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.
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 at Create Space
- Bear Song
Bear Song is the story of a small English Colony that history tells us mysteriously disappeared from Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island in the late sixteenth century. In Bear Song the colonists have found refuge on the mainland with the Lake People. They
Bear Song by Donna Campbell Smith
More by this Author
Coaching a horse quiz bowl team or just for fun around the barn, these are some horse questions you never thought to ask.
Growing up in North Carolina, there are some things you just know.
Cougars and an unidentified large black cougar-like cat have been sighted in North East North Carolina as recently and September 2011.