The Good, the Bad and the Mediocre of Self-Publishing

Part V in the Write2Ignite Author Interview series on Self-Publishing

Ken Winters, author of the YA novel The Lost Crown of Colonnade, served as a Navy Chaplain; a few years ago, he retired from full-time ministry. After investigating several Christian self-publishing companies, he published this first novel in 2011. He shares here, in the fifth of our Write2Ignite author interviews on self-publishing, what he learned in the process.
1. Don’t sign to self-publish until your book is totally ready. I learned this the hard way. In 2010 I committed with XULON Press to publish my WIP (Work in Progress). They were offering quite a good deal, including some publicity that was not a part of the normal package, so even though I wasn’t totally satisfied with the book at that time, I signed a contract. After that, I had one year to get my finished file (manuscript) to them. One year is plenty of time, right? I was working full time and writing in my spare time. I put myself “under the gun” in terms of having a self-imposed deadline. When I publish book two, I will definitely have my finished and fully proofread file ready to submit.

2. Unless you pay extra, self-publishers provide no proofreading or editorial suggestions. I knew this when I signed, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, IF you have a peer who will be honest with you about troublesome paragraphs (or chapters), and an outstanding proofreader(s). I did have a fellow writer to help recognize character development weaknesses and conflicts or weaknesses in plot or narrative. I also had good proofreaders. But what I didn’t have were proofreaders who knew the nitty-gritty final manuscript format requirements of XULON Press. [Though I was aware of those requirements, I didn’t catch format errors, and my pre-publication readers didn’t know to look for them.] As a result, the first printing of my book was double spaced, taking twice as many pages as it should have.

3. Every time the self-publishing company sends a sample copy, you must proofread it AGAIN, before it goes to print. On first glance, my sample copies looked correct. However, Tammy Doherty, a talented self-publishing author, noticed that the TITLE on the header of every page was incorrect. Instead of The Lost CROWN of Colonnade, the title read The Lost SWORD of Colonnade. The cover, title page and publishing page with the ISBN all had the correct title. I had to return the books (at no charge to me) for correction of the title on each page header.
In the second sample, the title was correct on the cover, title page and page headers. However, once again, we found an error. On the ISBN page, the title now read The Lost Sword of Colonnade. Fortunately, we detected the problem. I proofread the book both of those times. My correct final draft/file was used in both of the first two samples.
The publisher made that one small correction, showed it to me in the file, and sent me two printed copies of the book with the correct title on the cover, headers, and ISBN page. After this “minor” change (just ONE WORD), I failed to proofread the book in this final format. I assumed (no comments) that the book had been prepared from the same draft . . . used the previous two times. Wrong. Somehow, someone had gone back to my next-to-last draft, which had a number of formatting errors and about 25 typos, including one interchanged sentence. I gave my approval without proofreading or having anyone else proofread the book one last time. In most self-publishing houses, the author is responsible for all editing. When he or she gives final approval, the book is set up and printed that way.
A few weeks later, I received 1000 copies of my book printed from the next-to-last draft, with all those errors. This wasn’t a total disaster financially, because I sold most of them and gave away about 100 to Christian schools. I was honest about the errors with people who bought the book, and most were gracious enough to buy the book anyhow. I more than broke even, which is pretty amazing. Even though [the double-spaced] printing meant each book was about 460 pages, my costs were quite fair. The initial “Bestseller Package” was $1799. For printing and shipping, the 1000 copies cost me $4899, so my initial investment was $6698. If the original printing had been single-spaced (232 pages), I would have saved about $1000 on printing.
I did contact XULON about the mistakes. Although I was ultimately responsible for this major mistake, XULON admitted [some responsibility] in it and gave me a significant [price] break on making the changes. I really appreciated this. Those who buy the paperback or E-book are now receiving the version I intended to release.
By the way, XULON provided me with what I consider a beautiful cover (front and back).
Now, I am preparing to publish book 2, The Enchanted Bride of Colonnade. I believe I am better prepared to avoid the [problems] I fell into with The Lost Crown of Colonnade. (I was tempted to put the word “Sword” in place of “Crown,” just to see who would notice )
This time, I will be using Kindle Digital Publishing (KDP), [which allows me] to create the E-book and paperback file for free, paying only printing costs. KDP offers stock graphics and guidance on creating front and back covers. However, I will pay someone to do the cover.
Initially, I plan to give Amazon exclusive rights to the E-book version. Doing so [allows me to] include the book in what is called “Kindle Unlimited Free Books.” [Subscribers to that service] can download any book [in] it for free. [Those who are NOT . . . Unlimited subscribers] . . . pay the normal Kindle Price of $2.99, and I receive the full royalty. If an individual selects my book on Kindle Unlimited, I receive a much smaller commission. However, [Unlimited] is a great way to build an audience and gain reviews. People will click on a free book from an unknown author to check it out. They might not pay $2.99 to do so.
I am still studying KDP procedures to understand all of the details of creating and producing the paperback version. In any case, I retain full rights to my work for both versions, and I may cancel my agreement for either version or both with five days’ notice. The printed version will be available for sale through all book outlets. XULON [set the price for my first book], but [with KDP], I set my own price for the paperback.
I hope my lessons learned are helpful to other writers. There is certainly a place for the self-publishing companies, but I’m going to try this less expensive approach.
Contact Information
Author name: Kenneth G. Winters Phone: 774 922-4144
E-mail: winterskn@gmail.com
Amazon Author Page Kenneth G. Winters https://www.amazon.com/Kenneth-G.-Winters/e/B005ZUR8QE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1516206959&sr=8-1
https://www.facebook.com/chapkenwinters/
Barnes & Noble Link https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lost-crown-of-colonnade-kenneth-g-winters/1103995972

Interview series by Deborah S. DeCiantis, Director, Write2Ignite Conference

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One thought on “The Good, the Bad and the Mediocre of Self-Publishing

  1. Great advice – thank you! And this is also true with picture books. I’m a picture book author, both traditionally and indie published. I also do freelance editing and am the children’s book editor for Fruitbearer Publishing. I’ve seen loads of picture book manuscripts that would have been disastrous if I hadn’t helped the author first.

    I’ve seen lots of self-published picture books that way, too. And besides good editing, an author who wants to self pub a picture book needs to spend the money on great illustrations. You can have the best story ever, but if a potential buyer (who is most always an adult) is turned off by the illustrations, you’ll lose book sales.