herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Novel idea for some net gains

writer and self-published author Sinead Fagan is trying a new way to get her work to its readers

It seemed a good idea at the time; write a kids' book and become a multi-millionaire. Simple.

The goal was to create something positive and empowering for children while providing them with a thumping good read, thus Earthlander, a fantasy adventure aimed at the 9-12 age group, was born.

That was when I was in my early 20s. Since then, while working as a writer for hire, I have sent Earthlander out to agents and publishers, re-written it several times, and even turned it into a TV script. While I have had positive feedback at every turn, when it came to actually getting it published, I would fall at the last hurdle.

People had suggested self-publishing but I was an ebook snob, dismissing it as a cyber dumping ground for sub-standard blah. Then I began to hear more about writers such as Amanda Hocking, the 26-year-old who became a millionaire from selling her books on Amazon's Kindle. Our own Amy Huberman's bestseller is also available as an ebook. She is among a growing number of authors reaping the rewards of the new technological advances in publishing

I know for every success story there are countless self-published authors earning pennies; but it occurred to me that my book was sitting on my computer doing nothing, when it could be on Kindle, maybe doing something.

To a writer, each creation is like a child, and Earthlander was my first born, so it seemed only right to give the book a fighting chance, and then, if it did bomb spectacularly, at least I'd get to be self-righteous as only a loving parent can be and say: "See!? I told you you'd amount to nothing!"

So, what's involved? On one level, self-publishing is easy and free, but on the other hand, it's not quite as straightforward and there may be some costs to get it right:

The good book?

First, you need a polished piece of work. Having a book published in the traditional way means you have an editorial team to help get the most out of your story, and check for typos. Obviously, with an ebook you're on your own. Some authors will pay to have their book professionally edited, or you can rely on the constructive feedback of friends and family.

Making the conversion

In my innocence, I thought publishing my book would be as simple as logging on to Amazon and uploading the Word document. Alas, no. Getting the formatting right can be tricky. You can download an ebook conversion programme from the internet, such as Calibre, which will do the job with varying results, or you can learn HTML and re-format the book yourself (this is apparently easier than it sounds and there are online tutorials available).

I didn't have the time or patience for any of the above, so I opted to pay an ebook conversion company to do it for me. Yes, this option means you have to pay money before you make money, but nobody will read or recommend a badly formatted book.

People DO judge a book by its cover

Cover art for ebooks is often overlooked, but is really important; it is the first contact that readers will have with your work, so you want it to look as professional as possible. In my case, I contacted an animator friend, Paul McGrath of Whackala, and asked him to quote for designing the cover. Instead he suggested a barter: he would do the cover for me, if I wrote a new script for one of his projects, so it worked out well for both of us.

The price is right

When deciding how much to charge, there are different schools of thought. Some say that it's best to price your book at the minimum 99c to get people interested and then, when you start to sell a few, increase the price. My thoughts were, if people will spend ¤3 on a latte, then it seems reasonable to expect them to pay the same for a good book. The choice is yours.

Shameless self-promotion

Even with a 'properly' published book, getting into print is only the beginning; both emerging and established authors have to get out there and promote their product, and ebooks are no different. Use social-networking sites to promote your book, set up a dedicated website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account or write a blog; anything and everything necessary to raise your profile.

Why self-publish?

> Kindle is Amazon's bestselling product and over Christmas 2011 sales tripled, around a million devices were being sold a week. Amazon recently reported that ebooks are now outselling print books on its website.

> You can receive as much as 70pc royalty of the sale from each book -- self-publishers will make more from selling a €2.99 ebook, than they will from selling a €9.99 print book. Some established authors, (such as Barry Eisler, who reportedly walked away from a deal worth half a million), are now turning their backs on publishing houses because they can make more on their own.

> You are not at the mercy of a publisher or agent -- you don't have to endure lengthy waits in 'the slush pile'. YOU make it happen.

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