This is the second in a series of blogs which The Literary Platform will be posting by writer Anya Lipska. We wanted to chart her experiences of the digital publishing process. Over the coming months we’ll be looking at her progress – step by step – in publishing her first book – both as a published author (Random House Germany) and as a direct to digital author…
As I was ironing press releases the other night, a treacherous thought crept up on me. Is the enormous effort of independently publishing an ebook really worth it? Most first-time authors would have been delighted to receive an advance from Random House Germany, and the sensible ones would no doubt have banked the cash, said ‘danke schön’, and started on that tricky second book. Instead, months later – and considerably poorer – I’m still wrestling with the technical intricacies of digital publishing and working on the marketing & publicity needed to give my ebook a chance of UK success.
OK, it was my own fault that I left the process of getting the right info and ISBN numbers onto the Nielsen Book data system to just a few weeks before the launch of my crime thriller ‘Where the Devil Can’t Go’. Every time I logged on, I ended up defeated by their byzantine registration form and turning to the rather more appealing tasks of choosing a cover design, website imagery and making a short promo film (more of which next time…). I now find myself scrambling to get the book registered with all the online retailers for the launch – two weeks away! But thanks to some prompt and clear advice (thanks, Nielsen’s Gary!) I am finally sorting it.
My tip to all aspirant digital publishers would be: get your ISBN number(s) early. An ISBN is your book’s unique identification code and if you were selling a physical book it would be mandatory. Not all digital retailers require an ISBN, however: Amazon, among others, assigns its own ID no, which makes life simple if you are only creating a Kindle version. But since Nielsen’s fee of £118 buys ten distinct numbers (what am I supposed to do – give them as Christmas presents?) I decided I might as well assign numbers to both the Epub and the Kindle version of my book.
To add to the bureaucratic grief, yesterday I discovered that if, as a non-US national, I am to prevent Amazon remitting 30% of any profits on US sales to the IRS – I probably should have started the part-exemption process about a year ago. Anyone know how to get a certified copy of a passport?
It hasn’t all been grim bureaucracy, though. I had a laugh fooling around on the Wapping foreshore having publicity photos shot by Roger Dean, a talented professional photographer who runs www.esotericlondon.com. Whether you’re able to drum up a friendly pro photographer or not, I think the key is to think carefully about the choice of shot background and what it conveys. The Thames foreshore worked for me because it’s where the mystery dead girl is found in my book, and I’ve also used it as the visual backdrop to my website.
I’ve also been lucky to hook up with Louise Rhind-Tutt, a savvy former Random House publicist, who is targeting a few well-chosen influential sites and bloggers, many of whom I’ve already ‘met’ on the twittersphere. She’s already secured me an interview with Crimefictionover.com, a great new site that covers some intriguing, off-mainstream releases.
I’ve been surprised to find Twitter an addictive pleasure – and a revelation. I am determined not to become one of those writers who endlessly tweet their own books/reviews/Amazon placings…but I have found it invaluable for the access it gives to the book world in general and to digital publishing expertise in particular. I follow fellow writers, bloggers and websites, ask the occasional dumb question, and retweet what I find amusing or useful. I’ve been struck by how generous people are in replying and helping out with queries.
Highlight of the last week, though, was meeting an author I have long admired. Several months ago, on hearing I had written a book, a TV colleague with the surname Read, said ‘Oh, my Dad’s an author.’ To which I responded ‘You can’t possibly mean…Piers Paul Read?’ Having surreptitiously read ‘Alive’ – his gripping account of air crash victims driven to cannibalism in the Andes – under the sheets as a kid, I went on to read many of his novels, so this felt like an amazing opportunity. He very generously agreed to read my final manuscript, and even more generously, wrote me a glowing review. When we finally met I found him to be self-deprecating, charming – and hugely encouraging about going it alone and publishing digitally in the UK. In fact, I can exclusively reveal that Piers Paul Read has a Kindle!
So is it all worth it? Yes. Even if ‘Where the Devil Can’t Go’ sinks without trace, I will have had some incredible experiences I would not otherwise have had. And above all I’ll have given Janusz, Kasia, Father Pietruzki and the rest of my characters, a readership in the UK as well as in Germany and, in some strange way, a life.
PS. Want to avoid adding press releases to the pile of ironing? An image-heavy document uses a lot of ink, making the paper go wavy, so press it in a heavy book straight after printing.
You can read the first installment of Anya Lipska’s digitial publishing journey in her first post.