Monday, February 24, 2014

Self Publishing: How much does it really cost?

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of talk about how easy self-publishing can be. Let’s be honest, there isn’t much to it: write a story, create a cover, and post it through the distributor of your choice. In fact, it’s so easy there isn’t any reason to suffer through querying traditional publishers, or even small Independent publishers. Their contribution to the polishing and publication of your work isn’t worth what you’ll lose in royalties.

Or is it?

I guess it all depends on your publishing goals.

What if you want a polished manuscript that flows well on the e-reading device and has a professional, eye-catching cover? Many authors have the time, patience, and skills to create their work from start to finish. I don’t.

I like to think that one of my strengths as a writer is knowing my limits. I’m not talking about writing; I’m referring to all the essential bits that go into finishing the work. When it comes to editing, I can’t see my own mistakes, be them grammar or otherwise. I don’t have the knowledge or skill to create a good cover, and we all know that everyone initially judges a book by its cover. While I am capable of formatting my own work for ePub and Mobi, it’s a time consuming process, especially if you’re creating the best possible, error-free, e-reading experience and don’t already own appropriate software. Uploading your Word or OpenOffice file to the desired distributor might seem like a good idea, but there’s no guarantee you won’t be left with blank pages, overlapping text, and odd fonts because your word processor couldn’t embed them. E-readers aren’t paper books; if files are formatted incorrectly, the reader isn’t going to have an enjoyable experience.

So – what is the real cost of self-publishing a short story? Let’s break it down.

According to the Professional Writer’s Association of Canada (PWAC), the least expensive rate for article writing is $0.10 a word... that means the copy for a 7000 word short story is worth a minimum of $700. (Keep this number in mind – I’m going to come back to it later

A professional editor charges between $30 and $60 an hour. Assuming that editor can review 2500 words an hour, and is working for an average of $40 an hour, that means a minimum of $120 for a 7000 word story  – keep in mind that this is only content editing. Depending on the condition of your manuscript, the editor may require additional hours to make it publishable.

Formatting the document for digital publication should be straightforward, except that word processors are not all created equal. Many leave behind bits of coding and unusual errors that disrupt the flow of the copy on an e-reader and wreak havoc with html links and bookmarks. The average package price for formatting is $125 which includes file clean-up, inclusion of the cover, meta-data, hyperlinks, ToC, and error-free file conversion to secure PDF, MOBI, and ePub. The longer the manuscript, the inclusion of images, and the more detailed the formatting, the more expensive the package is going to be.

I tried to make my own book cover – once. I bet a toddler with an etch-a-sketch could do better. Recently, a number of book cover design options have popped up on the internet. Prices range from $30 for a quick and easy pre-made cover (but there’s no real guarantee you won’t see that same basic cover on another book) to over $400 for a custom creation. In the past, I have paid approximately $200 for a unique cover, custom designed by a professional graphic artist.


Let’s add it all up:

$120 for editing
$125 for formatting
$200 for a professional cover.

But wait... what about promotional materials? And marketing? And Distribution? 

Yes – I can upload my short story to any number of distributors – KDP (Amazon), Kobo, Nook, Sony, Apple – or I can try to let Smashwords do the work for me. Smashwords uses “meat grinder” to convert Word files, but the conversion isn’t always smooth. Errors in formatting are frequent, resulting in unappealing books. If Smashwords is unable to convert your file to their standards, they won’t extend your book to their expanded distribution channels. But it’s free to upload files, and doesn’t cost anything for the conversion process, right?

Well, no, there’s a misconception to the “free” aspect.” There’s no upfront cost from the distributor to do the conversion (after you have already spent hours creating an error-free document). However, your indirect payment to the distributor depends on the sale price of the short story and the distributor’s non-negotiable royalty rate. If a book is priced under $3, then, on average, they keep 65% of the sell price. This means that a $0.99 short story earns me a profit of $0.35... but only after I have paid for the above expenses.

Remember the $700 price tag for the story itself? Let’s add that to the cost of the complete work for a grand total of $1145. How many e-books would I have to sell to earn this back? Keep in mind I only keep $0.35 for each book I sell.

3272 copies.

That’s a lot of e-books, before I see a profit...

Alternatively, providing my work is accepted, I can hand the reins over to a publisher, and take advantage of their team of editors, formatters, and cover designers. Hopefully, their marketing team will help me promote the work, and at the very least, my story will be available to the public at no cost to me, except for my initial investment (blood, sweat, and tears) of writing the story.

Now – let’s talk about why it’s such a bad idea for writers to give away their work for free...  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

For the love of short stories...

On Friday, Morning Rain Publishing (MRP) released five short stories - one of which was mine. Each story can be purchased separately via the MRP website, Amazon, Kobo, and Google Books. However, if you'd like a treat, and bit of a savings, all five can be purchased as a compilation exclusively from Morning Rain Publishing. When you hit the "buy now" button, eJunkie tells you the format of the book is a PDF, but if you email, the nice people over there will send you the file format of your choice. 

Here are the books that are included in the compilation:

Letters and Illusions by Jaclyn Aurore

For months, a mysterious letter has kept Candice and Jason apart. When Jason returns to the small town of Springbrook, Candice demands answers. “Letters and Illusions” is Jaclyn Aurore’s third publication. Her other works include the Starsville Saga: Starting Over, and Standing Up.
Under the Stars by Jennifer Bogart

Ryan might be running from his past, but Willow is searching for her future. The two meet on rocky ground, and work to find secure footing in the topsy-turvy world of love. “Under the Stars” is written by Jennifer Bogart, author of “Money, Masks & Madness”, “Reflections”, and “Remember Newvember”.
Happy Enough by Anita Dolman

Caught in an eerie pattern of history repeating itself, Jeff discovers that he and his wife have fallen into the trap of complacency. “Happy Enough” is a story of love, acceptance, rejection, and renewal.  Anita Dolman’s work has appeared in journals and magazines throughout Canada and the United States, including: GrainBywords.caThe Antigonish Review, Ottawater, GeistThe Storyteller MagazinePRISM internationalUtne andThe Fiddlehead, and in the anthology Decalogue: ten Ottawa poets (Chaudiere Books, Ottawa, 2006).
Extra-Large Double-Double by L.J. Ivers

Unkempt and carefree, sporting her favourite pajamas and bed-head, Marci Gale set out in an early morning blizzard to answer her sister’s plea for babysitting. Little did she know an adventure awaited her, all because of a simple cup of coffee, unexpectedly paid for by a devilish stranger. “Extra-Large Double-Double” is L.J. Iver’s first publication. Her first novel “Currents” is awaiting publication and a paranormal romance trilogy, entitled “Soul Seeds”, is her current work in progress.
Escaping Ivernee by Lisa Toohey

Imprisoned in the Ivernee Mines, and sentenced to a life of despair for a crime she didn’t commit, Sarah-Leigh is determined to escape. Both her body and spirit are broken and bruised, but with the kindness of an enigmatic stranger, she starts to regain hope.  Lisa Toohey has dreamed of becoming an author since she first learned to read. Her inspiration can often be found in the wild dreams that plague her sleep. “Escaping Ivernee” is Lisa’s first publication.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Under the Stars - book cover love

Tomorrow, my short story will be published by Morning Rain Publishing. I love the cover. It's modern, it's romantic, and the female main character has short hair! The art director at MRP is pure magic. I love how she was able to create a cover that represents both the character and the book content.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tiny announcement for a tiny story

I always say that I'm a long-distance writer. Flash fiction and short stories don't come easily to me, mostly because of the limited time and space for character development.

However, when Morning Rain Publishing put out their call for short story submissions, a spark of an idea flared. I could write about Willow and Ryan. In Remember Newvember, Willow spends a month trying one new thing each day. There's a bit of romance, but it doesn't go anywhere... I've been told that readers were left disappointed. In Reflections, Ryan is introduced, and while Willow never makes an appearance in that book, their relationship does.

So - I wrote a short story bridging that gap.

It will be released on February 14th, 2014. For more information, and to check out other stories to be released at the same time, please follow the link to the Morning Rain Publishing blog.