Q&A: Ben Galley, author of the 'Emaneska' series, on the challenges of self publishing eBooks
Tech Digest eBook Self Publishing Season – Ben Galley Q&A
Chichester-based Ben (25) is one of the youngest self-published authors in the UK. He has published two fast-paced fantasy books through Kindle Direct Publishing including The Written and Pale Kings and plans to release his third and fourth books simultaneously in May this year.
In addition to being passionate about writing his own books, he is also incredibly zealous about inspiring other authors and writers. He regularly gives lectures and workshops on the subject of self-publishing, and runs the popular advice site SHELF HELP. His aim is to help others turn their passion into their profession and to follow their wildest dreams.
What originally drew you towards the self-publishing route?
Passion and frustration. Whilst writing my debut novel, I was completely unaware of any other way of publishing other than the traditional route. It daunted me however, in regards to its lengthy process, the relinquishing of rights and control, and of course, the practically unavoidable rejection. Imagine how thrilled I was when I started researching self-publishing. After seeing how much quicker I could publish, how much control I could hold onto, and the levels of professionalism I could still attain, I never glanced at the traditional path again.
Had you any experience with major print publishers before finding success through Kindle?
Not at all, though I have had some conversations since, thanks to my reasonable success. None of which have resulted in a change of direction for me.
The ease and the fact it comes in all shapes and sizes. When I say ease I mean, the ease with which I can publish; the ease of making changes at any point; but primarily, the ease with which I can go global and be part of the world’s biggest online store with a click of a few buttons!
Are there any limitations to Kindle Direct Publishing?
Until recently, the limit for me was formatting. It was acceptable at one point for an eReader not to be able to handle the same lofty level of formatting that a paperback exhibits, and for an eBook layout to be very basic and plain. Now, with the Fire HD, and the introduction of tools like Kindle Comic Creator, we’re seeing a market that wants, and can now have, top-notch formatting for their eBooks.
What challenges face those looking to self-publish their first eBook?
A range! There are a number of things that an indie author should not attempt unless they are a professional. These are: Cover Design, Editing, and Formatting. The bar has been raised too high for semi-professionals and amateurs. The market is too competitive and busy to accept poor quality. A good book and a good product is the first step of marketing, so my advice would be to source affordable professional designers, editors, and formatters, and make sure that book is the best it can be. That’s the challenge.
Can a successful author make a living solely through Kindle self-publishing?
Yes, I believe they can.
Is your eBook also in print? If so, how did the process of getting the book in print compare to your experiences with Kindle self publishing?
Yes my books are also available in paperback and hardback. The process isn’t too far removed from publishing eBooks, and that’s why I don’t understand why many authors aren’t doing it. I’m a great advocate of keeping print alive, and encourage authors to release paperbacks or hardbacks. The physical market, despite what people believe, is still a healthy one, and we shouldn’t ignore it.
The process of physical publishing differs in terms of different formatting, needing a larger cover, and finding a printing and distribution provider. Very simply, it’s a slightly longer process. And, as you can’t make changes to print books as easily as you can to eBooks, you need to get it right first time. Therefore it’s more intricate too.
Do you see a future where brick-and-mortar book stores are replaced altogether with digital eBook stores?
Absolutely not. Just in the way that vinyl is still extremely popular, print books will never truly disappear. No matter how convenient an eBook is, people still love books. They love the smell, the feel, the stores themselves. They love them too much to give up.
I believe that the shift to digital threatens the idea of a brick-and-mortar chain, more than an individual store. I believe physical chains are less resilient to change than a digital store and that there will be a shift to local, rather than to national, that will save such stores and help book survive.
Do you feel Kindle Direct Publishing is affecting the relationship between authors and traditional publishers?
Yes. For the better and for the worse. It all depends on what relationship an author has, or wants, with a publisher. The self-publishing revolution has affected many people in many ways. Some publishers feel that indie publishers have flooded the market with low-quality books. Others see self-publishing as a way to harvest new talent, rather than combing through manuscripts. Others are being bolder, entering into hybrid contracts with authors in a way that’s never been done before. It depends on the publisher and on what side of the fence they sit. One thing’s for sure, we’re not going away.
There are some that still feel self-published eBooks are not of the same literary quality as those published by major publishing houses. How would you respond to those remarks?
By saying they are not reading the right indie books, and that poor quality isn’t reserved for the self-publishing industry. Indie publishers cannot and should not be tarred with the same brush. We’re all different, just like every traditional house and author is.
How would you like to see the Kindle Direct Publishing process improve or evolve in the future?
I want data. Anybody who dabbles in web analytics, PPC, or SEO knows that with today’s technology it is possible to track nearly everything. Page views, duration, journey, bounce and exit rates, traffic sources, click-through-rates, open rates… If we can see it for a website, why can’t we see it for our eBooks, for our readers? Imagine the possibilities of knowing which page that your readers lost interest on, or the page they just couldn’t stop going back to. Imagine knowing who shared, who re-tweeted, or who’s viewed your author page. That sort of information is beyond valuable for our marketing and success.
Would you ever go back down the traditional publishing route?
I automatically say no, but I’ve learnt to never say never. The publishing industry is changing at an incredible rate. Maybe one day a traditional publisher will suit me, and I them. Until then, it’s indie all the way.
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Great interview, Ben…. Says it all very nicely. I’d too would highly recommend using a professional to format you e-book, despite the fact that there appears to be a lot of advice saying how easy it is to DIY. With my first children’s book I wasted hours trying to get the file right – it was 95% there but always little gremlins remained and in the end I got a professional to check the file and correct it. Thereafter I went straight to the professionals – it’s not prohibitively expensive. And I agree that creating a print book is really not so difficult – it’s just working out distribution that is the challenge. But if you have a good book, you will get there…
Great interview, Ben…. Says it all very nicely. I'd too would highly recommend using a professional to format you e-book, despite the fact that there appears to be a lot of advice saying how easy it is to DIY. With my first children's book I wasted hours trying to get the file right – it was 95% there but always little gremlins remained and in the end I got a professional to check the file and correct it. Thereafter I went straight to the professionals – it's not prohibitively expensive. And I agree that creating a print book is really not so difficult – it's just working out distribution that is the challenge. But if you have a good book, you will get there…