For the past few months I’ve been preparing for a couple of workshops I’m going to be giving on self-publishing. There’s a continuing education program that’s just starting in my little town, so I figured this was a great time to do one workshop on self-pubbing paperbacks and one on eBooks. Last fall, a few other local authors and I held a panel discussion on the various ways to self-publish, and we had a great turnout, so my more in-depth workshops seemed like a natural progression.
In the ramp-up to the new fall semester, the learning institute has been organizing meet-and-greets at various locations where all of us facilitators can interact with the interested public and get to know each other. It’s been quite an education in and of itself hearing what misconceptions people have about self-publishing. I am constantly amazed at the wild ideas people have. Here are a few of the things people have said to me:
“I heard it costs about $25,000 to self-publish.”
“But it takes a long time, doesn’t it?”
“Don’t you need special software? I’m just using Word.”
“How many books do you have to have printed?”
I find the lack of correct information appalling. I suspect that some of this is the result of people not doing any research and simply repeating what they may have heard from others who are equally uninformed. Some of it may also come from traditional publishers, service publishers, vanity presses, agents, and/or anyone else who considers self-publishing to be the bane of their lives. As well they should, because most of us know that self-publishing can be fast, easy, and affordable. But after hearing all of these wild and weird ideas, I thought it might be a good time to set the record straight.
Self-publishing does not cost $25,000 (nor $5,000, nor $1,000 or even $500). Through CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing arm, you can publish a paperback for as little as about $10, just the cost of a proof and shipping. Period. You can publish an eBook through Amazon’s KDP program, or Smashwords, for free. Now, granted, this does not take into account the cost of editing, formatting, cover design, or the value of your own time used to write the book in the first place, but as for publishing fees — almost zilch.
Self-publishing does not take a long time. From the time you upload your file to CreateSpace, your book will be on Amazon within 24-48 hours. It will propagate from there to Barnes & Noble and other online book sellers in the days following. If you upload an eBook to KDP, your book will generally be available within about 24 hours.
Self-publishing does not require special software. I use MS Word for all my manuscripts, even the ones with lots of graphics in them. I will generally convert my final formatted document into a pdf and upload that, but I’ve also uploaded Word documents directly and they have always turned out fine.
Self-publishing does not require a minimum number of books to be printed. Most self-pubbing these days is done on a print-on-demand (POD) basis, which means that the books are printed (and paid for) when they are ordered by the customer. There are no large runs of books printed, no warehousing, no remainders. Gone are the days of having your garage half-filled with boxes of books that you either haul around to every art and craft show in the area, or that you never sell at all.
Being part of the indie community for so long, I obviously have forgotten that not everyone knows what we know. I’m realizing now, after hearing these misconceptions, that my workshops must not only be about the process but also about dispelling rumors and misinformation. With this in mind, I’m already rewriting my course descriptions for next time. I understand now that I was coming from Point D, while many people out there are still stuck at Point A, and I need to back up to the beginning and start there.
This was an eye-opening reminder to me about two things: (1) that the information we provide here at Indies Unlimited is invaluable to the up-and-coming new writers and, (2) that we face a critical mass of misinformation about the cost, process, and requirements of self-publishing. We’re battling a behemoth of misunderstanding, but it’s a worthy battle and one we can keep bashing at little by little, article by article. I think I’m safe in saying that we here at IU have job security for a long, long time.