What’s the story behind you self-publishing your first novel, The Rozabal Line?
I wrote The Rozabal Line between 2005 and 2006. After I completed writing it, I sent out letters and manuscripts to a few hundred publishers and literary agents. Unfortunately, no one seemed interested. A new print-on-demand service, Lulu, had just kicked off in America. All you needed was a PDF file of your manuscript and a basic cover design and Lulu would make your book available on all major book-retailing websites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, WH Smith etc, without charging any upfront fee. They would simply take a percentage of the revenue from subsequent sales. I ended up selling just around 500 books through the self-published route, but I enjoyed it because it was an opportunity to learn everything about the book trade.
Are there any rules that need to be kept in mind?
Self-publishing is an easy route to getting your work out into the public domain, but it places a greater responsibility on the author with respect to the content, quality, editing, cover design, pricing and promotion. Treat self-publishing as a serious endeavour to get all the elements right. Keep your expectations low and your commitment high.
What kind of reception can one expect?
Bowkers — the agency that assigns International Standard Book Numbers — indicated that over 2,11,269 self-published books were released in 2011 alone. While most new authors tend to look at success stories such as Amanda Hocking or EL James, the reality is that the average self-published title sells around 100-150 copies, bought mostly by the author’s friends and family. No mainstream newspaper or magazine wants to read or review a self-published title, so getting visibility is almost impossible. Distribution tends to be limited to online stores. It is important to understand that self-publishing takes the pain out of getting yourself out there, but once you are, it’s rather difficult to make a living from it.
What can you do to get yourself noticed?
Well, I got active on micro-blogging site Twitter, Facebook and my blog because there was no other way to get myself heard. I knew that newspapers and magazines would not read my book, so I reached out to bloggers who reviewed books. I even created my own video trailer using iMovie and uploaded it on YouTube. There’s no limit to the creativity that you can bring to the marketing endeavour.
How much does it cost, and what kind of profits can you expect?
Publishing directly on Amazon Kindle costs nothing upfront because Amazon is more interested in getting a share of your revenue. Most self-published models work on similar principles but they offer you various add-on services, which are chargeable.