I didn't come to my decision on a soapbox ranting about the evils of NY publishing. I had - and still have - a great agent - and I've had four books traditionally published, including the one I have just self-pubbed in paperback. My first three books were hard/soft with MacMillan. Originally Slugfest, the fourth book in the series was to have been released in paperback by the hardcover publisher. There it was...listed on Amazon with a March 29, 2012 release date. My agent and editor confirmed it. I planned Spring 2012 accordingly.
And then, I got the news that they had changed their minds. O-kaaaayyyy. The reasons are varied and are best told at the bar at Bouchercon, but I didn't see why I shouldn't try my hand at self-publishing. All of the others had had some life as pbs. I wouldn't have the advantage of publishing the ebook, the original publisher had retained those rights, so I wouldn't be able to give my book away for free or sell it for .99 and then claim it was a bestseller. I was going the route that conventional wisdom said was a dead end - trade paperback publishing.
I investigated both Lightning Source and CreateSpace and truth be told their numbers, offers and potential were very similar. I chose CreateSpace because their website was slightly easier for me to negotiate, but that might not be the same for everyone.
They offered three cover design options which basically allow you to have as much or as little help designing your cover as you like. I took the middle road. I found the artwork, wrote the back cover copy and communicated via email with a designer who made numerous changes at my request. I'm pretty happy with the cover although if I had it to do over I might have made the title bigger (tough to do with an eight letter word but elongated type might have helped.)
Then I had to decide on price. If I wanted to avail myself of CS's Expanded Distribution (and not lose money on every book sold) I'd need a cover price of $11.99. Expanded distribution would enable me to be listed on Baker&Taylor's website and Ingram's. There was also the possibility of a sale to B&N. But no guarantees. And no salesperson except for me. And I'd be busy trying to let consumers know that the book was now available in paperback. If I said no to Expanded Distribution, I could go out with an $8.99 price point - more consumer friendly and more competitive with other cozy or light mystery titles - and it was trade, not mass market sized. So that's what I did. I felt it was a longshot that B&N was going to carry the reprint and most libraries that wanted the book had bought it in hardcover. I am sorry the book isn't going to be available through independent bookstores, but it wasn't going to be anyway (if I hadn't self-pubbed.)
The CreateSpace process was remarkable. Fast, easy and responsive to my frequent calls and emails. (There is a system in place that let's you click a button that says Call Me Now! and dang if someone doesn't call you about your book.)My out of pocket costs were about $500 - the lion's share of that being cover design, $350, so it could have been a lot less.
And it seemed to me that was a reasonable price to pay to learn if any of the promotional activities, social media, mailings, etc. I was doing were generating sales or if it was all still about being on the front table at Barnes & Noble. Few things compare to getting that kind of exposure, but I'd only had that for one of my previous books anyway (Pushing Up Daisies) and over time the paperbacks had sold so why not try it for my self-pubbed book?
In the last two weeks since the book went live on Amazon, I've solicited reviews, written a few guest blogs, and sent out a newsletter and press release (cross your fingers that the fellow from the Washington Post likes it as much as he liked the first book which went into a second printing. And that Garrison Keillor actually reads it, likes it and chats it up!!)
I've also sent an email to about fifty writing pals asking for help in getting the word out. I confess that was a little awkward but I was absolutely heartened by the response I got (and I will flog forever books written by those authors who were kind enough to give me a shout-out!)
So that's where I am. I try not to obsessively check my CreateSpace or Amazon number but I am human. ;-) One interesting side note, sales of my first three books have seen a little spike since I started yakking about Slugfest.
I have very realistic and modest sales expectations for the book. If the shelf life of a traditionally released paperback is somewhere between milk and yogurt, I'm told a self-pubbed release is more like good scotch - but I certainly hope the book doesn't take 12-20 years to sell! I will make a determination on the success or failure of the project at the end of the year. And then we'll see. I still hope to have my WIP traditionally published, but I am keeping my options open.
So.. as Dr. Pangloss might say....any questions?