Event report

Conference 2013 - Is Self-Publishing for you?

Report published 13 August 2013

Freda Lightfoot kicked off by describing her route to e-publication, describing how, as one of Hodder’s mid-list authors, she was dropped but went on to become a best selling e-published saga writer earning six figures from her back list. It’s a tale worthy of Barbara Taylor Bradford or - well, Freda Lightfoot.

With some help from her former editor, Freda regained the rights to her backlist, embraced the changes in publishing and went on to publish almost all of her 30+ back list. She started with 5 Mills and Boone historical novels and went on from there, although it is much harder to get your rights reverted nowadays and she advised writers to check their contracts. Freda still writes for traditional publishers, so is a hybrid author. Waterstones also asked Freda if they could stock her books in their e-store.

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

• writer’s backlist remains available forever   
• writer retains creative control   
• sense of personal achievement/satisfaction  
• up to 70% royalties from Amazon   
• your book published within hours    
• writer has to pay for editing/proof reading etc  
• self publication creates jobs in the industry  
• writers can self-promote and get closer to readers  

• amount of work involved
• no advance
• writer has to pay for editing/proof reading etc
• you feel ‘alone’ and ‘adrift’

Terms and conditions are changing and writers need to keep abreast of the times.  Amazon now has the WHITE GLOVE program where an agent works with selected authors to self-publish. Amazon helps with promotion but some expense is incurred for the author and they too must work hard on promotion. The agent takes their normal 15% and Amazon 30% commission.

If you have a Mac, Freda recommends that you use a program called LEGEND MAKER to create epubs. A badly produced e-book will earn you 1* reviews and lose you readers, as will cheap covers. If you don’t feel technically competent to undertake self-publishing, use a company such as Book Partnership who will do it for you at a price. For print books: try Silverwood or Troubadour who may also handle distribution. Amazon has 90% of all downloads, Apple 5% and all other formats make up the remaining 5%.

How to get good sales

• get a good cover and ensure that the thumb nail is appealing and clear
• check how your cover looks in black and white (for basic ereaders)
• you need to get into Amazon’s top 100 to get noticed
• Amazon promotes successful books!
• ‘series’ sell really well; make your first book cheaper when you publish the sequel
• check the price of your book compared to similar in your genre
• check your ‘tags’ which Amazon uses to help readers find your book (SEO)
• ensure you have supplied Amazon with metadata about you and your books: blurb, info, categories, author notes etc (fill in the form in Author Central)

Inside your paperback/kindle

The front and end pages are important (check out other authors’ pages for examples) and include the following:
Reviews, blurb, Table of Contents, lists of your other books, ‘live’ links to Amazon, taster of your next book - the first chapter maybe, website/blog info, interviews, how readers can contact you.

Other matters

Don’t forget to sort out your ITIN number or the US IRS will withhold 30% of your USA royalties. Get organised and keep receipts of expenses and tax deductible items.
You can use Amazon’s ISBN numbers or buy your own in tranches of ten from a company like Nielsen. Don’t forget to register each title with them.

Freda also recommended the following blog:


It's a fact

The RNA's first president Denise Robins wrote more than 160 books