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I Did It My Way: How I Became an Independent Publisher
Sometimes in life you have to go against the grain. When the road leading to your dreams has been blocked, then it’s time to carve your own lane. This is the mind of an independent entrepreneur, which I refer to as the independent hustler. My journey as a writer began like many other writers. It began with a passion to express myself. My words were more powerful on paper compared to me speaking them. I loved to read the writings of others, and it was time for me to express myself to the world. Like many other writers, I had been expressing myself for years on paper without an audience. The main motivation for me writing my first book was a struggle.
My struggle began when I was laid off during the economic downturn and began to work for myself. Since I couldn’t find a job, I decided to hire myself by starting a home-improvement business. The money was great, and I was the boss! My company was successful for a while then things began to slow down. I had to go back to work, but the entrepreneurial spirit still burned in me. I was able to make something out of nothing, and that was very powerful to me. I knew my story could change lives and inspire individuals who needed it in this tough economy. This is when I decided I was going to write a book about my struggles and success.
I knew right away that I didn’t want to get a publishing agent or a major deal from an established publisher. You have to realize that I was very rebellious against the capitalistic system that put me in the situation I was in. Why did I have to lose my job? I gave that company my life, and they destroyed my livelihood! Never again will I be an economic slave. Never again will I rely on another entity to make my hopes and dreams a reality. Corporate America had ruined my trust for the system. Independent, hard working America is where I found my calling. I’m going to walk you through the critical steps that led me to running my own publishing company:
2. Writing the Project
4. Creating the Project
5. Creating the Company
6. Finding Manufacturing and Distribution
7. Getting the Finished Project
8. Marketing and Selling
Research is the cornerstone to any successful project. To be completely honest, I didn’t have a clue on how to write and publish a book. I knew how to write the words of course, but constructing a finished project with the right components was a mystery to me. Then I realized I have a significant amount of material right under my nose, books. I studied books that I purchased and read relating to the subject I was trying to write. The two books that gave me the most guidance on how to create my project were “Screw It, Let’s Do It” by Richard Branson and “How to Get Rich” By Felix Dennis. Both of these gentlemen were billionaires, and I was simply trying to inspire people to start a six-figure hustle. Regardless, the scope of my book began to flow when I carefully studied these two great products. So I created an outline for my book and started writing. Once the words began to flow, I realized I was trying to become a CEO of a publishing company. Research had to be done on my new company as well. This is when I began to research everything I could find on independent publishing. The internet was crucial for this research. I learned about companies such as Smashwords, Lulu, iUniverse, Createspace, and a lot more self-publishing companies. After I checked out the websites for these companies, I was consumed by information overload. What makes this company better than this one? Why do some of them charge so much? Will this lead to my success? Then I discovered the great website selfpublishing.com. This site had it all when it came to self publishing. It wasn’t time to make a decision on which company I would go with, but I had a great head start.
After my preliminary research was completed I got back to writing my book. I finished writing my book in exactly one year. Oh! What a feeling. It was done. My baby was ready to see the world. No one could take this from me. I’m on my way to being a published author. Once I got over the initial joy of writing my book, I realized the real fun had only begun. This great project had to be edited and published. The first thing I set out to do was find an editor. Even though I edited my book over and over, I still kept finding mistakes. If you have ever tried to edit your own work, you know how difficult it is to find mistakes you have made. This is when the heavens opened up and I met my editor. She was a graduate student at Vanderbilt University studying law and business. This is what I needed. After she ripped my book into a thousand pieces with her editing (thank God), I was able to have a finished project that flowed and was free of errors. How much did she charge me? Nothing, she didn’t charge me one red cent. I networked with her, and she was just glad to be a part of my project. Getting a great editor is essential when you are self publishing. After my book was edited, I registered my work with the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington, D.C. This is a very important step to protect your work.
I consider myself different from a self publisher because I wanted to start a publishing company and publish other writers’ projects as well. Once again, I was clueless on what an independent publishing company looked like. That is when I discovered a true queen in the independent publishing world, Shawna Harrison. Shawna is the CEO of Tru Soul Publishing, LLC located in Nashville, TN. She started her company and built it from the bottom up. I’m a true believer in studying individuals that you inspire to be. In essence I was benchmarking Shawna as an author and CEO. Shawna has won countless awards for her books and hustles harder than any other independent author/publisher I know. When it comes to her works, she writes from her heart and writes with great detail. At the time she had written three books and created a faithful fan base for her projects. When I finally met Shawna at her book signing, it was the greatest feeling ever. This woman was like Stephen King to me. She wrote books, published other authors, and offered any service related to publishing through her company. I praised her work and the inspiration she was giving to writers such as me. Of course, I purchased one of her great books to add to my collection. Even though it was a rainy and cool day, she still had a good turnout for her book signing. I could tell Shawna wasn’t having a sunny day from the guaranteed stress and pressure of running your own company. She was still very polite and friendly to me that day. I was also excited to be the first fan in line that day as well. She showed me a lot that rainy afternoon in the mall. No matter how cloudy the sky is or what challenges arrive, you still have to perform at your best. I credit her as one of the giants in independent publishing that motivated me to carve my own lane. Benchmark someone greater than yourself when it comes to business. You will learn so much.
After meeting Shawna, I was ready to take on the world. Nothing could stop me. I would be successful by any means necessary. There was only one problem. I still had to create my book. There was no book cover or the photos I wanted to incorporate in it. Once again, I used my great networking skills to find a photographer. My friend Jay of Jay Farrell Photography took my book to the next level. He did the photo cover, inside photos, and back cover as well. My editing was completed, my book cover and photos were done, and I finally had a prototype of what the finished product should look like. Now I was ready to find a company to bind and create my books, but I realized that I wasn’t a legal company yet.
Legalizing my company was the easiest step in this entire process. I simply created my company name (One Team Publishing), registered the name with the secretary of state’s office, created a limited-liability company (LLC) while I was there, got a business license from the county clerk’s office, applied for a free tax ID from the IRS online, and the game began. That’s it! I was a legal publishing company after these actions (read my previous article about “legalizing the dream” for more information on this subject).
My company was in existence, and it was time for me to find a company to manufacture and distribute my books. For me Createspace.com was that company. I get 70% of my royalties, my books are manufactured in the U.S.A. (Charleston, SC), and I also have an eBook I have created with them as well. It was simple to upload my book on their software, create my finished project, and wait for the first proof of my book to arrive in the mail. The most important part of working with them was that I got credit as the publisher of my book. When you look inside my book, the publisher is One Team Publishing, LLC. Createspace simply manufactures and distributes my books the way I desire. So far, it’s been a good relationship, and I continue to use them as my distributor.
The moment I had been waiting for had finally arrived. The UPS delivery truck pulled up in front of my house, and I knew what they were delivering. It was my finished book! I can honestly say it was one of the greatest moments of my life. I needed that delivery. My spirit was yearning for a positive moment. The month prior, I had lost my father and was still grieving that loss. Finishing that project didn’t bring my father back, but I know him and my mother were smiling from Heaven for what I had achieved.
Marketing and selling the book were the biggest challenges of the entire project. As an independent publisher, I didn’t have the big budget to get my book to bigger markets. I simply did what I knew best, gorilla marketing. Anyone who would listen to me found out about my book. I volunteered for speaking engagements at local colleges, took my book to local mom & pop bookstores, engaged people through social networks, and online sites. The hard work is finally starting to pay off. My company is now working on releasing my second project, releasing projects from other writers, filming a documentary based on the first project, and starting a clothing line. I will be the first one to tell you there is a lot of hard work involved in independent publishing. But at the end of the day, I can always say that I did it my way!
Edgar Alan Cole, M.B.A.
Check out these great products I added below including My True Soul by Shawna Harrison