What is currently the best vehicle for self-published short fiction?
April 23, 2014 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Self-published authors of MeFi: What's the best way to self-publish these days? Is it still Amazon via CreateSpace, or has something better emerged? More details inside.

So I've got the first of a series of short novellas that I am wanting to publish under the "99 cents/I'm the next Hugh Howey" business plan. Would love first-hand accounts of which self-publishing platforms you have used, how happy you were with them, what you would do differently if you had it to do over again, etc. I would think getting into the Kindle store would be a must, but I'm open to hearing about alternatives.

Also, how much should I reasonably plan to spend to get an account set up, the first installment published and launched?
posted by jbickers to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Not an author, but an editor who does formatting and backend stuff for people who are self-pubbing.

Amazon is still where it's at, by a factor of a lot--the numbers that I've seen have Amazon sales leading sales anywhere else by at least about 10x, frequently more. I know of at least a couple books that have been consistently on Amazon's best selling in [genre] list, and have simultaneously sold exactly zero copies on Smashwords/Kobo/B&N. Once you have a second novella out, I suggest making the first one free/super cheap for a week or two, which, in my experience, consistently makes sales spike.

Setting up an account is free, publishing is free. The book needs to be formatted, but you can either do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you, and it should cost under a hundred bucks. IMO you should also hire an editor and someone to design a nice-looking cover for you, but many people don't bother. The barrier to entry is really low for this kind of thing.
posted by MeghanC at 1:41 PM on April 23, 2014

I'm a freelance copy editor and agree with everything MeghanC is saying, especially about Amazon being where it's at.

To directly answer your question, the cost is not in the publishing itself. The cost is in everything else that is going to make your book look and read legit -- meaning, will you work with an editor? Get a professionally-designed cover? Have it professionaly formatted, or learn enough about formatting to do it (properly) yourself? I get queries about five times a week from beginners who want me to copy edit something they've already published, because all of their reviews say that the book is full of typos.

Follow the lead of the sucessful authors in whatever sub-genre your work is in. Find out who they use for covers, editing, formatting, etc. Maybe you want to use those people, too.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:48 PM on April 23, 2014

Thanks for the answers so far ... I promise not to thread-sit, but isn't there hard costs in the form of ISBN numbers and things like that?
posted by jbickers at 2:02 PM on April 23, 2014

leanpub.com ?
posted by Wild_Eep at 2:06 PM on April 23, 2014

I publish on Kindle through Amazon; use Draft2Digital to get in iTunes, Kobo, and Nook; and also sell direct on my website through Payhip. I've written extensively about my sales numbers, including lots of charts and graphs, because I feel like more people should have more information. Eighty percent of my sales are through Amazon. (Well, discounting Kickstarter pre-sales.)

I don't get ISBNs, there's really no upside to it for me; nobody really requires them anymore for ebooks. I also don't have a print version, because my serial is still in progress. Once I do, though, Createspace is still where it's at. I have no intention of trying to get onto physical store shelves, which is where ISBNs still come in handy, I believe.

If you've got an eye for design, you can put together covers for as little as $15/each for stock art. If not, you could pay $50-$300 for acceptable-quality cover design. It's also a very, very good idea to have a copy editor, even if you write clean copy. You'll always miss something. That can run you some tens or hundreds of dollars, depending on how long we're talking. (Though sometimes you can call in favors from friends.) There are services out there like Bibliocrunch to help you find service providers for yourself.

Getting your ebooks exported as epub files can be expensive, too, but I do it myself through Scrivener and I suggest you do the same. Once you get the hang of the formatting involved, it's super easy, fast, and way cheaper than the alternative.

Don't spend any money on advertising. Countless anecdata shows it doesn't move the needle much on sales, so it's basically a waste of money. Do encourage everyone and their grandpa to leave reviews for your stuff. It helps your work's visibility a lot.
posted by Andrhia at 3:06 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

From a MeFite who would prefer to remain anon:
Hi, self published author here. I sell ebooks only. Createspace is a huge waste of my time. I'd get into audiobooks but there are limited avenues for non-US citizens to get their work into audio without getting royally fucked over.

My main distribution channels are Amazon, Google and Draft2Digital (for BN/Kobo/Apple). My 2013 sales break down to about 70% Amazon, 25% Google, 5% D2D. This translated into about $98k CDN in 2013. However I didn't start on Google until last May so things are looking even better this year.

What I wish I'd done at the start:
1. Get my stuff to every distributor immediately. Don't muck around with KDP Select; it's a waste of time and means lost sales.
2. Have a pricing strategy. There's really good reasons to price pulse and to make the first of a series free. There's really good reasons to put out bundles of short fiction at significant discounts. There's no possible good reason to sell a story at $1.99 no matter what anyone tells you.
3. Don't kid yourself about how good you are with Photoshop. If you are not a wizard then just bite the bullet and pay for a good cover.
4. Write every single day. No exceptions. Even if it's just 500 words.
5. Regarding marketing and such: the question to be asked is "Would I be better off writing (WIBBOW)? The answer is almost always YES. Write more. Tweet less.
6. Related to the above: Amazon already has a huge market and customer base. Spend more time trying to get those eyes to your books and less time trying to get new eyes to Amazon.
7. Start a mailing list now, like right now, and link to it in the front and back of your books. You will be so glad you did.
8. Solicit reviews at the end of your books. They are priceless.
9. Writing is as much a skill as an art, likely more so. I have no natural talent for it at all, none, but I read a lot and write a lot and things got better. One million words of published fiction in two years improved my writing in all aspects.
10. Writer's block is bullshit. You never hear about plumber's block or accountant's block, because they don't exist. Neither does writer's block. Get over yourself.
posted by jessamyn at 4:42 PM on April 23, 2014 [14 favorites]

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