My thanks to Mari Barnes for this insightful article that details her route to self-publishing. It details welcome information for the benefit of authors at various stages of their writing career.
Mari publishes under The Flying Turtle imprint.
Established in 2009, Flying Turtle Publishing is a micro business that is growing and which specializes in educational books that families can share.
A Publisher’s Story
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, I spent my early years listening to the vivid stories of family members. My great-grandmothers, grandmothers and my jazz musician grandfather were generous with tales of their lives and adventures. My path to publishing was set early on, but it took me years to get here because, well, life happened.
I chose to self-publish because of a very kind rejection letter from a literary agent. In response to my query and synopsis, she requested the full manuscript after reading my query. If you’ve ever received a request for a full reading by an agent, you know how excited I was. And she was only the third agent I’d contacted!
She acknowledged that the book was funny and entertained her, but she didn’t want to represent it because she preferred books with only one main character. I could have taken the hint and re-written the book, possibly submitting it to her again. But I decided that I had written the book I wanted to share and that book had an ensemble cast.
Her response did make me think: If an agent who liked the book could turn it down, it could be turned down forever and for a slew of different reasons.
I’d written the book with a specific market in mind. I wanted to offer my work to that market to see what the response would be. In order to do that, I needed an actual book. I needed to publish myself.
In the beginning, I had ZERO clue as to what I was doing, but I did know how to research. The most important thing I learned was the difference between self-publishing and subsidized (or pay-to-publish, formerly called vanity publishing).
You can use a subsidy publisher (iUniverse, Authorhouse, Xlibirs); you can try the traditional route; or you can self-publish. As a major point of clarification, if you self-publish, you literally become a publishing house. You’re starting your own business.
I try to steer people away from the subsidies. They are frightfully expensive and their money is made in providing publishing services and selling books TO THE AUTHORS for them to market and resell. There have also been quite a few complaints alleging that many subsidized publishers are lacking in the scruples department. However, some authors have used these services and been completely satisfied. Preditors and Editors tells it like it is about publishers, publishing services and much more at http://pred-ed.com.
If you decide to pay for publishing, you can cut the costs by using freelance or contracted services. Agencies such as Fiverr and Odesk are useful, but take your time to find a provider that you’re comfortable with and communicate with that person before offering them your job. I use Createspace as one of my printers/distributors. I have not used the Createspace publishing services, so I don’t know how easy/hard they are to use or how much they cost.
Note: the majority of self-published or subsidy published books only sell about 200 copies. Going with companies like iUniverse, Xulon or Xlibris and using their marketing programs won’t improve your odds. No company, big or small, is going to guarantee that their marketing package or department can absolutely sell your book.
Here’s another fact: Most self-or subsidy published authors LOSE money. You may not make back your expenditures. For that reason, I suggest prudent spending on all publishing services. Don’t forget that if your book is priced too high because you’re trying to recoup money, it will not sell and you won’t make anything anyway.
Tips from someone who’s made many mistakes
1. Have an idea of who your audience is BEFORE you start writing.
Knowing your audience is vital to determining how and where you market your book. Your book about pineapple farming isn’t going to have as large an audience as your murder mystery.
2. You cannot proofread your own work.
I’ve been in the proofreading/editing business for about 30 years. And the first printing of my book had mistakes. I couldn’t catch them and neither did the college student I hired. Care enough about quality to hire professionals. And believe me, quality does matter if you want anyone other than your family and friends to read and enjoy your book.
3. You cannot edit your own work.
Editors help you craft your story. A good proofreader will catch the fact that the guy you called Ed is Chapter 1 is being called Steve in Chapter 3. Your editor will tell you that you should have killed him off while he was still Ed because it added to the conflict the story desperately needs.
4. Consider having your cover done by a professional.
I loved the first cover for my book. My son did the art, based on my instructions, and a professional designer did the layout. But my son didn’t have the professional tools and I have no artistic sensibilities whatsoever. The cover looked homemade and the professionals I consulted after the first printing ripped it to shreds.
Don’t wait to be ripped to shreds. Go with a pro from the start. I have never used a template, such as the ones offered by Createspace, but I know authors who have been pleased with them. There are many freelance services such as Fiverr and Odesk where authors can examine portfolios and contract for publishing services.
5. Don’t rush to publish.
Remember that you want to be read and enjoyed by as many readers as possible. They will still be there when you publish and new ones are being born every day. Don’t waste money by throwing it at the first contractors to come along. Do some research, make some connections, get some referrals. Take your time to produce a good product. You may be able to barter for services: I’ll proofread yours if you design mine.
Do your research. Do your best and enjoy your publishing journey.
Mari L Barnes writes for children under the pen name of Mari Lumpkin and for adults as ML Barnes. Her books, Parting River Jordan and Crossing River Jordan are proof that church can be funny. Mari’s company, Flying Turtle Publishing, specializes in books that families can share.
She is a member of the Highland Writers Group as well as being a member and serving on the board of the Indiana Writers Consortium. Mari has created a workbook, Life Authors: It’s Your Story, to help people jumpstart writing their life stories. For more information, go to http://www.lifeauthors.com.