Monday, January 30, 2017

Control! (#selfpublishing #kdp #smashwords)

Divided We Fall cover

By Lisabet Sarai

I published a book this afternoon, on Smashwords and Amazon KDP.

The process took about three hours, including creating a cover and wrestling with Word formatting. Oh, there was also some time consumed by a power outage that killed off our router for a while.

Of course, this volume—Divided We Fall—is just a 7500 word short story. A novel would have taken me longer, simply to get the formatting right. Nevertheless, self-publishing is definitely the way to go if you’re the type who likes instant gratification.

That’s not the main reason I’ve embraced the process, though. The most desirable aspect of self-publishing is the way it gives you almost total control.

You have control over the price. I’m convinced that many of my romance novels would sell much better if my main romance publisher didn’t charge so much (six or seven bucks for an ebook novel!), but there’s nothing I can do about that. My contracts state quite clearly that the publisher has final say over the selling price.

In addition, for a self-pubbed book, you can change the price when you want, if that suits your marketing strategy. Especially with Smashwords, it’s extremely easy to set up a discounted price for a limited period of time, or even make the book free for purposes of promotion. Amazon requires a bit more time and work to modify prices, and is rather hostile to free stories, but I gather even that can be arranged if you can document that the book is free on other platforms.

When you self-publish, you have control over the cover. Granted, this is a mixed blessing when you have only basic graphic arts skills, like me, but at least I don’t have to put up with covers that I hate. (If I have to look at another waxed, muscular male torso, I might vomit.) Most of my self-published books have simple covers based on a single stock photo. However, at least they don’t look like every other book that’s out there. Furthermore, if I decided it might be worth it, I could always pay to have a professional cover designed. And it would be exactly the way I wanted it. I wouldn’t have to negotiate with the art department, or accept a bland cover just because it matches the style of an imprint.

Finally, the most important kind of control, for me, is control over content. When I’m working on a book that I intend to self-publish, I don’t have to please anyone but myself. I can break genre rules right and left, if that suits me. I can use any sort of sexual terminology and portray any sort of erotic activity, without either being censored or accused of being coy. I don’t have to satisfy an editor or convince anyone that my book “fits” the publisher’s image or supposed readers.

I truly love the freedom of self-publishing. I should say that I consider publishing with Excessica to be self-publishing as well. Their cooperative model means that authors have full control over, and responsibility for, content, price, cover, editing and release date. Excessica handles the final formatting and submission to different publishers, plus adds the book to their own on-line store, and takes a 10% cut in return. I appreciate having someone more skilled handling these tasks, and am happy to pay for that.
So what’s the down side of self-publishing? It’s often claimed that self-published work sells more poorly than books released by publishing houses. Maybe that’s true for some people. As for me, all my books sell poorly. I think the titles I have with Excessica are probably my most popular right now—not counting Raw Silk, which continues to find new readers eighteen years after its first publication.

Obviously you’ve got to put in more effort editing your self-pubbed books. If you’re not confident about your own grammar and spelling, you need someone else to help. However, I’ve read (and reviewed) plenty of traditionally published works that suffered from inadequate editing. Signing a publishing contract does not guarantee that you’ll get great editing—nor does it free you from the ultimate responsibility for your words.

Self-pubbed books used to get less respect, but it’s not clear to me that this is still true. Many authors with stellar reputations are going the self-pub route for at least some of their work. I recently read a wonderful self-published title by K.D. Grace, for instance.

If you think that a publisher is going to be much help with marketing—sorry, but you’re deluding yourself. Publishers may have their own branded channels—web site, Facebook page, Twitter account and so on—but honestly, they are as clueless as the rest of us regarding the magic formula for selling books. You’ll have to market a traditionally published book as actively as a self-pubbed one, without having some of the same tools.

I could go on, but I’ve got three other blog posts to write today, so I’ll let my fellow Grip people expound further. (I’m especially interested to read what Cameron has to say, given that he has just started a publishing company.)

However, I’d like to share the blurb for my new book with you, because it’s a charity volume in response to the recent U.S. Election.

All proceeds from the book sales will go to Planned Parenthood. Right now they need all the help they can get!

Divided We Fall by Lisabet Sarai
Multiracial erotic romance, 7500 words

Hate takes too high a toll

Linhs three year old brother has wandered out of Viet Village into Niggertown. Despite the danger, she has no choice but to go looking for him in hostile territory. She manages to convince the rifle-toting guard at the entrance to the black ghetto to help her search, using a mixture of bribery and bravado. As they comb the desolate streets of Niggertown, seeking any trace of Duy, Linh discovers that the barrios inhabitants arent necessarily the violent, drug-addled brutes shes been taught to hate, and by the time Linh and Steel have rescued the injured toddler and spent a long night hiding in a derelict building, she has come to understand who are their real enemies.

Get your copy at Smashwords:


  1. Another thought on the idea floating around that self-published stories don't sell as well as pub'd stories. With a self-pub'd story, anybody and his brother can publish a story so I'm sure that there are a lot poor stories out there which dilute the numbers. I haven't seen any studies on erotica, which publish numbers of stories sold, genre, and groupings per author. While sales might (?) be down, the market will probably self-correct over time when porn writers find out that it's harder than they think and go back to drinking beer and watching football.

    1. I couldn't figure out the link to Mark Coker's 2017 Book Industry Predictions so I posted the article on my blog and here's the link:

    2. This is a great article, Larry. I was particularly struck by this prediction:

      "The publishing industry will begin to recognize KDP Select as the cancer that it is"

      Certainly I see many authors on Excessica who are now opting out of KDP Select.

  2. I've only pubbed with Excessica, so don't have much to compare that to. Besides stories chosen for several anthos, I've not had to deal with a traditional publisher. What you say about a good editor is great information for people who think one pair of eyes and a few betas (who are not profession editors) is good enough.

    Got that covered! I got Lisabet!

    She's the greatest. (after Momma X, but Momma runs screaming from the room when I ask her do do one of my more out-there pieces. She does help work on the OGG blogposts when they're relatively tame.) Even my worst (and only 1 star) revue for "The Gonzo Collection" the reviewer noted the great editing. I wonder how he came to that conclusion. I don't think he read the frikkin' book.

    1. What you'll find is that some people who are disgusted with your smut, will give it a one star review and say it sucks just to drive down your rating.

    2. Fortunately, people who appreciate well-written erotica are aware of these trolls and how they operate!

  3. Then there are the reviewers who feel obliged to post one-star reviews because "I didn't know these were short stories." I've encountered these more than once. What part of "anthology" or "collection" don't they understand? Granted, some folks don't seem to know the difference between an anthology (stories by a mixture of authors) and a collection (stores all by a single author), but this is getting so widespread that I guess I'll have to chalk it up to the natural evolution (or devolution) of the language.

    1. Sigh. Literacy is becoming as rare as compassion.


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