Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

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What’s The Real Cost of #SelfPublishing?

More and more writers are looking at self-publishing as a viable alternative to the aging and unresponsive traditional path.

And, if you really want to go deep into this new way of getting books to readers (and its many ways of being described) you could visit the 142 articles I’ve written about self-publishing

But, the title up there asks about cost….

Not just money—cost.

I’ll be comparing two different companies soon—companies that I would call Publishing-Aid Corporations—and you can begin to sense the wide range of monetary costs.

But, then there are the emotional costs, and the social costs, and the time costs

Naturally, traditional publishing has costs, too.

In spite of the advances offered to the lucky few writers accepted for publication by traditional companies, there are still emotional, social, and time costs—costs which can often be severe

So, in my estimation, the basic difference between self- and traditional publishing (after all cost considerations) is who owns the rights of the book:

Traditional—they own the rights.

Self—you own them.

And, rights mean you decide what happens to your book

I can hear a few readers thinking, “But, so what if I own the rights if nobody buys the book?”.

I’ll direct you to the thousands of authors who were accepted by a traditional house, had the book placed on the shelves of brick-and-mortar stores, and, in about two months, had them removed from the shelves, never to return

Either major method of book publishing has no iron-clad guarantees for sales and no magic formulas for success.

If you doubt my last sentence, please refer to my article, What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

Here’s one quote from that article:

“The average U.S. book is now [2011] selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.”

And, the last five years haven’t made things better

Plus, focusing on self-publishing, I offer a quote (from a man who knows what he’s talking about) from my article, Author Earnings:

“The forces that determine a book’s sales performance are often multi-dimensional, synergistic, opaque, delayed or simply not apparent.”

And, that same man (who’s the Founder of Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks) also says:

“We cannot promise you your book will sell well, even if you follow all the tips in this guide. In fact, most books, both traditionally published and self-published, don’t sell well. Whether your book is intended to inspire, inform or entertain, millions of other books and media forms are competing against you for your prospective reader’s ever-shrinking pie of attention.”

So, why publish?

If it’s to make money, the odds are slim to none.

Sure, you can study Amazon’s bestsellers, work really hard to copy the style of writing in some of that genre fiction, pay $1,000 for a remarkable cover, and upload it.

Still, no guarantees of any earnings

If you want to assure yourself that a book you’ve written from your heart and soul (something that might be very hard to stick in a genre…) reaches readers who care about it, and you aren’t looking to make money from it, you just might satisfy that goal; but, you’ll have to work your tail off self-promoting (even if a traditional publisher happens to take the book…).

Of course, if you’re exceeding wealthy and/or fantastically famous, you can forget everything I’m saying

So, for the rest of us mere mortals, we can suffer the years of rejections from the big houses and still sell very few books or we can self-publish and still sell very few books

So, why publish?

I guess we’re down to faith—faith in the writing you must do—faith in your ability to find readers—faith that humanity holds together long enough for someone to buy your book

O.K., I’ve tried to scare you away from publishing but you’re still reading

Monetary Cost

Traditional publishing—apparently none


It varies, depending on many factors

I’ll give you two very different situations that characterize some of the more rational options.

In an article on Publishing PerspectivesWhat Does Self-Publishing Cost? The UK’s Reedsy Reads the Receipts—you can see what the services offered through one Publishing-Aid Corporation cost; but their reason for the costs are interesting…

Here are just a few excerpts from that article:

“Debates have raged for years in the charred channels of indie-author blog-and-gossip sites about what one should be prepared to pay in order to have a book professionally edited and designed for the marketplace.”

““A full edit on an 80,000-word manuscript,” Reedsy’s article tells us, “is likely going to cost you US$3,300.”

“Cover design, Reedsy’s research on its transactions tells us, runs an average $700, with 66 percent of the designers’ quotes running between $200 and $800.”

“Book interior design can be costlier, at an average $840, and up to $1,000.”

Reedsy is a “broker” of services for writers and, before any considerations of distribution or what it will cost to promote a book, they say you need to spend around $5,000 dollars for “…a book professionally edited and designed for the marketplace.”

I beg to differ

My self-published novel, Notes from An Alien, was released (in both print and e-book and distributed to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Ingram) for $300.

Yes, the company I worked with had services similar to Reedsy; but, I didn’t have and couldn’t save more than what I spent

I must say that I learned a few things about book preparation without “professional” help

The book was edited by an English graduate student—no cost—she only wanted credit in the book.

Over about the first three years of the book’s life, various folk found a total of 8 typos and I found 4 errors-of-author-judgement.

I created the cover.

Yet, still, a reputable author, who was traditionally published, read my book (noticed no typos) and says it looks, feels, and reads like a professionally produced book

Here comes that wisdom that begins with “If I could do it all over…”:

I still would have self-published the way I did; I still would have had the editing done by the same woman; but, first, I would have passed the manuscript around more to help catch typos and errors-of-author-judgement, then uploaded the chapters to Wattpad to generate reader interest pre-publication.

As it is, I’ve uploaded it to Wattpad (the fully corrected version) and I’m promoting it by reading other folks and commenting and voting on their works—they, in turn, might read my book

I also work my tail off on this blog and have a link to the book up at the top of this page.

Yep, it says Free Novel and I hope, before you think I’m crazy for giving it away, you read my past post, Free = Sales ~ Give It Away & Sell More…

But, please don’t forget that “sell more” doesn’t automatically mean hundreds or thousands

So, who used to publish and distribute my novel? {I’ve since gone total Indie}


I recommend that you (and I’m assuming you have the faith and enterprise it takes to bring a book into the world) go read FastPencil’s article, Author Worry: “How Much Does It REALLY Cost To Publish?”.
If you don’t see a way to comment (or, “reply”) after this post, try up there at the top right…
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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Get Free E-books during Read An E-book Week :-)

“Read an Ebook Week kicks off this Sunday.  Smashwords is again sponsoring the event for the sixth year running. Read An E-book Weel 2014

“Thousands of Smashwords authors will offer free and deep-discounted titles starting Sunday March 2 and running through Saturday March 8.”

Readers—Visit the catalog page of participating titles — “nearly 40,000 multi-format books regularly priced at free, and thousands more that are free or deep-discounted for one week only.” [the page will be active Sunday, March 2nd]

Or, check out “Apple iBooks – For iPhone, iPad and iTunes users, a click on this link brings up a great selection of FREE ebooks at the Apple iBooks store [you need to have iTunes installed for that link to work], organized by categories such as Featured Titles, Fiction & Literature, Non-Fiction, Children & Teens, Romance, Mysteries & Thrillers, Sci-fi & Fantasy, Biographies & Memoirs, Arts & Entertainment and more.” 

Or, “Barnes & Noble – A neat and well-organized collection of thousands of free ebooks organized primarily around Fiction, Romance, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and Mystery.”

And, “Diesel Ebook Store – Offers over 20,000 books (many of them from Smashwords) in the epub format, but they’re not well-organized and cannot be browsed by subject category.”

All quotes above are from the Smashwords Blog:-)
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GRAB A FREE COPY of Notes from An Alien

How I published my book for next to nothing and what you can spend money on, if you want.

There are scads of “expert” estimates out there for how much an author must spend to self-publish.

I spent $300

I did my own cover art (check it out) and found a woman with her Masters in English to edit.

Folks say the book turned out very well and it only had 12 typos—soon to spend $300 more to correct those and make a few adjustments to the text.

So, $600—print and e-book editions—distributed to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Ingram. And, all the royalties are paid in one quarterly check.

Many folks spend lots more and I’m not going to say they shouldn’t.

Actually, this post isn’t to sell the services of FastPencil to you—it’s just that many other companies will charge WAY more—though, there should be other companies that will meet the costs indicated below…

In fact, you can work with my publishing-aid company, FastPencil, and spend lots more than I did

Notice the Free options in Distribution & Marketing.
~~~ what follows is from FastPencil’s site:

Project Setup     Send us your manuscript in digital format (MS Word, etc.) and we will import it into FastPencil, setup the book project and get all the chapters and sections organized for you. This is a great way to jumpstart your book project and get closer to publishing.
$299     Up to 100,000 words
Up to 20 images

Manual Price Change     If you published your Book or eBook into wide distribution and would now like to change the price, you can now do that without having to republish. Just purchase this manual price change service and let us know what you want the new price to be.
$149     One-time price change

Custom Cover Spread Override     If you want to use your own custom cover spread, including spine design, you must purchase a cover override. This allows us to override the system and upload your own cover spread. Use this service when you have your own ISBN and barcode, or if you want total control over your book cover spread.     $199     One-time upload of final cover spread

Cover Design
Basic Design — one image, one color, standard fonts. Includes title, sub-title, author name on the front cover. ISBN and barcode placement, author image and description on the back cover. You may provide front cover image, author image and ideas. Up to two revisions if necessary. *Cost of photos and stock imagery is extra.
Sr. Designer, 2 initial versions, 2 rounds of revisions, front cover jpeg, back cover jpeg, Email support

Premium Design — multiple images, colors and fonts. Includes title, sub-title, author name on the front cover. ISBN and barcode placement, author image and description on the back cover. You may provide front cover image, author image and ideas. Up to two revisions if necessary. *Cost of photos and stock imagery is extra.

Cover Design Specialist, Phone Support, 3 initial versions, 3 rounds of revisions, front cover jpeg, back cover jpeg, Email support
Illustration — Black & White
Clean B&W     Evocative line art to enhance, magnify, and support your text. Takes 6 to 12 weeks.
$139     Single
$749     Package of 6
$1,149     Package of 10

Fine B&W     Line art with shadows, more detailed backgrounds, and more complexity.
$159     Single Illustration
$829     Package of 6
$1,429     Package of 10

Illustration — Custom Color
Clean Color     Full color art to add interest and excitement to your book. Takes 6 to 12 weeks.
$179     Single Illustration
$899     Package of 6
$1,589     Package of 10

Fine Color     Adds more shadows, highlights, detailed backgrounds, and visual complexity.
$209     Single Illustration
$1,099     Package of 6
$1,829     Package of 10

Meticulous Color     Adds more nuanced color, full textures, dimensionality, and visual richness.
$239     Single Illustration
$1,499     Package of 6
$2,429     Package of 10

Editing and Formatting
If you’re using the color layout tool, please email us for a custom quote.

Edit Review     A professional copy editor reviews your book to give you invaluable advice. Edit review provides summary feedback on the work as a whole. It does not include detailed spelling/grammar edits.
$299     Flat

Line Editing     Thorough examination of your manuscript for errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The editor will also review syntax and word choice and provide suggestions for improving the overall readability of the work.
$0.039     Per Word, 2-3 week time frame

Advanced Editorial     Advanced Editing – Tailored review of story ideas, plot development, suggestions for improvement of the work as a whole. This also includes line editing of your work.
$0.076     Per Word, 8-10 weeks

Premium Formatting     Correction of errors and inconsistencies in spacing, indents, fonts, headers, footers, numbering, table of contents, and content ordering. Placement of a maximum of ten author-supplied images. Up to 50,000 words.
$399     Formatting does not correct typos, misspellings, incorrect wording, incorrect punctuation, or other editorial issues.

Distribution & Marketing
Private     For your eyes only.

FastPencil Marketplace     Your book will be available for sale on the FastPencil Marketplace and you will be able to buy and sell copies online.

Wide Distribution     Your book will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, iPad, Nook, Ingram, etc. If you just publish one format, like eBook only
$249.     both eBook and print $299

PR Packages
PR Basic     Draft press release, up to 400 words – Ensure wire distribution for book SEO

PR Media Outreach     Draft press release – Ensure wire distribution for book SEO – Create targeted media list – Outreach to about 40 media and discuss book review/giveaway opportunities – Manage getting books to media – Follow up with the media

PR Media Outreach & Social Media     Draft press release Buy – Ensure wire distribution for Now book SEO – Create targeted media list – Outreach to about 40 media and discuss book review/giveaway opportunities – Manage getting books to media – Follow up with the media

Post-publishing ScreenPlay Packages provided by our Partners, Voyage Media
Book-To-Screen: Producer’s Action Plan — The first-of-its kind Producer’s Action Plan is your first step toward having your material adapted (and considered!) for screen.
Your Producer’s Action Plan Includes:
3-5 pages of in-depth studio-quality description & analysis that helps producers identify your novel’s strengths
A compelling logline written to entice potential buyers
Suggested adaptation format (Movie, TV, Web) based on thorough knowledge of industry wants & needs
Market analysis & strategic recommendations for what to do next
…and last but not least, the real possibility of a very big break:
Your book will also be reviewed & considered by active producers looking for content like yours.

Book-To-Screen: Treatment     Written by professional screenwriters, the Book-To-ScreenTreatment is a thorough outline of your novel’s screen adaptation and the best way to share your vision with industry decision makers.
Your Treatment Includes:
A 7-10 page scene-by-scene story, outlining how your material might be adapted into a full-length screenplay
Up to 3 “loglines” that quickly capture the attention of potential buyers
Screenwriter’s mission and rationale fully explaining creative choices made in the adaptation process
Producer-guided notes during the treatment writing process
Evaluation & consideration by a credited producer looking for projects in your genre or style

Book-To-Screen: Screenplay     The screenplay is the ultimate creative blueprint for a film, TV show or digital adaptation. It’s what producers use to attach top actors & directors, raise money for production, and obtain distribution.
Your Screenplay Includes:
Full-length, professionally-written & market-ready screenplay that translates your story for the screen.
Length depends on medium of production (film, TV, digital, stage) & genre (comedy, drama, horror, etc.) – up to 120 pages or more
Two rounds of rewrites to maintain a high standard of excellence
Final draft incorporates your own detailed punch-list of notes to ensure that your original vision is intact
Evaluation & consideration by a credited producer looking for projects in your genre or style
Prerequisite: In order to qualify for one of Voyage Media’s Screenplays, you must first order either the Producer’s Action Plan OR the Treatment.
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

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My Favorite Publishing-Aid Company Has Become An Even Better Choice

When I first self-published, I used Lulu.

Never again, since my experience of publishing Notes from An Alien with the help of FastPencil.

If you want a quick look at FastPencil’s features and benefits, read the post FastPencil ~ Funny Name, Dynamite Publishing-Aid Company and, if you want more detail, watch the video in that post :-)

Recently, FastPencil was acquired by Courier Corporation, “…America’s third largest book manufacturer and a leader in content management and customization in new and traditional media.”

FastPencil says this about the acquisition:

“…the agreement gives FastPencil authors access to Courier’s nationwide publishing sales force and relationships with thousands of retailers, from major booksellers to museums, crafts shops and gift stores. ‘We are thrilled to be joining forces with Courier’, said FastPencil co-founder and CEO Steve Wilson. ‘In doing so, we are not only gaining a world-class print partner, but also enabling our authors to reach out to a far wider audience and increase their potential sales by an order of magnitude.'”

So, I’m still trying to absorb what this means for me as an author and will report what I discover

Then, Ingram enters the picture

I was already familiar with Ingram because, along with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks, FastPencil distributes my books to Ingram—making them available to bookstores and libraries

Then, last month, Digital Journal published the press release, Courier Corporation and Ingram Content Group Form Strategic Relationship to Expand Publisher Services.

Here are a few excerpts from that release:

“Courier will use Ingram’s print-on-demand and digital distribution services, and Ingram will use Courier’s printing capabilities to streamline workflow and speed delivery to retailers and readers worldwide.”

“In addition, through Courier’s recent acquisition of FastPencil, thousands of self-publishers also stand to benefit by gaining access to capabilities previously reserved for the top of the industry.”

Whoot !! :-)

The glitter from acquisition and teaming-up will have to settle before I can figure out the increased benefits of working with FastPencil

Of course, self-publishing has been around a long time—the digital variety not so long.

Check out this paragraph from an Ooligan Press article:

“Ben Franklin used letter press and was first and foremost a self-publisher, even though he’s more famous as an inventor and statesman.  William Blake published his own work, too. Virginia Woolf had her own press, publishing much of her own work. Powell’s City of Books has in its Rare Books room a very valuable copy of Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables published by Virginia Woolf.”

So, if anyone should try to disparage self-publishing, you now have a few names you can drop :-)
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
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