This was a one woman panel by JF Garrard, president of Dark Helix Press (more on that below) and multicultural fantasy author. Her first book ("The Undead Sorceress") came out in April, and coming soon is "The Literary Elephant" (subtitle: A beginner's guide to indie publishing). She handed out some info and book codes at the panel. She's also blogged a few times at AHA: Authors Helping Authors, so if you want more information about her publishing journey, go have a look there.
CHOOSE YOUR PATH
JF mentioned that there are three ways to publish - Traditional, Vanity, or Self-Publishing. The traditional route involves Query Letters to publishers, and may necessitate you getting an agent. If you end up selling your product for $1, publishers would take 70 cents and the agent 15 cents, leaving you with the remaining 15 cents. Of course, publishers often won't often take big risks and the market is ever changing.
Vanity publishing gives up a lot of your control, and will cost money, but the trade off is you have less to do. They'll handle things like copy editing and marketing... while potentially taking some rights to the work, and summing things up in monthly reports (ie- you may not know how many copies you've sold at any given time). Then there's Self-Publishing. It's entrepreneurial, and like building a house, there's a lot of overhead - the publishing step itself is actually easy.
FIRST: Editing. Probably the most costly step, if you want to do it well, because editors charge per word. This isn't "proofreading", this is looking at the plot and the continuity of characters and setting. A few websites tossed out were "Freelancer.com" (cheaper but more amateur) and "Preditors & Editors".
SECOND: Formatting. Make sure your gutters/margins/page numbers are done properly, particularly if you're going with a print book. (The digital route makes things easier to take it down, reformat, then put back up - though I imagine that will cost money and readers.) There are online templates (see "Smashwords"). Also so many FONTS! Notably an eReader audience can change fonts after the fact if they want, and there's a reason Times New Roman and Ariel have remained popular through the years.
|Or do your own art! ... Maybe not.|
As far as the art itself goes - try to be very specific. Provide references to the artist for what you have in mind, using multiple visual sources if necessary. (Wouldn't you be annoyed if you got a vague description, then sunk hours into something only to be told "no... something's not quite right"?) If you're creating your own fantasy setting, you might also want to consider having a map made, and included inside as a reference.
Now, the business side. At this point, we'll be getting into some more uniquely Canadian issues.
I. AM. CANADIAN!
FOUR: Picking a publisher. A lot of self-publishing sites are owned by US companies (and the exceptions are International companies). They'll take 30% off the top of your proceeds to go to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), unless you have an exemption number. So you'll have to deal with getting that. There also aren't any Canadian platforms (except Kobo which JF didn't have any info about), and there's bandwidth charges depending on the country where your book is bought (eg. between Canada and Europe). If you're creating a big novel, you may want to go with a flat rate on bandwidth.
The good news: In Canada, your ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is free. And if you own the ISBN, you are the publisher, not "Amazon". (Apparently in the US an ISBN costs something like $100?) However, you do have to register for the number, and there's a lot of forms and waiting periods involved. Begin by setting up an account with Library & Archives Canada (even that has a waiting period of a week as they verify you're a real person). Different ISBNs are then needed for hardcover, paperback, and electronic versions of the book, so get some "en bloc" (seemed like they give you 10, then you have to use all of those before you get more). Once you have the number, you can generate your own bar code and add it into the book.
You may also want to consider incorporating yourself as a company in order to publish. An audience member pointed out that there are tax benefits if writing isn't your primary job - the increase in income can be held within the company, and corporate taxes are going down. JF was originally going to publish within her husband's company, but decided to create her own ("Dark Helix Press") instead, as her husband's company is technology based. But wait, there's more!
You can be a Federal or Provincial Corporation - and it's best to go with the former. With the latter, you would need to re-register your company in the other provinces in order to sell your book there... and you may not be able to if your company name is already taken out-of-province. Which leads into the problem of name generation. JF: "All animal names are taken." She figures she lucked out with "Dark Helix" because "Dark" might have been seen by others as negative. Don't have your heart set on a name is what I'm implying here. You may also need to look into your "author name" if there's a lot of other "John Smith"s out there.
Okay! You now have an edited, formatted book with a cover and the ability to publish. At this point, publishing itself is EASY. Twelve hours after you upload it, it will be live. But there's still STEP FIVE to consider before you tap the 'Enter' key...
Marketing is a black hole. Do we even know what works? Who looks at billboards and ads?? If you take the book personally to places, between the trip, hotel, and meals, one hopes you can break even. One thing for certain: You'll need a WEBSITE. People will want to know more, like have you written anything else. You can get a free website with blogging software. (I've also learned that a domain name is pretty simple, I registered "mathtans" with "Namecheap.com".) Personalize your site. "If someone is going to do an interview, they're not going to interview your book." Be a person online. You also cannot be an 'introvert writer' here, you have to get the word out, or at least get other people to help you do that.
A word about Kickstarter campaigns. It's a good way to test the market and raise interest while getting funds, but be careful what you promise. If you're pre-selling your book as an incentive, you're committed to following through. You'll also need to do constant campaigning not only during the run, but also provide updates after the fact so people know you're making progress. Rob Barba has a good set of articles about setting up a Kickstarter over at MuseHack, just do a search on that site.
Consider also online forums within your genre of book - both Goodreads and LinkedIn were commented on. Online radio shows are often looking for guests, and if it goes well, you might even be invited back. By the way, all of this stuff should be looked into before the actual publishing date. For more information on Marketing and things like "Blog Tours", I recommend reading my summary of Linda Poitevin's session at CanCon 2013. In the end, don't expect to earn $50,000 from self publishing, that sort of income is likely reserved for an author who was already known after going the traditional route.
There were questions all through this session, a lot of which I've incorporated; one that came up at the end was the idea of a serial novel. (Wasn't me.) If you're planning to publish "chapter by chapter", how does that work with ISBNs? Each book needs a different ISBN, but the ISBN allows people to look up the work as a whole... so it was thought that you could use the same ISBN for each chapter, then again to publish as a whole. Anyone else know about that? There was also a media group present, "IXIstudios.ca" who were recording this session (and a number of others at AN), so you can check out their site in about a week's time.
Also going to throw in a plug here for my friend Andrea Milne's set of posts about self publishing. And her book that resulted, if you like dystopian novels with female protagonists.
I am not the sort of person to jump into things without considering all the angles - and this session helped me to do some of that. In the end, could I self publish? Well, no - not and be a teacher too. I know other teachers have, but I always seem to have too much on the go. Which isn't to say I'm ruling it out (and I am planning on taking some leave) but I've already sunk tons of time and energy into one failed project. I need time to fully analyze that one first.
That said, if you're willing and able to self-publish, all the best to you! Hope this panel summary was of some use.