So, here you are. You decided to go with an author-owned, single author press. (We’re going to use that because it’s easier to explain. You might have a co-op of authors, but that’s harder to explain because some of the things I’ll say you should do are really the job of your friend Bob.) You registered with your secretary of state, went to the bank and made an account just for your press. You have business cards (heaven knows why, but I presume it makes you feel official.)
Last Saturday morning, you put on a suit and had a business meeting with yourself (and the cats) and decided on a publication schedule for the press. After some heated argument (your spouse came and checked on you and went away muttering “thorazine, for the love of heaven, thorazine”and you have a month to get that first book out.
It’s going to be a tight schedule.
The first thing to do is to get an Amazon (and if you really must B & N and Smashwords and … what else is out there these days? At one time I had an account with Kobo and Draft to Digital I honestly don’t even know) account set up.
Put your suit back on. The first thing you have to decide right now is “Amazon only, or the seven (I don’t know, there might be that many now) dwarves also?
And this is a decision only YOU can (save mankind) make. I can’t decide for you.
There are pros and cons.
Pros to going with every possible retailer: Your tiny little press will look like it’s legitimate. That’s sort of the whole point of having a press anyway, so as not to raise the indie flags. (Some people will still refuse to read Indie, but no one refuses to read Trad.) And why would you not offer your stuff for sale wherever fans will look?
Cons: Some of these are beyond difficult to get a manuscript up on. In fact, none of them are as intuitively obvious as Amazon.
Smashwords is probably the worst, and a good example on how you can fall from being the lead in this business and never recover. Indie used to BE Smashwords. But their “meatgrinder” engine is a pain in the *ss. It catches formatting stuff that you need to almost be a programmer to find AND it does stupid stuff for no reason anyone can understand. It once put the second half of one of my books all in small caps, a problem no one else had.
More importantly, I left Smashwords due to payment non-transparency. What do I mean by that? Smashwords made deals and more deals with people who will lend the book or other weird arrangements. But there is no way for you to SEE how many times it’s been borrowed, and there’s no clear specification of how much you’ll get paid for these. They might have changed that, but when I left they hadn’t. So I left because while I know the books will get pirated, I see no reason to have it done officially.
So, whether this applies to Smashwords or not, anymore, keep a careful eye on how you get paid. Ultimately that’s why you’re doing this.
For me it was the how you get paid and how much that made me take all my books Amazon only. Look, I was getting $12 or so from B & N a month, less from the others. In 11, B & N was half of Amazon’s pay out, but no more. Amazon was giving me a paycheck, everyone else gave me a double pizza in aggregate. Then I found out the payments through KULL are the same as for the sales, AND all I had to do was go Amazon only.
Mind you, I still have the accounts at the other places, and should Amazon play funny tricks, I’ll go wide dispersal again. And that’s the other thing to remember. You’re a business and your relationship is business. Amazon is not your best friend, they’re just your retailer. (It is useful, and difficult, to keep this in mind about your traditional publishers as well.)
However, it’s important to note here that I do have friends who make as much or more off Kobo or Draft to Digital or Barnes and Noble as they do with Amazon. It seems to have to do with the GENRE and SUBGENRE of the book and how you present it.
This is why I can’t make a decision for you. Go and argue with yourself. I’ll wait.
So, you decided? Good. Next up: website.
Why have a website for your press? I don’t know, and I’m very bad at keeping mine up to date. I need to do that, because I’m told people google your press name to find more books.
Look, it costs almost nothing. Get the domain name, trick up your site with wordpress or another easy engine, and don’t do as I do: make announcements and keep things up. (I’m going to try okay?) It’s the cheapest publicity. Whether you want to invent press employees or not, it’s up to you. Arguing with imaginary people is marginally less crazy than arguing with yourself, right?) Again, it makes the thing look more respectable and as Dean Wesley Smith told me: You’re a writer. You should like making up people. (Righty oh.)
Okay. Now you have those things in place, we move to the serious stuff.
Cover. This is where most indies either stop cold or forge ahead, in full confidence they can do it all with a cheap photograph and Times New Roman.
So, next week: Cover up. How to make a cover that won’t break the bank and sends the right signals.