I knew from the start that I wanted to try to do everything myself. Write the story, take the photographs, format the book for various e-readers, proof files, upload, market, and sell. I wanted to learn how to do all of that.

It never occurred to me to try to get an agent, or to submit the ms to a publisher. I’ve been published in the past (in small-ish magazines, mainly: short stories, movie reviews, feature-length profiles, etc.). But this time, I simply wanted to dig in, figure it all out, and use the internet to see if there might be people in the world who would like what I’d done.

In my opinion, there are two things that any writer who is self-publishing should consider shelling out some dough for: cover design and copy editing. I happen to be married to a wonderful copy editor, so I had that covered. But doing the cover myself is probably a mistake. If this is the sum total of your Photoshop expertise …

open a photo from your camera

go to Image > Adjustments > Black and White

and Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast

and resize according to needs

and then save as a jpg

… then you, like I, should probably not be ‘designing’ a cover for your e-book!

I’d thought a lot along the way about how much or even whether I should charge for my book. There are many arguments on every side (e.g., “give it away, man—nobody knows who you are and you need to build an audience,” “hey, your time is worth something—look at everything you put into this”). I was tempted to give it away to as many people as I could. But I settled on ninety-nine cents. (Unless you want to read BALLARD motor court as a screenplay; I can hook you up with that for free.)

Pricing your e-book at ninety-nine cents gets you a 30% royalty on Amazon (as opposed to a 70% royalty there if you charge a minimum of $2.99). B&N pays you 40% for a ninety-nine cent e-book; they pay you 60% if you charge a minimum of $2.99. Apple doesn’t care what you price your e-book at: you get 70%, regardless.

My goal? I’d like sell enough e-books to recoup the $125 I paid to Bowker for a pack of 10 ISBNs. (You have to have an ISBN to get into the Apple iBookstore.)

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