An Alien to Publishing With David Estes

Publishing, regardless of whether you are self-publishing or going the traditional route, is a lot of hard work. While nothing is ever perfect readers tend to expect novels to be as close to it as possible. We expect the novel to have a good story line, no typos, well rounded characters, eye catching cover art is a big plus, and an attention grabbing blurb. The standards readers set for the books they read are pretty high and writers need to work hard to make their novel a masterpiece. I regress, publishing is a crucial part of getting your book into the reader’s hands and one made all the more difficult when self-publishing.

This month Seven has welcomed established indie author David Estes to break down what it means to self-publish. He was very generous in his advice and we have that all here for you. David Estes has self-published since 2011 and has four series (The Dwellers, The Country Saga, The Evolution Trilogy and Nikki Powergloves) a total of 13 books which include Young Adult and Children’s novels under his belt. He is an amazing writer who has made a lifelong fan out of me. 🙂

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of indie authors or self-publishing, the first platform that comes to mind is Amazon. It is a leader as a publishing platform and one of the biggest online retailers. However, for someone looking into selling their books on Amazon, knowing the facts is a must. I think that if I were to look into every reason that this selling giant has been dubbed a monopoly I would be here for weeks. Yet when sticking strictly to the publishing world, it can be spelled out in two words: KDP Select. Kindle Direct Publishing Select is a program where Amazon targets authors looking to publish their novel. In essence it asks for a three month exclusivity contract in exchange for higher royalties and ensures your novel will reach a new audience with the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. When Estes was asked, ‘In your opinion what is the best and worst thing about publishing on Amazon?’ This is what he had to say:

Now that’s a loaded question! But it’s also an easy one. There are a few things that are awesome about Amazon:

First, their reach can’t be beat. They are still in a dominant position in the online (ebook) book-selling market. The vast majority of authors will undoubtedly get the bulk of their sales from Amazon.

Second, if your books are selling and getting good reviews, Amazon will help you. They will recommend your books to readers who enjoy similar ones and they will actually generate sales FOR YOU. This is an amazing thing once it really gets going. It can make or break your book.
Third, it’s really, really easy to publish on Amazon and the royalty rates are awesome if you price your book at $2.99 or above.

However, there are always two sides to every coin. There are some really frustrating things about publishing with Amazon that I’ve recently made very clear to them in a customer satisfaction survey:

First, their KDP Select program is a blatant attempt to monopolize the market, which is totally uncool. They promise nice perks like making your books available in a lending library (which you get paid royalties for) and give you the opportunity to make your book available for free every so often. However, in exchange, you have to SELL YOUR SOUL. OK, I’m being dramatic, but for me, it’s almost that bad. You have to agree to EXCLUSIVELY publish your book on Amazon. Like I said, not cool. It alienates readers who don’t buy their books from Amazon which I’m not down with.

Second, they have very strict pricing compliance rules that have been a royal pain in the butt a few times. They insist that your book must be priced as low or lower than every other retailer out there. I’m all for having my book priced the same everywhere, but it prevents you from doing, say, a Barnes & Noble promotion where you make your book $.99 on B&N for a few days. Uh uh, Amazon won’t allow it. They cry and shake their fists and say you have to include them at the party and make your book $.99 for them too. Of course, they have NO problem with you pricing your book at $.99 for a few days on Amazon but NOT on B&N. Yeah, double standards.

Third, Amazon has really annoying royalty rates for books priced lower than $2.99. It’s all part of their attempt to force Indie authors to price their books at $2.99 or above. The way it works is that if you price at $2.99 or above, you get an incredible 70% royalty rate, but if you price below that, you get a pathetic 30%. That’s frustrating because if I want to do a promotion and drop the price on one of my $2.99 books to say $1.49, although my price has only changed by $1.50, my royalty has gone from $2.09 to a measly $.46. For the most part, I price all my books at $2.99 or above, even if I don’t really want to. Otherwise it’s just not worth my while.

The bottom line, however, is that I can complain about my three big negatives until I’m old and gray and red-faced, but Amazon is still the key to my success. I own a Kindle, I buy tons of books from them, and I will continue to use them as my primary publishing platform.

Estes does an amazing job at breaking down what Amazon is to a publishing author. Now that the truth has been put out there, which is that through their good and bad Amazon is still a boss and a force to be reckoned with, you decide to still publish with them. Again, they are too big in the publishing world to look over. Just be wary of KDP Select. As in STAY AWAY!!! 🙂 But what’s next? When publishing you definitely shouldn’t stop there. That being said, Estes definitely has a criteria for selecting platforms to sell his novels, “My main goal in picking the platforms to publish on is to make my books available to as many potential readers as possible. I don’t like the idea of being exclusive to one platform as it completely ignores the thousands of readers who don’t use that platform and promotes the monopolization of the industry.” His goal is one I think all authors can relate to. He continues on to share with us his publishing strategy:

As a self-published author, I can’t possibly publish on every platform that offers ebooks, it’s just not feasible. Every day there are more and more ebook-selling platforms popping up, each with its own business model. At the end of the day, I’m a writer and I don’t want to spend my every waking moment on the publishing process. Plus, because I publish a book every 2-3 months, I need the process to be as streamlined and efficient as possible.

All that being said, my approach to publishing also needs to ensure I get the highest possible royalties for all my hard work. At the end of the day, this is my career, how I make a living, and choosing the right platforms can have a major impact on my success. There are distribution platforms out there, like Smashwords, that can help a self-published author distribute to a number of other ebook distributors. Through Smashwords “premium distribution” it can distribute to B&N, iBooks, Sony, and Kobo, to name just a few. However, as a fee for their service, they’ll take an extra 15% of your royalty. So not only will B&N take a percentage of each book’s sale price, but Smashwords will too. This can really cut into your royalties in a hurry.

Thus, I highly recommend publishing direct to as many major platforms as you can within your time constraints. Because I sell most of my books on Kindle and Nook, I publish directly to each of those two platforms. Then I use Smashwords’ service to publish almost everywhere else, like iBooks, Kobo, and Sony. However, if you choose to use Smashwords to publish some places, but not others, be sure to “Opt-Out” of distribution to the platforms you’re publishing to directly. Otherwise your book may be listed twice. So I lose a little bit of my royalty by not publishing directly to iBooks or Kobo, but it’s a minimal loss as my sales from those distributors isn’t a significant portion of my overall revenue. For me the trade-off between minor loss of revenue and the time it would take me to publish to iBooks and Kobo myself, is worth what Smashwords takes as the middle man. But if I had more time, I’d definitely consider publishing to a few other platforms directly. Finally, I publish to up and coming Google Books on my own through their Partner Program. It’s incredibly easy and already I’m seeing my sales from Google increasing each and every month.

That covers ebooks, but I also recommend publishing a paperback version in at least one place. That way your readers who don’t have ereaders can still access your books. Personally, I publish my paperbacks through Createspace, which is an Amazon company. That makes all my books available through Amazon as print-on-demand with no upfront cost to me.

The last question I asked of Estes was, “To a writer who doesn’t know their way around the selling platforms what advice would you give?”

There are a few key pieces of advice I would give to writers who are new to navigating the many selling platforms that are out there:

1. Focus on ebooks! That is the place to be, especially for Indie authors. You can offer your books at a better price than big published books and reach a growing market. You’ll also receive MUCH higher royalty rates than by publishing through print.

2. Focus on the biggest platforms because that’s where you’ll get most of your revenue. Amazon and B&N still have a stranglehold on the ebook industry. Although they will both inevitably lose some market share over time, the market is growing rapidly, so the overall pie will be getting bigger too.

3. Be aware of trends in the market. Do your research. For example, Apple and Google have both been pushing resources into their book-selling platforms, which will likely mean growth from them.

4. Take advantage of a worldwide market! Amazon and Barnes & Noble are only available in some countries. Use platforms like to reach almost EVERY country. I’m selling more and more books in places like Asia, Africa, and Europe through Smashwords.

5. Use the templates provided by the platforms you choose. You absolutely need your book to be formatted nicely for each of your platforms. Otherwise readers will get frustrated with how hard it is to read your books and they won’t come back for the next one or recommend it to others.

When you are new to the publishing world and it is alien to you, there is always someone out there who has done what you are trying to do and is honest, open and giving with their advice. So ask questions. Also, be sure to let us know what part of the publishing process has you stomped and we will tackle it to the best of our and an experienced professional’s ability.

David once again, thank you so much for allowing me the pleasure of working with you and giving aspiring authors all this great advice. As per his words from the guest post listed below, “Read, read, read! Be a reader and a lover of books first.” So readers and writers out there, be sure to check out his novels which can be found on Goodreads and Amazon (and all the selling platforms listed above). To hear more on what Estes has to say about writing, publishing and promoting be sure to click on these sites: Advice For Writers That Are Just Starting by David Estes
Indie Author Advice Series #2 by David Estes

© 2013 Seven Magazine

Your Book Sitting on a Book Shelf

I’ve had the pleasure of getting of working with Cindy C. Bennett a few times throughout this year. She’s pretty amazing, friendly and very knowledgeable about publishing. Cindy is an amazing author who has 15 published titles under her name. Two of these are traditionally published and she has found success there and in self publishing. She agreed to allow me to pick her brain about the publishing industry… I’m not so sure she knew what she was getting into 😉 but she very graciously and sincerely answered all of my questions. Thank you very much Cindy!

About Cindy
20130509-054805.jpg Cindy C Bennett was born and raised in beautiful Salt Lake City, growing up in the shadows of the majestic Rocky Mountains. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs. She also has two sons. She volunteers her time working with teen girls between the ages of 12-18, all of whom she finds to be beautiful, fascinating creatures. When she’s not writing, reading or answering emails she can often times be found riding her Harley through the beautiful canyons near her home (yes, I ride a Harley and no, you’d never know it to look at me!).

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Q: Besides a good novel, what do you believe is the biggest necessary attribute to be successful in the self publishing world?
A: A willingness to work hard and learn everything you can about marketing, without over marketing.

Q: Besides a good novel and persistence, what do you believe is the biggest attribute needed to have your novel picked up by a publisher?
A: A willingness to take a lot of rejections before you find the one that’s a good fit for you, and also to not be afraid to say no to an offer if it doesn’t feel right.

Q: When it comes to writing and publishing do you have a philosophy or advice that you live by?
A: My advice is to make sure that you have learned the mechanics of writing such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Without those, no matter how good your book is, nobody will read it because it will be too distracting to read or come across as bad writing.

Q: When writing a novel, how do you personally make the distinction of self publishing that novel or seeking a publisher?
A: With my first traditionally published book, I found them during a time when I did not know what I know now about publishing. With my second published book, my publisher asked me specifically for that book which is why I have two novels with Sweetwater books.

Q: What is the biggest piece of advice you can give to aspiring writers about publishing?
A: Understand that you’re going to get rejection in the publication process, and even if you do succeed, whether you are traditional or self published you will get rejections from readers that are harsh. You just have to learn to let it roll off your back and not take it personally.

Q: Looking back on your writing career, what would you have done differently?
A: I would have started much younger. I would have not been afraid of thinking I was going to get rejected. I would have published sooner, one way or another.

Q: What do you consider to be the best aspect of each publishing method?
A: The best of traditional is seeing your book sitting on a book store shelf. There is something inherently validating in that. The best aspect of self publishing is being able to retain complete creative control over every part of your book.

Q: What do you consider to be the worst?
A: The worst aspect of traditional publishing is the very small amount of money you make for all of the hard work that you do for your book. The worst aspect of self publishing is that it requires a lot of time to get your book ready, including editing, formatting, etc. that you might end up having to pay someone to do.

Q: What advice would you give writers who are interested in publishing and are unsure of which route to take?
A: I would suggest, with the way to marketplace is today, to look into self publishing before traditional because the publishing world is changing. There’s almost more reasons, at this point, to self publish than to traditionally publish. But in the end, it has to be what you feel will work best for you and your lifestyle, as well as the amount of time, money, and work you want to put into your book.

Q: With deadlines being a big deal in the publishing world, how do they differ on each side of the spectrum? How do you go about dealing with each?
A: With traditional publishing, you’re more tightly bound by deadlines than you are with self publishing. With traditional, you have many people who are working on your book and need to have it by a certain time to get their job done. A traditional publisher schedules releases and so you have to have it done by a certain time. With self published its more relaxed because you’re the only one requiring to have it done by a certain time so if you’re not done it’s not the end of the world.

Q: Are there any problems that are unique to women in the publishing world?
A: I actually think it is easy for a woman because many time a woman has more freedom with time to work on her book and work on marketing than a man who might be supporting a family. I don’t think there is a prejudice from a man vs. a woman on who is going to sell more books.

Q: Because we are celebrating Mother’s Day this month, how do you manage your time with writing and motherhood?
A: I have extremely understanding kids who are very supportive of my career and encourage me to write and they even read as I’m writing, so I’m probably luckier in that area than many areas. I don’t have little kids at home, my kids are a bit older. For me, I always prioritize my family first. If there is a family thing, or something they want to do, I do that first before doing my writing. So for me, I don’t generally find that there is a conflict between writing time and family time.

Thank you Cindy for this insightful interview. Be sure to stop by one of her links, follow and thank her for this amazing interview. If anyone has any questions or topics you would like covered in Anyone Can Write be sure to comment below. We will be trying hard to cover topics that will help writers better navigate the publishing world.

Anyone Can Write

As a writer today, there are many options for putting your work out there. Technology has made it possible for books to reach the eyes of millions with a click of a button. With forums like Wattpad and blogs, writers can easily share their words with the world. However, for a writer that not only wants to share the craft but also make a living from it, what are the options? We are no longer living in times where the traditional route is the only feasible one. Today’s writers have options. When it comes to publishing with the intent to make money, there are two options: traditional or self publishing.

Being that neither of these routes is a walk in the park and each being polar opposites from one another, how do you decide which route is best for you? The most important thing is to be informed. What is the difference between traditional and self publishing? If you decide to go with the traditional route, you might meet a bit of rejection. As many of you know, it takes quite a bit to draw the eye of a publisher. For example, you might need an amazing query letter, a lot of patience and possibly an agent. At the end of the day, the big factor is finding a publisher that is a good match for you. One who understands your visions and ultimate goals and what the heck, sending a nice advance your way would definitely help. The publisher will take your novel, edit it, ensure it has a great cover, build up a bit of buzz over it, then market and distribute it. As for self publishing, the only help you get is the one you pay for. You write your novel. You edit it. You design the cover. You publish it. You market it. Where self publishing is involved, every aspect of your novel being successful begins and ends with you.

If self publishing is so much work for the author, why has it become so popular? This is actually an easy question to answer. Although self publishing is an awful amount of work, it truly has many positives. Sometimes when a publisher is involved, the editing can be gruesome and extensive. After all, publishers are looking for novels that are easy to market and are sure will sell. So much so that in order to ensure commercial success many novels are butchered from what the author envisioned to what the publisher deems acceptable. While this is not always the case, Self publishing allows you to always have complete creative control.

Money and how it differentiates between the two publishing methods is a little more complex, at least on the publishing side. There is a very good article written by a blogger that dives into the subject of money from both aspects. To read about it in detail and visit Wrightspeak click here. Basically, the article states that while publishing houses tend to give their authors a very small percentage of earned income and the book royalties, because the books usually reach a broader audience, these authors still make a decent amount. On average a published author makes more than an indie writer. However, an indie author will see nearly every penny spent on the purchased novel. While this truth might differ based on the format of the book, the fact stays that self publisher authors get a bigger piece of the pie.

So when you write your novel and are assured it is a master piece. It is quite simply ready for the printing press as far as you are concerned. A writer seeking to go through traditional publishers will get their amazing query letter, stamp their envelopes and send them out to dozens of publishers. Lets say, you hear back from one who is interested in picking up your book. A this point, saying you are thrilled is an understatement. You wrote this novel with the hopes of sharing your ideas, imagination and passion with others. After all, your heart and soul has been weaved into every word on that page and you could not be more excited to share it with others. Well, overly excited and impatient writer, you will have to calm your horses and learn the virtue of patience. From the time that the query letter leaves your hands to the time the book hits the stands, years have most likely passed. Most publishers seek perfection, and they will polish your novel until it’s gloss is iridescent. Self publishing, however, is great on time. You can go from polishing your novels to having it available for readers within days. That is the beauty of ebooks and websites like Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo and Lulu.

Photo Credit: © 2010 Dave Coverly

Comics used in this article were borrowed from here and here.

© 2013 Seven Magazine