As you may know, there’s trouble in the publishing business. eBooks are taking hold as magazines, newspapers and a couple distributors have folded. Independent bookstores continue to close. It’s harder to get published and many within the business, along with those who love books, are worried. They don’t know what models will work to connect writers to readers. It’s a regular topic on CBC radio. Often missed in the discussion, because it’s a difficult subject, is how awful some of the people are in this business. It’s a major unacknowledged factor in how the business will survive.
People within organizations that support the book industry have taken note. There have been rumblings recently suggesting that self-published authors could soon be taken much more seriously than ever before. Self-published authors who produce high quality work could receive support that only published authors once received.
I find the business, and how it is sustained, a mystery. Lately I’ve had a few people ask me whether they should look for a publisher or self-publish. Although it’s all still a major learning process for me I can share some of what I’ve learned.
If you’re looking for a publisher for a work you’ve created, most certainly, go ahead and submit your work to a publisher. However, despite what publishers say, you should simultaneously submit to as many publishers as you like. It takes Canadian publishers anywhere from three months to a year to reply, if you’re fortunate to get a reply at all. It’s most likely your work will be rejected by a number of publishers, and if you submit your work to one publisher at a time ten years could go by before you see any success. And when you do find a publisher you may not get any advance money at all for the work you’ve done. In many cases the advance payment is the only money you will ever get from a publisher. And even after finding a publisher it’s likely your book won’t get printed until two years after you sign a contract. And don’t get me started on “contracts.”
There’s nothing stopping you from self-publishing while you are also submitting your work to publishers. Self-publishing is a great learning process, and if you think in terms of local circles of influence from which you can branch out later, you won’t be as disappointed if it doesn’t work out. Also, you’ll have a track record that you can use to impress publishers and/or agents.
It’s a great thrill to self-publish, if you can get over the loss of status that is associated with being a “published author.”
Here’s what you do to self publish.
Most importantly, don’t talk about your imaginary book, make it real. Write it. If you finally realize that you’re not a writer or artist, don’t fret. Be a fan. Like musicians, we writers and artists need fans. Local writer, Graham Strong, has wanted to write a novel for nearly thirty years. He began a blog to encourage himself to write on a daily basis. A year went by and he’s got the first draft completed. One day he might tell someone what he’s actually writing about. Children’s book author Jean Pendziwol had enough experience that she was able to obtain a grant from the Ontario Arts Council to begin her novel. Jean is thrilled.
Next! Get a computer. Then get the Adobe InDesign CS6 program to do the design and layout of the text, along with any images you need. Scared of computers and programs? No worries. Go to www.vtc.com and you can learn any program you need to for about $30.00 a month. Why pay hundreds or thousand taking courses somewhere. You can learn any program in a couple dedicated weeks.
Find a professional editor, someone who can be honest with you. Don’t use friends. Pay the editor.
If you need illustrations for your text, or for the cover of your book, find a local artist and PAY THEM! Don’t tell them they will get a cut of royalties until you can prove you’re getting royalties. Especially then, PAY THEM!
Find a printer. I use Kromar in Winnipeg. Many local authors use Friesen’s, also based in Winnipeg. You can get a hardcover book printed for as low as four dollars a copy, depending on the number of pages, print quality, whether colour images are involved, and of course, size of the print run. Softcover is cheaper and you can do short runs to test out your book.
My situation is different from most, but I can tell you that I’ve had great success. Thunder Bay has been really good to me and I am very thankful. I will take this opportunity to thank all those people who have bought my books and my art. It’s been an emboldening experience, and I’m thrilled that kids in town like my books. There’s nothing better than having such honest fans. Through all the muck, theft, lies and hard work, it’s so great to feel like my head is finally above water.
Here’s something to consider about self-publishing. I began self-publishing my own children’s picture books in January this year. Each 3,000 copy print run costs me $10,000.00. I’ve already easily paid off half the costs of the first printing job for The Love Ant. And sales are improving with my second book. I’m launching a third in September. I predict that in the next three to four years, in the Thunder Bay area alone, I will have sold more books, and made six to eight times more money than my publisher did for me in a ten year period when selling my books in four countries, Canada, the U.S., England and Australia. That’s astonishing. And I’m not worried at all about being in debt for a short period. And what is also astonishing is that my publisher was receiving a hundred thousand dollars a year to publish a few new books every year. And I only work one day a week to sell and promote my books.
What a mystery.
It can’t hurt to do it yourself.