Author Interviews: Gail Cartee Shares Self-Publishing Experiences

Tsali—Self-published book by Gail Wofford Cartee

More writers are choosing self-publishing to deliver their books, whether print or digital, to readers. Write2Ignite is reaching out to several authors to ask about their decisions, experiences, and tips for those considering self-publishing for their projects.

Today’s author, W2I Team Member Gail Cartee, shares insights and experiences about self-publishing her book Tsali: Legendary Hero of the Eastern Band Cherokee.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Target age group: 8–12 years old

What publisher or system did you use? Xlibris

When was the book published, and how long did the project take from start to finish?

Published May 2016. After signing the agreement, it took about 6 months.

  1. How many self-publishing companies or products did you investigate before choosing? What factors led to your choice?

 I looked at about four publishers. I chose Xlibris because of its association with a well know publishing company, the online illustration examples, and the cost.

  1. How many up-front costs did you incur to publish your book?

There was an up-front cost to set up the book, then the cost of the books themselves. The more I ordered, the lower the cost of each book. The least expensive deal was ordering 1500 books, but that is a large expense so I opted for 500 books. The cost made it more difficult to market to book stores. I asked about the price per book before I signed the agreement but got a very vague answer. That should have been a red flag.

How long did it take to recoup these costs (if you have), or what is the projected time frame to recover them? If a publisher gave you a projected time estimate, how accurate was it?

 There was no estimate of time to recover the cost. It took about 6 months to recover the cost of set up. I have not recovered the cost of purchasing books.

  1. How much control did you maintain over the process (editing, revision choices, cover design, illustrations, book type setup (font, size of print, etc.), book description for marketing purposes, etc.)?

Editing and revision choices as well as the cover design were my choice. [Xlibris] made suggestions for book type setup. I filled out a detailed form for their illustrators so they would know colors, characters, settings, and details such as houses and guns.

  1. Did you hire a professional or use services provided by the self-publishing company for any of the following?
  2. Cover design – I chose from their illustrations. There were 10 “free” illustrations for the book.
  3. Illustrations – The publisher chose an illustrator and they were supposed to use my detailed form. I was given 1 free edit of pictures. The first set were way off. US Army uniforms were modern with hard shell hats and AK47 rifles, instead of representing 1838. Log cabins were scouting-type vacation cabins instead of log cabins. I copied detailed internet pictures and sent them for the second set of illustrations. They and I still overlooked one AK47.
  4. Editing – Editing was done by myself and two critique groups, so there were about six sets of extra eyes on the manuscript.
  5. Layout/design – I placed the pictures in the manuscript.
  6. Did you self-publish in print or e-book format, or both? Did the self-publishing company (if used) provide software services to create book files for printing or e-book conversion of your manuscript?

 The book is in print and ebook. Ebooks are offered on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I was not involved in the process of creating ebooks.

Did you use/are you using print-on-demand?

I purchased 500 POD books. I can always order more.

  1. Is the print book being marketed in stores?

I have placed the book in libraries and bookstores in Western NC and Upstate SC. I also offer my book at local craft shows, and I will be at the Read Local Authors festival in Franklin, NC, in September.

What online sites offer your book?

Amazon and Barnes & Noble sell my book. I also have it available on my blog,

  1. From your first self-publishing project, what advice do you have for authors who are considering embarking on a self-publishing adventure?

 Gail’s Tips:  “Do this” 

  1. Have honest open conversations with others who have self-published.
  2. Submit to as many traditional publishers as possible.
  3. Network with publishers at conferences.
  4. Consult publishing guides such as The Christian Writers Market Guide, The 2017 Guide to Publishers, and The Children’s Market Guide.
  5. List ways you can market your book: schools, libraries, churches, festivals, etc.
  6. Evaluate the amount of money you are willing to invest and know the price per book.
  7. Consider hiring your own illustrator or ask for samples of the illustrations from the actual illustrator the service plans to use for your book.

Gail’s Tips: “Don’t do this”

  1. Don’t agree to self-publish without investigating every possible traditional outlet.
  2. Don’t ignore advice from critique groups, editors, or traditional publishers.
  3. Don’t allow a publisher to push you into buying extras.
  4. Don’t feel that you have to accept less than quality work from a publisher.
  5. Don’t allow a publisher to rush your decisions. You are paying for this.
  6. Don’t assume a publisher’s affiliation means quality or honesty.
  7. Don’t expect sales without lots of effort on your part.
Gail Wofford Cartee
Gail Cartee comes from a family of story-tellers, which sparked her interest in writing. She recently self-published Tsali: Legendary Hero of the Eastern Band Cherokee, a historical-fiction picture book for ages eight and up. Gail is currently working on picture books about her beloved Appalachia. Find her online at
NOTE: Our thanks to Gail Cartee for this report. We’ll feature other writers’ self-publishing accounts in future posts. D. DeCiantis

Next in series: Laurie Gifford Adams.

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