Self-Publishing

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.

The Writing Bug

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.

Why Self-Publish?

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.

Options for Self-Publishing

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:

Manuscript and Cover Preparation

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:

Title/book-signing page
blank page
Title, Subtitle, Tagline, and Author page
Copyright page, noted as First Printing, published by Sam Penny
Preface, two pages
Acknowledgements
blank page

Prologue, one page
33 chapters, 231 pages, each chapter starting on a new page
blank page
Epilogue, one page
Appendix: Modified Mercalli Intesity Scale, two pages
blank page

Specifications for the cover were the following:

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.

Now What? Marketing? Revisions?

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.


Updated on November 22, 2003

Five months have passed. There is some good news and there is some bad news. First the good news:

The bad news:

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.


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