This post on self-publishing highs and lows from Denise Baer kicks off my Oktoberfest guest post series. This week I’m gearing up to do some serious traveling around western Europe, but rest assured, I have some great posts lined up for the month ahead.
Newbie Self-Publishing: Highs and Lows
WHEN I WROTE MY FIRST BOOK, Net Switch, during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2011, I had no intention on publishing it. At the time, I had a full-time job, so I put it in a folder on my computer and thought knowing I had written 50,000 words in a month was good enough. Then I let a few people read it in its horrible state and they convinced me to publish.
I hired an editor to work with me through the drafts. From the beginning, she wanted my book to go commercial, and in some ways hinted to taking it over for the screenplay. Since my original goal was to publish a novel, I declined her offer of a screenplay and continued toward publication.
My goal was to self-publish since the big house publishers put me off. I would go into Borders to find displays of celebrity books—books that will make the publishers rich. I remember thinking that those ghostwritten books would sell for major profit, not because they were great literature, but because a famous name was behind the book. The days where a great writer published with the big publishers because of wonderful and sometimes ingenious writing seemed to be fading, so I decided to self-publish even though I had no idea what I was doing.
Newbie Self-Publishing Lows
Because I didn’t know anything about publishing, I decided to go with my editor’s new indie publishing company. She told me she was working with ten authors for publication over the next year and that it would be an honor to publish my book. I signed a contract of about $2,500 and continued to work with her on my book (I had already paid her $1,000 for editing). Later in my search, I would find out that there weren’t ten authors set for publication.
After the contract signing, she slowed down and stopped reading my book in its entirety. Per her suggestion, I changed the entire book twice. At first, she figured the best POV would be third person, so I changed the entire book to third person. She then said first person was better, so I rewrote it again.
Then the revisions seemed to take longer on her end, so I created my own book trailer to help promote my book. I pulled up YouTube, typed in book trailers, and watched many of them to figure out which ones pulled me in and which ones didn’t arouse interest. When I had an idea of how it should be, I collected pictures of my own, browsed the internet for music and came up with phrases that I had hoped would capture the viewer’s attention.
Even Lower Self-Publishing Lows
It was the middle of November 2011. We had set the printing date for late November, and publication for December. My editor/publisher had trouble committing to a specific date. A week before my book was to go to print, she contacted me to say she had given my book to three people and they hated it. They couldn’t even finish it. She said she had a feeling this would happen. Of course, I was angry and upset, because I didn’t understand why she did this a week before print, especially if she “had a feeling this would happen.” I remember crying to my boyfriend and mom telling them that I wasn’t going to publish. There were so many personal things going on in my life, and this news was too overwhelming for me. My boyfriend and mother said I had to publish because I worked so hard on it.
Instead of taking my publisher’s word, I listened to my boyfriend and mother and sent my book off to a few people to beta read. One of my readers didn’t like the book because it was too dark for her. This didn’t mean the book was unpublishable. I had another reader state the story and writing was better than many books he had beta read, and the other readers had a few comments regarding changes but really liked it.
I fired my so-called publisher and was out $2,500.00 because she wouldn’t give me a refund on any of the things I did, such as the author website, book trailer, and bookmarks (these were part of the contract). Then I thought, “Now what?” I had no idea about creating a book cover for Createspace, ISBNs, Library of Congress number, or formatting for Kindle and Nook, so I had to power learn in order to publish in December. And then my mother died.
After the wake and funeral, and I settled down for a few days, I kept hearing my mom telling me to publish. So I learned all there was to know about publishing on Createspace. I reformatted my book cover with my own ISBN, formatted for Kindle and Nook, and published two weeks after my mother passed away. I bought my own ISBN through Bowker, but I couldn’t get a Library of Congress number because I wasn’t publishing under an imprint.
Newbie Self-Publishing Highs
While I worked on my second novel, I came up with my own publishing imprint Baer Books Press. I bought a block of ISBNs from Bowker under my publishing imprint. It was cheaper to buy in bulk for $275 then buy (1) ISBN for $125, especially since paperback and electronic books need their own ISBN. Before publishing my women’s fiction / chick lit novel, Fogged Up Fairy Tale, I updated my poetry eBook, Sipping a Mix of Verse, by adding an excerpt of Net Switch and giving it a Baer Books Press ISBN. I also updated Net Switch, which received a Library of Congress number.
What I learned about the publishing world is that whether you go traditional or self-publish, it’s important to know the stages of publishing along with promotion. For all my hard work on my books, promotion and marketing seem to be my biggest challenge. My desire isn’t there to connect with others for the sake of sales. To keep up with all the different social networks is daunting. Jeri is my hero when it comes to social networking.
One big thing I did learn was to go with my gut feeling. From the beginning, my first editor seemed more interested in taking over my book and writing the screenplay, and many times I didn’t feel comfortable with her suggestions. I could have saved myself a lot of time and money if I went with my gut feeling.
What have you learned from your publishing experience(s)? What self-publishing highs and lows have you encountered?
Please join me this week for my guest post on pitching literary agents on A. K. Andrew’s Writer’s Notebook.
The images uses in this post are for promotional purposes only and comply with fair use guidelines.