Sixth in the Write2Ignite Self-publishing series by Debbie DeCiantis
In 2016, Write2Ignite Conference began receiving a lot of questions about non-traditional options like hybrid-and self-publishing. When our spring conference that year had to be canceled (actually, postponed, because all our presenters signed on to give their keynotes and workshops in March of 2017), author and publisher Cheri Cowell of EABooks Publishing, offered to give the workshop she had planned as our first Write2Ignite webinar! She presented the webinar on September 21, 2016; on September 23, we published a recap of her webinar content on our blog. Three months later (December 16, 2016), author, freelance editor, and W2I Team member Brenda Covert wrote about “Editing Before Self-Publishing.” In 2017, we began a series of interviews with authors who had self-published a book, describing their process, pros and cons, as well as tips, from their experience.
It’s been over a year since we ran a self-publishing article, so when Diane Buie notified us of her new self-published children’s book, we asked for her feedback. Here are our questions and the details she shared.
Q: What book did you first publish using a self-publishing provider or system? What publisher or system did you use? Describe your book, telling when it was published.
A: The first book I self-published is called What If Birds Could Talk? It’s a children’s book for ages 3-8 years. I self-published it in late March of 2020, using Lulu.com.
Q: How many self-publishing companies or products did you investigate before choosing? What factors led to your choice?
A: I researched just two or three companies prior to choosing Lulu.com. My brother’s successful experience using this company in his own self-publishing projects was of huge importance to me. I think, looking back, that God prepared me with this choice, as my brother, David, had been a guest speaker at a writers’ meeting held at my church. I already had a lot of information about Lulu, and they had been on my mind and in my notes! I chose Lulu also because they were a more local company (NC). This was an easy and quick decision.
Q: What up-front costs did you incur to publish your book? How long did it take to recoup these costs (if you have), or what is the projected time frame to recover them?
A: This self-publishing project surprisingly cost very little! I used what resources were free. I used the pexel.com website for access to free public-domain photos, and I began to add pictures where I wanted them within the story. The typing and formatting were free, as Lulu.com provided the format and templates for books. The only cost I had was the money for my proof. So, with shipping, my transaction was under $20.
Q: How much control did you maintain over the process (editing, revision choices, cover design, illustrations, book type setup, font, size of the print, etc., book description for marketing purposes, etc.)? Did you hire a professional or use services provided by the self-publishing company for cover design, illustrations, editing, or layout?
A: Self-publishing gave me control over all of it. I own the rights to my book(s). I chose my front and back covers from those that are free with Lulu; I could have used my own. I chose the size of my book and downloaded Lulu’s template. From start to finish, the project was mine to envision and to bring to life.
Q: Did you self-publish in print or e-book format, or both? Did the self-publishing company provide software services to create book files for printing or e-book conversion of your manuscript?
A: I had no budget for hiring a professional. I was able to understand the process from the conferences I had attended with Write2Ignite since 2017. I kept my notes from those classes and workshops. I stayed in contact with the authors I met at the conferences; we chatted via social media, and I saw a few of them in my local community. Since I was so prepared by W2I, I had the courage to TRY self-publishing my writing projects.
I created What if Birds Could Talk? as a for print-only book. This is due to Lulu’s rules and regulations regarding public domain images. These types of photos are not allowed in e-books due to copyright laws. My next books will most likely be available in many forms.
I had been working on my children’s stories for at least two years prior to self-publishing. I had them edited, and I entered pitch parties on Twitter for about two years with no interest. Two publishing companies contacted me about publishing with their group, but I lacked the money to invest in the printing costs. I had also contacted many traditional publishers over those two years, but again, no response In frustration, I tried Lulu.com. I believed in my story and wanted to share it with others.
As I did all the typing, editing, choosing covers and book sizes, as well as reading instructions and legal questions and answers; I think my total time to have an actual book ready to sell was about two months. I did work daily from home during the Covid-19 pandemic because my job offered us all a choice of working out in the field or from home. It helped that my manuscript was already edited and ready to go. All I did was transfer that text onto the right template, and it was fairly easy from there.
Initially, I printed one proof for myself. I did learn from a mistake when I prematurely announced that my book was for sale. This became an extra cost, as I had to replace the original with the updated version and sent the revised one to five friends who had purchased it online. The order to correct my manuscript with a revised version was about fifteen copies. [Note fromW2I: Check self-publishing websites for starting prices for different types and sizes of books, according to page count, paper stock, color or b/w, binding, and other options.]
Q: Is the book being marketed in stores (print)? Online only? If online-only, what sites offer your book?
A: My book is for sale on Lulu’s online bookstore. Lulu has an 80/20 split of profits from print book sales, which means that after publishing/printing costs, 80% of profit goes to the author, and 20% to Lulu.com. The cost per book for larger orders is lower, resulting in more profit to split.
My book will be on Amazon in a few weeks. I plan to sell copies at various arts/crafts venues in my local community, now that I have my retail license. (This part of selling books is something I am still reading about and learning as I go)!
Q: What process was involved in obtaining your retail license? How much time did that take?
A: About a month. I took a few days to research online, and I chatted via FB with friends like Melissa Henderson and Gail Cartee, who guided me through a few questions. I sent my application and fee into the SC Dept of Revenue via USPS, and my license arrived by mail about two weeks later.
Q: From your first self-publishing project, what advice do you have for authors who are considering embarking on a self-publishing adventure?
- Work and write one day at a time. Learning to write while learning the rules of self-publishing can be overwhelming and frustrating.
- Go slow. Be patient with yourself. Treat yourself and your project as a work-in-progress every day.
- Stay involved with the world of books online and in-person in your community. Chat with authors on social media and follow them as you can. Attend writers’ conferences and workshops. Love your local library, as they can be a resource, too.
- When you complete your work, remember to thank those that helped you get there. They will want to be excited and celebrate with you at this accomplishment! Not everyone in the world understands the difficult and joyful tasks involved in writing and publishing, so the ones who do are important to keep in your life.
- Use what resources you have in your life to fulfill your writing dreams. I never anticipated self-publishing, yet after years of trying to locate the right publishing house, I decided to publish the book myself. Be open to suggestions and other options for your dream. Be willing to try something you have not used before just to see how God might be involved in it.
Don’t Do This:
- Don’t let any kind of hindrance to your goals for writing – a disability, lack of finances, illness, belief in yourself, etc, — stop you from trying to achieve your dream. If you sense in your spirit that you have to get those words or illustrations out of yourself, then do it!
- When you are waiting for your proof to come, try not to let the excitement get the best of you and announce your book as open for sale! Wait and edit your proof two or three times. Then, announce online!
Diane Buie has always had a desire and a knack for impacting the lives of young children in the hopes of leading them to faith in God and His son, Jesus. The education, nurture, and care for preschoolers and children have always been at the heart of Diane’s work. With joy, she recently began a further, deeper walk along the path of Christian education by writing part-time for Union Gospel Press. What if Birds Could Talk? is her first picture book.
She received her Bachelors from Carson Newman University and her Masters at Campbell University Divinity School. Diane resides in Greer, SC, near her family. When she is not writing or reading, you can find her being crafty, gardening, and hanging out with friends and family. You can connect with Diane on Facebook and on her blog.
Note: Write2Ignite self-publishing author interviews can be found in Archives: August 2, 2017, Gail Wofford Cartee; September 3, 2017, Laurie Gifford Adams; September 23, 2017 Sandy Carlson; November 14, 2017, Janice D. Green; January 23, 2018, Ken Winters. For two prequels to this series, see September 23, 2016 report on the W2I Webinar “Publishing Options” by Cheri Cowell of EABooks Publishing, and December 16, 2016 “Editing Before Self-Publishing” by Brenda Covert.