Friday, November 04, 2011

My Self-publishing Milestone

I wanted to share with you fabulous Killer readers that I’ve hit a milestone.  After looking at my sales numbers from August of this year, I realized that I have sold over 500,000  ebooks since I started self-publishing last year.  That’s half a million books sold!  :O  Color me shocked.  And happy!

To celebrate this milestone that I never would have dreamed I’d see when I first started writing, I thought I’d do a small series of posts on self-publishing.  A lot of authors I know lately are going the self-published/indie published route, and I noticed that I see a lot of the same questions being asked over and over again.  Very good questions, too, and ones that I had when I first started self-publishing.  I know some authors have published books like “the secret to my self-publishing success”, but I thought it would be a lot more fun (and more free!) to answer some question on this blog instead.  So, here are a few questions I get a lot, and some answers that I hope make sense:

1. Do I need an ISBN to self-publish?
That depends on where you’re selling.  If you publish through Barnes & Noble’s PubIt! or Amazon’s KDP  they will assign you a special internal number for your books, so you do not need an ISBN.  If you publish through Smashwords, you do not need an ISBN at some of their vendors.  But, if you want to have your books available in the iBookstore (either directly through Apple or through a distributor such as Smashwords), then you do need an ISBN. 
What I’ve done: I currently let Smashwords distribute my books to the iBookstore, and have used the free ISBN option that Smashwords provides.  I do not use this ISBN anywhere else but Smashwords.

2. How do I format my books?
My best advice is to look at the Smashwords style guide for formatting, becuase if you can get through Smashword’s system, your formatting will work just about everywhere else.  You can then convert your formatted word doc into a variety of digital file formats to upload to the different sites. 
What I’ve done: This may draw gasps of horror from my fellow self-pubbers, but I upload my word docs directly to Amazon, BN, and Smashwords.  I don’t bother with converting myself.  Then again, I’m not very picky about paragraph alignment or having it spaced *just* so.  As long as it looks readable and professional, I’m good. 

3. Where do I get my covers?
There are a ton of freelance cover artists doing self-published covers, so ask around.  Prices vary (as does quality!), so be sure to do a little browsing before choosing your artist.  Generally $100-300 is what I’ve heard of people paying at the moment for good covers. Or, you can always make them yourself.     
What I’ve done: I do all my covers myself, because I love playing with Photoshop.  I buy stock photos from, which has a really great selection and very affordable pricing.  Then I do a little cutting and pasting – sometimes moving one model to another background, or adding small items in, like a gun or knife in her hand.  I try to work with large files, usually 300 dpi, so that they’re also good quality for print covers.    Generally, I tend to spend about 1-2 days on a cover and around $30.

4. Can I self-publish paperback books too?
Yes!  There are a few different places you can do this, though Createspace and Lulu are two of the leaders right now.  Both put out similar quality books and neither has high set up fees.  Createspace does have a premium option, which I would suggest purchasing (I’ve made my money back in the first month on every book), but there is not a lot of cost involved. 
Once the print books are up for sale, they distribute to Amazon and BN, so make sure that they link to your ebook versions in the systems.  One place you will not see them, however, is in physical bookstores.  Most booksellers will not stock print-on-demand books or self-published books.  They can special order them, though, so they are available to readers, just not on shelves.   
What I’ve done: I go through Createspace for my print books, and it’s been very easy and I’m very happy with the quality.  I honestly don’t sell a ton of print books – WAY fewer than ebooks – but I know there are some readers who only do print and really appreciate having that option. 

5. How do I market my self-published titles?
This is a personal choice and everyone’s mileage will vary.  The very best thing I have seen to increase sales is to have several books available.  So write fast!  ;)   Other than that, get word of mouth moving.  Research bloggers or reviewers that review self-published titles and send them all a copy.  Join indie writers’ groups and participate like heck.  Get a great website going and sign up for Facebook. 
What I’ve done:  You’re going to hate me but… nothing.  Okay, so I already had a website and this blog when I decided to jump into indie pubbing, so I had a bit of a presence and a handful of loyal readers already.  Which has helped.  But I have done nothing beyond that to market my books.  I just write more books. 
The one thing I have done is make sure I have slammin’ covers, interesting blurbs, and make sure I categorize and use search keywords that are in line with my target audience.    

6. What kind of sales can I expect to see?
This totally varies.  But, across the board, I see self-published books starting with small sales and building.  Unlike print books, they don’t have a short shelf life where you expect to see a big spike in sales in week one, then a slow decline over time.  Totally the opposite here.  The longer my books are up, the better my sales have grown.  So don’t be discouraged if they start out small, and it takes a few months to pick up to where you’d like to see them. 
What I’ve done:  I’m going to do a whole post later this month on my exact numbers, royalties, and what they’ve meant to me in terms of income (yes, I'm dishing it all, baby!) but just as a comparison… in my first month of self-publishing I sold more ebooks than I had sold print books (through a traditional publisher) that entire year.     
 Anyone else have other self-publishing questions?  Ask anything!

~Trigger Happy Halliday


PATRICIA said...

Wahoo! New book in December - can't wait. Can we purchase a copy directly from you or this website?

Gemma Halliday said...

Patricia - Glad you're excited! Sadly, I don't have that type of system set up (yet!). But it will be available for Nook and the free Nook app in December, and all other ereaders in January. :)


Anonymous said...

I'm so thrilled for you with this milestone! Great Q&A.

And I wanted to thank you publicly, because you encouraged me to take the self-pub plunge, and I'm so glad I did! You rock, Gemma!

And I can't WAIT for the next Maddie book. Yay!!!!! (Although I would be remiss if I didn't ask you on my mom's behalf if you'll have a print version of FEARLESS at some point. She refuses to read e-books, but she's a Maddie addict!)

Cynthia Justlin said...


CONGRATS on hitting such an awesome milestone! I am so thrilled for your well-deserved success!

Unknown said...

Gemma, it's so exciting to see your success. :) And I totally agree, you have slamming covers. Thanks so much for being so willing to share information about your self-publishing adventure.

Abigail Beal said...

Hi Gemma :)

Many, many congratulations on selling many, many books! Its easy to see why: you are a terrific writer and everyone looks forward to the next book you write!!! :)

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, it is very kind and generous of you.

My question is about ISBN numbers. I know you have talked a bit about them. I've heard that you can buy one or a group of 10 of them, or a bigger group of them. When you choose your method for ISBN numbers, what is the benefit? And do your books have the same ISBN number at different places?

I could probably ask two dozen questions, but I'll start with this one. Thank you so much, and congratulations again!!!

:) Abigail

JulieDestry said...

whoo! congrats on the milestone! that's fantastic, gemma! here's to your continued success :D

Jerri said...

Wow, Gemma, congrats on the milestone. I have one of your books on my kindle, looking forward to reading it.

Tori Lennox said...

Congrats on that rockin' milestone, Gemma!!!!

Gemma Halliday said...

Thanks, everyone!

Amanda – you are such a great writer, how could I NOT encourage you to get your books out there? ;)

Re: ISBNs… The ones I get through Smashwords, I can only use there (or places that Smashwords distributes to). Basically, their ISBN #s are specific to their version of your book. I don’t use an ISBN at Amazon or BN – I just let them assign their own internal numbers to those books. If I were to distribute my books directly to Apple or Kobo or any other retailer, I’d need to purchase an ISBN not affiliated with Smashwords, and in that case I could use the same ISBN # for the epub files at all retailers.

Anonymous said...

I handle ISBNs the same way as Gemma. I see nothing especially important about buying your own ISBNs if you are just going to distribute through retailers that will assign you one for free.

I like free.

Kathy Bacus said...

This is just incredible news, Gemma! Congratulations on your well-deserved milestone. It's fabulous when super things happen to super talented (and super nice) people. I know more great things are coming your way.

Thank you for all your self-publishing advice and assistance!

Sibel Hodge said...

Fantastic sales figures, Gemma! Woo hoo! Congrats on the huge success with self-pubbing. I lurrrve Maddie! :)

Sibel Hodge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenyfer Matthews said...

Wow - I'm not only impressed with your sales numbers but also the fact that you do your own covers!! Congratulations on your success :)

Nadia Lee said...

Congrats, Gemma! :D

rager4me said...

I always send my work out to a Publishing Company.