Thursday, March 28, 2013

Guest Post: What Does It Take to Publish a Book? (James Calbraith)

I’ve done this publishing shtick a few times now, so I gather I have a good experience. The following are a few pointers to what it really takes to publish your own book.

For the sake of the post, we assume your manuscript is already written, beta-read and polished by yourself. Otherwise, do the above first :-)
This is my way; you may be confident you don’t need a professional editor, in which case, good for you. BUT: if it’s your first novel, I highly recommend it having looked through by a professional editor, somebody who’s worked with books all his life.

A line-by-line edit is much too costly an affair for an indie author; in fact, it’s increasingly costly for big publishers as well. So don’t take that – instead, if your editor offers such service, get an advisory edit, with general notes. This is an equivalent of a very thorough review, often with emphasis on what makes a book commercially successful, so if you’re in this game for money, you will need that.

Read the notes and take them all to heart. If you’re smart, you may not need to do that for every book you write – as long as you remember what you’ve learned that first time.
The edit for my first two books cost about a $1000 altogether.


Don’t make a beginner’s mistake. The one thing you HAVE TO DO is hire a proof reader, with good academic credentials, somebody who checks people’s writing for a living. Even if you decide to skip everything else, not hiring a proof reader is a crime against the community of indie writers. Don’t give everyone else bad rap because you’re a scrooge. Remember, this is all an investment.

Good proof readers don’t have to be costly. After some shopping around I ended up with one who takes only about $300-$500 per book, which is fairly reasonable. I’d advise against paying more than $1000 unless your work is highly academic.


As much as I like my covers, and it gives me a fuzzy feeling whenever somebody mentions how great they are, I’m not sure if a cover is very important marketing tool these days anymore. I’ve seen some real howlers on the best-seller lists, and it seems readers in certain genres don’t really mind what’s on the cover.
That said, if you do want a professional cover and have no skills to make one yourself (and most of us don’t, trust me), prepare to pay from $300 to $1000 for a cover, depending on level of detail and popularity of the artist.

There are many people these days who offer book formatting (I’m one of them) and it’s probably the least expensive part of the process: up to $200 (likely less) for an average sized book. The turnaround on that is just a few days. I recommend having your first book done by a professional, but make sure to request all the source files from the process, so that you can repeat it if needed with the next books. It requires just a little technical savvy. There is now software which does most of the work for you and, if you don’t care too much about being in full control of the process, Amazon or Smashwords do the conversion for you. Just don’t expect fireworks in the result: you get what you pay for.
We’re getting to the actual publishing part here. Personally, I recommend against using small presses. I know it’s a livelihood for many, but with just a little bit of skill you can do everything yourself.

Becoming a publisher is easier than most people think, and it gives you plenty of advantages with almost no downsides. The most obvious advantage is full control over everything that happens with your book; you can decide your own promotions, you know exactly how many copies are sold – in case of e-books, on an hourly basis, paperbacks can take a while to register – and how much you earn. You get all the royalties for yourself.

The downside – you have to do everything yourself. But that’s not as scary as it seems. After the initial setup, there’s not much to do on the publishing side, and everything to do on the marketing side – but you’d have to do all the marketing anyway, no matter how you’re published. That’s the curse of a modern writer.

The setup of a publisher’s account should be fairly straightforward – at least, it is on KDP and Kobo. It doesn’t really matter whether you use just your name or a “publishing house” name; I use Flying Squid press name for my books, but in reality it’s just me and my wife :-) It may look a tiny bit more professional, I can’t really tell.

Set up your payments – since this year, Amazon offers bank transfers to everyone instead of checks, which I find a lot more convenient – and your tax affairs, if necessary. If you’re outside US, you will need to go through the W8-BEN hoopla; that’s worth a separate post, so just check Google about it.


It really is that simple! After making sure your book reads properly on the devices of your choice (use Kindle Previewer for Amazon, and any good ePub reading app for everywhere else), upload the book, fill out the forms, set up categories and keywords where necessary, set the price, and publish the book!

It will take up to a few days for the book to appear on the store website. Amazon usually takes about 12 hours, Kobo is a bit longer. You’ll be notified – or check your dashboard once in a while.

Once you can see the book is available for purchase, it’s time to get on with marketing: and that is where the fun ends and the real hard work starts!

Title: The Shadow of Black Wings
Series: The Year of the Dragon #1
Author: James Calbraith
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Alternate History,
Publisher: Flying Squid
Format: Ebook and Paperback
Length: 70000 words
Purchase: Amazon |

Book Description:

"Fast paced and full of energy" 
--Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the Shadows of the Apt

"This manuscript is full of highly crafted detail that will make readers shiver at times with fear and delight ... a familiar yet highly original fantasy that is a worthwhile read."
-- Publishers Weekly 

"The real-world cultures are incredibly well-researched and truthful, and yet well-balanced with the fantasy elements. An intriguing and impressive series."
-- Ben Galley, author of the Emaneska Series 

It is the Sixteenth Year of Queen Victoria. In the powerful empire of Dracaland, Bran, a young dragon rider, joins his father on a military expedition to the mysterious lands of the Orient. In the reclusive Yamato, Sato, a tomboy samurai girl, strives to prove her right to inherit her father's school of western magic. Nagomi, a timid shrine apprentice, is haunted by the visions of dark future she must keep secret even from her best friend.

They don't know it yet, but their paths will cross... And when they do, nothing will ever be the same again.

Welcome to The Shadow of Black Wings, a steam-powered romp across the land of dragons, wizards and samurai. It's big, it's fast, it's been compared to Tolkien in terms of world-building, it has strong female characters and lots of carefully researched detail. You will meet the Royal Marines sailing mighty ironclads and Chinese walking machines; mysterious warlords and crazy inventors; you will discover dark prophecies, family secrets and blood-thirsty demons. And all that in just the first volume!
About the Author:

James Calbraith is a 34 year old Poland-born writer, foodie and traveller, currently residing in South London.

Growing up in communist Poland on a diet of powdered milk, Lord of the Rings and soviet science-fiction, he had his first story published at the ripe age of eight. After years of bouncing around university faculties, he moved to London in 2007, found a decent IT job and started writing in English. His debut historical fantasy novel, ""The Shadow of Black Wings"", has reached ABNA semi-finals. It was published in July 2012 and hit the Historical Fantasy and Alternate History bestseller lists on Amazon US & UK.

Excerpt from The Shadow of Black Wings

A single gear whirred and clicked into place. A valve opened, letting out a thin plume of grey steam with a quiet hiss. A gold-plated dial moved by a notch. A tiny mallet sprang from its compartment, striking the brass gong - one, two, three, four, five, six times.

Master Tanaka looked up in surprise - an hour of the Hare already? He turned towards the window and the pink light of dawn illuminated his face. The temple bell only now started to ring out the time. He sighed then yawned, rubbing tired eyes. Another night had passed without him noticing.

The elementals inside the clock awoke with a soft purr and the automatic brush began to move swiftly inside the glass cloche. A slot opened in the mahogany pedestal and spat out a piece of paper upon which was written the day’s divination. Hisashige reached for it absentmindedly, his attention focused on the piece of complex clockwork on which he had been working. He glanced briefly at the calligraphy - Oku, ‘a gift’. He smiled to himself and nodded knowingly.

A higher-pitched chime rang eight times – counting out the hours of the Western reckoning. The door slid open and a small boy entered the workshop. With his long and angular face, puffed lips and wide straight nose, he bore no resemblance to Master Tanaka.

‘It came from Kiyō this morning, Father,’ the boy said, presenting Hisashige with a large, ornately packed wooden box.

‘Excellent!’ the old master exclaimed.

He put the box on the workbench beside the clockwork and began to unwrap it eagerly.

‘Shūhan-sama was supposed to send me some Walcheren glass.’

He stopped abruptly and his shoulders sank when he saw the crest on the box, in golden leaf – three lines in a circle. He lifted the lid without enthusiasm. Inside was what seemed like a small human head, completely bald.

‘Some gift.’ Hisashige looked at the clock with reproach. ‘It’s just another of Zōzan’s broken dolls.’

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