Thanks to the internet, the Kindle, the iPad and print on demand technology, self publishing is rapidly becoming the acceptable way for people to share their thoughts and ideas. However, the Australian publishing industry has been slow to create pathways for Australians to access the best ebook and print on demand options so readily available to our Northern Hemisphere counterparts.
IPEd Accredited Editor and owner of IndieMosh, Jennifer Mosher, has been helping Australian writers tread the self publishing path, to have their say and leave their mark on the world, since 2009. In 'Self publishing for Australian authors: What you need to have, know and do', Jennifer shares her learnings (and many of her opinions!), summarising the steps to take and questions you need to ask yourself if you wish to venture down the self publishing path.
Rather than a ‘how to’ guide, this book is more of a ‘what’s it all about guide’, and has been designed to provide you with the right information so that you can work out which path (if any) is right for you.
I have been helping people self publish since 2009 and have learned a lot – nearly all of it the hard way. This book is about sharing that knowledge.
While it is not meant to be a step-by-step guide to self publishing, the chapters have been organised based on what you need to have, know and do to self publish your book, and so the contents listing itself is a general checklist for the aspiring self publisher.
Within each chapter the text will help you consider what’s important to you, what you can and can’t do yourself, and help you work out what’s vital to you when comparing different service providers for different tasks. You’ll also find some repetition here and there, and for that I apologise. However, I realised that many people will read by dipping in where they’re interested, rather than reading in order from start to finish, so it was important to ensure that they didn’t miss what I felt might be important nuggets.
Examples in the book were created by me for this book or for other books or workshops I run. While there are many examples of bad writing out there, I don’t like to disparage other authors, and am plenty capable of creating my own bad writing, so why not use it?
One thing you will notice in this book is the abbreviation ‘ATTOW’. This is short for ‘at the time of writing’ and I use it often when referring to things which may change after this book is published. It’s just a pointer to you, dear reader, to remember that change is the only constant in life!
You’ll also find, here and there, sections called ‘The IndieMosh way’. These sections are designed to help Aussie authors considering our service to understand whether we’d be a good fit for them or not. However, these sections can also be used by the general reader to get a handle on what one company does and so use that to compare against other self-publishing facilitators (SPFs).
Hopefully, this book will help you work out what gaps you need to plug before embarking on your self-publishing journey. Self publishing is not for the lazy – not if you want to do it properly. It takes dedication and hard work if you want to produce something that you can be proud of. (And yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition – who’d have thought? More on that under Engaging an editor or proofreader in Chapter 4: Preparation.) But it’s achievable if you’re prepared to invest a little time and thought and sometimes a few dollars to get a quality product.
I don’t have all the answers, I only know what works for me and the bulk of our IndieMosh clients. It’s up to you to do your own research, look inside yourself, and work out what’s best for you. Technology changes, companies change, attitudes change and so do laws, so there is always the chance that something in this book will not be accurate by the time you read it. Please do your own additional research as I take no responsibility for any loss (or profit!) you may make as a result of reading this book.
Please also know that where ‘he’ or ‘she’ have been used in a general sense in this book, they can be used interchangeably and they refer to all genders.
I wish you well on your self-publishing journey, and I hope this book helps by guiding you away from those paths which don’t suit you, and towards those paths which will.
Cheers and thanks for reading on!
Why is this book aimed at Australian authors?
We’ve been helping people self publish since the release of Julie Jones’ Running Over a Chinaman back in 2009 and the hardest part about it has been getting international distribution for our clients’ books in a low-cost, low-risk way. The Australian publishing industry was very slow to acknowledge the potential of ebooks, so programs in this country to help Australian authors self publish have been slow to appear.
For American writers, self publishing is not so hard. They have direct and easy access to programs offered by Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and others.
Australians have access to many of these programs, but there are always things which make it difficult such as the need for a US ITIN – the equivalent of our tax file number. Without an ITIN, the IRS (equivalent of our tax office) requires many of these companies to withhold 30% tax from payments to overseas authors. Australians can obtain an ITIN, but it’s an annoying process, especially if you only ever expect to release one book.
And then there’s getting paid. If you’re a US author, then you only need to earn US$10 at the most to get paid directly to your bank account, but for overseas authors, you need to earn at least US$100, GBP£100 or EURO€100 before you get paid. And then with some programs, it’s not sent by electronic banking, it’s still sent in a foreign currency cheque, so you have to pay to have that converted and then wait four weeks until it clears.
Over the last six years we have been working with different programs and distribution chains, working out how best to help Australian authors. While this book isn’t necessarily the authority on how Australian authors self publish, it will help you cut to the chase of what’s most likely to work for you, as an Aussie, and why. And even if you reject some of the things this book suggests, then at least you’re making an informed decision, and I’ve hopefully made it easier for you to work out what’s right for you as a self-publishing Australian.
First, the bad news ...
Many people write because they want to make money and, as a practising capitalist, I have no problem with that. However, the sad truth is that most people won’t make much money at all from writing, and even fewer will actually make a living from it, so those that have other reasons for writing are the ones more likely to feel a sense of satisfaction from self publishing their book.
Another reason many people write a book is to boost their self esteem. Sometimes they’re looking for partner or parental approval. This is not a good reason to write a book and will most likely fail in getting you what you need in emotional reward. If you’re unable to please those close to you without publishing, then you’re unlikely to please them by publishing.
In short, you need to be clear about your personal motivation for self publishing as this will help you get through both the publishing process and the post-publication period with a clear head and less emotional trauma.
It’s not easy, but you need to think hard about the ‘why’: why you need or want to publish.
On the other hand, there’s a fist[ii] (full of emotional reward)
So, other than making money, here are some reasons to write a book:
[i] ‘Reasons to be cheerful, 1, 2, 3’ song by Ian Drury and the Blockheads, from the album ‘Common as Muck’, Stiff Records, 1979. Find your reasons to be cheerful in the original video here: youtube.com/watch?v=CIMNXogXnvE
[ii] ‘On the other hand there’s a Fist’, album by Jona Lewie, Stiff Records, 1978.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T[i] ... for your reader
One of my oft-repeated catchphrases around the office is ‘Honour your reader’. It’s something many authors never consider, yet should be first and foremost in their planning.
When you publish a book, you’re asking people to spend their time reading your words (and perhaps looking at your images), so it behoves you to make it worth their time.
Even if your book is going to be a free ebook, you still need to give your reader something – most importantly, a reason to open your book. You then need to ensure that after they’ve opened it, they don’t close it in disgust.
It breaks my heart to see many a good story ruined and destined for bad reviews because the author didn’t invest in a bit of editing, or some formatting. Worse still are the authors who finish typing their manuscript and publish it without even checking it over themselves!
Imagine if you were a car manufacturer who didn’t care about the comfort of the people sitting in your cars? What if you just put in the hardest, most uncomfortable seats because they were sturdy and much safer in an accident? Would your buyers be impressed? No. But what if you went the extra mile and worked to find a way to make those sturdy and safe seats comfortable? What if you honoured your customers and delivered them the best seat you could give them? You could expect them to develop brand loyalty and buy from you again, right?
When you write a book, the most important person in the chain is the reader – the end user. If you publish rubbish, either in quality of words, quality of images or quality of production, then you’re not respecting your reader. And if you don’t respect your reader, don’t expect them to respect you. And if they don’t respect you, they won’t buy from you again, no matter how many books you publish!
[i] From ‘Respect’ written and originally recorded by Otis Redding in 1965, but more famously recorded by Aretha Franklin in 1967. Enjoy Aretha’s version here: youtube.com/watch?v=6FOUqQt3Kg0