I Decided to Self-Publish

After Five Traditionally Published Books

I have entered the world of self-publishing and it is just as, no, more than, exciting as my past experiences with traditional publishers.

A small, regional non-profit press published my first book, Pale as the Moon, in 1999. It was the first publisher I queried. My book fit their niche, which was books about or set in the coastal region of the Carolinas.

Coastal Carolina Press went on to publish my second young adult novel, An Independent Spirit. With the help of their excellent marketing director both books sold very well, especially in shops along the North Carolina coast. They also got my books on reading lists in the schools. They are still being used as supplemental reading in some fourth grades when students are learning North Carolina history. I have enjoyed visiting those school and meeting teachers and children who have read my books.

I wrote a sequel to Pale as the Moon titled Bear Song. Before we could finish the editing process and sign a contract I got a letter from my publisher that they were going out of business. My first order of business was to find another publisher for my books, which were still doing very well. Pale as the Moon was entering its third printing, An Independent Spirit its second printing when they closed their doors. With my books’ good sales record I was disappointed to find that publishers were not anxious to take on books that they felt might have exhausted their momentum. Fortunately, through networking and developing an online friendship, and then meeting in person, I did find a new publisher for both books. Then, and only then, did I pull Bear Song off the back burner and submitted it to my new publisher. We began editing, rewriting, even signed a contract when this new publisher pulled back and decided not to publish. I was back to square one.

Five Time Author Decided to Self-Publish Sixth Book

Searching for Agent or Publisher

My search for a publisher for Bear Song was discouraging. While my rejection letters were often complimentary, and some even went so far as to request sample chapters and the whole manuscript I did not find a taker. Bear Song again went to the back burner while I wrote three non-fiction horse books for The Lyons Press. When I went back to looking for a market for Bear Song I was finding more and more publishers were only considering books from agents. I queried some agents but became discouraged when I kept getting rejection letters. I felt like I had a few things going against me including the fact that my book was historical fiction and most of the publishers were asking for contemporary fiction. Bear Song was a sequel, and that sequel already had a publisher. Of course I could always blame their hesitancy on the economy.

I had lightly researched the self-publishing sites and read a good many self-published books. Most were well written, were good stories, but also had quite a few editing errors. That told me that the editing departments of traditional publishers was the missing link in self-publishing a quality product. I did not want to put out a book full of typos and mistakes.

Meanwhile, a writer friend, Kathy Bundy, was publishing one book after another and to my surprise I learned she’d self-published all of her titles. We exchanged a few emails with her encouraging me to give it a try. But, I still doggedly kept trying the traditional route of querying and sending out proposals for Bear Song to agents and publishers who seemed a likely fit. Still— nothing.


My Introduction to Create Space

During the Christmas holidays Kathy showed up at an arts event where I was showing some photography and signing books. She asked if I’d found a publisher for Bear Song. When I said no, she told me about her experience with Create Space. I invited Kathy to my writers’ group to do a workshop in self-publishing using Create Space. She answered all of our questions, even some on how-to format in Word. By the end of the meeting she’d convinced me that I could do it. The fact that I’d have no up-front costs made it all the more appealing. I went home, signed up for an account, and started reading their information. I also read the forum posts to see what problems folks were encountering and what solutions they’d found.

Soon, my book was downloaded to Create Space where my Word document was converted to PDFs. I bought an image of a bear from Shutterstock.com and designed my book cover using the Create Space templates. I ordered three proof copies. When they arrived I immediately found a few formatting problems to do with spacing and centering. While I worked on fixing those issues I handed my three proofs out to three volunteers (well, more like drafted) editors. They all three had my marked up copies back to me within a week. I poured over each one and corrected my many errors. I did some minor rewriting and re-submitted my new, and hopefully final draft.

When Create Space sent back the reformatted proof, the first things I looked for were the formatting issues, and all was well. I read it one more time and hit the submit button again. I was ready to order books. The whole process took about one month. I am very pleased with how my book looks. I found the whole book-designing process as much fun as writing the story. It satisfied my creative soul on so many different levels. It also gave me a greater appreciation for people who edit for a living. Just thinking of editing more than one book at a time boggles my mind.


DIY Publishing

Yes, the self-publisher has to do her own marketing. But, I’ve found I have to do that with my traditionally published books, too. For any steps one is not comfortable DIYing one can pay for services from Create Space or other venues. I am a DIYer so I enjoyed the design aspects of the process. I am thankful to have friends who are good editors. I won’t be surprised to find more errors, but the good thing about Create Space and print-on-demand is that changes can be made at anytime.

It has been a learning experience, and there are some things I know I want to be able to do before I self-publish a second book. I am a “self-taught” Word user, and I realize there are a lot of things I need to learn before trying to format another book. I am sure my ineptness was the reason for the formatting issues I found in the first proofs. I know I can’t keep “drafting” editors and will have to pay for that service in the future. No one can be her own editor; that is just a fact. You need that other pair of eyes.

Do I feel any less a writer for self-publishing? That pride thing was an issue that kept me from SP earlier. I have to admit that. But, no, I do not feel any less validated as a writer for having used Create Space to publish Bear Song. Bookstores are more accepting of self-published books today than they were ten years ago I do, after all, have five traditionally published books. . Bear Song was a good choice for my first time self-publishing. I feel like it has a good market, following the footsteps of Pale as the Moon. I will still seek out traditional publishers for future books, but at sixty-six years old, I don’t feel like I have ten years to spend trying to sell a book to a publisher. If I don’t get a bite after a few tries, I know I can always do-it-myself.

If you’d like to see for your self how my first self-publishing book looks you can order a copy from my Create Space store at https://www.createspace.com/4137092. I don’t feel like I have expert status in self-publishing but will be happy to answer your question in the comments section below if I can.


I Created my Cover With Create Space's Template

Bear Song by Donna Campbell Smith

More by this Author


Comments 19 comments

Shyley Macfarland profile image

Shyley Macfarland 3 years ago from Fort Smith, Arkansas

I'm so happy that you have had such a positive experience with CreateSpace! I also use their service. I published my first book a year ago, and I have been happy with the results. I've just finished the publishing process for my second book today, and immediately started outlining my third book. My goal is to pick up the publishing pace in 2014, and I'm getting a head start!


Homeplace Series profile image

Homeplace Series 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

I love CreateSpace and have used it for each of my fiction books. I used Lulu for my non-fiction, family history books. Each work very well, and similarly. Thank you for sharing your story! Thanks for the Follow, by the way! ;-)


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago

Donna, this is a wonderful hup, it gives new writers like my self hope. I am so happy for you that you got Bear Song published yourself.

Voted-up UAI, shared and pinned.


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 3 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Au Fait, yes it is also published on Kindle. Create Space is owned by Amazon and so I was able to basically publish Bear Song as an ebook with a click of the mouse. So it is available both as a trade paperback and on Kindle as an ebook.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

Have you published anything on Amazon-Kindle? I know you mentioned Kindle, but I wasn't sure exactly what you meant. If you have, what advice would you give a first timer?

The fact that you have succeeded so well gives me hope that maybe I could too. Voted up and will share this great hub.


zanaworld profile image

zanaworld 3 years ago from Bangalore

thanks for leading me to createspace.

It is great to see authors self-publish ...


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

The only book I have published so far was self-published. However, it was a print book. There are lots of sites around to help the author to self-publish. Thanks for sharing your experience.

PS: Thanks for reading and commenting on my article about rose.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Very useful info for anyone wanting to self publish. I'm sure you are happy with the results.

voted up and useful.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 3 years ago from USA

Thank you for all this good information. Best of luck on your book sales.


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 3 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Thank you everyone for your encouraging words. Don, I did publish both in print and Kindle.

As for the work, after five books published with traditional publishers I can't say it was all that much more work. CreateSpace makes the actual downloading fairly easy. You still have rewriting and editing to go through with the traditional pubs and you still do most of your own marketing with traditionals. And it only took a both from start to finish with my beta editors help whereas it can take up to a year with a traditional pub to get your book on the shelves. The key is in finding good editors, and I was lucky to have some folks who did it as a favor. I can't take advantage of them and ask it of them as a regular thing, though:o)

I paid a $25 fee (my only up front cost) to have Bear Song listed with Ingrams and Baker & Taylor so my print version is available to book stores, etc. It is listed on Barnes and Noble and the other mainstream online venues in addition to Amazon.

I still have a couple of books that I am going to keep sending out to agents and publishers before I decide to SP them. And I am not sure a non-fiction with color illustrations would be best to SP since they selling price will probably be much higher. I don't know that though. need to do more research.


Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

DonnaCSmith- Congratulations of the conversion.

I also use CreateSpace (6 books) and have found them to be such a great resource that I brag about them to everyone I talk to.

For me the first three were my learning curve and I have done better on the last ones. One thing, though, I placed them both in Paperback and Kindle formats, and the Kindle sales eat up the Paperback ones, so think before you leap into the eBook world. You sell more, maybe, but you get a lot less per sale.

Good Luck,

DON


DREAM ON profile image

DREAM ON 3 years ago

What a success to have so many books published.Your like the early settlers of the old West leading the wagon train.Away you go. Ho lets move on out.I'm pulling up the rear but little by little I will get there.You have so much drive and inspiration.


Deepak Chaturvedi profile image

Deepak Chaturvedi 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

Donna thanks and congratulation for your self publishing books.You have researched well in this field and good thing is that you still ready to share your experience with us.Thanks and best wishes for fourth coming effort.Sharing and voted up.


c mark walker profile image

c mark walker 3 years ago from Jasper Georgia

Very inspiring article I need to look further into that. Hubpages is wonderful for being reeducated without having to pay or attend classes. This article is a prime example of that.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

I got tired just reading what you went through. It's so much work but in the end I know it will work out for you. Congratulations on getting it done and on your book. Voted up and shared.


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 3 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Fossillady, when you "think" you have everything just right you can order a proof copy. You have the option to proof the pdf files online or ordering a hard copy which is the book just with "proof" stamped in the back. That is when I discovered some formatting issues like a chapter not starting on a new page, a page of text double spaced instead of single, and an image off center. I was able to fix all of those but have no idea how they happened - I am sure it was due to my lack of knowledge in Word.

My three editors each got a copy of that proof and still found errors, so I highly recommend more than one reader of the proof copies.

Thanks Rochehlle and Monis!


Fossillady profile image

Fossillady 3 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

Great story Donna, I have been working on a book for five years now for middle school age and think I'm ready to DIY. I have checked out Create Space and am excited to finally get going on it. I have had one person read it for editing errors, but will ask another person first. I have edited it myself quite a few times now as well. Reading your story, one thing I might have gotten wrong about Create Space was that once you created a book and ordered a copy that you couldn't go back and re-do it. Congratulations to you and thank you for sharing. Kathi :O)


Monis Mas profile image

Monis Mas 3 years ago

It is so fantastic to see that there are so successful writers among us here on HubPages. Congratulations on six books, and self publishing!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country

I admire your hard work and perseverance. You are such a good writer and storyteller; your books should be out there. Congratulations on the new one!

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