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Self–Publishing: How We’re Doing It

by Martin Willoughby
One of the most frustrating parts of being a writer is the endless merry-go-round of submission and rejection, so it's no wonder that some authors choose to self-publish.
     Some months ago, I and my writers group (North Herts Writer's Circle) decided to publish some work en masse on Kindle under the name Starfish Publishing. We were originally calling
ourselves a publishing house, but as there are only a few of us and three books to start with, we decided that publishing cupboard was a more appropriate term.
     The name was quickly decided upon, about five minutes as I recall, and then we had to make the next big decision: what books were we going to publish and when?
     I had a novel in progress, slow progress, two of our number had nearly complete novels and one had an idea for new one. Four novels would be a good start and we knew we could easily get enough material for a short story collection. Since then, two books have been pulled due to personal circumstances, but we still have enough for a launch of our publishing cupboard.
     What date? That was a reasonably simple decision. Late November so we could catch the Christmas rush. It also meant that we had a deadline for the two of us who were still writing novels.
     The format we decided on was Kindle for reasons of cost. Conversion to their format was simple, uploading it was free of charge and there would be no advance fees, just a deduction for each sale.
     In the US/Canada, there are more possibilities, such as Smashwords, but in the UK we are more limited. In theory we could've used Smashwords, but none of us have dollar accounts. For an Amazon sale this is not a problem as they are worldwide and seem happy enough to send us a dollar cheque after a reasonable number of sales.
     Another reason for the Amazon route was simplicity. Rather than try and do too much to start with, we decided to test the water with this launch on one platform. I get the impression from some self-published authors that they try and replicate publishing houses and end up wondering why they're stressed out.
     As things stand, the two novels are 60% complete and have so far passed the editorial committee's scrutiny. Who are the committee? Everyone in the writer's group. The decision was made early on that a simple majority will allow a book to pass any critique stage and at each stage we ask, 'is this story worth pursuing?' If it doesn't, then the writer has to go back to the drawing board. This can be hard if, like us, people are friends, but the converse is also true. As we are friends we don't take a critique as a personal insult.
     The other question we had to answer was 'how are we going to market ourselves'? This, of course is where agencies and publishing houses always score as they have access to methods that would cost an individual, or a small group, a small fortune they can ill afford. Even spending £100 can make little sense if you are only going to sell 100 copies on the back of it.
     The first step in marketing we took was a website which is being designed as we speak and after that there will be Facebook and Twitter accounts starting around the end of October. We also have individual blogs and may well start up a 'corporate' blog in the near future. The work has been divided among us according to our interests and likes. I am designing and building the website with the help of a talented artist who is one of our number while another member will be responsible for managing the Twitter and Facebook Accounts (and possibly a Google+ one too). We're not sure about the blog yet, but that will come in time. One thing we do NOT want to do is overwork ourselves, then end by giving up in frustration. We're going to eat this elephant one piece at a time.
     Next month I'll let you know what marketing we finally decided upon and it's worth saying there are more options than you think and I'll also reveal the logo we decided upon.
Martin Willoughby
Feel free to send questions and I'll try to
answer as many as possible next time.


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