Category: Publishers

The Good, the Bad, and the Mediocre of Self-Publishing

Kenneth G. Winters, author of the YA novel The Lost Crown of Colonnade, served as a Navy chaplain; a few years ago, he retired from full-time ministry. After investigating several Christian self-publishing companies, he published this first novel in 2011. He shares here, in the fifth of our Write2Ignite author interviews on self-publishing, what he learned in the process.

1. Don’t sign to self-publish until your book is totally ready. I learned this the hard way. In 2010, I committed with XULON Press to publish my WIP (Work in Progress). They were offering quite a good deal, including some publicity that was not a part of the normal package, so even though I wasn’t totally satisfied with the book at that time, I signed a contract. After that, I had one year to get my finished file (manuscript) to them. One year is plenty of time, right? I was working full time and writing in my spare time. I put myself “under the gun” in terms of having a self-imposed deadline. When I publish book two, I will definitely have my finished and fully proofread file ready to submit.

2. Unless you pay extra, self-publishers provide no proofreading or editorial suggestions. I knew this when I signed, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, if you have a peer who will be honest with you about troublesome paragraphs (or chapters), and an outstanding proofreader(s). I did have a fellow writer to help recognize character development weaknesses and conflicts or weaknesses in plot or narrative. I also had good proofreaders. But what I didn’t have were proofreaders who knew the nitty-gritty final manuscript format requirements of XULON Press. [Though I was aware of those requirements, I didn’t catch format errors, and my pre-publication readers didn’t know to look for them.] As a result, the first printing of my book was double spaced, taking twice as many pages as it should have.

3. Every time the self-publishing company sends a sample copy, you must proofread it again before it goes to print. On first glance, my sample copies looked correct. However, Tammy Doherty, a talented self-publishing author, noticed that the title on the header of every page was incorrect. Instead of The Lost Crown of Colonnade, the title read The Lost Sword of Colonnade. The cover, title page, and publishing page with the ISBN all had the correct title. I had to return the books (at no charge to me) for correction of the title on each page header.

In the second sample, the title was correct on the cover, title page, and page headers. However, once again, we found an error. On the ISBN page, the title now read The Lost Sword of Colonnade. Fortunately, we detected the problem. I proofread the book both of those times. My correct final draft/file was used in both of the first two samples.

The publisher made that one small correction, showed it to me in the file, and sent me two printed copies of the book with the correct title on the cover, headers, and ISBN page. After this “minor” change (just one word), I failed to proofread the book in this final format. I assumed (no comments) that the book had been prepared from the same draft . . . used the previous two times. Wrong. Somehow, someone had gone back to my next-to-last draft, which had a number of formatting errors and about 25 typos, including one interchanged sentence. I gave my approval without proofreading or having anyone else proofread the book one last time. In most self-publishing houses, the author is responsible for all editing. When he or she gives final approval, the book is set up and printed that way.

A few weeks later, I received 1,000 copies of my book printed from the next-to-last draft, with all those errors. This wasn’t a total disaster financially, because I sold most of them and gave away about 100 to Christian schools. I was honest about the errors with people who bought the book, and most were gracious enough to buy the book anyhow. I more than broke even, which is pretty amazing. Even though [the double-spaced] printing meant each book was about 460 pages, my costs were quite fair. The initial “Bestseller Package” was $1,799. For printing and shipping, the 1,000 copies cost me $4,899, so my initial investment was $6,698. If the original printing had been single-spaced (232 pages), I would have saved about $1,000 on printing.

I did contact XULON about the mistakes. Although I was ultimately responsible for this major mistake, XULON admitted [some responsibility] in it and gave me a significant [price] break on making the changes. I really appreciated this. Those who buy the paperback or e-book are now receiving the version I intended to release.

By the way, XULON provided me with what I consider a beautiful cover (front and back).

Now, I am preparing to publish book 2, The Enchanted Bride of Colonnade. I believe I am better prepared to avoid the [problems] I fell into with The Lost Crown of Colonnade. (I was tempted to put the word sword in place of crown, just to see who would notice.)

This time, I will be using Kindle Digital Publishing (KDP), [which allows me] to create the e-book and paperback file for free, paying only printing costs. KDP offers stock graphics and guidance on creating front and back covers. However, I will pay someone to do the cover.

Initially, I plan to give Amazon exclusive rights to the e-book version. Doing so [allows me to] include the book in what is called “Kindle Unlimited Free Books.” [Subscribers to that service] can download any book [in] it for free. [Those who are not . . . Unlimited subscribers] . . . pay the normal Kindle price of $2.99, and I receive the full royalty. If an individual selects my book on Kindle Unlimited, I receive a much smaller commission. However, [Unlimited] is a great way to build an audience and gain reviews. People will click on a free book from an unknown author to check it out. They might not pay $2.99 to do so.

I am still studying KDP procedures to understand all of the details of creating and producing the paperback version. In any case, I retain full rights to my work for both versions, and I may cancel my agreement for either version or both with five days’ notice. The printed version will be available for sale through all book outlets. XULON [set the price for my first book], but [with KDP], I set my own price for the paperback.

I hope my lessons learned are helpful to other writers. There is certainly a place for the self-publishing companies, but I’m going to try this less expensive approach.

Contact Information
Author name: Kenneth G. Winters

Phone: (774) 922-4144
E-mail: winterskn@gmail.com
Amazon author page for Kenneth G. Winters: https://amzn.to/2IlR9I7

Barnes & Noble link: https://bit.ly/2Io8zQ9

Interview series by Deborah S. DeCiantis, director of Write2Ignite Conference

Self-Publishing Series Part IV Author Interviews

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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].

  1. 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.
  2. Did you hire a professional or use services provided by the self-publishing company for any of the following?
  3. Cover design
  4. Illustrations
    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.
  5. Editing
  6. Layout/design
    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.
  7. 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?
  8. Did you do the typing in this system, or was it provided by the company?
  9. If you purchased software yourself, what was the product? What was the cost?
  10. 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.

  1. 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.

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

 “Do this”
1. Do all in your power to find a regular publisher instead of self-publishing. Submit, submit, submit, and keep on submitting your manuscript.

  1. Use a bona fide, qualified editor who understands your genre before you publish your book – maybe before you submit it to a publisher.
  2. Use print-on-demand
  3. Find a professional illustrator who understands your genre.
  4. 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.
  5. Plan to spend money on marketing your book. Make that a serious part of your budget.
  6. If you establish yourself as a publisher, join the Christian Small Publishers Association.

 “Don’t do this”                                

  1. Don’t assume you know what you are doing. Get advice from experienced people in your genre.
  2. Don’t print more than 50 copies at a time of your first book. That number may still be high.
  3. Don’t spend money you can’t afford to lose to get your book published.
  4. 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

Making Sense of Publishing Options—What’s Your Measure of Success?

Author and publisher Cheri Cowell presented the first webinar sponsored by Write2Ignite on Wednesday, September 21. Cowell, owner of EABooks Publishing, shared her own journey as a writer who started out and, after several years of submitting numerous manuscripts or queries to traditional publishers, eventually succeeded in publishing a book, followed by two others. After the third, her husband finally pinpointed a question she had never asked herself and answered: “Can you finally admit that you have succeeded [in your goal as a writer]”?

This question provided a light-bulb moment for Cowell, who realized that she’d never established for herself what success would look like. Thus, she kept pursuing writing projects and publishing but had no clear goal for what she really wanted to accomplish. She asked webinar participants to determine, on the way to publishing, what their measure of success will be. For many writers, this is “seeing [their] book on a bookstore shelf.” Cowell pointed out that this measure most likely requires traditional publishing because the bookstore market is based on supply and demand from print publishing houses.

For others, “making money” is part of the goal. In that case, Cowell pointed out, traditional publishing will not be likely to yield substantial income, especially for a first book, since the process of traditional publishing requires the publisher to take all the financial risk—averaging $45,000 and up to launch a new author with the marketing campaign that follows all the other upfront costs—editing, cover design, and printing. For this reason, the typical advance for the writer, based on the publisher’s estimate of first-year earning potential, may be only $1,500. If the book does not sell, bookstores will return copies to the publisher, a process called “remaindering,” which results in a deduction from royalties for any future copies sold, to recoup the publisher’s losses. Royalties, Cowell noted, are usually not more than 10–12% of the profit (not the sale price) of a book, so the royalty earned on a $15 book may be as low as 75 cents, after deductions for the advance until those have been “earned out.”

Self publishing, on the other hand, requires the writer to take the financial risk of publishing, with costs as low as $950 up to $10,000, depending on the services a writer hires out (such as editing, cover design, and coding, if e-book format is chosen). Though these start-up costs are significant, the writer controls all aspects of the publishing process—title selection, cover design (which are the traditional publisher’s decision, not the author’s), and marketing descriptions, to name a few. The profits also remain with the author—perhaps $10 per copy, compared to the advance and per-copy royalty for traditional publishing, described above.

A third measure of success Cowell described is “blessing and changing the lives of readers”—the strong urge to share a message with readers, who may become fans. If “getting [a] project out to the public” is the goal, Cowell suggests recent self publishing methods as a more sure path to accomplishing this goal. One example she gave is Paul Young’s best seller, The Shack. Young sent the manuscript to 99 traditional publishers, all of whom rejected it; but because he believed strongly in his project, he ultimately decided to self publish.

The success of Young’s book in 2008, Cowell notes, launched a sea change in negative attitudes toward self publishing, with the result that some well known traditionally published authors began self publishing some of their own books. While she acknowledges that traditional publishing usually brings prestige and that some negative associations still remain for self publishing, she encourages authors to decide for themselves which method best serves their goals. This may be traditional publishing for some projects but self publishing for others. Cowell refers to authors who work in both realms as “hybrid authors.”

In a nutshell, then, the prestige, professional services, and financial underwriting of traditional publishers, balanced against lower financial return and average shelf life of three to six months for a book on store shelves, is one publishing paradigm still pursued by many authors. Cowell suggests that self publishing options (also sometimes referred to as co-publishing or partner publishing, depending on the number of services contracted) may be a better fit for some writers’ projects. She adds that e-books, a market she entered reluctantly and only with the help of a very tech-savvy friend, involve a learning curve for do-it-yourself programs (paying a service to convert text to e-book format costs more) but yield a payoff for those who can invest the time and either have or can find help with the tech skills needed.

Her closing tip for writers, regardless of their publishing choice, addressed marketing such as blogging or other social media. “Your website and social media should not be about you or your book,” claims Cowell. Instead, she counsels, media posts should be reader-focused—“make your posts about your readers.”

If you missed Cheri Cowell’s webinar this time, stay tuned for future Write2Ignite webinar offerings. Make your plans now to attend the full conference on March 24–25, where Cowell and other presenters will offer a wide range of workshops and keynotes. Finally, stay tuned for announcement of our fall writing contest!

Deborah DeCiantis, acting Team director for Write2Ignite!

 

The Tale of Three Authors

Cheri Cowell I am an author/publisher. I began writing in 2000 with magazine articles and seven years later published my first book. Recently, I had my fourth traditionally published book release with Zondervan, but I find the most satisfaction in helping my fellow authors extend their reach through my company, EABooks Publishing. So here’s my opus, the Tale of Three Authors.

Amy* was considered a successful author with two books published by traditional publishing houses. However, there was one book she’d pitched and pitched and had been unable to sell. The book represented her heart’s cry and passion, and she wouldn’t rest until it was published.

Chip* was a leader in his local critique group, winning several writing awards and the admiration of many. Yet when he sat before editors at writers’ conferences, he performed poorly and never knew how to answer the platform question. He wasn’t good at selling himself or his work, but he was a good writer with a lot to say.

Bonnie* was a retired high school English teacher who’d married her high school sweetheart. Together they’d served as missionaries around the world. Now that her husband was gone and her years waning, she began to look at the legacy she was leaving. Her grandchildren loved the story she always told about a young girl in Bangladesh—a true story about a girl and her life of faith in a foreign land. Bonnie knew she didn’t have the funds most self-publishers were charging, and yet she didn’t fit the profile of the up-and-coming author the traditional publishers wanted to sink their money into. Was there a place for her in the publishing world?

These three writers found a place with EABooks Publishing

The same year Amy released two traditionally published books, she released the book of her passion as an e-book. She timed it perfectly to piggyback on the publicity from her traditionally published books. Now she knows that the message of her “passion book” is reaching people and making a difference.

Chip has published five books with EABooks Publishing, some as e-books and others as print-on-demand. He’s found a new outlet for his creativity, and with marketing help from EABooks, he’s developed a fan base. He’s even making a little money. His fans can’t wait for the release of his latest project—an audiobook.

It took Bonnie a long time to make her decision, but when she finally decided to go with EABooks Publishing, she found the whole process empowering. When her book began selling on Amazon, she sent a link to a friend, who decided to purchase hundreds of copies for the children’s home he supported. Bonnie would have been happy to sell only to her family and friends, but sharing the gospel with hundreds of needy children makes her heart sing.

This tale is still being written and has room for the stories of more authors! Come share yours with me—Cheri Cowell, owner and president of EABooks Publishing. I’d love to hear about your book!

*Names and genders have been changed, but these stories are true.

 

Reflecting with Publisher and Author, Cheri Cowell

Cheri Cowell

This wintery week, we’re catching some rays of joy with Cheri Cowell, owner and publisher of EABooks Publishing. Also a published author and speaker, Cheri will present two workshops at the 2015 Write2Ignite Conference: “How to Evaluate Your Options: Traditional Publishing, Independent Publishing, or a Combination” and “Why You Need an E-book/Audiobook: Taking Advantage of this New Trend.”

The conference is only a few weeks away. Remember to take advantage of that early bird rate before February 28. Until then, let’s get better acquainted with Cheri.

Cheri, we’ve been asking our workshop presenters for three of their favorite 2014 moments. What were yours?

  • My husband I spent two weeks in Hawaii with family and friends.
  • We added a door from our bedroom out to the hot tub–no more traipsing through the kitchen dripping wet.
  • I completed my family ancestry scrapbook–a history of God’s faithfulness through the generations.

I’d love to see how you did the family ancestry scrapbook! How far back did you go in your family? 

I started with me as a baby, then went to my parents, who then have two “trees,” which I traced back through my two sets of grandparents as far as I could go. One I’m able to trace back to the 1700s.  

That’s wonderful. All writers should take time to do that. We’re often so busy with “outside” writing that we forget to write important things like this for our families.

What was your first paying job?

My first job out of high school was a barista—before there was such a word. I had to pass a coffee and tea test every quarter to keep that job.

At what point in your life did you know you wanted to pursue writing?

I have a degree in children’s theatre and then became a youth pastor for 15 years, and when that career ended in 2000, I had no idea what I was qualified to do. Thankfully, God did, and He opened doors I didn’t even lean against.

Looking back over your writing journey, what is one thing you wish you had known earlier?

It’s about the relationships, and relationships take time.

What do you hope to learn this year?

I’m currently studying Nehemiah, and what I’m learning is preparation takes time.

You’ve mentioned learning several things “take time.” Sounds like you’re practicing patience!

The take time message is very strong this year as I have several things that are almost ready to “give birth,” but if I get impatient, they will not be in God’s timing, and I could mess things up. So patience is key.           

Do you remember one of your favorite books from your childhood? What made it special?

I nearly cried when I found a dog-eared copy of Mister God, This Is Anna in a used bookstore because that story about a little girl with a special relationship with God told me that my special relationship with Him could impact lives.

What was one of your favorite books when you were a teen?

I love history, so The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom had a huge impact on me.

If awarded one day to talk with three authors (from any time period), whom would you choose?

Any of the gospel writers, C. S. Lewis, and Os Guinness.

The theme for Write2Ignite 2015 is “Shine.” What three helpful hints would you recommend to writers to make their work shine?

  • One of my favorite tips is to read your work, beginning at the end of the piece, read sentence by sentence, back to the beginning. It is the best way to hear mistakes in grammar and spot mistakes in punctuation.
  • Work on something else, and then come back to your piece with fresh eyes.
  • Find a good critique group/partner who will be honest with you about your work and help you shine as you help them/him or her shine.

Thank you for taking time to share with us, Cheri. We look forward to learning more from you at the Write2Ignite Conference.

Readers, you can connect with Cheri at www.info@eabooksonline.com, EABooksOnline.com and CheriCowell.com.

 

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