I have self-published two books and have learned a lot along the way about this latest craze for by-passing major publishing houses and their restrictive methods. For the first time in history, more books are being self-published than those that are published by the traditional method.
In 1999, I literally self-published my first book entitled “All the Old Familiar Places - Memories of South Buffalo.” I was naïve enough not to think that the project might fail, and it did not. I sent out several hundred questionnaires to people who had grown up in my hometown, South Buffalo, a highly unique place, in the 30’s and 40’s. I received 140 responses and interviewed another seven people. I included a statistical breakdown of respondents by sex and school affiliation. There was also a page of nicknames used, a prevalent practice in those days. Another section asked for the names of the most memorable people of that era. The owner of the ice cream parlor received the most mentions, sixteen.
Credit: Mary Carol Herwood
"All the Old Familiar Places"
I hired a printer who gave me the page size to use (7” x 9”) and I typed my manuscript into Microsoft Word. The printer did the rest. At the time I was unaware of the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and did not include it. I was able to acquire one several years later and manually attached the number to books I still had on hand.
I conducted the entire marketing process myself, by advertising in church bulletins, through an interview in our local paper, through word of mouth, and notices in school alumni papers. The public library bought several books, and a local book store took several on consignment. One evening, people were lined up at my front door to get a copy. I had what is called a niche market. In all, I sold over 1400 copies of my book, which was a huge profit since the only major expense was the printing cost. I can truthfully say that this is self-publishing in its basic essence.
The growth of “indie publishing” or self-publishing has been huge over the last couple of years. It was virtually unheard of in 1999 when I self-published my first book. Today, a huge spate of self-publishing companies have entered the market to give serious competition to traditional publishers.
Several factors are responsible for this growth:
1) In self-publishing, the author retains the rights to his book.
2) Self-publishing uses the process known as POD - Print on Demand - where books are printed only when copies are ordered. The author is not forced into buying a large amount of books which may or may not sell.
3) Traditional publishing companies tend to publish only well-known authors whose books are guaranteed to sell. They do not cater to unknowns who may not bring in huge profits. In fact, most traditional publishing companies will only deal with an agent, not directly with the author.
4) A self-published book could be on the market within weeks, whereas traditional publishing could take a year or two before the finished product hits the stands.
5) With a self-published book, the author has more control over the contents, design, and appearance of the book, as well as where and how the book is advertised, marketed and distributed. When I was ready to publish my second book in 2014, several self-publishing companies were now in existence, ready to relieve me of the process I used to publish my first book. I considered three or four and finally went with one that was offering a discount in that particular week. The title of my second book is “Psalms of an 83-year-old Woman.”
Credit: M C Herwood
"Psalms of an 83-year-old Woman"
I had to send a PDF copy of my manuscript, which I had proofread several times, with suggestions on how I wanted it placed on the page and which font to use. Our communication was mostly through Email although phone calls were involved also. The entire process, from my first day of writing until the date of publication, took less than two months.
Self-publishing is not cheap. I paid for a superior package which assured me that the company would edit, print, market and distribute my finished product. They also took care of obtaining the ISBN number and sending a copy to the Library of Congress. They agreed to place it on Amazon, eBay, Barnes & Noble Online, their own website and some lesser known websites. They also provided me with a website from which the book can be purchased. The book is available both in paperback and as an E-book.
I chose the cover I preferred from several choices, and the company placed the title and author’s name on the front cover. The back cover included my short bio and a picture of me that they had requested, plus a short description of the contents of my book. I was ecstatic with what this company had done with both the cover and the text on the inside. The entire staff with whom I had to deal were professional, courteous and easy to work with.
I am wise enough to realize that I must do some promotion and marketing of my own. I have been successful in placing it on consignment in three local bookstores. I was able to advertise it in 34 local church bulletins at no cost. I have placed a notice in the Alumni newspapers of my high school and college. My pastor offered to host a book-signing at my church which was highly successful. Our local Catholic newspaper interviewed me by phone and included a half-page feature story in its August 2014 issue. Members of organizations to which I belong have E-mailed me and phoned me with requests for my book. I have mentioned it several times on Facebook and Twitter. I am completely aware that I must stay on top of the marketing process to keep the knowledge of my book alive. Needless to say, I am very happy with the concept of self-publishing. I already have the seed of an idea for a third book.
Indie (independent) publishing is able to reach markets it could not reach previously, at a cheaper price in this digital age, using online marketplaces. I would encourage anyone with aspirations to become a published writer to give self-publishing a try. It is an education in itself and will serve you again and again as you advance in your writing career.
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(price as of Sep 7, 2014)