Thursday, October 28, 2010

Interview with Hank Quense

Hank Quense was kind enough to answer some of my questions regarding his adventures in self publishing.

KR: Why did you self publish?  Did you attempt to have Tales published by a publishing house?  What service did you pick for self publishing and why?  
HQ:  I did send it to a few publishers.  One of them expressed interest and reviewed a few of the stories.  The editor wanted extensive revisions which I did to the example stories and with an idea of she wanted, I revised the stories I hadn't sent to her.  She reviewed the edited stories and wanted more edits which I did.  The changes she suggested really improved the stories and I was happy to do them.  By now six months had passed.  I subbed the selected stories again as she requested and after another several months she wanted still more changes and told me not to resub for six months or so.  This time the edits were trivial and didn't improve the stories.  I declined to spend more time on the stories.  It old her they was as good as they would ever get, so that was the end of that potential publisher.  Meanwhile my efforts to get an agent were just as frustrating.  I sent out a number of queries, but only one agent had the courtesy to reply.(negatively) 
I picked Createspace and Smashwords because they don't charge authors (if you don't need help) and most of the sales revenue flows to the author.
KR:  How many copies have you sold?  What marketing has worked best for you?  How did you set your price points?
HQ:  So far, the book hasn't sold as well as I had hoped.  Since it hasn't, I can't advise on what works best.  I set the price points by finding similar sized books in the marketplace
KR:  How did you get your cover?  Who did your art?
HQ:  I shopped around for a cover artist and was fortunate to find Gary Tenuta.  I told him what I thought the cover should look like (i.e. The three characters on it) and he got it right on the first try.  Gary is a great cover artist and I highly recommend him.
KR:  Anything else you'd like to say about self publishing? 
HQ: It ain't easy going it alone, but I doubt having an agent and a publisher is any easier.
If you want to know more about Hank and his writing, you can check him out here:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Indie Book Review: Tales From Gundarland

Imagine for a minute an alternative universe where Terry Pratchett and Monty Python could produce a love child.  Now imagine that child had inherited both parents' skill at seeing a situation and sizing it up for satiric treatment but neither parents' talent for executing that satire.  If you can hold that idea in your mind, you'll have a pretty good idea of how Tales From Gundarland reads.  I have a crusty, old memory of an English teacher telling me to use writing to show, not tell.  You probably have a similar one.  Where Monty Python and Pratchett would show, Quense would tell. 

Tales From Gundarland is a selection of two novellas and six short stories, most of them satires, set in a rather generic fantasy world of elves, dwarves, humans, and something called yuks (a modified ogre).  The stories range from retellings of Shakespeare's greatest hits staring dwarfs and elves, to a Zorro/Lone Ranger (or Zarro and the Lone Stranger as they are known in Gundarland) crossover.
Bits of the stories are genuinely laugh out loud funny.  There are moments where you see great insight into human nature.  But on the whole the stories are competent and plain rather than exceptional reading. The use of language is solid but not brilliant.  The occasional clunky line is offset by the occasional very well done image. The characters are likable but generic.  Several of them are rather easily confused with each other because most of the main characters are somewhat young, unsure of themselves and their place in the world, adventurers looking to find their fortune and place.

Quense did come up with some unique details for setting his elves, dwarfs, and humans apart.  His guild system requires adventurers to learn useful trades as well as how to bash in heads, so we run into a Warrior/Cooks looking to advance onto the Hero/Chef level.  Likewise, the leader of his anti-pirate group is a caftan wearing dwarf looking to go legit by getting into women's bespoke fashion.  Things like that are really cool, but we don't get much out of it because these things are mostly just mentioned as part of the background.  Green leaves on the trees, babbling brook, Warrior/Cook armed with his trusty frying pan and razor sharp spatula ready to go off and save the princess.  Tell me more about the guilds, tell me more about how he trained, write a novel about it, because there's a seed of a great story there, but...  But it's just background. 

Quense is good with voice.  His characters speak differently from each other, which is a nice touch.  The yuks speak in a sort of dumbed down mafiaesque English.  The other main characters use different tone and vocabulary in a way that matches with their stations well.  Unfortunately, voice is often the only easy way to distinguish one main character from the next.

Though I was kicked out of the feminist club a long, long time ago, I did notice his female characters, save one, are one dimensional, shallow, and annoying.  Annoying in the sense of people you don't want to spend any time with, not badly written.  Basically the reason there are women in this book is to be objects of love or lust.  And, while I normally couldn't care less about the gender of the various characters I'm reading about, the fact that almost every woman in the entire book was a twit was grating. 

The top link leads to the $17.99 softcover version.  The bottom to the $3.99 Kindle version.  While there are books I'd be willing to pay 17.99 for, this isn't one of them.  However, the $3.99 Kindle version is priced just right.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Useful Tidbits

I've been a bit busy lately and haven't had the time to really research my next self publishing platform.   So, instead of a the lowdown on (Coming soon, I promise!) I've got a few bits and pieces that may come in handy.

First off, my roving correspondent (okay, my buddy Gail Lewis) has returned from the James River Writer's Conference with some useful information for those of you looking for an agent.  Gail is also in the midst of the glorious fun that is the agent hunt.  If it weren't for the fact she already has three jobs and is working on writing a book, I'd try to cajole her into writing this herself.  But, she's swamped, so here are her useful bits through me:

Agents do not want to see stories that start with dreams.  More precisely agents see hundreds, if not thousands, of dream opening sequences a year and toss them all.  So, if like Gail you did a ton of research on the kinds of book you intend to write, noticed no dream openings, thought, "Hey, here's a good way to differentiate myself," you've fallen into the same trap she has.  Basically, it's a cliche, but a cliche you haven't seen in print because it never gets that far. 

Next up: Query Letters.  Agents want to see what your book is about.  Do not leave any mystery here.  They are not pleased when you are coy with what is going on.  Those letters get booted.  Remember the five W's?  Make sure it gets into your query letter.  (But in a pleasant, engaging, and unique way...)

Finally: What you think is important about your book may not be what the agent is interested in.  Gail is writing fantasy fiction.  Her's is a real world set YA about a group of magic users who stumble on someone who may be from their past and how they all interact and relate to each other.  (She will write about her story here one day and do a better job of describing it.)  Anyway, the main character, Penny, has an alcoholic father who moves them around constantly.  He shows up like four times in the book and is more or less a vehicle to put Penny in the right place at the right time for the action to start up.  Amid wizards, multi-dimensional monsters, a religion versus science theme, moving into a new school and finding out that you too are a powerful magic user, it is alcoholic parent that the agent was interested in knowing more about.    

On my own fact finding this week I have learned the following things:

The find and replace function on Word is a very valuable editing tool.  Due to recent developments I am going over my manuscript with a fine tooth comb and editing away.  Here is a technique I've found that is good for making you see what you actually wrote, as opposed to what you thinkis on the page.

Locate an issue.  The first one I tried was sentences that start with an introductory clause that starts with If.  If blah blah blah, then blah blah blah.  I've probably got 150 sentences that follow that basic pattern.  Maybe fifty of them had a comma after that first clause.  So, I searched for If, and all of those sentences popped up, and I was able to read each one by itself and add commas where warranted.  I did that for every other common word that begins and introductory clause.  A whole lot of commas got added.  

Pleased by how well that was working, I tried conjunctions.  I like conjunctions.  I like long windy sentences with seventeen clauses, lots of commas, and lots of buts and ors.  (I am rewriting, shortening, and tightening up most of them these days.)  However, there are 6183 ands alone in my story.  Probably 5500 of them are used correctly.  The find function was painfully slow.  I had images of still checking away three years from now until I noticed the find function has a subprogram called Highlight.  For locating every conjunction on a page, so you can quickly check and drag your eyes to the next one, it's brilliant.  The only thing I don't like about it is every time I change the document the highlighting vanishes and I have to redo it.  Even with that, it's still much faster than manually finding each and, checking it, and hitting the find next button.

My other great nugget of wisdom this week is a grammatical one.  No comma goes between and if.  So, the correct form of this sentence is.  We're going to the park, and if the weather is especially nice, we'll eat lunch outside. 

The next installment of the Indie Book Review is due up soon.  I'm almost done reading Tales From Gundarland, and will be expounding upon in the next week.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Working With Thomas Hill of Launch Pad Press

Back in August I wrote a post about the editor I hired, Thomas Hill of Launchpad Press.

Here is the follow up.  Now, some of you may notice this post is rather... dry.  There's a reason for that.  While it is always acceptable to write the truth and facts, it is not always acceptable to write opinions or draw conclusions.  So, since I have no interest in a business libel case heading my direction, I will stick with the facts.

As Joe Friday would say, "Just the facts, Ma'am."

On July 25th I returned the contract to him.  It stated Thomas Hill of Launchpad Press would be "Copyediting for grammar, punctuation, word usage, style; adjustment and manipulation of text for clarity; conform manuscript to Chicago Manual of Style; style sheet for commonly used terms."  This would be finished by August 24th.

On October 4th, 41 days late, the second half of my manuscript was returned to me.  As Thomas Hill said, the manuscript still wasn't finished, he needed to work more, especially on bits from the beginning, to fix mistakes he had made earlier.

By October 14th, I had finished reading through and working with all of his edits.  I did not think the quality was high enough and had lost confidence in his ability to fix the problems in the earlier sections.  I sent him an email severing our business relationship. I was rash in that email, asking for most of my money back or saying I would blog about this.  I realized that was a mistake and sent him another email on October 16, rescinding my request for my money back.  Thomas did not respond to either of those two emails, or the one that proceeded them, asking about a collection of sentences I thought were grammatically incorrect.

If you click here, you will be taken to twenty pages of bits and pieces of my manuscript.  They are verbatim copies of the Word final version he sent me.  Some of the mistakes are ones he made.  Some are ones I made that he didn't catch.  I don't think it much matters which is which.  And, while I did pick areas with the most mistakes in the smallest spaces, there is not a single three page long span of the entire story without an error in it.

The documents he sent me did allow for change tracking.  Word date and time stamps every change in the document.  There is not a single date or time stamp between August 20th and September 17th in any of the  three documents he sent me.  If he worked on the project between those two dates, he never sent me that work. 

Thomas knows that I am a blogger.  He knows that I am writing about writing and publishing.  He knows it was my intent to write about him.  He's a follower on this blog.  When our business relationship was just beginning I asked if he might want to write a guest post for me.

I will leave my comments field open.  If he so desires, he can respond.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Electronic Revolution: Self Publishing for Kindle.

Last week we explored how to use to turn your manuscript into a physical book.  This week it's time to check out Amazon's Digital Text Platform and how you can self publish for Kindle.

First and foremost, if you don't already own one or have it on your computer, go get a Kindle.  Kindle for PC is a free download, and it's worth the few minutes of time to have one.  Then as soon as you have one, download  Publish on Amazon Kindle with the Digital Text Platform.  It's free and has step by step instructions on how to go from logging in the first time to getting your book online. 

While the CreateSpace page is rather romantic, seducing you with images of your book dancing in your head, the DTP is rather utilitarian.  There's nothing to buy here, no spiffy packages, no offers of editing or illustration or publicity.  Just a simple service that lets you put your book online.  First things first they want you to sign in and provide tax documentation.

Once you've logged in and taken care of your tax information your next step is to prepare your text.  Unshockingly enough the way to get your text to look like it does in your book is to get it into HTML format and make sure it looks right.  Now, they will reformat if you start off in .doc or .docx (word), .pdf (doesn't transfer all that well), .mobi (works very well), and plain text.  If you're already working in word (like I am) save your document as a "webpage" and that will rewrite it into HTML.  You can then fiddle from there.  But, if you don't turn it into HTML first, then you have no guarantees that the spiffy format you set up will transfer from your original document into your Kindle book.

Next up, fill in the information for your book.  Title, author name, description, etc...  If it would be on the cover of your physical book, you'll fill it in here.  This is followed by the rights section, where you select what geographic region you've got the rights to publish in.  If you are the author, and you haven't sold any rights to the book, you maintain the rights to publish everywhere, so you can hit the world wide option.   

You'll pick your categories, up to five of them.  This is probably an area you want to spend as much time thinking about as your cover text.  What category is your book?  With five to choose from you've got lots of opportunity to get readers who may not usually look in your direction interested.  Granted, do not put your fictional tale of life in a kitchen in cookbooks unless it has recipes, but in addition to lit fic and food writing, you might aim for romance if there's an underlying tale of that, or possibly organic farming if you spend a lot of time talking about organic sustainable agriculture.  Still, of the five you have, make sure three are really close matches to your work, and if you can come up with two more close matches, get them, too.  Head out on a limb when you're out of close matches.

Next up keywords:  You get five to seven of them.  Obviously your name and the book title are good matches, but what next?  Here's the thing with keywords, you have two options: You can aim for words that will help to locate your book for people who already know something about it (character names, places, things in the book, etc...).  Or, you can aim for people who know nothing about your book with general terms.  I'd say how you do this will have a lot to do with how the rest of your marketing plan works.  If you expect a lot of people to know something about your book, ("I don't remember the title, but there were horcruxes, wands, and a school called Hogwarts.") then by all means use those sorts of keywords.  Most of the rest of us will need a combination of keywords, some very specific to get people who already know something about our book to it, and some very general to attract those who have never heard of us. 

Then up goes your novel and the cover image.  Make sure the cover image is a .tiff or .jpeg.  Once again the text should be .html.  Upload each and away you go.

Now comes the fun part:  Money!

How you get paid: you have two options, a paper check can be mailed to you, or the money can be deposited directly in your bank account.  Now, unless you are somehow allergic to technology, (And if you are, how are you reading this blog?) you want the second option.  Here's why: each month you accrue a certain amount of sales.  Those sales result in royalties.  If you chose the electronic deposit option, each month that goes by with more than ten dollars of royalties in your account results in a payment to you. (A payment sixty days post accrual.)  If you go for the paper option, not only do you have to wait for 100 dollars to accrue (on top of the sixty days for the check) but they will also charge you an eight dollar processing fee for each check they send out.

As for those royalties, you also have two options.  You can get a seventy percent royalty or a thirty-five percent royalty.  I assume most of you are thinking, why pick the thirty-five option?

Here's why:  The thirty-five percent royalty is good everywhere.  There is no "delivery fee" attached to the thirty-five percent royalty.  You can't charge less for your work elsewhere, but you can get the price down to $0.99 or set it as high $200.00.  So here's the calculation:  List price*.35 = royalty.

On the seventy percent royalty it works something like this.  You still cannot sell your book for less anywhere else.  If it goes for less elsewhere, Amazon will match the price and pay your royalties accordingly.  The seventy percent is only good in the US and the UK (No, this doesn't mean you can't sell elsewhere, it just means that you'll get the thirty-five percent royalty from your Canadian, Aussie, and French readers.)  You have to set a price between $2.99 and $9.99 and no more than the cost of the physical book minus twenty percent.  (If the physical book is $14.00, you can not set the price of the kindle book at more than $11.20.)  And your royalty is calculated by the price you set, minus the delivery fee.

Delivery Fee?!?  I mean, it's an electronic document.  They aren't boxing anything up or mailing it off.  However, a fee of $0.15 per megabyte will be assessed to you.  If it's a tiny book, then not less than $.01 will be charged.  They determine how many megs your book is, and no I didn't see how they determine this, or if the cover image is part of the calculation.  But here's how it works out, if that fee ends up costing more than half of your cover price, go with the thirty-five percent royalty.  If it costs less then half, you come out ahead with the seventy percent royalty.  Here's the calculation:  .7(list price-delivery fee) = royalty  I want to price my book at $4.99, so as long at it comes in at under 16 megs (and, granted, its long, but not that long!) I come out ahead on the seventy percent option. 
And that's pretty much that on the publishing end of the story.  You hit the save and publish button and wait two days for the book to be reviewed.  Once it has, you get an email telling you it's gone live. 

Sit back, relax, check the reporting data to see how many books you've sold, and sooner or later, money shows up in your bank account!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Self Publishing With Amazon CreateSpace

Welcome to the future of publishing.  Self published works produced print on demand or electronic versions for our ereaders.  Write up a book, get it edited, turn it into a snazzy PDF, attach a cover, pick a Print on Demand (POD) service, and off you go.  You are now a published author.

And there are a whole lot of ways to go about doing this.  So, here begins the series on different services available to authors who have a manuscript in hand and are getting ready for the next step.

First off, CreateSpace. This is Amazon's self publishing arm.  It offers pretty much everything you could possibly want, and several things you probably don't, to the self publishing author.  When you first land on the CreateSpace page you have the option of Books, Film, and Music.  Since this is a book writing blog, we're going to ignore Film and Music and go straight over to books.  Once you click on books you have two options, both of which I hope you will use, Book or Amazon Kindle ebook.

Technically CreateSpace is only books.  Ebooks are handled on Amazon's Digital Text Platform.

Once you get into CreateSpace they have a slickly laid out pile of information ready and waiting for you to browse through.  You have the option of doing everything but printing the book for yourself, or paying them a pile of money and having them handle everything, or something in between.

CreateSpace starts you off with one of two options,  Standard Plan or Pro Plan.  The Standard Plan lets you sell books through Amazon and your own website.  The Pro Plan allows you to use the "extended distribution" channel.  This means that you can sell your book to bookstores, libraries, etc...  The Pro Plan costs $39.00 for the first year and $5.00 for each additional year.

Granted, in the last entry I mentioned not being a huge fan of paying for a service to let you sell your books to brick and mortar bookstores, but in this particular case, they've made paying the fee worth your while.  The royalty set up is different for the Standard Plan and the Pro Plan.  In both cases you pay a basic per book fee, a per page fee, and Amazon gets a cut of the final price.  Amazon's cut goes up depending on where you sell your book.

The basic formula for a book on the Standard Plan sold on your own site looks like this:

$1.50 (per book fee)+ $.02 per page + 20% of the price you set.  If you sell on Amazon that percent goes to 40%.

If you have the Pro Plan the formula looks like this:

$0.85 + $ 0.012 per page + 20% of the price you set.  Once more, on Amazon that percent goes to 40%, and for other retailers it goes to 60%.

Those are the formulas for books over 108 pages (they cost less for smaller books) and black and white type.  Basically, a generic novel.

Here's the difference between those formulas.  With the Standard Plan I can price my book at $18.50 and make no money on Amazon sales and $3.70 on my estore sales.   With the Pro Plan I can price it at $11.50 and make $0.29 on Amazon sales and $2.59 on my estore sales.  (Yes, on the Pro Plan I lose money if I price it at $11.50 and sell to bookstores.  I'm not going to sell to bookstores.  At least, not through Create Space.)  So, quick vote, how many of you are going to pay $18.50 for a trade paperback fantasy novel by a writer you've never heard of?  How about $11.50?  I am less than shocked to see more of you raise your hand for the second choice. 

Now, my book is long.  The per page price difference results in an almost $3.00 difference in the base cost of each book.  I'm unlikely to set the price at $11.50.  I'd like to make a tad more than $0.29 per copy sold on Amazon.  If I bump the price up to $12.99, a fairly common price point for a trade paperback the length of the one I'm going to put out, then with the Pro Plan I can take home $1.18 per book, slightly less than double the industry standard royalty for a first time author.  

CreateSpace has a nice little calculator to let you play with prices.  You set the price you want your book to sell for then they tell you how much you'll make.

They also offer another price for you to order your own books at.  Once again the Pro Plan price is substantially lower than the Standard Plan price.  (For example, I intend to buy at least ten copies of my own book to give to buddies.  The Pro Plan discount on that order alone pays for the price of the upgrade.)  You can order as many or as few of your book as you like.  The good thing about this is you can get three books cheep.  The bad thing is there's no bulk discount, so you can't get 10,000 books cheep. 

Once you've finished playing with the royalty calculator, you can take the time to see what else they offer. Which is quite a bit.  Editing?  They've got it.  It costs $175.00 for the first 10,000 words and an additional $0.0175 per additional word for basic copyediting.  If you want all the bells and whistles editing it costs $320.00 for the first 10,000 and $0.032 for each additional word.

Cover design?  Everything from DIY with their goodies for free, to hire their design team and get a $999.00 designed-specifically-for-you to your standards cover, to a 1499.00 illustrated-specifically-for-you to your standards cover.  Or you can use the cover you designed yourself.  If you use their free cover designer that cover can only be used on the Amazon version of your book.  So, if you plan on publishing the book on Amazon, Lulu, and Smashwords, you can't take the cover with you when you leave CreateSpace. 

Publicity?  Sure, they've got it.  You can buy anything from press releases to book reviews to business cards.  (The business cards, at $199.00 for 500, are a tad more expensive than the free ones you can get at Vista Print.  This is one of those areas where it's very likely you can get a better price on your own.)

Want it all together in a nifty little package?  They've got that too!

Need help getting it all figured out?  They've got blogs and community forums filled with advice.  Feel like spending money for the help and you can call them and have someone hold your hand through the publishing process. Want to show off a bit of your work and get some comments from other writers?  They've got that available, too.  Want to introduce your book to the other CreateSpace writers out there?  They've got a place for it.

With CreateSpace you keep the rights to your book.  You have a non-exclusive publishing contract with them, which means you can publish your book elsewhere. You can pull your book off of their service when and as you like.  The only thing Amazon asks is that you don't sell it for less elsewhere. 

Pretty much anything you can imagine wanting to have over the course of getting your story from a manuscript to a book they will happily offer to you.  If you want the help, they'll give it to you, all you have to do is pay.

But what if you don't want a physical book at the end of this process?  Or what if you want a physical book and an ebook?  Tune in next time for Amazon Digital Text Platform!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Self Publishing Scams off the Starboard Bow, Mr. Yog!

You may recall that I have previously mentioned that both agent hunting and editing are areas with great potential for scams...  Well Loves, you haven't seen anything, yet.

Welcome to the glorious world of self publishing, where the scams abound, and hell, in some cases even the scams have scams.

Take Yog's law and hold it close to your heart.  "The money flows towards the writer!"  Keep saying it like a mantra.

So, first and foremost, what are we looking for in a DIY publisher?  Here's what you want: a service that will offer you the ability to turn your manuscript into an electronic and/or physical book, lets you keep all the rights, does not require that you pay anything for these privileges, an ISBN number, and does not require you to buy any copies of your own book.  If any of these conditions are not true, run away as fast as you can.  There are entire websites devoted to writers who got burned by 'self publishers' who ended up requiring the author to buy 50 or more copies of their own book, never sold any books, owned the rights for three years, and didn't pay any royalties.  You don't want to be the author who signed up for that service. 

Who offers legitimate self publishing?,,  I'm sure there are others, but these are the three that I've researched so far.  I will do individual write ups on them in the coming weeks. In addition to write ups on other services as well.  (Full Disclosure: I do have an Amazon Associates Account, and if you do go through my link on the bottom and decide to self publish, I will get a cut.)

Now, what do you not want as a self publisher?

One of the things you have to be realistic about as a self published author is what your book is actually going to do.  It is not going to be on the shelves of Barnes and Noble.  They take one book a year (I don't have numbers for other DIY publishers), so unless you actually wrote a work of breathtaking beauty and staggering genius, it isn't going to be you.  For that matter, even if you did, it still isn't likely to be you.  It may, if you've got good contacts, get onto the shelves of your local indie bookstore and maybe your local library.  If you wrote the right sort of book, there may be a market for it in gift shops, local touristy type places, and things like that.  (Your collection of Thomas Jefferson's greatest sayings coupled with interesting bits of local Virginia history will probably be a good match for the Monticello gift shop, a book shop in Charlottesville and one in Williamsburg.  Beyond that, it's not going very far unless it's online.)  Because of this, the first thing you do not need to pay extra for is anything related to selling your book in a bookstore.  If you want to go the bookstore direction, buy the copies yourself and sell them to the bookstore yourself, skip paying extra for the privilege.  If you do get a bookstore chain interested in more books than you want to be the middleman for, here's another place where owning your rights comes in handy, go find someone who just prints books and have them churn them out for the bookstore.

Writing services.  Do not pay them to read your book and tell you about how well it will sell.  Do not pay them to read your book and then offer suggestions as to how to be a better writer (this is not editing).  Do not pay for writing classes, tutorials, lectures, etc...  Until you've got your book ready to print, don't go visiting the DIY publisher. 

Copyright protection, registration, licensing, etc...  Anything you write is automatically copyrighted for you.  You do not need to spend money getting it registered.  If, like most writers you do everything on your computer, you should have an electronic record of when you wrote your work.  If you want a hard copy, print out your manuscript, stick it in an envelope with the headline and date from that day's newspaper, and then mail it to yourself.  If you're feeling really paranoid get it notarized for what date you put it in that envelope.  When it gets back to you, stick it in your filing cabinet and leave it there.  If you ever need to prove you wrote your work first, there it is, all nicely packaged up, with a US Postal Service date stamp on it. 

Marketing:  This is an area where you will have to spend money, but spend it well.  Most self publishers will offer you options for this and you need to be savy about how much bang you are getting for your buck.  Ask questions, lots of questions, find people who have used these services before and see what they had to say about it.  After all, if the press release service costs $200 and is just a fax saying you wrote a book sent to two dozen papers, well, you can do that for yourself for a lot less than that.  For the most part, unless you know people who have used the service and done well with it, I'd say skip it, you can probably do it for yourself just as well if not better.

Most will also offer packages of things you might or might not need.  Editing: you need it, but do you want to get it from them?  Once again, time to talk to their other authors.  Type setting: you can probably do it for yourself if you take the time to do some research (more on this later).  Cover design: you need it, and this is an area where you really do want a professional who knows what she is doing.  Do you want it from them?  Check out their other covers, maybe you do, maybe not.  Press packages: usually a collection of press releases, post cards, book marks, and a large poster type thing for book signings may be useful but you may also be able to get all of that for less elsewhere.

For any service, any printer, any package out there, Google it before you put your credit card numbers in.  Check it out with other writing communities.  Just because it looks good doesn't mean it is.   Self-publishing is jumping into shark infested water wearing several very fragile blood bags around your neck.  You need to be very careful not to let anything break those bags, otherwise you'll get eaten. 

Finally, read the fine print.  It doesn't matter what the website says in big letters.  It doesn't matter what the correspondent you are emailing with says.  All that matters is that contract you sign.  So read it carefully.  If it doesn't make sense to you, get someone who does understand it to read it.  But make sure it says what you think it says and that it spells out exactly who does what, when, and how. 

Next up:  self publishing with Amazon Create Space.

Amazon Self Publish