Tag Archive: the business of self publishing

My series on Successful Self Published Authors wouldn’t be complete without mentioning E. L. James


Fifty Shades of Grey.

E. L. James has become a successful author who started with self publishing.

E. L. James has become a successful author who started with self publishing.

The book itself has many people more qualified than I to talk about it – I actually haven’t read it yet. I’m currently very interested in how it came to the attention of the world – and shot to the top.

If the subject matter wasn’t controversial enough, the way the book came to be is even more so.

E. L. James was a participant in a Twilight fan site, but moved her material to her own site after her story started to wildly deviate from any Twilight relevance. The story first gained attention through postings and social media, and James kept writing. She, or somebody, (another grey area) put it out as a Print On Demand book and kaboom!

A traditional publisher – Vintage Books who is or was owned by Knopf which is or was owned by Random House – then picked it up and voila it appears in grocery checkout lines. Yet another thing to not explain to my daughters right now…. the practical hazards of a rope bikini… not now, please.

Once again, the moral of this successful self publishing story is … content.

This book had such compelling and interesting content, that it simply sold and sold some more. The rest followed like a weal follows a whip crack.

In the many many things we learn from this book – we learn that content really is dominant.

If the content is riveting enough, it will make its way blindfolded to the hands of readers everywhere.

I should stop now… It’s too tempting to tie myself in knots over this.
Seriously, I’m stopping now.

Congratulations to E. L. James!



The Westchester Press and How To Self Publish A Book

This was my favorite view from our property in New Mexico while I was writing Just A Couple Of Chickens. It looks west, to Oregon, where we now live.

Since my celebration of Christmas and New Year’s is a reflection on the past year and setting goals for a new year, I thought I’d apply it to how to self publish a book, and spin out some self publishing advice to myself – and everyone!

If I could ghost back to each year’s Christmas Eve in the past, what would I tell myself about self publishing a book?

First of all, I’d make more of an effort not to scare the wiggles out of myself by popping up unannounced than ghosts of Christmas past usually do.

Then I’d congratulate my poor wigged-out self on having a book out there in the world, rather than unfinished in a drawer.

I would tell myself that

  • self publishing a book will not make me rich in cash (yet!) but that more self published authors are getting rich every year
  • the skills that I will learn along the way are valued in the working world and will give me options
  • the amazing coolness of having a person email me to say that they enjoyed my book is amazingly cool – and might be worth it all right there
  • I will spend more time working on the self publishing business and marketing than I will in writing, hmm.. eh?
  • self publishing a book feels better than submitting a book for traditional publishing, but I should continue to do both to make all things possible
  • I must keep writing, even if I am writing about self publishing
  • I’m still learning by doing and learning things the hard way, and all of our future selves have agreed to just accept that as our personal motto

And then I would break all time-travel and ghost-past laws by sneaking myself a copy of my soon to be ready series on How To Self Publish A Book, which includes things like How To Set Up A Small Business and How To Design A Book and How To Market A Book, and more… because by having that book in hand, which I’ve written based on all the things I’ve had to do to learn how to self publish, then I will rocket forward in life.

Actually, if I’m going to break the time travel rules, I might go big and give myself a list of stocks to buy, flight dates to avoid, and a headsup on not choosing the IMAX 3D theater option for any of the Avenger movies.

Merry Christmas Everyone!



Me, Myself, and I are taking advantage of our opportunity to interview the author of “Just A Couple Of Chickens,” a book we wrote and self published. We’re not sure who that fourth duckling is…

The Westchester Press is pleased to present this exclusive opportunity to interview the author of “Just A Couple Of Chickens,” a funny and informative book about chickenistic and economic adventures that has sold over 1,500 copies so far and counting.

The author, Corinne Tippett, is here with us today – mainly because this is her blog and she is writing it. But enough about us, let’s get to the questions!

The Westchester Press: Thank you for being here with us today, Corinne. How is your book doing now that it has been out for almost two years?

The Author: You’re welcome! Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my book. It’s still selling pretty well, which is great for me and my publisher – I mean, for you, but one contributing factor is that the book talks about economic struggle and hardship, and I really thought it would be out-dated by now. But the theme is still current and all of us would like to see that change. Economic change.

The Westchester Press: We hear you there! High five on that one. Are you really working on a sequel? What’s taking so long on that?

The Author: Okay, so high five from self publisher to author is kind of more like clapping, don’t you think? And yes I really am working on a sequel and it takes as long as it takes, okay? For one thing, I had to finish my grandfather’s aviation history biography which I was supposed to write first but I did the chicken book instead, and for another thing, I really want a happy ending of total economic healing and it’s taking the whole country a while to get that going.

The Westchester Press: A new book?  An aviation biography? Who is publishing that? Are we publishing that?

The Author: At this time, I am in the process of submitting my grandfather’s aviation biography to a traditional agent or traditional publisher. Because I think it’s a project that may be well suited for traditional publishing, and I’d welcome the team approach to producing it. But if that doesn’t come through, then I will certainly self publish, and you’ll be my first choice.

The Westchester Press: But you ARE a self publisher!  You ARE The Westchester Press!  How can you do this to us?

The Author:  I don’t believe that self publishing and traditional publishing have to exclude each other. And once I self publish a project, I will continue to submit it to traditional publishers along with a sales count… and we’ll see what happens.

The Westchester Press: We need a minute, sorry for the delay. We’re looking up the word “fidelity” in the dictionary.

The Author: This seems to be going just as well as our quarterly company meetings. There’s no “i” in team, people. Okay, now you aren’t talking to me. So, now I’m not talking to myself? Isn’t that a good thing? arrite. Two can play at that game. I mean, one can…





How do I get paid as a self publisher

I reveal the payment mysteries of self publishing in this rockin’ post.

How do I get paid for my self published book? How does the money actually arrive in my bank account?

Well, it depends on how you are selling your book. I’ll focus on the online and credit card sales, because if you are selling your book at a table or out of the trunk of your car, it’s more obvious how you get paid… the online sales are the mystery to most of us.

If you are selling through a print-on-demand service like CreateSpace, then every time a book sells through Amazon.com, you get a royalty. The amount of that royalty is determined by the size and cover price of your book. You would know in advance how much that will be as you go through the set up process. There are at least three different royalty amounts, based on how what sales channel the buyer purchased your book.

The following CreateSpace details were current as of September, 2012, and since things change rapidly… take them with a grain of salt:

  • You get the highest royalty if the buyer buys from your CreateSpace author page, which is a page nobody will find unless you email them the direct link.
  • The “normal” royalty comes through sales directly from Amazon.com, and you have to rely on Amazon.com to report how many of those sales took place. There can be a lag between the buying and the reporting.
  • The least amount of royalty comes through Amazon.com expanded distribution, which is a channel you have to pay to sign up for, but enables your book to be available on request (not on the shelf) in every bookstore in the world.

You never have to handle the book or the shipping, and you don’t get the direct information about the buyer. Your royalties add up and when you’ve met the required minimum balance ($25 most recently), then CreateSpace will direct deposit the money to the bank account you’ve listed. They can send you a check instead, but it’ll cost you.

If you are selling your book through PayPal, directly from your own website, then PayPal will hold the full amount you charged for the book, less their fee, until you tell them to deposit it to your bank account (free), or request a check (which will cost you). You will package up the book, which you’ve already had printed somehow, and ship it to the seller. This way you get the buyer information, but you also have to handle the book and have an inventory to ship from, which you have already paid for.

If you set up your website to accept credit cards by getting a merchant account or gateway account, then the money you process from the sales of your books gets deposited to your bank account, less the fees for the merchant account. Depending on how you have it set up, you may instead have a lump sum fee withdrawal come out of your account once a month.

All of these methods require you to allow these companies  access to your bank account, to make the deposits, and so it is very wise to set up a totally separate account for these business activities. And make sure your bank offers good fraud protection. I don’t find it entirely comfortable either, but it’s the reality of true self publishing… you are a publisher, you are a business, and these are the conditions for normal modern business.

I promise you that it all feels much better than this post makes it sound when the money from book sales is flowing in…




how to self publish a book using lulu

A feather of self publishing advice regarding Lulu.com

I recently printed a draft of my soon-to-be-available step by step “how-to” manual on self publishing through Lulu.com to see how Lulu compares other services I’ve tried.

www.Lulu.com is one of many online companies that offers a range of publishing solutions to anyone with a project.

To start, before I sign up for any online company, I do a “suck search” to see if anyone has gotten angry enough at that company to rant off about it. I found a really huge number of people who were pissed off at Lulu.com. Almost as many as are pissed off at PayPal.

So I was cautious and read all the fine print and submitted a live email query to lulu.com’s customer support to test the system. It took a week for customer support to respond, but when they did, it was a live person and the answer was relevant to my question, and I was satisfied. So I got busy setting up an account and putting my project together.

I liked the fact that I could make a project that was “private” for viewing right from the start. And that I could change that setting later. Private publishing. Taking self publishing to a whole new level; the self reading level.

Lulu is free. That was good, because the other services I’ve tried are also free to get started. The only charge I paid was when I was ready to order a copy of my book to proof it. Then I paid for my book and the shipping. The book fee was based on the size and page count, and the shipping was both reasonably priced, and fast. The book fee was reasonable too.

I would have to pay Lulu.com fees once I was ready to publish my book, but if I stayed in this new world of totally private publishing, I’d only ever pay when I wanted a copy of my book. Self audience!

I was able to make a cover for free, which is a service also available on other services. While I seriously recommend you hire a professional to make your final cover, it is handy to use the free service to make a draft cover. Lulu had fewer options than other services I’ve used, but I need fewer options on something like that. I’ve lost too many hours playing with covers that should never see the light of day.

When I was ready to order a proof, I did not have to put in my ISBN number. Nor did Lulu require me to take one of theirs. They would require the ISBN number when I was ready to publish, but not to order a proof, and I liked that very much.

Lulu’s system was pretty easy to use… the only troubles I had were specific to my formatting, and so overall, I was satisfied, but when I came to the steps involved with actually publishing my book with Lulu, I was no longer satisfied. The costs and process of self-publishing through Lulu were a no-go for me. Their fee to get my book on Amazon.com and beyond, and how they structure their royalties and pricing put me off. It is cheaper and easier to control on other services.  CreateSpace, where I self published “Just a Couple of Chickens”,  will put my self-published book on Amazon.com with no fee. They only charge once I start to access expanded distribution. (…disclosure….I have an affiliate link to CreateSpace on my sidebar because I am pleased with their service, but no link in the text of this post…. and I would affilate lulu.com because of their ease of printing a book, but not for their publishing portion…)

In summary, Lulu.com is very useful for printing a proof or a casual copy of a book I don’t intent to market.

It’s easy to use and the service was good. The print and cover quality was fine. I can use Lulu to print a proof of my project, or I can pay them to produce my whole book, or I can use my own ISBN number and self-publish my book through their company. But I wouldn’t. And many of these publishing issues were the root of the rantations I found in my search.

I would use CreateSpace over Lulu for self publishing… although I haven’t yet tried Lightning Source or Blurb.com. (Have you?)

Lulu’s proof printing ease makes it pretty fun to whip up book versions of some of my projects-in-waiting. To see them in book form instead of in manuscript form or only on screen. Lulu.com is great for that purpose. I’ve got so many projects that I could take self publishing to the ultimate of ultimate level… self library!


What if there are too many self published books in the world?

Will the flock of self published books overwhelm readers or enrich our world? So many books, so little time…!

This is one of the biggest questions at the heart of the emotional furor against self publishing , regarding the publishing changes going on today. Bridget Kinsella frames it perfectly in her article in Stanford University’s alumni magazine, dated November / December 2010. Her question, and the discussion, continues to rage today, almost two years after the article’s publication.

Bridget asks, “If the traditionally high barriers to publication fall, will that produce a world of unimagined richness or one mired in dross?”

She first points out that one of the advantages of the changes is that books are available everywhere, and in a bewildering array of formats. Practically any book is available to anyone with an Internet connection… even out of print books because of the stashes in old bookstores made available.

But the disadvantage comes back to the issue of quality, not just of the books, but also of the reviewers. If any author can produce a book and any blogger can review it, how can a reader find a good one?

Bridget’s article goes on to pursue the issues of the business as a whole, with valuable interviews with key people in the big agencies… but my focus is the question she posed.
Will readers be enriched or mired in dross?

Because I believe this is the key issue behind the “stigma” of self-publishing and the root of the negative emotion behind so many of the traditional versus self publishing arguments. A real fear that the availability of publishing technology and distribution channels will flood readers with so much garbage that the good books will drown.

It’s not a frivolous concern on the part of traditional publishing. There are many, many, badly-written poorly-produced self-published books, and I’m just as mad as anybody else when I spend my money on one. As mad as I get when I spend my money on a bad one produced by a well-known traditional publisher.

But it is, and always has been, buyer beware.

  • I buy books from my favorite authors because of the previous books they’ve written.
  • I buy on the recommendation of friends and family with similar reading tastes.
  • I buy based on reviews that are specific about the story and its pros and cons.
  • I buy based on the back matter, the cover, the genre, and the table of contents.
  • I buy based on Amazon.com reviews, which are written by normal people. And I read every review when I’m getting ready to buy, especially the lower rated ones.

Nowhere in this list of things that drive me to buy a book is whether it is traditionally published or self published.
It simply does not matter to me… those other elements have to be in place before I will buy.

So a self published author has to do all those things same as a traditional publisher does, and has to do them well. And this is what will separate the dross from the riches, when it comes to actually selling books.

But there’s another element to the issue, and that’s outside of what is actually selling. So many self published books don’t sell very many copies. But they still exist, and the ideas contained in them, and the point of view of their authors, is an unbelievable gold mine of human thought and creativity.

In my opinion, it’s the best thing to happen to human thought since the Stone Age. Well written or not, it’s irreplaceable, invaluable, and inestimably precious.

But I still don’t want to buy a bad one, so I’ll stick to the way I buy books, and let the best book win.


Self Publishing Advice Sky's the Limit

Getting a business license can seem like stormclouds at night, but it is simple and easy, other than choosing what to name it!

 Yes!  You do need a business license to self publish your book. But it’s easy!

Because you become a publisher in order to self publish. And to become a publisher, you choose a business name and then register it by getting a business license through your state or county.

In Oregon, the process can be done online and costs @ $50 for a simple business (more for a Corporation or Limited Liability Company). To find out how to do it, I googled “How do I start a business in Oregon” and then followed the links, which rapidly led me to the website for the Oregon Secretary of State.

  •  You will need to have some business name ideas on hand, because in most states, you can’t have an identical business name to someone else. I suggest you don’t name your publishing business after yourself or based on your writing genre, because then you will have more flexibility to write in different genres and under pen names if you choose.


  • You need an address for your business, so if you aren’t going to list your home address (and I strongly recommend that you do not use your home address because it will therefore become public record and searchable all over the internet forever)… then you should get a mailbox set up before registering.


  • You will need a way to pay for the license online. Since you can’t set up a bank account for your publishing business until you have a business license to show the bank, you’ll have to use your personal debit or credit card or checking account… but as soon as you have a business license, you should set up a bank account for the business. Your business start up funds still come from yourself, but the separation is important.


  • You generally give your own social security number as your business tax ID number if you are going to be a sole proprietor.

In some states, you will also have to set up a sales tax account. You can find out more by calling the information number listed on the website where you filed for your business license.

Once you have your business license, you can get started buying your ISBN numbers and getting your book ready to publish.

And yes, once you have your business license and your pack of 10 ISBN numbers, you can choose to be a publisher for someone else’s book… but then you are no longer just a self publisher. You are an independent publisher, or small press.

Getting a business license is not difficult and worth doing. It sets you up to do business properly, publish completely, and do your taxes correctly.
The hardest part is figuring out the name!



Copyright 2012 Corinne Tippett & The Westchester Press
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