After writing her first mystery, My Past Came Knocking: The Savannah Wooten Case featuring Gemini Jones, an African-American attorney who juggles her bi-polar disorder and her high profile legal cases, Gary, Ind. author Veronica Fay self-published the book using Create Space, a company owned by Amazon. The cost was about $2,500.
“They helped me with the editing, the cover design and the choice of fonts for my book,” says Fay, works as a development specialist for Xerox Services. “They also provided a critique of my work.”
Create Space also developed a press release for her book, sending it to magazines, newspapers as well as radio and TV stations and placed the book on Amazon and Kindle.
Now Fay is about to release her second Gemini Jones mystery titled Damn She Really is Ugly: The Dr. Marquise Crawford Case. Fay says she learned so much from self-publishing her first book, that this time she will save money by designing her own cover and having someone else do the editing.
No longer frowned upon as a way to get your book in print, writers who go the self-publishing route are often deemed artisan publishers or independents. And public libraries, which once eschewed self published works, are now more accepting.
“When we consider what books to buy, we read the reviews in journals like Kirkus and the Library Journal,” says Jan Kotarski, the materials coordinator for the Lake County Public Library, noting journals such as these mostly focus on books published by the big dogs of the publishing world – Random House, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster and W.W. Norton. “But we also will accept self-published books that were written by people in our community because that’s an important part of our community.”
Recently Kotarski has seen trends towards even established writers whose books have been published by big name publishers go to self-publishing. Their libraries also consider self-published tomes that have garnered good press and word of mouth.
After 80 years in business, Kirkus recently developed Author Services which includes a way to get self-published books reviewed by Kirkus book editing division to offer unpublished and self-published authors access to the publishing industry's top editors. Author Service is also a way to promote your book, which includes being able to submit Kirkus reviews to editors of newspapers, bookstores and libraries. Even the term, "self-published" seemed to be giving away to independent and artisanal publishing.
After being rejected by more than 100 literary agents, Darcie Chan self published The Mill River Recluse, which went on to sell more than 500,000 copies. She attributes her success in part to a Kirkus’ review of the book.
In a recent New York Times article about how many best selling writers are taking to self-publishing, control and money are big motivators. Noting that though they don’t get advances, self published authors typically receive 70 percent of sales. According to the article, a standard contract with a traditional house gives an author an advance, and only pays royalties — the standard is 25 percent of digital sales and 7 to 12 percent of the list price for bound books — after the advance is earned back in sales.
For author Jerry Slauter, self publishing means controlling his book from beginning to end.
“If you go through a publisher, you submit a proposal, which I have heard is a lot more tedious and time consuming than writing the actual book,” says Slauter, a retired school teacher who lives in LaPorte. “The publisher wants to be able to consider it exclusively for three months, so you can’t submit it any other place. Then, if they reject it, you have to start the process over. Or you have to try to hire a literary agent.”
When Slauter self published his historical novel Woodcutter’s Revival using Palm Tree Publications, he quickly learned that it takes more than just having printed copies of your book to turn it into a hit.
“When you’re self-publishing, you have to get a fulfillment company because they deal with different stores and also do some marketing for you,” he says. “Atlas Book is my fulfillment company. They put me on every possible eBook list out there.”
But still, Slauter can’t just sit and wait for the checks to roll in. His vocabulary is filled with phrases like “search engine optimization” and he builds buzz for his book through such online techniques as Amazon’s free download days.
“The free downloads help position your book on Amazon’s Web page,” he says. “What that means is if you to go to Amazon.com and type in Woodcutter’s, the book will come up in a central position in all departments, and in Kindle, it comes it up the number one position.”
Any self-published book also needs to have its own website says Slauter who quotes Patricia Fry, author of Promote Your Book: Over 250 Ways Proven, Low Cost Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author, who writes “selling your book without having a website is like having a party without sending out invitations.”
Erminia Lopez Rincon of Highland didn’t realize how necessary self-marketing was when she used iUniverse to self-publish her book A Survival within Two Cultures. Though she liked the people at iUniverse who helped her with editing, she believes she spent too much money on buying copies of her books to sell herself.
Rincon feels she should have put more money into marketing. But because Rincon feels somewhat unsure of her computer skills, she didn’t design a website or do any other online marketing.
Jim Hall of Portage, says “I did it because I wanted to see my book published." He wrote You Know That Your Life Really Sucks When, which he describes as “an interesting journey into the abyss of a man’s exploration of his own subconscious mind.”
Hall warns that writers looking into self-publishing shouldn’t jump at the first company they come across.
“You have to check them out,” he says, noting the first publisher wasn’t much of a help but he really liked Friesen Press, the publisher he finally decided to use.
Anne Marie Bryant, the learning resource director at Richards High School in Oak Lawn, says she felt compelled to help others, which is why she self-published her self-help book, Releasing Your Story: A Path To Rediscovery. She use Outskirts Press, an affiliate of Amazon and Barnes & Noble which immediately got her book placed on both websites.
“As far as marketing goes, I’m learning as I go along,” Bryant says.
After going through the self-publishing process before, Slauter’s newest book, Revive: The Story of Publishing a Christian Novel, is designed to help other aspiring independent authors learn the tricks of marketing their book.
“I was hoping for an instant hit, instant success, but I see now that wasn’t realistic,” he says.
Now he understands the success comes from not only writing a compelling book but letting people know it’s out there. “You have to set up a budget for marketing your book and then figure out what types of marketing will give you the most bangs for your buck.”