Have you ever wondered if self-publishing could be your ticket to a better life? Our speaker at the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) meeting this past Saturday was self-publisher and blogger Christy Pinheiro of Passkey Publications.
Christy is also the author of The Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit, another CreateSpace product that, she said, is her way of “giving back” to new self-publishers some of what she’s learned.
Christy’s presentation was billed as an introduction to publishing with CreateSpace, the Amazon company that’s become a major supplier in the author-services field. Christy prints all her books with CreateSpace and knows her way around the vendor well.
Early on, you could get a feeling for where Christy was coming from when she announced that “Self-publishing through CreateSpace has liberated me.” She pointed out that anyone in the room, using Microsoft Word and the CreateSpace cover creator software could publish a pretty professional-looking book for about $25, the cost of the proof, and have it for sale on Amazon.
Here are some of my notes from the presentation:
- You need to have a thick skin. If you are sensitive, you have to be prepared for bad reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.
- If you want to make money publishing you have to be willing to spend money. In 2008, her first year at CreateSpace, Christy’s books made $15,000, she did not use an editor and consequently her book had many errors. In 2010 she will spend over $10,000 on editing because it’s so important.
- Watch out for how you spend your money. Some of the services from CreateSpace or others may be performed by low-level workers (“$10 college students”) and billed at professional rates.
- Try to get reviews, but be prepared for bad reviews. When you send out your book make sure there’s all the information a reviewer might need along with it.
- Although piracy can be a problem, chasing the pirates and bootleggers will just drain your energy, so move on.
- Self-publishing is 10% creativity and 90% stubbornness combined with a willingness to accept criticism.
- Consider whether to use a pen name to protect your identity, but make sure you get a website and a blog, it’s very cheap and you can’t publish without a web presence.
- Make your book as professional as possible, hire a copy editor or trade services if you have to. Make your book look as much as possible like a traditionally published book,
- Make sure you own your ISBN, don’t let someone else supply it.
- Discounts are not negotiable at CreateSpace, but you can use your own ISBN in the Expanded Distribution program.
- Christy spends about $400 per month on Google AdWords advertising to reach her specialized audience of tax professionals. Her books are aimed at preparation for IRS Enrolled Agents. She has 10 books in print, of which 6 are profitable and one is “wildly profitable.”
- When she publishes a new book, Christy runs an AdWords campaign and emails people to give the book a big push, then stops. The book launched this way will continue to sell throughout the year.
- She likes selling through Amazon, who takes care of all the fulfillment and returns. Christy believes the element of trust people have with Amazon outweighs even their desire for a bigger discount, and she’s happy to let them take care of the “back office” work.
- Christy pointed out that Amazon has discounted her book 42% although her royalty stays the same. Consequently they are losing money on each sale, but making it back with their printing profits from the CreateSpace operation. She believes they do it to control the market for certain kinds of books. Her books have also been publicized by Amazon at no cost to her, by being picked up by Amazon’s algorithms that match books that have been “bought with” other books.
The Success of Self-Publishing
Christy put up a slide showing her sales report for May, 2010. It showed her total from all books sold at over $18,000 for the month. She has basically quit her day job and is now fully employed as a self-publisher.
She told some amusing stories about her time working for the State of California, and how much more satisfying it is to run your own business and make it a success. She said, “If you make $2,000 a month at a job and you can make the same money by publishing, why wouldn’t you?”
In an awesome gesture, Christy brought a carton of her self-publishing books and allowed BAIPA to sell them and keep the proceeds as a donation. This singular act of generosity helps to give some idea of just how inspiring her talk was.