Self-publishing. I first did this in 2009, I think. I put together a book of essays. It was a really nice book of essays with a dedication from someone I honor and respect who loved my writing — for me a huge success. More to me than “publishing a book” was George Reading’s love for my thoughts and way of expressing them. In our lives we meet some people we know have something to teach us and we do kind of “grovel at their feet” to get the lessons. I think the psychic groveling is an important part of being schooled, and George was one of my life’s important teachers, a way-marker, a friend. No one ever bought this book.
I published this little book, Free Magic Show, so I could learn how to self-publish. At that time there were fewer platforms than there are now and I chose Lulu. Lulu was/is easy to use. The mechanical process of getting a manuscript up there is simple and pretty clear. I used them to publish the textbook I used in my Business Communication classes after the book I liked was re-edited and rendered useless.
In working on Free Magic Show, I also checked out Createspace, which is Amazon’s platform. At that time it was cumbersome and demanding. I resented this because I saw it as Amazon’s way to make money out of the myriad people who know they “have a book inside.” Apparently I wasn’t alone, because Amazon has simplified the platform and I used it with The Brothers Path and the second edition of Savior. It’s better than Lulu for one very good reason; you get a bigger percentage of the take when your book sells. Their template also renders a prettier page.
Back in 2010, I used editing services on Lulu early on for Martin of Gfenn. I paid someone $300 to help with the first chapter. I needed help at every level of editing and she was good, encouraging and helped me — and also recommended that I NOT self-publish but pursue conventional publishers. She also happened to be in England which I now know has a very different audience in general than does the US. I took her advice and tried to sell Martin of Gfenn but having attempted that for MOG in the very narrow arena for literary historical fiction before my book was truly ready, he had a leper’s chance, (ha ha) so I ended up self-publishing with Lulu. I expect to put out a second edition in the next few weeks through Createspace and kill the Lulu book. Not sure, though. Many self-publishing authors recommend keeping a book on two platforms.
Both Lulu and Createspace (and every other self-publishing platform) offer a range of editing and marketing services. They are very, very, very expensive for someone like me. I realized at the very beginning that I was going to have to figure out myself how to do a lot of this without help. Luckily, I like designing covers (though I don’t think all of mine are successful or the most marketable). What this means, though, is that going to help pages for some platforms a self-publishing author will find him/herself looking at jargon loaded faux explanations designed to get them to hire someone to do it for them.
Publishing eBooks is another thing and requires a manuscript formatted according to whatever arcane requirements the vendor demands. This is also a place where Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple make money. Formatting for ebooks is laborious and can be very frustrating, especially after one has dealt with the paper book requirements. Again, you can hire someone. I don’t.
Amazon’s Kindle platform might be the most straightforward and easiest to use. They are “happiest” with a word file, that, ideally, will have formatted titles, subtitles, headings, etc. iBooks wants an ePub, and that’s simple enough to translate from word or Pages (which I use). I am now formatting books for Barnes & Noble’s eReader. So far this is the most complex — they want an ePub as well although their system allows a writer to upload from a variety of programs. They also have an editor one can use after the file is uploaded, but it’s proven buggy (for me) and closes both Google Chrome and Firefox. Nothing about it is really difficult except the language they use. Lulu likes PDFs which they will “convert” to eReaders that look horrible on Kindles… PDFs make ugly text on eReaders.
Why even deal with eReaders? Money. I’ve sold at least 3 times more books on Kindle than as paperbacks.
A writer who has the time and is prepared to muddle through learning the various platforms and software, who’s patient and somewhat indifferent — carefree, even — about how everything turns out can do all this on his/her own. A writer who’s afraid of effing up and impatient with software and mechanics, can easily hire all the help they afford. It’s a trade off — time or money. And, of course, once the book is published people have to know about it so they can buy it.