It isn’t an uncommon story these days. Small, independent publishers pop up, put out some books, and then disappear. I’d watched it happen to an author whose blog I follow. Her first book was well received and while she was working on the sequel, her publisher folded. It was difficult news for her and her readers. Luckily, she’d found a new publishing home for both books. What a relief!
When I was nearing completion of my sequel to DREAM GIRL, I got the unfortunate news that my publisher would no longer be publishing fiction. After I worked through my shock and disappointment, I rallied by researching my options. Thinking as a writer, reader, and librarian, here’s what I decided to do:
Once I decided to finish the book and publish it myself, my first step was to see what kind of affordable print options might be out there. I had originally imagined that I would use a local printer whose work I was familiar with and admired, but ultimately, I decided to go with IngramSpark. The deciding factor, for me, is that IngramSpark has distribution. By publishing my book with them, I’d have access to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ingram itself and more. (As a librarian whose library uses Ingram to order our collection, that was pretty important.) By “access to” these venues, I mean that Ingram handles fulfillment. Someone places their order, Ingram prints and ships it and I don’t have to do a thing. Distribution is probably the most important thing beyond having a good product so if you’re thinking of self-publishing, don’t forget to think about how readers can get your book.
After I saw that Ingram has an affordable print and distribution plan, the next thing I did was buy my ISBN and barcode from Bowker.com I did some research to make sure Bowker was reputable before I actually purchased my ISBN and barcode.
|Great book with a sequel due out Fall 2017!|
Those steps out of the way, I hustled to finish the manuscript. Let’s face it, that’s the hardest work of all. Once I got through my first few drafts, I needed to find an editor. For this project, I wanted two editors. One was my very good author friend, Monica R. Sholar, who read and enjoyed the first book. For the second, I wanted someone who didn’t know me well personally and hadn’t read DREAM GIRL. Technically, all books in a series are supposed to stand on their own, so I wanted to make sure someone who didn’t have any recollections of the first book would be able to enjoy it too. I was delighted to learn that Michigan YA author, Ava Jae, also does affordable freelance editing. I read her book, BEYOND THE RED, liked her writing style, and thought she’d be a good match for mymanuscript.
Each editor challenged me in a different way and both had great insights that helped me go back and refine the story. In this case, two editorial voices was the right amount. Their changes overlapped in many instances, but there were some big differences as well. Drawing on the expertise of each, I was able to improve the plot, dialogue, descriptions and became very familiar with my particular bad writing habits. The guidance of a good editor is priceless!
|This cover still makes me smile.|
Before I dove into edits, I decided to get a cover designer. The cover is extremely important to me, and is easily my favorite part of the publishing process. (Or at least a close second to writing the acknowledgments!) It is absolutely necessary that my covers are high quality, professional, compare to the types of covers on similar titles, and make me happy. Luckily, I worked in advertising for a few years. During that time, I made great friends in the graphic design and proofreading departments. I had worked with one of those friends, Ken Suminski, on my bookmark and the cover for my digital short story, SICK DAY. (He’s available to do freelance design work, such as book covers, logo design, and promotional materials for reasonable rates. If you want to see what he can do for you, he can be contacted at k.suminski (at) comcast (dot) net Put “design referral from Sarah” in the subject.) With my cover in Ken’s capable hands, I went back to editing with my comments from Monica and Ava. I finished my edits shortly after Ken finished the final version of the cover. But there was still more work to be done!
With a shiny new cover that I loved, I was ready to share it with the world! But just like book distribution, I was worried about reaching a broader audience. I decided to book a cover reveal with a blog I’d used to promote DREAM GIRL, YA Bound BookTours. We set the date for April 19 and I was ready for the next steps of preparing the manuscript: proofreading and print formatting.
For proofreading, I chose another of my advertising connections who had also helped me with DREAM GIRL. For interior formatting, I turned to another Michigan author, MelissaStorm, who is also the owner of Novel Publicity. Melissa highly recommended the work of Mallory Rock, who does cover designs as well as formatting.
In preparation for the final steps of production, I registered as an LLC. I admit, this was a daunting prospect for me, but it turned out to be incredibly easy and painless. I asked a few author friends for guidance and then came across this site of extremely helpful videos. I printed the LLC form, watched the video, and filled it out. (Not scary at all!) For added peace of mind, I got a P.O. box to go with my LLC. If you get a P.O. box, I recommend shopping around. The prices vary widely. I discovered that a small P.O. box for one year in one city cost $108, while the same sized box in another city, just a few miles away, cost $52 per year.
At the time of writing, I currently have the manuscript with my proofreader and will be sending it on to Mallory once proofreading is complete.
Next steps will be finding book reviewers, booking a blog tour, and working on promotion before diving into my next WIP. A writer’s work is never done!
Although I’m not completely through the process yet, I can attest that self-publishing can be an affordable option. There is a lot to think about and deal with when publishing your own book. While it can definitely feel overwhelming and even scary, it’s also exciting and satisfying to guide your own story from idea to finished product. Just as only you can tell the story in your heart, only you can decide the right way to get that story into the hands of readers. Enjoy the journey, and no matter what, keep writing!