Saturday, September 21, 2013

When You Don't Fit the Mold

Traditionally published author LeAnn Hardy steps into the world of self-pubbing. Here's her story...



Self-publishing is not for everyone. It certainly should not be a shortcut to avoid doing the work necessary to bring a manuscript up to commercial publishing standards. But it provides a great opportunity for those of us who don’t quite fit the traditional mold.

Several of my books were commercially published ten years ago. That should give me an in for my next book, right? Wrong. Despite great reviews, none of my books were big sellers. And then there was that gap when I lived in South Africa and wrote for children affected by HIV&AIDS—not a huge market for the CBA. I am passionate about my books—all of them—but they don’t fit into an easily-marketable brand. It was an agent at an ACFW conference who advised me to try self-publishing.

I started by formatting my out-of-print juvenile fiction for Kindle. For someone like me with a large network overseas, e-publishing is ideal since there is no shipping involved. Amazon has a free, easy-to-follow manual for preparing a manuscript for Kindle. Unfortunately, the instructions for preparing a book for Nook were written in topic sentences. For more detail they referred me to their manual in “computerese.” After wasting months, I gave up and just went with Kindle for the time being (much as I dislike the idea of the publishing world being taken over by Amazon.com!)

Print-on-demand means that paperback copies can be available without the initial layout for printing or a garage full of book boxes. Createspace charges no set-up fee unless you use their services for editing, design or marketing. I figured I had enough contacts and skills to do it myself. I designed my own covers for two books. I hired Kathleen Popa to design the cover of my latest release, HONDDU VALE, paying much less than Createspace. I do freelance editing and proofreading for a couple Christian publishers and have a strong critique group. Nevertheless I ran my manuscript by a grammar-meticulous reader who surprised me with the errors she turned up. Createspace now has a link when you have set up your book that lets you automatically convert it to Kindle. I have not yet tried that, but I intend to with my next release.

Marketing is the same challenge it would be with a commercial publisher—not natural for an introvert like me. You can hire a publicist or do it yourself. The biggest drawback to self-publishing I have encountered is being on my own. When my techie friends and I couldn’t figure out how to get the page numbers off the title page in the proof of Honddu Vale, my IT son-in-law said, “Doesn’t your publisher take care of this for you?” “I AM the publisher,” I was forced to reply.

It has been a steep learning curve every step of the way. Sales are still not huge, but I get a much higher percentage of what does sell. I even get to set the price.

Now if I can figure out this Nook stuff . . .

LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents as a writer and missionary librarian. Her plots and settings are inspired by these diverse locations. She currently lives in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where she enjoys her husband and grandchildren while trying to write Glastonbury Grail book three and do freelance editing. LeAnne recently launched Honddu Vale, the second in her 16th century Britain Glastonbury Grail series.

8 comments:

Ron Estrada said...

Most of us, I'm sure, have been watching the e-book and self publishing trend with great interest. While I still think an unpublished writer like me should go the traditional route at first, it makes perfect sense to test the self-pubbed waters once we've got a following. It's almost as if we're returning to the purest method of artistic survival. An artist creates something and sells it. No different than the painter selling his art on a street corner. The internet allows us to take our work to a massive audience, though, so for the first time in human history, the theoretical reach of an individual is equal to that of a giant corporation. What will determine our success is the amount of hard work we're willing to put into it. Blessings to you and I hope to see you at the top of the e-book sales lists!

Horton Prather said...

You make a good point LeAnn, and a timely one. Most of the focus in the discussions of traditional vs self publishing has been on writing quality, editing and recognition. Often the writer's circumstances or goals aren't considered. For me, age is a consideration. I am in my 70's and can't wait years for collecting rejection letters and finding acceptance by a publisher. I will continue to learn the craft and have some good people to rely on for editing. The learning experience is also one of my motivations for writing. I had to learn the craft of writing, formatting, cover design and e book conversion--great way to keep the mind sharp! Best overall luck to you in your self publishing journey. - Horton Prather

Michelle Griep said...

Michelle Griep here, for LeAnn, who's asked me to leave her comment/reply for her since she's having trouble logging on...

LeAnn says:
I love the analogy of a painter selling his art on a street corner. I shall try to imagine myself along the Seine in the shadow of Notre Dame. Ultimately, it is the readers we need to convince to read our books, just as the painter's wares are judged by those who like the picture enough to hang in on the wall. Not by art critics in New York. And yes, it does take hard work.

Horton, I am inspired by your desire to hone your craft and stay sharp through the years. All the best to you.

Janie said...

Good morning, Horton. Except for a few details, I could have written this post. I chose self-publishing for my Christian Fiction, family friendly, heart touching novel, Finding Herself Blessed, in 2010. It was a grand experience concerning the writing, the choosing of the cover, and the many things I added to my bank of knowledge while navigating the entire process of bringing the book into print. I plan to write another novel and will decide then how far to take it. I love the process and keeping my mind active in creating.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Great post, Leanne. I, too, am self-pubbing, and it was NOT the easy way out. It was only after submitting to traditional pubs, hearing "time period isn't marketable" (Vikings!?!?!), getting glowing editorial reviews, and trying almost every other possible avenue. In the end, God pushed me into it. And I have never been happier to know I am getting this novel out there. It's hard to explain to others, but when you know your book is ready, and the time is right, and the readership is there, it is SO worth taking the jump. And it makes perfect sense that you are self-pubbing with such a large audience overseas! And Horton, I hear you, too. Getting traditionally published takes years. I am ready to start gathering readers, not just blog followers and twitter followers. READERS. Great post today.

LeAnne Mckinley said...

I have been adventuring into self publishing myself. For formatting, I'm using draft2digital. They are still in beta testing I think, but I found it easy to be accepted.

Marketing is still a mystery to me, but there's so much I've learned from the experience. And it's fun!

LeAnne Hardy said...

Hey, I'm on! Vikings sound like a great period, Heather. We have to find those niche markets who Do want to read about Vikings and the 16th century. Try marketing in Minnesota. They value you their Viking heritage (and I don't mean football!)

LeAnne Hardy said...

I haven't heard of draft2digital, LeAnne. I'll have to check it out. Nice name, BTW!