My friend Cally Jackson recently self-published her amazing New Adult novel, “The Big Smoke,” and I since I had about a million questions about the self-publishing process, I begged her to answer at least a few of them. If you’re considering self-pubbing, or if you’re just interested in what all goes into it, check out my Q&A with her below. And, of course, check out “The Big Smoke.”
Why did you decide to self-publish?
I decided not to query agents or publishers with The Big Smoke because I knew the novel couldn’t be easily categorized, which is a turn-off for traditional publishers. It’s also longer than their desired word count for a first time author (about 130,000 words). Plus, the idea of being in complete control of the publishing process really appealed to me. You can read more about this in a post I wrote earlier this year — why I’ve decided to go indie — if you’re interested.
What factors did you have to consider (finding an editor and cover designer, etc.) and how have you addressed these things?
I had to consider all of the above factors and more. Finding an editor was particularly challenging for me. I had a few sample edits done by different editors, but their suggested changes seemed to work against the story’s narrative voice rather than with it.
I was starting to get a little worried when I received a sample edit back from an editor named Ken Spillman. His suggestions were fantastic. I felt like he “got” the characters and narrative tone, and his suggestions helped take me closer to achieving my overall goals with the novel. I went with Ken for the copy edit and didn’t regret that decision for a second.
How did I find potential editors? Good, old Google. Would you believe, Ken actually responded to a tweet I sent out asking for recommendations of good editors. Who says social media isn’t useful?!
The story of finding my cover designer is much more simple — he was one of my beta readers! It was wonderful to work with someone who’d read the book because it meant he had a great idea of the characters and what look would best match the feel of the story.
Where/how is your book available and how did you decide what mediums to use?
“The Big Smoke” is available to buy:
- In paperback from my blog (Australia and New Zealand) or Amazon (rest of the world). I’m also currently in negotiations to have it stocked in some local bookstores (in Brisbane, Australia)
- In e-book format from Smashwords, Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Diesel and other e-stores.
I did a lot of research when deciding how to publish “The Big Smoke.” I looked into a number of self publishing service providers but for the amount they charge and the services they offer, I decided I was better off DIY-ing it.
To produce the paper copy, I went with Createspace’s on-demand service, which allows me to order small quantities (e.g. 25) for a reasonable price. Although it would be a lot cheaper per unit to print with an offset printer, their minimum quantity is in the thousands, and I didn’t want to outlay that much initially nor take on that much risk — or garage space.
I would have loved to use a local Australian printer, but unfortunately they just didn’t compete with Createspace in terms of price, quality and flexibility. I hope this changes in the future.
I also weighed the benefits and drawbacks of Createspace versus Lightning Source, which offers a similar print-on-demand service, but the “hand holding” and free ISBN Createspace offers appealed to me.
For my e-book version, I used Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (for distribution to Amazon) and Smashwords (for distribution to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Kobo and Sony).
To format the book for both paper copy and e-book, and to set up all of the publishing accounts I needed, I followed the step-by-step advice of a book titled Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. I’d recommend that book to anyone considering using Createspace, Kindle Direct Publishing and/or Smashwords as the author takes you through the process in intricate detail, which is immensely helpful. She doesn’t cover other providers though, so if you publish with someone else, this book won’t be very useful for you!
How are you promoting the book?
I’m using a number of approaches to market the book, both online and offline. In the lead up to releasing the book, I…
- Revealed the book cover on my blog and others (including this one — thanks again for helping, Laura!)
- Sent out Advanced Review Copies to people interested in reading and reviewing the book
- Set up an author page on Goodreads so eager beavers could add “The Big Smoke” to their to-read lists
- Set up a pre-order page for hard copies for Aussies on my blog
Since releasing the book, I have:
- Held a real, life book launch party. More than 60 people came along, listened to a reading from the book, and bought a copy. Photos can be found on my Facebook page.
- Toured the blogosphere, guest posting and/or being interviewed on a number of different writing or reading-related blogs. That’s what brings me here today!
- Hosted a blogfest for people to share memories about the year they turned 18. Every participant got a discounted e-copy of “The Big Smoke” and went in the draw to win a $20 Amazon voucher
- Started conversations with local bookstores about stocking “The Big Smoke.”
Earlier this week, “The Big Smoke” was announced as the debut book for a New Adult Online Book Club by NA Alley, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how that unfolds.
Once my blog tour is over (and after I get some sleep), I’m going to continue to send out review copies to interested peeps (including local media), approach more local bookstores, and contact high school libraries to see if they’d be interested in having an author visit.
It’s a little too early to say which promotional efforts have been most effective, but I’m keeping a close on everything and will share my learnings on my blog as the situation progresses.
What have been the greatest challenges you’ve faced so far?
Time management. I knew that indie publishing would take a lot of time, but I didn’t realize quite how much! My workload in my day job peaked around the same time as I launched my book and I’m also in my third trimester of pregnancy, so managing my time and my energy levels has been quite a challenge.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced on my self-publishing journey happened only a couple of weeks ago, when I had to confront the possibility of having a book launch with no books. Createspace’s website says that you can ship books to Australia within three working days, but when I tried to place my order on Tues., Oct. 16, for my book launch on Sat., Oct. 27, the estimated arrival date was Wed., Oct., 31. Um, excuse me?! I knew that the three working days didn’t include printing, but I didn’t think that printing could account for the extra seven working days Createspace was saying it would take for my order to reach me.
I sent a (slightly panicked) e-mail to Createspace explaining the situation, and they essentially said there was nothing they could do because they don’t guarantee timeframes for wholesale orders. What the?! Where exactly does it say THAT on your website?! Panic stations!
And, of course, because Australia and America’s time zones are so different, I received this email at 2 a.m. Naturally, I woke my husband up so we could try to figure out what to do. We discussed postponing the launch, trying to find a local printer who could print the books within the timeframe, going ahead with the launch without the books (my husband’s crazy idea), but eventually we discovered that if we placed several orders of smaller quantities, it would bring the delivery date forward to Fri., Oct. 26 — the day before the launch. Cutting it very fine, but that was our best option. So, at about 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning, we placed four orders and went to sleep. One of those shipments arrived on Friday and the rest arrived on Monday. Crisis averted! Thank goodness! The lesson I took from this experience? Don’t rely on advertised shipping times. Order as soon as you possibly can!
What advice do you have for someone considering going the self-pub route?
I have three main pieces of advice:
- Be aware that you will need to commit a great deal of time to the process to do it justice. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my self-publishing journey (except for the 2 a.m. crisis!), but it has consumed a LOT of my time and energy. You need to be prepared to not only be the author, but to also be the typesetter, the proofreader, the accountant, the distributor, the publicist… and the list goes on.
- Engage professionals to help you along the way. A lot of self-published books have great potential but are let down by poor editing or an unprofessional cover — or both. To give your book the best chance of success, it’s worth paying for these two services. If you try to cut corners in these areas, it will show. If you’re not confident in other areas, consider getting help for them as well.
- Enjoy the journey! Try to take a step back every once in a while and look at what you’ve accomplished. Self-publishing is hard work, but if you commit to doing it properly, it’s very rewarding. Best of luck!
About ‘The Big Smoke’
Ceara’s desperate for love; Seb’s desperate to get laid. Ceara adores reading novels; Seb hasn’t finished a book in years. Two strangers, both moving from small country towns to Brisbane – the big smoke. As they prepare to attend the same university, their paths seem set to collide, but they keep missing each other. Maybe fate is keeping them apart, or maybe it’s just chance.
When the semester starts, things get complicated. Ceara’s best friend withdraws from her, Seb’s closest mate turns into a sleazebag, and the relentless demands of university make their stress levels soar. Before their first semester is over, both Seb and Ceara will be forced to question who they are and what they want from their lives. Will they have the courage to find the answers, or will they crumble under the pressure? And when they finally meet, will it be love at first sight or a collision of headstrong personalities?
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