Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Self Publishing Experience

On August 29, three other Lake Writers and I will do a "Spotlight on Self-publishing" presentation at the Westlake Library. Publicity has already appeared in the media:

Sally Roseveare, author of two Smith Mountain Lake murder mysteries and the best-selling author of the group, has already given some writing tips on Daytime Blue Ridge a few months ago. Kimba Dalferes' memoir, I Was in Love with a Short Man Once, was published in 2011. JB Bonds (who is actually two sisters, Jane McCoy and Brenda Rowell) published the novel Rainbow's End in 2013. 

I have been involved in self-publishing since 2001, when—thanks to a partial grant from Smith Mountain Arts Council—I published my novel, Patches on the Same Quilt. The book was printed at Commonwealth Printing in Radford, Virginia, on an offset press that was huge. It took me two years to sell my first press run of a thousand, but at the year of the first year, I'd made back my part of the investment back. Over the past decade, I've sold nearly eight hundred copies of the second press run. Not great sales, but better than nothing. Now Patches on the Same Quilt is a Kindle e-book. It cost me nothing to publish Patches on Kindle.

After Patches, I gave vanity publishing a try. (Unlike complete self-publishing where the author is in charge of everything—hiring the printer, getting ISBN, EAN and bar-code, picking the paper and font, etc.—in vanity publishing you pay a fee for a company to format and set up your book for print-on-demand publishing. The company makes a lot of decisions that a self-publishing author would otherwise make, and the company owns the ISBN.)  I'd met a representative for Infinity Publishing at a writers conference and he gave me me a discount of the set-up fee for Peevish Advice, a collection of my "Peevish Advice" columns. I still had to buy copies of the book to resell, but at least I didn't have to store a thousand copies in the garage. 

Peevish Advice was followed by a collection of mostly winning short stories, The Girl Who Raced Mules (2003); a collection of stories for children, Where There's A Will (2005); and another collection of columns, More Peevish Advice. My profits, however, were exceedingly modest. Infinity was a good company when it was family-owned. Now, it offers lots of products an author doesn't need and is always pushing pricey "specials" via e-mail. I won't use it again.

After deciding that I wouldn't pay to publish anymore, I queried commercial publishers. A small press, Cedar Creek Publishing, published my last two books—Ferradiddledumday (2010) and Stuck (2011). While I didn't get an advance, I did get royalties and a big box of free books each time. 

Again, my profits were modest, but better than the vanity route.

After I learned that e-publishing was easier than I thought, I e-published Patches and recycled some of my stories into e-books. Rest in Peace is a 99¢ collection of my three Sherwood Anderson Contest winners, and Over Coffee is a 99¢ collection of five stories of awkward relationships. Two of the Rest in Peace stories were originally in The Girl Who Raced Mules, as were two stories in Over Coffee.

Since I'd retained the e-rights to Stuck when I contracted with Cedar Creek, I also published Stuck as a Kindle e-book. Cedar Creek Publishing generously allowed me to use the print cover for the e-book.

Through the years, I've run into some folks who think that all they have to do is publish a book and they'll get rich. That's highly unlikely to happen. Self-publishing isn't a field of dreams—readers won't necessarily come. Without a big publisher's marketing department behind you, most readers won't even know your book exists. Most of your sales will be directly to the reader at personal appearances you make. Your marketing plan will be based on the books in the trunk of your car.

Before considering self-publishing, an author needs to have perfected his/her craft—and needs to have a good editor, critique group, or Beta readers. Writing "The End" on a manuscript isn't the end. It's the beginning of rewriting and revising and polishing. Then there's the whole promotion aspect.

I've posted some writing advice on this page of my website. Some books about writing that I recommend are on this blog post.

I'll give more advice at the Westlake Library next Thursday. All of us will.

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