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The Path to Self-Publishing
How and Why I Decided to do POD
“Where has he been?” This is my first published article in quite a while, so those who ‘follow’ my ‘hubs’ may be asking themselves that same question (and hopefully others who also read what I write).
The answer is, since March of this year (2013) I’ve been busy formatting and publishing four novels:
ROOM 219, a collection of eight episodes that feature different people who stay overnight in the same motel room at different times while struggling with personal issues like illness, alcoholism, parenting, coming of age, sexuality, and aging.
WHITEPAPER FALLS, the story of a young pastor who moves to Wisconsin and faces conflict in the congregation and in his marriage, while at the same time entering into a relationship with an attractive woman about his age—a promising encounter that turns chaotic.
BRETON HEIGHTS, a sequel of sorts to “Whitepaper Falls” in which the same young woman has a successful life as a second grade teacher, a life complicated by the arrival of a new teacher/basketball coach. Their off/on relationship develops against a backdrop of friends, children, babies, Chicago Bulls players and trips to Mexico and Italy, not to mention marriage, child abuse, and a few other surprises along the way.
APPLE OF GOLD—SETTINGS OF SILVER, a novel based on the life and times of St. John Chrysostom, filled with drama, political intrigue, a scheming empress, Goths, Huns and lots of detail about life in Syria and Turkey in the last half of the fourth century.
Writing those four books took years and years, but it’s the publishing aspects that I want to focus on in this article. I spent five years searching for an agent and submitting stories and book summaries to publishers, with little success. Often comments like these would come back: “Interesting plot, but not a broad enough audience,” or “Solid writing. Not my kind of thing. Sorry,” or “You have what it takes to get published. Unfortunately, I have more projects right now than I can handle.”
So I spent the next few years reading about POD (print on demand) publishers and talked to people who’ve gone that route to learn from their experiences. What I heard wasn’t encouraging: ‘too expensive, poor sales, limited distribution, way too much work doing my own marketing, formatting was really hard!’
I even e-mailed a well-known author, praising one of his books that I really liked and offering a few insights based on my own life experience with the topic he chose. I mentioned that I’m also a writer and asked for any tips he might be willing to give about finding an agent. He wrote back and suggested I try his agent . . . which I did. But she was also busy, and the sample chapter I sent wasn’t enough to gain her support, though she did encourage me to keep looking and said my writing was solid.
All this leads up to this year, 2013, when I finally decided to take another serious look at self-publishing. In the 1980’s I’d written and co-published a book with a therapist friend of mine, so I had some experience to draw on. That book involved finding a graphic designer to come up with the front and back covers, producing a typewritten “camera-ready” document, and finding a printing firm to actually make the product. It turned out well and the cost was only $1.83/copy . . . but, as lots of people know from their own experience, that left each of us with hundreds of copies of the book boxed and stored in our attics, even though a fair number of them also sold.
Then along came better computers, higher-quality printers and word processing software and a plethora of print-on-demand publishing houses. Finally, after devouring the best book I could find on self-publishing and doing two more interviews with people who have produced POD books, I took the plunge—and I’m glad I did.
I won’t reveal the name of the firm I chose, since hubs aren’t the place for commercial causes, but I will say that their on-line system works almost flawlessly, their support by phone (instantaneous!) or e-mail is first-rate, and the quality of product they produce is as good as any regular publishing house. Plus, there are no extra copies to be stored--and the cost to the author in purchasing copies is very reasonable.
Now that my four novels are out there in the world (before, they were like planes forced to circle the airport) so that people can buy and read them in print form or as e-books, it’s time for me to get back to writing. Hence this article and many more to come. I’ve also sketched out the plot line for a third novel that fills in the nine-year time gap between the WPF and BH books.
Hopefully what I’ve shared here will encourage other writers to keep at it and pursue all the options open to them. Whether or not lots of sales materialize, it’s the writing after all that’s crucial. And if it’s good writing, so much the better.
As an aside, for those of you intrigued enough to check out the books I mentioned above, they’re available on-line through the usual prominent sources. Happy reading!