I had a lady email me the other day wanting to know what she needed to do to release a title she'd received the rights back to from a small e-pub, and I thought it would be a good blog post. She's probably not the only one wondering.
When we sign contracts with publishing companies, be they New York traditional or smaller e publishing houses, we give up our rights to that work for a length of time. Contracts themselves usually run from one year to fourteen, with three to five being the average. During that time, the publishing house prepares and distributes the work. There should be a section of the contract dealing with the length of the contract and directions on how to request your rights back from the publisher. Follow those directions closely. On some contracts, if you don't request your rights back during the window specified, the contract itself renews, locking you in again.
Once you receive your reversion of rights, you can prepare to put it out yourself.
~~~There are some things to remember. When you signed the contract with the publishing company, more than likely they took over the cost of production. They bought a cover, they paid somebody to edit the work and they put their own ISBN on it. Now that you own the book again, YOU CANNOT USE THE OLD COVER OR ISBN. You, as the new publisher, have to provide a new cover, a new ISBN and possibly new editing.
Here's what you need to do to release your reverted-rights, backlist title:
- Once you receive your Reversion of Rights letter from your publisher, read over your manuscript. This is a chance to remake the story into what you've always envisioned. When you read it over, you may find sections that you'd like to change or expand on. Maybe you've always wanted to give it a different ending. Or turn it edgier. Make the hero a little nicer. Well, now's your chance. Make the story into what YOU want.
- Choose a cover artist and cover. There are a lot of up and coming, fabulous cover designers out there. I've personally used The Author's Red Room, Melody Simmons at ebookindiecovers.com and Viola Estrella, and all were fabulous. If you follow this link, it will take you to an updated list of 52 cover artists I've listed on my website under Author Helps. Some publishing houses barely ask your opinion about the cover, let alone what models or scenes to use. If you've ever cringed when you've gotten a cover from a publisher because the heroine's hair color is wrong, or the scene is off, this is your chance to make it right. I put this a little higher in the list because some cover artists take several months to create a custom cover. Or it may just take that long to catch a break in their schedule. You can order the cover while you're doing everything else. If you plan on taking your book to print, you'll need a wrap cover, which will take a little longer to create. Tell your artist what you need before you start. Cost- can be any amount. I've seen pre-made covers for as little as $5 up to custom covers for several thousand.
- Edit your work. While the original publisher probably, hopefully, edited your work competently, you still want to have it checked over, especially if you modify or change anything from the original manuscript. Every editor I've had has worked differently, but they've all been fabulous, luckily. I've heard horror stories of editors that couldn't edit for shit, and if you've ever had one of those, you have my sympathies. I think every piece of work about to be published needs to be re-edited, because just about every book I read -Traditional, e or indie- has a typo in it somewhere. Cost- any amount. If you have a critical reader good at spotting issues, it may be free. If you use an actual editor, expect to pay out $50 up to several hundred dollars for a critical read through. I currently use Mary Yakovets. I hate to give her name out because she really is awesome, and I want her to still have time for me!
- Buy ISBNs for your work. I'll explain this out a bit, so that everybody knows. If you publish on Smashwords, they offer you a free ISBN, but THEY are listed as the publisher, not you. If you actually buy the number from Bowker, YOU are listed as the publisher. It took me a while to figure out, but from now on, I want MY work to be under MY name. Cost-You can buy them at Bowker; 1 for $99 or 10 for $250. I bought the 10 pack, because each book that you put out will need 3 numbers. One ISBN for digital, one for print and one for audio.
- Format your work. This isn't as easy as it sounds and I've resigned myself to be one of those that CAN NOT format, no matter how long she tries. But it's turned out for the best. I have a formatter at BBebooks that absolutely rocks formatting, affordably. When I send Paul my doc file, for $50 he turns it into 7 different versions, for each of the distributors. WELL worth the money. Cost- depends upon your file size and the number of different versions you need. $50 and up.
- Register yourself and Publish at all of the distribution sites. Some, like Apple, take a long time to check you out and approve you as a publisher. Like, several weeks. If you don't have a Mac computer and have to upload to Apple through Smashwords, ARE or one of the other distributors, be prepared for it to take several weeks for your book to go live. The rest of the sites go live fairly quickly. Smashwords is live immediately. Amazon takes about a day, Kobo and Barnes and Noble take a few days to a few weeks. ARE is also a quick one. Your book will be available as soon as you upload it, but I will say that their upload process is a pain in the butt. When you upload to Createspace for your print book, the proof will take 24 hours. Once you approve the proof, you can hit print and your books will be available. Cost- None of the sites charge you to publish a book through them, although they will take a portion of your royalties. Read the information at each site to see how much.
- Start Marketing! This is probably something that you've been doing anyway, no matter where you were pubbed. Keep doing it. The advantage to this, though, is that now that you've pubbed your own book, you can see real-time sales at all of the sites. If you do a blog-hop or targeted advertisement, you can see immediately if it was effective or not by following your numbers. You had no way of knowing that when you were pubbed with a publisher.
This is a highly simplified version of what you need to do, but you can now call yourself a self-published author. If you have any questions at all, either comment here or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading!