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These are some of the things C. Flynt has been up to, some of our personal lives, some reviews of things we've read, some stuff we've learned.

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Jul, 18, 2014 - Detcon1 Friday: Econ 101 Self Publishing
Econ 101 of Self-Publishing

Patty Templeton (author), Becca Price (author), JF Garrard (author & editor), Christie Meierz (author) and Beverly Bambury (publicist) discussed the ins and outs of self-publishing your books.

Patty said the big take-away in this session: Make it easy to catalog your book. Add the publication and catalog info to the copyright page. Librarians and book dealers will love you for this and those are the last people you want to *not* love you. I looked at her book; she practices what she preaches.

The standard bookstore markup on books is 40%. You'll want to price your book accordingly.

Something I didn't know is that you can pay for shelf space at a bookstore. The general opinion is that this is a great way for a bookstore to make money and does nothing for you, the author.

What does make a difference is to publicize yourself appropriately. Get on panels at SF cons (assuming you write SF), do readings at the local library or coffee shop. If you do anything that gets press coverage, make sure the reporter knows that you're a local author as well as local mover-and-shaker.

Social media is overworked, but it's still the best way to put your face out there. Nobody buys a book unless they have a reason, and liking something you said online could be that reason.

Your own website is a must. Again, it's overworked and won't get you a lot of sales, but not doing it means you aren't serious about this game.

A good editor is a must. This advice came on every panel I attended, sometimes from authors and sometimes from acquisition editors. The minor tweak on this is that a good writer's group can sometimes cover for an editor. My first thought on that is if you can't sell multiple hundreds of copies of your book, you might not want to try. The editor costs can run from five hundred to five thousand dollars for a novel. At $2.99 each for an epub, less 30% to Amazon you need to sell 250 copies to pay for each round of less expensive editing. My second thought was that a good editing can make the difference in reaching that goal of multiple hundreds of sales.

The more you can do up front, the better.

A good cover is also a must. In particular, the book cover must scale well, must look like other covers in your genre, and must be eye-catching and different. What sells books on Amazon is the thumbnail cover and a good blurb. The recommendations and quick peeks don't have much effect. To get good art, you can look at Deviant Art as well as anyone you know that does art. The more specifications you can give the artist, the more likely you are to get something you like. Don't count on the artist to read your book and come up with a great cover. You can get decent covers with a couple stock photos and overlays, but again, a good eye for layout won't hurt.

The discussion of traditional publishing vs self-pub came down to whether you have the time and/or talent to find an outside editor, cover artist, publicist, distributors, etc, or if you want to use the "free" services of a publisher. Remember that the publisher is charging you 60% of your cover price for these "free" services. (I calculate that assuming a norm of a 10% royalty for trad-pub, and a 70% norm for CreateSpace books. You have to run your own numbers.)

Nobody mentioned the idea that being with Tor or Baen was something that readers care about. This might be because most of the authors on the panel were going the self-pub route, or an indication that self-publication is no longer than anathema that Vanity Press once was.

Meierz is the only member of this panel working with a traditional publisher. She started with self-publishing her works and moved to a traditional publisher mostly because the the services they offer give her more time to write.

Another major takeaway from the con was this: Publicizing yourself and your books is your job, whether you self-pub or find a traditional publisher. I find this is certainly true with Tcl/Tk: A Developer's Guide. Elsevier puts me in their list of "new books", but that's about it.

Patty Templeton was by far the youngest member of the panel. As such, she brought a different perspective on some of the topics of promoting your book.

She suggested designing your book cover with the idea of making tie-in merchandise is another way to help publicize your book. She mentioned T-Shirts for businesses that feature in the story and similar gambits.

She also suggested a book promo videa. She mentioned Rule 2 Productions in particular.