Author and former Write2Ignite Team member Janice D. Green has a wealth of experience with self-publishing projects. Below, she shares information about the steep learning curve she experienced as she navigated different options, programs, and methods for publishing books herself.
- What book did you first publish using a self-publishing provider or system?
I have self-published several books. My first attempt at publishing was with com, which I discovered when I decided to write a book about my father’s life. After that, I published a few more family books and attempted to publish an alphabet book that I hoped to market, but realized I would never get a competitive price using Lulu.com.
A. Title/Genre/Target age: . . . [T]o publish my first Bible storybook, The Creation, I established my own publishing company under the guidance of Larry Carpenter, who helped me locate a printer and some resource people who helped me with the InDesign software the printing company required me to use. I later published a second Bible storybook, The First Christmas. These two books were written for early elementary children; however, my goal was to reach the parents as well with additional information at the end of the books [back matter] and a more thorough retelling of the biblical accounts than is generally found in Bible storybooks.
- What publisher or system did you use?
The Creation was printed by Worzalla Publishing Company, which prints books for publishers only. I had 2200 copies of this book printed using offset printing.
The First Christmas was printed by Lightning Source using print-on-demand.
- When was the book published? Length of the project from start to finish? How many self-publishing companies or products were investigated?
The Creation was published in 2011, The First Christmas in 2012. Offset printing required a longer wait for [printing set up and completion] than . . . print-on-demand.
Larry Carpenter investigat[ed] for my first book and told me about . . . printing options. What factors led to your choice? Price was my main concern in selecting [a printer].
- How many up-front costs did you incur to publish your book? How long did it take to recoup costs (if you have), or what is the projected time frame to recover them?
My first book incurred many more up-front costs, beginning with the software purchase and the fees I paid Mr. Carpenter, and adding . . . the cost of printing 2200 books. I did not have to pay an illustrator, as I created my own illustrations with hand-appliquéd quilt blocks – though the fabric was expensive. I never recovered my costs on The Creation, and probably never will, though I hope I have learned from my mistakes. I have sold many of these books for less than what I paid to have them printed simply to get credit on my taxes for having invested the money in the first place. Until they sell (or I destroy them) I can’t claim the printing expense on my taxes.
I got smarter on my second book and used print-on-demand. I have probably broken even on this book by now, as the upfront costs were about $150-200.
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.)?
These decisions were all mine to make.
- Did you hire a professional or use services provided by the self-publishing company for any of the following?
- Cover design
I created my own illustrations for The Creation. I found an illustrator to help me with the illustrations on The First Christmas who was willing to be paid a royalty as the books sold. I regret that she hasn’t been able to recoup more for her work.
A friend who does layout and marketing professionally helped me with the cover and illustrations as I struggled to understand the software I was using. Her suggestions were extremely helpful, and she didn’t expect to be paid.
- 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?
What software or process was used?
- Did you do the typing in this system, or was it provided by the company?
- If you purchased software yourself, what was the product? What was the cost?
- How much learning curve and time were required for the typing/file preparation?
I have used Smashwords.com to create e-books. This is a tedious process and hasn’t sold enough copies to be worth the trouble. I need to consider other options on this.
- Is the book being marketed in stores (print)?
. . . [A] few stores where I have connections . . . still carry The Creation.
Online only? If online only, what sites offer your book?
I have my books on sale on my blog, www.honeycombadventures.com. The First Christmas is also available on Amazon.com, but if you don’t know to look for it with my name [Janice D. Green], it won’t come up with a search for the title.
- From your first self-publishing project, what advice do you have for authors who are considering embarking on a self-publishing adventure?
1. Do all in your power to find a regular publisher instead of self-publishing. Submit, submit, submit, and keep on submitting your manuscript.
- Use a bona fide, qualified editor who understands your genre before you publish your book – maybe before you submit it to a publisher.
- Use print-on-demand
- Find a professional illustrator who understands your genre.
- Get professional help with your cover. It is the face of your project, and if the cover doesn’t sell, your book is dead in the water.
- Plan to spend money on marketing your book. Make that a serious part of your budget.
- If you establish yourself as a publisher, join the Christian Small Publishers Association.
“Don’t do this”
- Don’t assume you know what you are doing. Get advice from experienced people in your genre.
- Don’t print more than 50 copies at a time of your first book. That number may still be high.
- Don’t spend money you can’t afford to lose to get your book published.
- Don’t choose self-publishing as an easy way to get published. You will run out of friends to buy your book.
Author name/phone#: Janice D. Green (843) 621-1639
Author website/contact information: www.honeycombadventures.com
Interview series by Deborah S. DeCiantis, Ph.D., Director of Write2Ignite