Some time ago, I investigated Indie publishing, particularly the publishing of Print on Demand (POD) books with CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. This investigation and my own experiences with it were most illuminating, and I thought I might share my discoveries with you on this site.
If you’ve already published a POD book, stop reading now, I won’t have anything new to tell you. If you haven’t, gird your loins, and read on.
For most writers, the journey into indie publishing follows a certain pattern. First, we have:
1. The Sylvan Glades of Writing the Novel, where the Wellsprings of Hope bubble to cheer the fiction writer on his/her way. The writer thinks the going is tough, but they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Emerging from this glade, the writer who chooses to indie publish must traverse:
2. The Desert of the Last Copy-edit, a fearsome place littered with the bones of writers who didn’t know what they were doing with commas.
3. The Fork in the Track, where the writer must decide whether to do only an e book (much cheaper, and easier on the nerves), or to take their courage in hand and rapell into:
4. The Dizzying POD Chasm. Should the writer choose to do only an e book, Nos 6-10 will still apply, but they will, to some extent, avoid:
5. The Slough of Despond, where the writer realises that s/he must either format the print book themselves or pay someone else to do it. Even if they decide to pay someone, as I did, they will still have to traverse:
6. The Forest of Dread, where they must choose two categories for their novel. A great deal is riding on their choice, especially the novel’s findability. Having negotiated this forest, and there is no way around it, the writer comes to:
7. The Hill of Bewilderment, where s/he must choose seven keywords which Amazon buyers might (the operative word here is might) use to discover the writer’s novel — again, very important for the novel’s findability. After this, they arrive at:
8. The Lakes of Confusion, where they must set a price for their beloved novel and try to understand Amazon’s royalties system. If, after this, the men in white haven’t taken our writer away, s/he must then cross:
9. The Bridge of Tears, where, if s/he is a non-US resident, s/he must attempt to prevent the US Internal Revenue from taking 30% of his or her earnings. To do this, she must do battle with monsters ITIN, W-7 and W-8 BEN. Easiest way out? Long distance call the US Taxation Department and get an EIN. It’s worth the money; without one you’ll continue to pay the dreaded 30%. Finally, the writer comes to:
10. The Well of Disappointment, which s/he quaffs while contemplating the novel’s sales figures. If you think I’m being unnecessarily gloomy here, Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords says that, for most writers, the average number of e books sold per title is 100.
What does all this mean? In a nutshell it means that the average indie writer/producer of a POD book will be flat out getting their money back. There are hidden costs to producing a POD book. These exist regardless of whether the newbie writer outsources, or designs the cover and interior themselves. But oh! the thrill of holding a print book in your hands, there’s nothing like it.
So you see I didn’t write this to put you off, but rather to warn you that indie publishing can be a hard journey.
Forewarned is forearmed.
So they say.