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To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish, That is the Question

Updated on January 13, 2012

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

In 2007, while recovering from back surgery, my good friend and future editor suggested that since I was housebound for a month, I should put my character Anastasia Pickering down on paper. Anastasia, aka Pickles, had been swirling around in my head for a few years, but I had never seriously considered putting her on paper. Being the type “A” personality that I am and with nothing else to do, I decided to bring Pickles to life. My guess is, even in her remarkable kindness, Josie, my friend and to be editor, probably wished she had never made the suggestion! I had taken a writing course in college and also had taken a continuing education Creative Writing class, but writing a children’s picture book was totally different than anything I had ever done. With determination, many re-writes and help from Josie, I ended up with five manuscripts of the adventures of Anastasia Pickering and Rufus, her dog!

The hard part came next. Since each book was built on the previous one, I sent my first manuscript and a return self-addressed envelope to any children’s book publisher who accepted unsolicited, simultaneous submissions. Eventually, I received rejections from each one, but quitting was not something I took lightly. Next, I submitted query letters to every agent I could find, who worked with children’s book authors. Eventually, I received each of those rejections as well. What to do? What to do?

It was obvious that either I drop the idea of publishing my book, or I had to self-publish. I chose to read all five of my manuscripts to a third grade class at one of our local elementary schools. Proof that the children enjoyed the books and got the lessons was necessary before I fully committed to the project. After reading the first manuscript to the class, I asked them to draw pictures of what they remembered most from the book. I was thrilled to say the least when they remembered the whole story! As a “thank you” to the class, I put their pictures in the back of my book. That decision ended up being a very positive one, as school children always enjoy seeing the pictures of other students each time I read. With proof that children enjoyed and learned from Anastasia’s “thinking in the rain adventures”, I became fully committed to my project and as the saying goes-“the rest is history”.

There are pros and cons to self-publishing. Even though I did my homework, the reality of self-publishing only became obvious to me after I went through the process. Through our local Arts Center, I found my illustrator and future new friend, Perry. She pulled Anastasia out of my manuscript in unbelievable perfection. We went to work and a year later, my book was ready to go to Author House. The process with them could have initially gone smoother, but once the book was published, it looked great and it was all over the internet quickly. It came out in the spring of 2009.

Since that time, I have learned a lot. Because I chose to self-publish, I am, and always will be, the only person who really pushes my book. I make very little on the book, and it has to sell for more than most paperbacks, as it is a print on demand book. Having a publisher print several thousand for less is not a luxury from which I can benefit. It has been impossible to get my book into Barnes and Noble, even with a buy back policy (a policy that states if the book doesn’t sell, the distributor will but it back). I had to pay several hundred dollars more to buy this insurance. Every publisher gives a buyback offer to the retailers. In order for the book store to even consider my book, I had to do the same. It did no good. I have been able to get it into other local stores and I have even done book fairs at our local Barnes and Noble. I go into schools and read to the children and sign purchased books. I do book readings at some of our local stores and have traveled a bit doing readings at other non-local schools. All in all, I would rather have been picked up by a publisher or found an agent, but even though I am on my own, my book has won recognitions from Mom’s Choice, The Dove Foundation and Writer’s Digest. Competitions are another way of getting attention, I learned.

Recently, I was contacted by a company called Flying Books. They saw that I had been a winner in the Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Competition and offered to put my book on their app for the ipad and eventually the iphone and android. It should be out in February. For a review of their app: http://www.bestappsforkids.org/crafts/kids-books-store-book-apps/ This part is exciting and it is all my call--one of the few advantages of self-publishing. I am also working with someone to put a few short animations of Anastasia and Rufus on You Tube. With social media and digital publishing, it is impossible to project what can happen to a character. I didn’t give up on my little girl and her dog when publishing companies said no, and am very glad I didn’t. I know beyond a doubt that children benefit from my book and the happiness on their faces when we talk about Pickles and Rufus is enough to keep me going!

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Congratulations on your decision to self-publish; I, too, self-published in October and have run into the same problems as you have but you know what? It is all worth it because my novel deserved to be published. I would do it again in a heartbeat and probably will. Thanks for your article and best of luck.

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      congrats to you too Billybuc!! Hope you sell lots of books and publish many more!!

    • Eliza57 profile image

      Eliza57 5 years ago

      Congratulations on your writing. Loved reading about how Pickles came to be. I bought a book for myself and enjoyed reading it and will have it to treasure knowing it is from an old friend and classmate. Good luck with future book writings. Take care my friend.

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      thanks so much for stopping by Ann!! Also,thank you for buying my book....maybe one day you can read it to your grandchildren!

    • profile image

      Ghaelach 5 years ago

      Morning Sheila.

      First this is a super hub with plenty of info of "To do or Not to do". I suppose both ways have their +/- sides. Your way seems to have worked for you.

      Next I've been back to your profile and re-read and followed the links. I must say you've been a very busy lady. But money doesn't grow on trees, so you've got to work hard at it, in fact damn hard with long hours.

      Well done and good luck with Anastasia and Rufus.

      Take care and have a nice weekend.

      LOL Ghaelach

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Congratulations to you...my first book of poems I went through a publisher...but my novel with the help of a friend editor we are self published I am happier this way...I voted way up..debbie

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      thanks so much Ghaelach. Thank goodness I enjoy being busy!!I appreciate so very much your taking the time to

      read my hubs and check out the link in my profile!!

      Deborah, so you liked the self publishing experience more! Good to know, and congrats on being published and then choosing to do it on your own. thanks for stopping by!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      You just prove that ambition mixed with determination pays off! Congrats. I hope you do well with the book.

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      thanks very much Mary. Appreciate you reading and commenting on my hub!

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

      I think that self-publishing is fast become the only way books get published if you are not already a published author. I wish that print media was still popular as books are more properly priced than ebooks.

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      thanks for your comment Flora. The publishing world is definitely ever changing. I still love to hold a book...have not made the electronic leap yet, but it is nipping at my heels!

    • KathyH profile image

      KathyH 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      So interesting, I always wondered about self publishing, I learned a lot! :) Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom!! :)

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      Hi Kathy, so glad you learned something from this hub! Publishing is a very interesting industry these days!!

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

      Good for you, Pickles, to step out and take your own future by the horns! I didn't see Amazon mentioned, and another great route (I believe) is Smashwords, who, once your book is accepted, they put it out (digitally) nearly everywhere. Of course I don't know how a children's book would fit, but it might be worth your time to look--Good luck with all you do!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you so much for this one.

      So very interesting and useful; a vote up and bookmark from me so that I can refer back to easily.

      I admire you for your staying power and this gives inspiration to so many more would be authors.

      Take care and enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      thanks so much Eddy. You definitely have to be in it for the long haul!!

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      thanks for the advice Sub Ron7. I am on the Amazon authors pages and I will check out smash words...did some time ago, but didn't get too far. will look again.

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      This is a very informative hub, thank you for the information!

      I too went to your website and looked at every page. Your book "Anastasia's Rain" is awesome. I can see how any school child would love it.

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      Curiad,

      thanks so much for checkin out my hub and for checking out my website!!! Please remember me to any children in your life.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      The only book I have ever written was self published. There are advantages and disadvantages of self publishing. But in this competitive world many writers will not find publishing contracts, until they let the world know about their work by self publishing.

      Thanks for sharing your views.

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      Vinaya,I agree,so like you I took the leap!! Thanks for your comment

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 5 years ago

      Incredible to see all your hard work pay off.Children and their parents both will appreciate your book.Great tips and helpful hints.Wishing you continued success!!!

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      thank you so much Dream on! Thank you also for checking out my hub!!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for this valuable information. I wish you the best and I hope to hear in the future how it comes out for you.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 5 years ago

      I had to reread this hub again to respark the flame.I love to learn how other people carry on their dreams when they were rejected.They never let other people stop them.What an important lesson in life.Persistence is the key.Great job !!!!

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      Thanks James and Dream On...appreciate the encouragement!

    • Secret lies profile image

      Secret lies 5 years ago from Redlands California

      I don't know if I agree of disagree with self publishing. I have a publisher which charges a lot, yet if I do it myself, i lose the time. So for me it seems better to just pay. Not that I am one for patience anyway. Great hub. Voted up

    • picklesandrufus profile image
      Author

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      I would have opted for a publisher, but when it didn't happen, I chose to self publish.

    • Secret lies profile image

      Secret lies 5 years ago from Redlands California

      I will not lie, they are pricey, but they do everything for you. For me that is perfect. I don't even read what I write, let alone go back and see what I want to do.

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