June 16, 2011

Why I Am Self-Publishing

Like many writers, my “bucket list” contains the desire to write a book, or several books. About six months ago I compiled a list of my 30 favorite columns. (My column runs in several small Indiana dailies.) I am in the middle of writing a second book, and I’ve started research on a long project about our family farm that will hopefully result in a historical novel someday.

I’ve been writing since 1971, but I’m Nancy Nobody from Nowheresville. Let’s put it this way, I’m no Joan Didion. I needed to be realistic about what was going to happen with any book project. That being said, I’m perfectly happy being Nancy Nobody. I’m paid for my writing, I see my work in print weekly, and I get “fan” mail. And I still hold the title “Mayor of Dorky Town.”

The past two years have been wonderful because I took Mark Twain’s advice and “write about what I know.”

What I know is about Indiana, the farm ethic, and growing up middle class in the 1960s. That is who I am, and I’ll probably never write about the steppes of Russia, drug cartels in South America, or South Central LA.

For me the main issue was keeping this all in perspective. Getting a book published by a mainstream publisher is highly unlikely for me. I want the book out while my parents are still alive and they are in their eighties.

For months I went back and forth in my mind and let the manuscript get dusty on a shelf.

Last January I attended a book signing at a local traditional bookseller by a young author who is destined for fame and glory on a national scale. This excellent writer has a column in a national magazine and was approached by a mainstream publisher to do a book. The book is outstanding and has received good reviews.

But participating in this event I learned a few things. He was not particularly happy with the cover and had no say. His publisher edited his content and changed the essence of meaning for some of his work. He also had no say in the “price setting” of the book.

And for the most part, he is still expected to participate and support the marketing activities of the book.

An impatient sort and one convinced I would never get a contract, I decided to jump into the self-publishing pool.

I have enjoyed the process. I spent several months researching companies, and spoke with many friends who had self-published books.

I talked with fellow Open Salon blogger Matt Paust, whose thriller Executive Pink is self-published. http://www.amazon.com/EXECUTIVE-PINK-Mathew-Paust/dp/1609105745

(Matt’s book is great, especially if you like White House intrigue. It’s available as a trade paperback, or for Kindle.)

My book has spiritual themes, so I chose an imprint that features those kinds of works. I bought an inexpensive package without the bells and whistles.

I wrote a marketing plan which I will implement with the help of a few friends in the business. Any self-publisher will be happy to sell you a comprehensive plan. Having worked in marketing and public relations, I can handle this on my own.

I also wanted a distinctive cover. A dear friend painted an oil painting from a photograph I took that represents the first chapter, and theme of the book.

After I got my manuscript in fairly good shape, I hired a professional editor who doesn’t have a deep emotional relationship with me. (Well, she didn't until we did this book. Now we're fast friends, a joyful consequence.) I did not want someone to be kind – I wanted someone who could tell me how it is.

The book is nearly complete, and I’m expecting a late August or September publication. My editor is reviewing galleys and I’m setting up book talks and signings. I hope to have events in all the communities where my column runs.

I’m asking friends to help where they can (post on Facebook, identify potential buyers) and we’ll see where it goes. The book will be in a few Indiana bookstores and on the publisher’s web site as well as Amazon.com and BN.com.

There are big challenges ahead. According to a recent Washington Post article, there are 2,700 books published per day. (http://www.journalgazette.net/article/2011305159992)

I’m glad to finish the project, and hopefully can still hand a copy to my parents.

I am lucky to be alive during this time of technology, where despite the odds of “making it big”, there are numerous platforms for my, our, work. Thanks to everyone in my life who has encouraged me. Right backatcha.

Stay tuned for The Luxury of Daydreams, coming soon on the West Bow Press imprint.