Author Sandy Carlson was born in Michigan, lived in six other states, and now resides in Michigan again. A former elementary teacher, Carlson is a blogger and a long-time member of SCBWI. She’s published in magazines, e-zines, newspapers, and anthologies, in addition to being the author of historical fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction books. Today, she writes, speaks, and tutors dyslexic kids. Here, she contributes her insights to our W2I self-publishing series.
- What book did you first publish using a self-publishing provider or system? The Town That Disappeared (Genre: Middle grades historical fiction. Target age group: 3rd–7th-grade readers; leveled at T [5th-grade reading] with F&P.)
- What publisher or system did you use? CreateSpace
- When was the book published, and how long did the project take from start to finish? Town was published in 2013, but the idea came eight years earlier from a woman who lived in that area, where sometimes there would be a roof exposed in the sand dunes, and other days would be another, or none. Mostly, my time was spent in researching the era and area.
- How many self-publishing companies did you investigate? Three (3)
- What factors led to your choice? CreateSpace seemed simplest to understand, and the cheapest.
- How many up-front costs did you incur to publish your book? In my research, I traveled several times to the area for a full day each time. I paid $150 for the cover illustration and design. There was the S&H on the POD book copies. I was so hopeful lots would sell, I first purchased more than I needed. (For later books, the same illustrator now costs twice that, and I have a freelance editor from NY going over my stories for . . . $300–$500 per manuscript, but both are well worth it. I learned how to do my own formatting, but CreateSpace has employees who can do that for [a fee].
- How long did it take to recoup these costs (if you have), or what’s the projected time frame to recover them? I recouped the cost of Town that first year, but as prices go up, I don’t expect that for other books.
- 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.)? I had total control. It was tough. It was time-consuming. But I couldn’t afford to publish any other way.
- Did you hire a professional or use services provided by the self-publishing company for any of the following?
- Cover design: Yes
- Illustrations: N/A
- Editing: Not for Town, but for later books
- Layout/design: Yes
- Did the self-publishing company (if used) provide software services to create book files for printing or e-book conversion of your manuscript? It was easy to paste in my story.
- What software or process was used? I have no clue.
- Did you do the typing in this system, or was it provided by the company? I typed it. I then “poured” (uploaded) my manuscript into their format (which I was able to choose).
- If you purchased software yourself, what was the product? What was the cost? N/A
- How much learning curve and time were required for the typing/file preparation? For that first book, it took months. And then I realized that the final print was not what I had uploaded because, apparently, I’d used two different paragraph tags, and the pages looked so ragged.
- How many books (if print) did you have printed initially? Did you use/are you using print-on-demand? I printed 100 copies for the first time. Because this is a POD company, I have learned to order only 20 copies at a time before I do a signing.
- Is the book being marketed in stores (print)? Town is a niche book—Michigan historical fiction for kids—so I “hand-sell” copies to bookstores and gift shops in that area where the book takes place.
- If online, what sites offer your book? Town is also available from Amazon and as an e-book with Kindle.
- From your first self-publishing project, what advice do you have for authors who are considering embarking on a self-publishing adventure?
Do . . .
- Make sure your writing is superb. If you can’t afford a professional, get other writers and readers to go over it. The more willing victims, the better to make your words sing.
- Realize everything costs money. Even going the cheapest way, it costs.
- Search for the publisher which will best meet your needs, not just financially.
- Plan to spend months figuring out how to market and promote. It’s a whole different language and world from writing (unless you can hire someone to do this for you.)
- You’re not in this alone. Meet with other authors. Go to conferences; attend webinars. Ask questions.
- Read about the writing craft to better yourself. Read a lot, both in the genre you write, and in other genres. You can never tell from where the creative sparks may start to fly.
- Write another book.
Don’t . . .
- With seven books self-published, my biggest “Don’t do this” is, surprisingly enough, don’t self-publish . . . if you can help it, for traditional editors and marketers do wonders with your words.
- Don’t fret, cry, or wail when you don’t get rich from self-publishing. (Refer to #7 on the “Do This” list.)
- Don’t neglect yourself. Keep daily refreshing your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
- Don’t neglect your family.
- Don’t forget to include God in every step you take.
Find more about Sandy on Facebook and at SandyCarlson.com. You can also find her on Twitter (@sandycarl).
3 thoughts on “Author Interviews III: Sandy Carlson’s First Self-Publishing Experience”
Excellent and helpful information. Like a choir director advising some of her sopranos against trying for the highest notes – “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Same is true for self-publishing – the easiest road isn’t always the smartest. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
I totally agree, Janice. (Naturally) Nice choir analogy, by the way. My throat feels raw just thinking of those high notes.
The answer to #9 is both – soft cover and ebook, WHICH is another good “do” relating to #1: Edit-edit-edit, looking over every word, every space, and each punctuation. Also have others do the same for you.