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.
While a touch ponderous at times, Dennis Peterson’s Combat! Lessons on Spiritual Warfare from Military Historygives a good overview of military history with a strong spiritual explanation of how God’s hand has shaped history. The book takes a deep look at historic battles and shows the ways that those victories (or defeats) can teach us how to better lead Christian lives. Peterson then goes on to talk about the most important parts of military strategy (open lines of communication, support troops, supply lines, etc.) and connects those ideas with maintaining a good Christian walk.
This book is for teens and adults. While those groups could probably get a lot from its messages and connect interest in the history of war with Christianity, I don’t think the language and style of writing are best fit for teenagers, and only somewhat for adults. Even though they would understand the concepts on a higher level, there is nothing in the book that restricts it to older groups.
I would recommend Combat! for boys between the ages of 8 and 13 who are interested in military history. Parents could read it aloud to their children. The only trouble with this book is that Peterson goes a little too far with trying to make Christianity sound cool to children. It certainly is important and right to do that, but this lowers the age of the reading base. Aside from this tendency, the book is compelling and carries a good message. Overall, I would recommend this book with an 8 (on a scale of 1-10) to a younger person, and perhaps a 6 to a teenager; though the message of the book is essential to everyone.
I would also suggest this book to those with only a slight knowledge of history, especially Bible history. If you are very familiar with the history of Israel and how they conquered the land, it can feel a bit repetitive. But, if that is a new thing to you, it would deepen the intrigue and be a helpful second resource. This book would be perfect for young children who are reading through the Old Testament for the first time and could read Combat! at the same time, for a more personal look at the battles and principles behind them.
Combat! would be a great book for a young reader who treated it more like a devotion to be read each day, learning each day a new way to apply military strategy to their lives. It is clear that Peterson did a lot of research and has a deep understanding of both military and war history, and a solid understanding of the Bible. It is a good read overall and Peterson does a good job of calling to the forefront the possible weaknesses of a person’s spiritual walk, and showing how everyone could improve their relationship with God and the strength of their walk.
Ethan is an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, currently looking to major in physics. He enjoys kickboxing, running, and playing League of Legends. He has been a Christian his whole life and was raised in the church.
The Land Beneath Us is the third and final novel in Sarah Sundin’s Sunrise at Normandy series. I have read numerous Sarah Sundin novels and enjoyed them all; her stories are the perfect balance of romance and mystery in a well-researched historical environment. Sunrise at Normandy follows the stories of the three Paxton brothers, Wyatt in The Sea Before Us(my favorite!), Adler in The Sky Above Us, and Clay in The Land Beneath Us, who are divided after a tragic incident at home and are reunited at the Battle of Normandy in World War II.
The prologue of The Sea Before Us introduces the incident that is the basis for all three novels. Wyatt and Adler are in love with the same girl, Oralee. They have a fight which leads to Oralee’s death. Adler, who was engaged to Oralee, blames Wyatt for the argument and tries to kill him. His brother Clay stops him, and Wyatt runs for his life. Wyatt takes Clay’s life savings and joins the Navy. Clay also threatens to kill Adler, and Adler leaves and joins the Air Force. Clay, stripped of his family and money, joins the Rangers. With the prospect of death looming near, Wyatt and Adler reconnect and make efforts to reconnect the whole family, but Clay’s fate at Normandy is uncertain until this novel. Clay is the key to the family’s being reunited. But will he live long enough to make it happen?
Each brother meets a woman throughout his military career that helps him grow in his faith. During training in Tennessee, Clay meets Leah, a librarian and orphan who is searching to discover her identity (orphans endured much prejudice in the 1940’s). The story’s mystery arises when someone assaults Leah: a mysterious attacker is targeting young women. However, I found this mystery to be much less intriguing than the previous two novels. Sundin focuses more on the romance between Clay and Leah than on the mystery of Leah’s attacker.
The characters are realistic, and each has internal struggles with his faith that Christians can identify with. Also, the story contains many biblical allusions and parallels. Clay compares himself to Joseph’s being cast in a pit by his brothers. Like the elder brother in Luke 15, the parable of the prodigal son, Clay is loyal to his father and works for him, while Wyatt and Adler are the prodigal sons who squander their lives and come back to their father.
Readers can see Sarah Sundin does extensive research for her novels; they are all accurate, referencing real people, battles, ships, and elements of the home front. I enjoy the historical accuracy of her books because the characters and situations are even more real. While reading the Sunrise at Normandy series in order is not necessary, I highly recommend doing so.
I have always thought a good World War II story should end with the war’s end, and this series does. While I did not want the book to end, the ending is so complete that I felt satisfied. In addition, I have always thought a good story should span a long time, not just a few days. The Land Beneath Us encompasses two years, and by the end of the story, readers feel as if they know each character personally.
In all the novels I have read, I have rarely read anything as gripping, moving, and intriguing as these novels; I literally cannot put them down. The Land Beneath Us does not disappoint. I highly recommend this novel—and all other Sarah Sundin novels, especially The Sea Before Us—to teens and adults and promise you will not be able to put the books down!
Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie, and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.
“I ask again, ‘What are your Writing Goals?’ Now sit down and write them out and put them where you can see them every day,” (Lynette Hall Hampton, Writer to Writer, pp. 9)
In the sum of the writing resources I’ve read, the importance of setting writing goals is a common theme. Advice for would-be authors often includes a call to set your goals, make a plan to achieve them, and to stick with that plan. But what do we do with the plans we don’t stick to? How do we deal with the goals we’ve neglected so often that they’ve fallen to the wayside and shattered? What do we do with our broken writing goals?
My Problem Child
After reading the third chapter of Writer to Writer, I sat down to make my list of goals, like I’ve done so many times in the past few years. As is my habit, I started to write, “Finish editing Clouded Skies,” and I stopped before the pen hit the paper. In that moment, I knew this list would be meaningless for me.
You see, I finished writing my first book, Clouded Skies, five years ago. Then I went to college, and my goal of editing the book ended up on the shelf. It sat there, collecting dust, despite the many, many to-do lists with “edit Clouded Skies” written across the top. Finishing my first book was scribbled on every set of New Year’s resolutions and every list of plans for the summer. I set myself multiple deadlines of when I’d have it done, all of which passed without notice. Until recently, I never got past editing chapter four.
And because the book sat on the shelf for so long, the goal of finishing it came to feel less and less achievable.
I realized this week that our goals are promises we make to ourselves, and when we break those promises, we break our own trust. In neglecting my goals, I began to doubt my abilities and commitment as a writer because I’d created a pattern of ignoring what I claimed was important.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one. When life’s busy seasons hit full-force, it can become easy to believe that our goals belong on the back-burner. If we give into that temptation, we chip away at our confidence in our calling. Broken writing goals can damage our relationship with our writing voice, and like in any relationship, that damaged trust has to be rebuilt little by little.
So how do we restore our broken writing goals?
1. Put down the list—
If you’re like me and you’re dealing with goals you’ve neglected, stop writing them down. Stop talking about them. Even stop picturing them as goals. As counter-intuitive as it seems, I found that talking about my neglected project made it feel like an item on my bucket list. Finishing my book became a nebulous idea rather than a goal of substance–an idea trapped in the realm of “someday”.
So rather than viewing your project as a goal, view it as a priority. Let it become a normalized part of your life, like cooking dinner or doing laundry. Stop talking about your goal as a dream; instead, treat it as a reality.
2. Embrace imperfection—
Another issue that kept me procrastinating was my belief that my book had to be perfect. The fear that my book would never be as good as I believed it could be was crippling . . . until I made the decision that it’s worth the risk.
In writing, just like in life, sometimes being present is far more important than being perfect. Showing up, shaping the words, and sending them out guarantees growth if nothing else. So allow yourself room to make mistakes and go get started.
3. Take action—
Start small. Maybe it’s setting an appointment with yourself to write five minutes a day. Perhaps it’s entering one contest. Even if you aren’t ready to start marching toward that one big goal, take small steps to complete other goals that lead up to it. Making progress on other writing-related activities proves to yourself that you are serious about this dream. It shouts that you are ready to commit and be proactive.
Bonus Tip: Make a Plan. Stick to it–
When we’ve neglected a goal for a while, it might take some time to get back into a good rhythm. We might need to shift our approach to get the ball rolling again, but there’s no magic formula for keeping momentum once we’ve started. At the end of the day, we still have to decide to persevere. We still have to persistently move forward, choosing daily, weekly, monthly to keep striving toward the goals we feel called to reach.
But here’s the good news: a broken goal isn’t beyond repair. Even if you’re doubting yourself, the fact that the goal remains on your list is proof that you haven’t given up. You haven’t let it go.
And if you are truly called to write, then I believe that God won’t let you give up. I believe He’ll keep tugging at your heart, nudging you to follow the path He’s set before you.
What’s one way you’re striving to meet your goals today?
Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.