How hard is it and what does it cost to self-publish?

I’ve been asked over and over, and I’ve answered a million questions about it in the last year. Honestly? It’s not hard at all. All it takes is patience and a little bit of computer skill.

As for what it costs? It can cost a lot, or it can cost you nothing, depending on your choice. I published with no out of pocket cost. I’ve rolled profits back in, but I paid nothing to start. Of course, this means you’re doing everything you would be paying someone else to yourself, or finding a way to trade services.

I use several beta-readers, and my writing group, to find plot holes, grammar and spelling issues (we all know that Word doesn’t catch it all, and the grammar software isn’t designed for fiction.) I took photos myself to use as covers.  Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t go back an change my covers… I’m considering doing that before the next Kitsune book comes out (not Hunt, but book number four.) But at the time, money was an issue, I didn’t have anything to spend, so I found a way to make a eye catching cover without spending a lot. And I do all my formatting myself. It’s really not that hard, it just takes time, a little knowledge about Word (or the ability to look up how to) and patience, because you’ll go over and over and over it.

So, let me explain how I went about it.

My first release was CHANGE, with ESCAPE only a couple weeks later. I opted to go eBook only at first. Why? Because ebooks are cheap, and sell well, and I could publish them entirely for free. I did a lot of research and opted to distribute through KDP for Amazon, and Smashwords for everywhere else (Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Deisel, Sony, Etc.) I looked into KDP Select but I didn’t like that you have to agree to be Amazon exclusive for at least 90 days, and the entire time you’re a part of Select. It’s like selling a tire, that will fit any car, only through one car dealership. It felt like I would be eliminating a lot of possible readers. I didn’t like it.

So I uploaded and started selling.

Smashwords had my books distributed to the different places with in two weeks, but I soon found that you can only monitor what sales are happening through their site. You have to wait for each retailer to report to Smashwords their sales, usually about once every 30 days, then you have to wait for them to pay Smashwords… If their payment hasn’t gotten there by the time Smashwords pays you (quarterly on a 30 day delay) then you wait until the next quarter. I don’t find the pay system ideal, but it’s livable. Besides, most traditional publishers cut checks once a year. The down side is, you can only look at how your sales are doing on a monthly basis.

KDP had my book on Amazon and for sale within 24 hours. I could log in and look at book sales in nearly real time. I loved that. Amazon pays, by direct deposit, monthly, on a 60 day delay. So you wait 90 days for the first deposit, and assuming you have $10 or more in sales, you get a deposit every month after that. I like that.

Anyway. After 3 months pass… I look at my retailer sales through Smashwords. I’m sold more books through Barnes and Noble than I did through Amazon in the same period. This made me happy that I chose not to go with KDP Select.

In mid-July I released FIGHT. (at the same time I put both Fight and Change in paperback, but I’ll get to that in a moment.) Initially I released it the same way I did the others through KDP and Smashwords, but a week or so after Fight was released I discovered Pub-it. This is to B&N what KDP is to Amazon. I did a lot of research and discovered that if I listed Change and Fight through B&N I would make slightly more per book (65% of the cover price rather than 60% through Smashwords. However, because of the price of Escape, I make more on it by putting it on B&N through Smashwords.) So I set everything up and moved the two books to the other service, making sure to elect not to send them there on Smashwords. Another big advantage, at least to me, is that I can see day-to-day sales on Pub-it. Also, Pub-it pays like Amazon, monthly on a 60 day delay.

Eight months later, I’m still getting more sales through B&N than through Amazon. So glad I opted against KDP Select.

As for paperback. I chose to go through Createspace (partly because I had a code for five free copies for winning NaNoWriMo in 2011) by the time I had it set up to get those, why not use them? I did all the formatting myself (actually I used their template and copy and pasted my content into it.) and used my photos for the cover, using the cover creator and templates they have on the site. It was pretty self-explanatory and easy. All it cost me was the cost of the copies I ordered to keep on hand and sell myself. I’m only listed on Amazon at the moment, but you can pay a fee of $25 per title and have them put in a catalog where other bookstores can order them. I just haven’t yet.

Honestly? I don’t sell much in the way of paperback. 95% of the paper copies I have sold, I sell myself, at book fairs and to friends and acquaintances.

So this is my experience. Did I miss anything? Did I not go into enough detail? Ask me what you want to know and I’ll try to fill in the blanks.


P.S. After this was published Barnes and Noble came out with Nook Press. Nook Press lets you upload your manuscript and make changes in the system, you have to set up your account as a vendor account, then you can publish to Nook, and, here’s the kicker, they also allow people outside the US to publish.