Becoming an Independent Author and Publisher

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I wrote most of a children’s book about 8 years ago and by “write”, I mean in pencil in a sketchbook.

The book is geared toward 7 to 9 year olds and is a transition, or chapter, book. It sat in a box after a move 7 years ago. I’ve always wanted to publish it and decided last year to create a five book series with this one being the last in the set.

I embarked on quite the journey and have learned that writing a book is a small part of being a “published author”.

I started by creating a limited liability company because this is recommended to create a Lightning Source account. Creating an LLC is easy and I used Legal Zoom, however I could have saved $150 by doing it myself – it’s straightforward and there are many examples how to online.

Lightning Source is the printing arm of Ingram Content Group, the largest distributor of printed books in the US (38,000 bookstores, libraries, and schools). Local bookstores order from Ingram and this is the only realistic way that a brick-and-mortar shop might carry an indie book (and that’s a long shot and must be discounted at least 55%).

Then I created a CreateSpace account which is Amazon’s self-publishing business. This was easier than Lightning Source where I needed a collection of paperwork and real human approval.

Amazon will list your Lightning Source book once you register your ISBN and Library of Congress Control Number, but they might not show immediate availability. With a CreateSpace version, your book always shows in stock.

As an indie author, Amazon is the best bet for selling your book (I strongly recommend APE by Guy Kawasaki – had I read it a year ago, it would have saved loads of research).

I then started to learn InDesign so that I could lay out the books myself. It’s a fairly easy program but it does take time and perseverance to learn it (and lots of Googling). On top of that, even for the same-sized book, there’s a slight difference between Lightning Source and CreateSpace – mainly with the covers.

While doing that, I started writing the other four books. The first one’s been to the developmental editor and I’ve laid in those changes, passed it off to the illustrator, and it will go to the content editor shortly. The second book is with the dev editor and should be back in two weeks or so. The third book is nearly written, the fourth has been started, and the fifth still needs to be transcribed!

Despite this activity (and having a family and full-time job), it will be months before the files are uploaded to Lightning Source and CreateSpace. Maybe in time for the winter holidays, but that seems ambitious at times, plus I’m working on a Kickstarter page for it (the project won’t launch until all books are illustrated).

All of this is a lot to do but it isn’t all consuming and I do take time for distractions (and daily walking). These distractions give me a break from the books and a chance to recharge. My main distraction is board game design.

Will these games ever take off?

Well, it’s not unlike the process to print a book except that there aren’t any true game printing equals. By that I mean that Lightning Source and CreateSpace print the exact same quality books that Grisham or Rowling print (paperback wise). There are game companies that can print-on-demand (POD) for limited pieces and parts which is okay for creating prototypes, but their costs are too high for commercial production.

There are a few game publishers that can do “small” runs of 1,000 to 3,000. But that’s quite a monetary commitment compared to book POD that can print a single book.

That’s been the journey so far and it’s very much about becoming versus being an author.