Self Publishing 101
Richard Grove over at TragedyAndHope.com invited me on his show to say a few words about self publishing. I put together a brief outline for the interview (posted below) with hope that we could cover all the basics in about 45 minutes.
Unfortunately, the interview ended up going 2 hours! So, if you're short on time, check out the outline below. It'll only take a few minutes to go over and will hopefully answer a lot of your questions. If you'd like to watch the 2-hour video, I've posted it below too.
If you find this helpful, please consider supporting Richard at his Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/posts/deep-end-episode-8005309
Basic thoughts / outline for the show
Word of Warning
A word of warning to those thinking about publishing a book: Between research, reflecting, and writing, you’re looking at thousands of hours of very challenging work, and the odds are fantastic that you’ll earn a tiny fraction of minimum wage for your efforts. Tom Woods has an excellent 30-minute podcast on this topic (include in show notes. https://youtu.be/Hpz-_CiSIGg), but I can speak from personal experience. I am finally earning enough to support a very modest living, but it took about 12 years and 25,000 hours of effort to get here. It’s going to be a while before I recoup anything approaching $7 per hour.
Why Self Publish?
First, it’s insane to work for years on something, only to let somebody else decide whether or not the world will ever see it. This never made any sense to me. Publishing a book isn’t that difficult and it can be done inexpensively. More importantly, if you use a service like Createspace, you have immediate access to Amazon’s giant distribution network.
Second, you have 100 percent control over what you write and what you do with it. You don’t have to edit yourself or argue with an editor over what should or shouldn’t be included. You can even offer a free version online if you want (which I do with all my books.)
Last but not least, you keep far more of what your work generates when you self-publish. If you can manage to sell a couple hundred books per month, you can easily earn (depending on the list price of your book) between $1,200 - $1,800 per month income. A lot of people can live on that. You wouldn’t be able to live on the same number of sales under a traditional publishing contract.
Some will argue that a traditional publisher will move a lot more books for you, but that’s far from guaranteed. The vast majority of traditionally published books sell 2,000 copies or less in their lifetime. The publisher does “X” amount of marketing and, if the book doesn’t take off, they move on. That means, if you want to sell more copies, you’re going to be doing all the work…and earning a lot less per sale.
That said, in some cases it makes sense to go with a traditional publisher. If you’ve got a good offer on the table and you’re convinced that most of the sales your book is capable of generating will come from the publisher’s efforts, then go for it. Or, for instance, if a foreign publisher wants to buy the foreign-language rights to your book, that makes sense too. They’ll translate the book and provide a very niche / specialized channel that you’d have a difficult time competing with. (I went with a traditional publisher for the German version of Tragedy and Hope 101 and Dishonest Money.)
What’s the Fastest / Easiest / Cheapest way to publish on Amazon?
You can do a Kindle version of your book through Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s free and you don’t even need an ISBN. Just make sure your word document is formatted properly. (Depending on how many footnotes, images, or other links you’ve got, you can pay $10 to $50 on Fiverr.com to get that done for you.) I put up a short and easy guide at www.joeplummer.com/kdp
What should people know about using Createspace?
The main services that Createspace provides are:
Design Services (Cover design and interior layout / design)
Editing (Basic grammar, spelling and punctuation, or help with flow / clarity of writing.)
Distribution (Availability on Amazon and other websites through their expanded distribution)
For a print book, you’ll need an ISBN. Createspace will provide you an ISBN for free, or you can purchase your own. One of the advantages of purchasing your own ISBN is that “Createspace” won’t be listed as the publisher of your book; you can create and use your own “imprint.” (I created the imprint “Brushfire Publishing” for Tragedy and Hope 101; that’s what shows up as the “publisher” at Amazon.com) Another advantage of purchasing your own ISBN is that you can use somebody else to print copies of your book. The only disadvantages of purchasing your own ISBN are the cost and one of the Createspace distribution channels (distribution to libraries and academic institutions) can’t be enabled.
I ended up purchasing 10 ISBNs from Bowker (www.myidentifiers.com) for $250. (It looks like they've recently raised the price to $295.) If you want to have a separate imprint, contact Bowker and they’ll add it to your account.
What’s your writing process?
I start with the bulk research (mostly reading).
As I’m reading, I highlight important passages in the book, and I also create a separate index that includes a brief summary of the highlighted material and what page it’s on. This enables me to quickly find the reference again, which would be very difficult / time consuming without the index.
For instance, if I want to find the reference where Quigley says citizens are better off when they’re armed, I can start flipping through 1300 pages of text (reading highlighted passages one by one), until I find what I’m looking for, or can just look over or keyword search my index. I’ve included a 1-page example of my Tragedy and Hope index for reference. Another advantage of the index is that it enables me to quickly scan all the information I found most useful in the book.
After I’ve gone over the index a couple times, I’ll often create a further abbreviated file of “key concepts” that I find most interesting or powerful. (Tragedy and Hope example included).
Last but not least, I’ll sometimes type out all of the highlighted references from the index so I can reread the info more easily. The typed references for Tragedy and Hope weighed in around 50,000 words. Anyone who wants to can read the document here. Side note: Now that I have a kindle, I’m able to just highlight and transfer references…saves a lot of time.
The primary reference material for Tragedy and Hope 101 came from Tragedy and Hope and The Anglo-American Establishment, but there were other books (like Ganser’s book on Gladio, Kissinger’s “Diplomacy” and a handful of others). Having the indexes and key-concept files made it easier to search and draw from those different sources.
After choosing the “base” of material, it’s just an issue of figuring out what you should focus on. It starts out as a lot of individual ideas scattered about, but you eventually get to where you can begin mapping out a general trajectory. I actually use mind maps for this process…they invariably change once I start writing (topics get moved around or deleted, unexpected stuff gets added), but they provide a good / basic outline. (I’ve included the original mindmap for chapter 3.)