Friday, 21 December 2012

The Unpocalypse (Or how I never learnt to love self-publishing, and how to avoid my pain...)

Many of us wondered if this end of a Mayan era would mean the end of the world. Some people even built bunkers and stored provisions to last them months and years. 

But, as of 00:00 on the 22nd December 2012, we’re still here.

This is good news for numerous reasons, not least being that my novella, Everything’s Cool is now available on Amazon –

It’s fitting that Everything’s Cool should be available now. After all, it’s about a man who believes he knows how the world is going to end, and his struggles to save it. It’s a dark, paranoid but occasionally funny story and, at only 99p/99c on Kindle, not an expensive way to spend a bit of time over the post-Unpocalypse holiday season, or ‘Happy Unpocalypse-mas!’

But, the journey to launching Everything’s Cool wasn’t exactly smooth. I’m not talking about writer’s block, broken computers, plot-thread-losing or anything like that. I’m talking about actual self-publishing.

Because there are a LOT of things I didn’t know about self-publishing that I know now.

1)   It takes a long time – not just faffing around with it all, but allowing time for covers to be designed and formatted correctly, time for the PoD company (createspace in my case) to review and approve (up to 48 hours), time for Amazon to review and approve the Kindle version (up to 24 hours) and, if you go that way, time to allow a company (Webulous in my case) to convert your book to kindle format… because…

2)   Formatting a book to meet the various requirements of PoD and Amazon is hard work. For a start, you really want to be writing your book in one of the accepted paper and kindle fonts (EG: Garamond). Check what is acceptable and use it. You also probably want to be writing the entire book on one of the pre-approved PoD company’s templates, because it’s not fun having to cut/paste it all in to a template and then fighting with formatting for days.

3)   Images have to be 200 DPI. Covers have to be a certain size and format. I had NO idea about this and my luddite brain got all confused.

4)   Turns out embedding is a thing when it comes to publishing – images need to be embedded, odd fonts need to be embedded etc. Yeah, news to me too. This one is particularly difficult if you use a mac, so…

5)   Don’t use a mac. The PoD companies (at present) don’t work well with macs and they don’t seem to handle the formatting well, nor do they ‘embed’ things – what they do do is PDF via Preview, but that seemed to mean I lost my footer/header and page numbers. And the first 3 letters of every line on every other page. True story. I moved to a PC and it was fine. I don’t often say that.

6)   It can actually be expensive – a book cover design can cost a lot of money.  Mine wasn’t cheap, but it is amazing (Thanks to the prodigiously talented Nathanel Rouillard - And, if you are defeated by kindle formatting (due to points 3, 4 and 5 in my case) that can cost as well – US companies were charging $250. Webulous substantially less.

7)   Royalties – WTF basically. Amazon offers you two options: 35% or 70%. It seems stupid to not go for 70% but, actually, that ties you in to things and means you can’t price how you want. Something to consider.

8)   And this is the big one – ROYALTIES PART II – If you use createspace, or any other US-based PoD company (I suspect you will) you will need a US TAX CODE, or ITIN. Otherwise, the US Government takes 30% of all your royalties. Getting an ITIN (Individual Taxation Identification Number) takes 2-4 months and requires you sending your passport to America, or going to the US Embassy in London. It’s a pain, so you want to get it done

9)   The US Embassy doesn’t let you take phones in, even if they’re turned off. Or kindles, or USB sticks, or computers, or iPods, or iPads or anything else. Their security was tight to say the least. I arrived, left my phone with my friend Helen (thank you Helen!) and blithely wandered in. Stopped by an x-ray machine, told I couldn’t bring in my Kindle, iPod or USB sticks. Went back outside, handed them to Helen (thank you Helen!), and back to security.

Then I went back inside. And was told to take off my coat.
And take off my suit jacket.
And take off my belt.
And take off my shoes.
And I honestly started to worry where this was going.

Then I had to empty all my pockets, take off my watch etc. And get patted down for weapons.

THEN they inspected my watch for about a minute to make sure it wasn’t a bomb. It wasn’t, it was a timepiece, so they let me in.

10)  It’s sort of AMAZING when you finally see your book on Amazon. And you know it was all you, and you got it done. You wrote it, you worked with people to make it as good as it can be, and you uploaded it on to Amazon.

It’s been one of the best things I’ve done this year.
Though I’m not sure I’d ever want to go through the hours and hours of holding my head in my hands as the formatting goes wrong again, or another font turn into freaking Times New Roman. But, I don’t regret doing it, and every time I see that really cool cover and I think “That’s my book, that,” I’m rather proud of myself.

So, I thought the world might end while I was going through the purgatorial experiences of self-publishing. And I’ve tried to remember all the pain points so that my Dante-like journey can be a lesson to others.

But, the world didn’t end and I came out of my self-publishing Inferno with a little book all of my own.

It’s not as easy as people say, but if you really want to get your book out there, and the agents aren’t biting (too long, too short, too dark, too much like a book, not enough like a lemon, needs more vampires) then you should definitely consider it.

In the meantime, celebrate the Unpocalypse with a mince pie, a glass of mulled wine and Stan’s dark, dangerous and paranoid mission to save the world he hates from the apocalypse he has always known would come...

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