Monday, 10 October 2011

Traditional Publisher or Self-Publish? . . . My Decision and An Excerpt

For months, I've been sitting on a fence, grappling with indecision.  Do I continue to query Agents, or break the chains of Traditional Publishing and embrace the New World and Self-Publish? 

I'm down off the fence . . . my decision has been made!  Diary of a Vet's Wife, subtitled Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, will be self-published due to the heartfelt encouragement and confidence from friends and followers who are waiting for this book.  And I am most grateful!

These were the main deciding factors . . .:
  1. I've spent nearly a year querying agents with no success.  Even if I was picked up tomorrow, it could potentially be another 18 months to 2 years before the book release date.
  2. Most agents now ask for a Marketing Plan submitted with your Book Proposal, including the action items you plan to implement yourself.  It used to be a traditional publisher would solely market an author's book.  
  3. Agents and publishers take substantial profits, leaving the author with only a pittance for their years, and sometimes decades, of dedication in solitary confinement. (Plus now market their own book).
  4. Early on, I was advised not to include excerpts from the book on my blog. This, I was told, could lead to a possible rejection by a publisher. Can't they see this is a marketing tool to gain interest?
When your profit per book (after all expenses) is three, four, five, or more times what you could make with a conventional publisher, you can generate a nice income stream with much lower sales numbers.             - Peter Bowerman

Countless books have been written on Self-Publishing and Marketing, many occupy space on my desk and the floor surrounding my feet. Way too much information to absorb, but I'm wading through it.  Truthfully, once I discovered this avenue, I couldn't set it aside.  I continued to query agents, while uncovering this brave new world. The more I read, the more sense it made.

But now where do I begin? What do I do first?

Success as a self-publisher is far more a function of a process than an aptitude.   - Peter Bowerman

Once again, I never planned to be a writer, and everything I'm doing is from the view point of a novice. I'm as green as a Spring pea. If you're trained in this field of expertise, please forgive my simplicity. I know there are many others like me who need to experience these steps . . .
  1. Establish a Reader Base - The first lesson I learned in market research was the necessity to reach readers BEFORE your book is published, whether traditionally or self-published. This was the reason I started my blog.  Each week I also email my post to friends and family in my Outlook address book. Then there's Facebook, Twitter, etc . . . which I still must tackle.  
  2. Editing - A writer must scrutinize their work with the eye of a detective. Too many writers, it appears, still submit manuscripts with misspelled words and grammarical errors. It's always best to have someone trained in this area to edit your writing.  Personally, my writing teacher was the first to do a light edit, a classmate did a second edit.  She then recommended one final edit with a professional before submission.  I hired a free-lance editor, Kay Thompson Lee, who is currently three-quarters through my manuscript smoothing any rough edges along the way.   
  3. Your Cover - The most important part of your book! Covers sell books! Many buying decisions are made based solely on covers. Why do so many authors stop short of the finish line? Take the time and invest the money to create a cover that would have an impartial observer be totally unaware that it's a self-published effort. A cover so good that when they do find out it's self-published, they're amazed. - Peter Bowerman, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher
I finally feel like I've stepped into a clearing on My Uncharted Journey into Publishing My First Book. I can take a deep breath now that I know my next major step is my book cover. This requires a graphic designer. Maybe a college student at California State University Northridge, which is located nearby.  A creative type bubbling with fresh ideas, who can deal with me and my artistic preferences at a lower pay scale, knowing their name will be carved in my book like stone with my eternal gratitude.  Wish me luck . . .

To be honest, I literally still have no idea what I want on this cover.  But I'm open to suggestions . . . Anyone?

An Excerpt . . . from Chapter 4

     . . . Grant rang the doorbell. 
     Moments later, Jackie flung open the screen door.  "I'm so happy y'all could make it," she said, hugging us tightly.
     Jackie was in her early fifties, slim and attractive, with cropped platinum blond hair that framed huge Bette Davis eyes.  Dressed in a simple sundress, she looked fresh as a new day.
     "Happy Birthday," I said, kissing her cheek.  "I hope you like these."  I handed her a small gift containing a pair of sable paintbrushes.
     "Happy Birthday," Grant echoed.  Taking her wrist, he clicked his heels, bowed and kissed the back of her hand, then produced a bottle of red wine from behind his back.
     "Grant, you are so gallant," Jackie giggled.
     We followed her down a long narrow hallway to the back of the house.  Oil painting of subtle nudes and vivid flowers lined the dimly lit walls, casting the illusion of some archaic art gallery.  The small three-bedroom house was old and unassuming, but the natural lighting in the den was an artist's dream.
     Muffled voices drifted out into the hallway over the grumbling protests of an ancient air conditioner.  Stepping into the den, Jackie introduced us to the small group already gathered, then hurried back to the kitchen for more appetizers.
     I settled into a cozy blue chair opposite the doorway, setting my purse on the floor.
     Grant tapped me on the shoulder, "Scotch?"
     I nodded, "Please."
     He strolled off to the kitchen and returned with a tall drink with lots of ice.  He took a seat across the room at an old upright piano against the wall.  Sitting tall, he closed his eyes, dissolving into his own rendition of Lullaby of Bird Land.
     As I sipped my drink I looked around the room feeling lost and out of place.  Stepping back into the world of singles was definitely a shock.  So much had changed.  Women were liberated, fighting for equal rights, a cause I supported but one in which I had little experience.
     The doorbell rang.  Jackie hurried down the hall to answer it.  In the distance I heard the resounding echo of cowboy boots striking the hardwood floor.  Jackie emerged in the doorway, her cheeks flushed.  I peered over the rim of my glass, catching my first glimpse of the new arrival . . .

Lesson learned . . . or my two cents

 Smiles, tears, of all my life! - and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.                     - Elizabeth Barrett Browning 


  1. I'm glad you've decided what was best for your book. Much luck to you!

  2. Best of luck, I am sure you will make a success of it, you certainly will be motivated to and that's better than becoming frustrated by waiting for someone else to implement your own good ideas.

    Lots of support for you on shewrites for sure.

  3. Congratulations on your decision. That is huge!!! I love that you are taking all your hard work and running with it full speed ahead. You go, girl! I can't wait to see your beautiful book in print!

  4. Bravo!! Don't stop. You inspire me with your determination. Daily I wonder about this madness, but something always happens to me keep the embers burning. Big hugs, fingers and toes crossed, and some chanting thrown in for added measure.

  5. Kelly, Thank you for your good wishes. It's been a hectic week, so many new action items intermingling with the old. This is definitely a challenge in time management!

  6. Claire, I'm grateful for your encouragement. It was a difficult decision, inasmuch as I had put so much effort into my query letter, book proposal and synopsis . . . but I gave it a year. And it was time to move forward. If you see this, please leave your blog address so I can stop by.

  7. Becky, You always put wind in my sails. Thank you. I so admire your work and your gift to Jeffery, which you're now sharing with the rest of the world. And they love it too. LOL

  8. Sweet, sweet Brenda, Your words warm my heart. I had to make a decision, and now I must follow through, even though it's scary, and I've never done it before. Then I think of Thomas Edison, and all the others who have dealt with disappointment. Step over it and continue on. Who knows, there just might be a rainbow out there! And I know you'll never give up either! When you got it, you gotta do what you gotta do! :D

  9. I like your decision. I was amazed when I kept reading agents asking me to include a marketing plan with my query letter. Isn't that why they get 15%? I write the novel, I work on honing my craft, I become the best writer because that's my area of expertise. The agent is selected because they have the "in" with publishers, the right contacts and supposedly the know how in regard to marketing and promotion. Or else, why do we need them? Obviously, it still irks me.

    I live in South Pas and I have a friend who lives near the 10 and Bundy, thereabouts. He has finished and has available (only as an iPad app so far, but working on ebook, Mac download, Kindle, etc.) his narrated, illustrated story with an animated prologue, which he designed literally page by page. He also designed his wife's self-help workbook, which I edited, and she has received (after NIGHTMARISH experiences) her first short run of 100 books. He's already talking about designer the cover for my novel "Amy's Own" even though I'm still in the editing phase—but his mind can't stop, he is always, always creating in his head.

    If this sounds at all interesting, let me know. I'm not sure what he's working on just now, but he may be available even to chat about a cover to see if you two would mesh well. He's has years of experience and he is one of the most creative people I know, and I believe he's affordable. Do you have a dollar maximum?

    Get in touch if you'd like to continue the conversation. Thanks for the great post.