Dungeons & daiquiris

For many authors, the process of getting one's book into the hands of readers is a bit like venturing into the S&M playpen at a BDSM party. In the middle of the room you have the seasoned sadists (traditional publishers) brandishing their favoured instrument of torture (coveted publishing contracts), beating willing masochists (aspiring authors) into submission (with the grueling querying process). And on the periphery you have the switches (authors like myself) who are only there for a limited taste of pain and humiliation (rejection letters), knowing full well they can stop the game at any time and retreat for cocktails at the (self-publishing) rooftop bar upstairs.


1950s illustration by Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman

I would hazard a guess that most indie authors sipping cocktails at the rooftop bar have ventured into the dungeon at least once in their lives. Especially at the start of their careers, when the thrill of potentially securing a contract with a big name traditional publisher supposedly meant utter validation of one's worth as a writer, coupled with the convenience of appointed industry professionals taking care of all the technical design, production, and marketing stuff, with no need for you, the author, to worry about any capital outlay.

That's all fair and well until the first rejection letter lands in your Inbox, and it stings like a motherfucker. Then another, and another. The pile of rejections will eventually hit double digits, but by now you've hopefully grown a pretty thick skin. At this point, you can decide to stay down in the dungeon and subject yourself to an indeterminate number of future lashings, or extricate yourself and make your way to the rooftop bar with some semblance of dignity intact.

There are two ways to get there. The first is via a hi-tech glass elevator on the outside of the building, but you will need to tip the doorman quite handsomely for the privilege of such a swift, smooth ride. The second is round the back, via the fire escape, and although it costs virtually nothing, it does require a certain level of techie prowess and stamina to ascend each and every flight of stairs. Thank God for Google, and all those switches who have gone before us, kind enough to leave a few flickering strip lights on in the stairwells to guide the way.

After last month's decision to leave the dungeon, and having no money to tip the doorman, I drew up a checklist of all the individual steps I need to climb up the fire escape in order to reach the rooftop bar. Besides the strawberry daiquiri (and champers!) with my name on it, I've heard the views are incredible up there.


In no particular order, my work schedule over the next several months consists of the following:

Build my author website with blog functionality. Map my WordPress website to www.paulagruben.com as my primary domain. Pay WordPress their $13 (annual) hosting fee, via PayPal (I had an existing PayPal account, from when I set up my first Indiegogo campaign in 2015).

[UPDATE: If I need to crowdfund again, I will give Thundafund a go. It’s the leading crowdfunding platform for South Africa. It wasn’t around when I used Indiegogo.]

ISBNs 
Apply to the National Library of South Africa for 4 x International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs); each edition of the book (print, Mobi, ePub, PDF) needs its own ISBN. Generate the barcode for the paperback edition to be incorporated into the back cover design.

Design a hi-res (300 dpi) cover using the 6' x 9' template provided by CreateSpace. Save the cover file as a print-ready PDF.

Apply for a Payoneer account into which both Amazon and CreateSpace can deposit my royalties. Funds from this Payoneer account can then be electronically transferred into my local bank account.


Create an Amazon KDP account.
Complete the online Tax Interview. NB: South African authors no longer need to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Because SA has a tax treaty with the US, we can simply enter our existing SA tax number in the online form, and automatically qualify for 0% withholding on royalties.
Provide Payoneer account details for royalty payments to be made electronically.
Create an author + book profile.
Format my MS Word manuscript to conform to the technical specs required for an ebook, upload to KDP for automatic conversion to a Mobi file, and make the Kindle edition of my book available for pre-order on Amazon (worldwide), at a list price of $6.99 (excluding VAT), or the equivalent thereof across all other currencies.
Wait for file review and, once approved, give KDP the green light to release the Kindle edition for sale on 31 May 2016 at midnight local time in each marketplace. Only then will sample content become available for download.

Create a CreateSpace account.
Complete the online Tax Interview. NB: South African authors no longer need to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Because SA has a tax treaty with the US, we can simply enter our existing SA tax number in the online form, and automatically qualify for 0% withholding on royalties.
Provide Payoneer account details for royalty payments to be made electronically. 
Create an author + book profile.

Format my MS Word manuscript to conform to the technical specs required for a 6' x 9' print-on-demand (POD) paperback, then upload the interior and cover files (both in print-ready PDF format) to CreateSpace.
Wait for file review and, once approved, request a proof copy to be shipped to my birth mom in Texas (she will WhatsApp me the photos to see that everything looks exactly as it should).
Once approved, give CreateSpace the green light to release the POD paperback edition for sale on 31 May 2016 at midnight local time in each Amazon marketplace, plus the CreateSpace eStore, at a list price of $12.99 (excluding VAT), or the equivalent thereof across all other currencies.

Megabooks
Create a Megabooks account.
Convert my MS Word manuscript to an ePub file using Calibre software.
Send both the ePub and POD paperback files to Mega Digital via WeTransfer.
Wait for file review and, once approved, request a proof copy of the paperback to be couriered from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
Once approved, give Megabooks the green light to release the POD paperback and ePub editions for sale on 31 May 2016, at a list price of R190 and R100 respectively (including VAT, excluding the R59 door-to-door courier fee for the paperback). Note: When ordering online, SA customers can pay Megabooks via credit card or EFT.

[UPDATE: Mega Digital and Megabooks closed down at the end of August 2016.]

Register as a vendor with Skoobs, Theatre of Books. Order my first print run of paperbacks from Mega Digital - using the funds I managed to raise from my Indiegogo campaign - for sale at the Johannesburg launch on 2 August 2016, and delivery to the five places of legal deposit (see below). I did a barter deal with my ridiculously talented mate Marianne Brits-Strodl, who will photograph the event for me, before emigrating to the UK shortly thereafter. It will also be live video streamed on my Facebook page, for those who can't be at the event in person.

[UPDATE: Following the closure of Mega Digital and Megabooks at the end of August 2016, I used Pinetown Printers for my second print run in December 2016.] 

Legal Deposit Act 54 of 1997
In compliance with Section 2 of the Legal Deposit Act, I will have to supply the National Library of South Africa with 5 copies of Umbilicus (1 copy couriered to 5 places of legal deposit - Pretoria, Cape Town x 2, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg).

National distribution
Many, if not most, South African bricks-and-mortar retailers in the business of selling new books - from small independents to large national chains - work on a sale or return (SOR) aka consignment basis. Your book is given a shelf-life of around 3 - 4 months. Thereafter, all unsold stock is returned to the publisher / author. While an indie author can do business with indie bookstores directly, when it comes to dealing with the large chains, you have to go through a distributor on the company's vendor list. 

In a nutshell, I need to made sufficient profit from online sales of my ebook and POD paperback to be able to afford the upfront printing costs required to fill consignment orders. Only then can I approach independent bookstores directly, and/or hire the services of a distributor to handle business with the large chains.

[UPDATE: The book buying at Exclusive Books is done by [their] store managers and not centrally. Store managers can only be approached by distributors registered with Exclusive Books. [Their] registered distributors are Bacchus Books, Blue Weaver, Faradawn, PSD, Phambili, Xavier Nagel, and Feather Communications. Each distributor has its own trading terms and will be able to advise you on the process of selling your book to Exclusive Books and other book retailers.

In March 2017, I met with Owen Early of Bacchus Books. He is a registered distributor to not only Exclusive Books, but also Wordsworth Books, Bargain Books, Adams Books, and various independent bookstores, across all 9 provinces. I had to supply him with stock upfront and create an Advance Info (AI) sheet in order for him to be able to rep my book to the retail buyers at bookstores. Umbilicus started appearing on the shelves of Exclusive Books at the end of April 2017, at the RRP of R200.]

Please note: I will be updating this page with more resources and links as and when I work through the steps. Both as a personal record, to refer back to when I'm ready to self-publish future work, and hopefully also as a helpful little 'How To' guide for fellow South African authors who may be embarking on their own self-publishing journeys.

#payitforward

Comments

  1. I look forward to seeing you on the rooftop with that strawberry daiquiri in hand :) You will get there!

    ReplyDelete

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