

If indies want customers to give them a try with little to no commitment, put the first third of your book on your website for free. Or, if you have a novella or series of short stories, put them on your site for free so people can get a taste for your style and content.

Traditional publishers have too many people to pay. They might be able to match the $4.99 price point, but I doubt they will beat it anytime soon. In this way, indies still are competitively priced in comparison to traditionally published authors.

Don’t forget community and word of mouth. In the large world of the internet, word of mouth can do more for your book than price. Get the word out. Send copies to book bloggers, give free copies away to your followers on Twitter. And if you read an indie book that you love, show that love by giving a good review on Amazon, Goodreads and plug it to your followers.

Don’t Devalue Yourself

Writing is a lonely pursuit. Most writers I’ve met, myself included, are very critical of themselves and their writing. While we fear the reaction to our work, we also crave it. I sometimes wonder if the $0.99 price point is more about ego, or lack thereof, than it is about marketing. Perhaps some writers think so little of their book and their ability to market that they believe it is impossible to succeed without nearly giving the book away.

If that’s the case, we need to stop being so hard on ourselves. Whether indie or traditionally published, we have all poured a considerable amount of hours, sweat, tears and sanity into the words we produce. What needs to happen is a fair price for such works needs to be established and maintained. The big houses have done it for years, maybe it’s time for indies to stop being so independent and to start looking at the larger picture. Through promoting those indie titles that exemplify the best of work and maintaining a consistent pricing scheme, indies will be able to make money and get their books out to readers without being a garage sale.

What are your thoughts? Is the $0.99 a good or bad thing?