Monday, August 6, 2012

The Self-Publishing Rollercoaster

It is often said that anyone can write, although not everyone takes the leap of putting their work out in public, or even writing under their real name.  Now we have entered a world beyond our wildest imagining; one that requires fortitude and courage as much as faith in one's talents and abilities as an author. As writers we are in increasing numbers becoming our own publishers. Beware. The ride has ups and down, steep inclines, and elevated curves.

As I write this, it has been another busy day going over proofs for my new book. The book has taken almost two years to write, but that sometimes feels like the tip of the iceberg considering the dozens of decisions every self-publisher has to make if they want a quality product. Some days I feel like a badly paid contract worker; or a stringer back when I first started my journalism career and got 25 cents an inch for copy. 

An interior image from Morning at Wellington Square
Although my first book, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again, was a success in ways I never dreamed, I am not complacent. I nervously anticipate how this new book - Morning at Wellington Square - will be received.  Hopefully, it will appeal not just to writers, but to anyone interested in life's journey and taking the path less chosen. 

Here are recent lessons I learned after working with CreateSpace on my new book, which I am again self-publishing as a trade paperback and an eBook.  (Why a trade paperback?  More on that in another post.)

  • As a self-publisher you have total control. You also have complete responsibility from hiring an editor, making each and every decision on interior formatting and photographs, writing the synopsis and everything else that goes on the back of your book, downloading your author photograph and bio . . .(not to mention figuring out your marketing campaign, but that's a whole other topic).
  • When the proofs to your book come back, be on the lookout for some really glaring errors. You have to catch it all from formatting mistakes - indentations that are off, larger type in some paragraphs than others; to the incorrect placement of an interior image.  My proof came back with a picture of a woman dancing among ferns above a caption reading: Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona.  Not sure how that happened, but my guess is that no one at the other end was doing much but a cut and paste. (The woman dancing among ferns was another interior image to go at the very beginning of the book.) I also caught Pennsylvania misspelled on the back of my book. True, my fault I sent it over that way, but if you are hoping for a spellchecker?   Don't . . .unless you pay extra for copy editing services, you'd better be on the lookout for the most obvious misspellings.
  • CreateSpace - the printing company I use -  has changed its initial offerings from when I first published with them two years ago. (Light years in the rapidly changing book industry.) Instead of allowing 26 text corrections after the proof comes back, you are allowed 80. This is good news, although corrections are "simple text changes" only and the interior design package has gone up from $329 in 2010 to $379.  If you have more than 80 corrections, you need to resubmit the entire manuscript at an additional cost. (I don't know what it is and don't want to know since my eyes are already crossed from checking and doublechecking the copy.)
  • The cover design package I chose allows for five hours of graphics work for $349.  Two years ago the package was $329.  You get to select from up to three design concepts, but it is the writer's decision whether to accept the styles and fonts proposed or try something different on the cover. (Hint:  Spend time looking at other books and see what has been done.)
  • The writer decides on pagination and running heads interior design, along with typeface and paper color.  I asked about cream versus white.  A CreateSpace representative told me that white is still the favorite.
  • Kindle conversion remains the same from last year at $69.  It is well worth the money to have the eBook look professional.
  • Interestingly, CS includes 20 "free" trade paperbacks with the Total Design package.  Back in the day - 2010 - no paperbacks were included and the author paid $2.96 per book. This "extra" seems the obvious result of the trend away from paperbacks to eBooks. Good news. I love going out in the community for signings and book club talks and this is a way to have copies to sell as well as pass out to the media for review.
  • Woman dancing among ferns

There are as many options and avenues with self-publishing as rides on a fairground.  Just be sure to select the one that suits your style, personality and temperament.  After all, you can walk away with a unique work of art, lovingly handcrafted. And you won't be much poorer than after writing the check for a year's worth of college textbooks for your children, although you might need a new prescription for eyeglasses. Here is a recent NY Times article on self-publishing.


Lucille said...

As someone who has self-published, although not with CreateSpace, this article vividly describes the process, especially as it pertains to the editing.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Hi Lucille,
I would love to hear some of your comments and thoughts on self-publishing; who you used, editing, etc.

edda pitassi said...

Methinks Susan Weidener's vivid comments and her rollercoaster visual provide excellent advantage and grist for the serious writer to consider. For many 'wannabes'-- may I add, "Oh, dear! What have I gotten myself into?!" Thank you, Susan, for your pioneer spirit and dogged determination.

Susan G. Weidener said...

It's a lot of work, but anything worth having takes hard work. On the "up side" - this is why royalties are higher for self-published authors than for those who go other routes. We take all the risks - and, therefore, get most of the rewards!

Susan G. Weidener said...

Please note the correction on the number of free/complimentary copies from CreateSpace. It is 20 books, not 80 as I originally posted. Wishful thinking on my part since most of those 20 will have to go out as review copies.

My apologies for the confusion or getting anyone's hopes up.