Updated November, 2003
I wrote in June, 2003:
Frustration finally overcame me. After a year and a half of sending queries for Memphis 7.9 to different agents, attending several writer conferences, and hearing and reading what several experienced authors say about the publishing game, I made the decision mid-May that I would venture into self-publishing. So far it has been a very educational experience, one I hope will be rewarding.
Like Samuel Pepys, who wrote his journal in a secret script only he could read, at first I wrote for myself.
Then I wrote so people could read what I have written. I began the travelogue on this website, in part for myself (so I can remember where I have been), but for the most part to tell people what this lifestyle is like. I enjoy having people read and even comment on my travels.
I began to write fiction to share what I know about the dangers of earthquakes with my readers while entertaining them. Thus was born The 7.9 Saga. This desire grew to one of becoming famous and well-known, maybe even winning some prize, or having the story picked up for a mini-series on TV. I wanted a reason to be proud. I wanted to receive accolades.
Because time is running out.
Over the past five years I learned much about writing fiction and I finally produced my first book, one which I believe will entertain multitudes of people. More recently I attended seminars and read books and articles on how to present my project to the publishing industry. I talked with professionals in the business about the best ways to go about becoming a first-time published author. The most suggested method was to find an agent who would place the book with a reputable publisher.
I sent numerous queries to literary agents and even had two ask to see more. In one case I sent the entire manuscript and heard absolutely nothing in return. Further checking indicated the firm went out of business. In the other case, I sent additional portions of the book and finally received notice from the agency that they were not interested. The net result of my efforts is a large collection of rejection letters.
I did not directly query any publishers, primarily because many of the larger, more well-known publishers required that I have an agent. But I was about ready to give up on agents and start the task of finding an interested publisher myself.
However, after I read other author's experiences, talked with some published authors, and looked into what would follow once I found a publisher, I began to fret about how long the process would take. Everyone had the same advice: be patient -- let the big publishing machine grind though its processes. Of course, to start the machine I must send queries to publishers and find one or more who are interested and responsive. I figured it would take a year to find a publisher, and then if things went well, my book would hit the bookstores two to three years after that.
By that time I would be 70 years old and the New Madrid could have fractured.
Time is running out.
There are two important aspects of self-publishing: printing and marketing. Those people who simply want to give a copy of the book to family and friends are concerned only with the printing aspect. Those who want to sell their book must become involved in the marketing aspect as well.
With today's technology the least expensive total cost for a small run of books is Print-On-Demand, or POD. The book and its cover are transformed into an electronic file that can be printed on one of the new-generation "printing machines." The POD provider will help in this transformation for a fee. Knowledgeable authors may do most of the preparation themselves. When an order is received, the POD provider simply dials in the number of copies and out they come, completely bound and ready to ship.
Some POD providers also offer marketing and order-fullfilment support, all for a fee. This can make a big difference in how well the book sells. Some of the providers even act like major publishers and make copyright demands. It is important to evaluate all the different conditions and options when dealing with these people.
I attended Dan Logan's seminar at the Northcoast Redwoods Writer's Conference in Crescent City last fall and he discussed POD in considerable detail. He uses POD for his books. He also provided an excellent list of Internet links to POD vendor sites and lists thereof. I surfed the Web and evaluated several. I found the GLB Publisher's List of POD Printers (this link may no longer work) to be most helpful in that evaluation and soon narrowed my search down to GreatUnpublished.
My reasons for choosing GreatUnpublished were the following:
- GreatUnpublished has a terrific website with clear answers to almost every question I could think of concerning the contract and process. This includes a specification for pricing the book according to page count, size, and cover.
- I keep all copyrights to my book. Their contract says they have the right to print the book (worldwide), but that can be revoked with written notice. Should some "big publisher" come along and offer me a juicy royalty for rights to the book, I can negotiate the offer. I am not bound beyond 30 days to GreatUnpublished.
- I have the option of preparing the entire manuscript and cover to their specifications (specific and well-defined PDF formats for both) and submitting them electronically for a total setup fee of $99. This also gives me one free copy.
- Note: this option is only for someone with outside editing help and solid experience using Photoshop for the preparation of the cover and Adobe Acrobat Writer for preparation of the files.
- Their other options include cover preparation and final preparation of the PDF files for $199 or $299 setup fees. You can also get editing and proof-reading help, but that can cost up to $1,000.
- GreatUnpublished lists the book with the people at BookSurge.com, who handle the marketing, order fulfillment, and payment issues. BookSurge.com will in turn list the book with other on-line publishers such as Amazon.com, Borders, and Barnes & Noble. Some fees are involved, at least for listing with Amazon.com.
- I paid an additional $99 for GreatUnpublished to prepare an eBook version (Palm) of my book and offer it on their website at about half the book price. My royalties on sales of the eBook will be 40%.
- My royalties (based on the "retail" price) on books sold by BookSurge are 25% for retail sales and 10% for bookseller sales. They handle all printing (within 48 hours), handling, shipping, and returns. I am still confused about what the "retail" price is. They have their suggested price based on number of pages, and the author may specify a price equal to or above that suggested price. That leaves open the question of what the royalties are paid on. I will find out when I get some royalties.
- I can purchase books for my own use at a discount. I placed an initial order for 100 books at 50% of their suggested price. They had a special deal where they waived the $99 setup fee when I placed this order.
- There is a variety of other forms of marketing help that BookSurge can provide, mostly for a fee. I need to look into these.
I suppose you have read between the lines and know that I decided to go with GreatUnpublished. I made the decision on May 13 while we were visiting our son near Dayton, Ohio. I gave myself a week to prepare the manuscript and cover for submission to GreatUnpublished.
The specifications (some of my own choosing) for the manuscript were the following:
- The book was to be a 6 inch by 9 inch trade book with soft cover. The printing on each 8 1/2 by 11 inch page would be 5 inches by 7.8 inches, leaving room for an outside, bottom page number. I chose 12-point Times New Roman type with a 5/16 inch paragraph indent. This worked out to approximately 400 words per page.
- The total book is 248 pages, 124 sheets.
- The frontpiece of the book is 7 pages numbered with roman numerals on four sheets:
Title, Subtitle, Tagline, and Author page
Copyright page, noted as First Printing, published by Sam Penny
Preface, two pages
- The body of the book is 240 pages numbered with numerals
Prologue, one page
33 chapters, 231 pages, each chapter starting on a new page
Epilogue, one page
Appendix: Modified Mercalli Intesity Scale, two pages
- The entire book was collected into a single Word file and printed with the Acrobat Distiller Printer to a PDF file.
Specifications for the cover were the following:
- The cover was prepared as a Photoshop .PSD file and then written as a .PDF file. GreatUnpublished provided a template for the .PSD file for a landscape 11 by 17 inch sheet. The resolution was set to 300dpi, a resolution that must be matched by all images on the cover.
- Since there are 124 sheets in the book, the spine must be .625 inches wide according to their numbers .
- The template provided margins beyond which any printing or images should not go. However, the background was to bleed off the cover.
- I could choose any color on the cover I liked. I decided that all colors should be Pantone/web colors so there would not be problems in printing or in showing the cover on websites.
- I chose a light beige background and a mahogany color type face for the Title, Subtitle, Tagline, and Author Name on the front cover. I used the same type for the spine. I also added the Twopenny Gallery logo to the spine in the place of the usual publisher chop. Why not?
- I constructed an intensity map of the eastern United States based upon my studies for a magnitude 7.9 earthquake for the front cover. I looked for clipart that could help but found nothing. I finally had to trace the outline of the states from a DeLorme Streets screen image. It was a real learning experience.
- I decided to print the back cover information in black.
- The first cover I submitted did not have an ISBN number. I learned that this number is specific to whoever does order fulfillment for the bookstores, and unless I wanted to do order fulfillment I should use a number supplied by BookSurge. I contacted them by email and they provided the number and a website where I could collect an image of the bar-code image needed on the back of the book. This was placed on the back cover in my second submission.
- I had some room left over so I added a picture and a short one-sentence bio of the author.
- I set the price at $19.95. GreatUnpublished's suggested minimum price for a 248 page book was $15.95. The price is printed to the side so bookstores can cover it if they like.
- The final cover was "printed" using Acrobat Distiller Printer to a PDF file.
I submitted the files (and money) to GreatUnpublished on May 20. I realized I needed the ISBN number on the back cover and submitted a revised cover file on May 22. It was a very busy week.
According to their announced schedule they should be shipping my first 101 copies of the book to Jojoba Hills around the first of July.
BookSurge says they will help with the marketing of my book and have assigned Stephanie Robinson as my contact. Stephanie sent me a good paper on the "11 Essential Ingredients for Publishing Success," which I have used to lay the groundwork for my plans. I sent her an email with some more specific questions but have heard nothing so far.
Here are some of the things I am working on.
- I have developed a basic marketing plan. Some items are complete, others need action. At least it is a plan.
- I have set up a special order page on this website at What's for Sale. Until the book is available at on-line bookstores ,I am not sure how to proceed on this front.
- I hope to have friends at Jojoba Hills send me a few books the first part of July. What with our traveling, it will be a challenge intercepting them.
- Alice has started reading the final copy very carefully (and Deb will be starting soon). Alice has found several typos, enough to be concerned with. I plan to collect all the typos and submit a revised manuscript to be labeled second printing within a couple of months. That will cost me another $99.
- It is obvious one of my weak points is in the editing area. I am currently using family and friends, but I should probably look into the use of professional editing services in the future.
- I have visited several bookstores to inquire how book-signings are handled. However, from Bob Mayer's book, I get the impression book-signings may not be such great money makers. Alice and I have a bit of planning and soul-searching to do since such activities will affect our travels for next year.
- I am writing Press Releases. Bob Mayer has some suggestions in this area.
- I am trying to be patient, but at least I am not waiting four years. My deadlines are in the next few weeks. What a relief.
Updated on November 22, 2003
Five months have passed. There is some good news and there is some bad news. First the good news:
- I have published Memphis 7.9 and the book is available on-line at booksurge.com, alibris.com and amazon.com.
- I have sold one copy over the Internet myself; I have sold another 61 signed copies and placed another 27 out for review.
- The book's quality is very good. Readers have reported only five typos and I found one technical glitch.
- All the reviews I have received have been very positive.
- I have firmed up the plans for The 7.9 Scenario series of books.
- I have finished writing Broken River and it is into editing.
- I have just set up the www.the79scenario.com webpage and it looks good and professional.
- I have settled on a business plan to use radio talk shows as a primary tool.
- I have people thinking along screenplay lines for the story.
- I have entered the book into three competitions, including one for the Darrell Award in Memphis.
The bad news:
- The book did not go print-ready in July like I expected; it took until August 11 before it was available. Booksurge had lost my files and I had to reload them. At least it gave me an opportunity to eliminate some of the typos.
- The availability of the book did not go smoothly. It finally appeared on amazon.com on November 10, and the listing at Barnes&Noble says it is a used book.
- Booksurge failed to get the book properly listed at Bowkers Books-In-Print for several months.
- The pricing on a POD book does not bode well for getting it into distribution.
- Everything is taking a lot longer than I planned, especially since I came back to Jojoba Hills and got sucked back into being an officer (VP) on the Board until February.
- The technical glitch concerned the unit of measure for the displacement of the fault faces in a fracture. I called it meters instead of feet.
- The authorities and technical staff around the country don't pay much attention to my PR.
I still believe Self-Publishing is a viable way to go for a book. But there is much to learn. I am not sure what I will do with Broken River, but I do know that if I want to meet the commitment I made to have the book available next year, I will have to publish it myself.