Ins and Outs of Self-Publishing
Have you ever considered self-publishing? We discussed the steps involved in, and the pros and cons of, self-publishing your work versus traditional methods. Self-published author Christine Mapondera Talley joined us to describe the process.
April 14, 2020
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Writer's Circle - Ins and Outs of Self-Publishing
Presented by Debbie Worman and Diane O'Neill
April 14, 2020
Debbie W: Good evening, everybody. This is Debbie Worman, your co-host for Writers Circle. And welcome everybody for joining us this evening for our topic on self-publishing. Again, my name is Debbie Waterman, and I am a learning expert at Hadley. I do this discussion group along with Hadley Growers, as well as Resource Roundtable. My co-host for this evening is Diane O'Neill. Diane, go ahead and introduce yourself.
Diane O: Hi, I'm Diane. I've been a learning designer at Hadley for about 18 years. In my other life, I'm a creative writer, and have an MFA in creative writing. And I write essays, and poems and stories for kids, and that leads to how I met Christine.
Debbie W: Great. We're not going to have a lot of pre talk this evening, because we really want to jump into to having the speaker share her information. And then opening the discussion up for questions and comments, and everything that you may all have to share about your experiences with self-publishing, your questions and what you've run into. And not that we're going to have all the answers. Please, understand this is a discussion, so it's not that we're going to. You're going to come away here, and immediately everybody's going to self-publish their book. Although we're going to be having good information, please understand that it's hard to answer everybody's question. We'll try to get to everybody. We'll try to share resources and information. And without further ado, I'm going to turn it over to Diane, who's going to introduce our speaker for tonight.
Diane O: Yes, I'm very excited. We have Christine Mapondera Talley with us today. And she is the author of Makanaka's World, a picture book series designed to teach young children about our world cultures, geography, and language in a fun and engaging way. And I bought the book. It's wonderful. Christine was born in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, and now resides in Chicago with her husband and two children. Growing up bilingual gives Christine a unique perspective to help children learn about the globe. Christine is also co-founder of KidLit Nation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help educate and provide opportunities for children's writers and illustrators of color.
Since its inception in July of 2017, KidLit Nation has sponsored over 20 scholarships to SCBWI, that Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Regional Conferences. And we're so happy to have you here, Christine.
Christine T: Thank you. Thank you so much for that introduction. Thank you, Debbie and Diane for putting all this together, and getting me involved. I'm so thrilled to be here and thank you all 40 plus participants for joining us. So, without you being here, there would really be no extensive discussion. So, thank you guys.
Like Diane said, I am the writer and creator of Makanaka's World, and I'm just going to give you guys a quick backstory as to how I got to writing and publishing, and choosing self-publishing, instead of traditional publishing. Then, of course, we will have an opportunity to dive into even more questions which, please jot down as they come to your mind. Or just make a mental note, whatever works for you.
My journey into writing started back very early in 2013. My daughter was about... I want to say about a year and a halfish. And no, it was in 2015. My mistake, she was two years old, and I was actually just trying to create stories for her to learn my native language. As you heard earlier, I was born and raised in Zimbabwe. And so, it's important for me to pass down whatever I can about my heritage, my family, and so for because we're so far away from everyone. So here I was just writing simple stories in Shona of a child playing outside, eating her favorite food and whatever it was. Then one day, my husband says, "Are you going to write these books in English?" And I said, "No, why would I do that?" But he's like, "Well, other families may want to see these books because there are not as many diverse books out there."
And I honestly had not thought about it in that moment. And I was at Barnes and Nobles regularly. So, within a few days, it really became clear to me that he's making a strong point. And I just went into research mode. That's the kind of person I am. Once something is ignited, I want to read as much as possible about that topic, because I'm not an expert, so I need to learn as much as possible. And I thought, well, if I'm going to do this right, I need to truly find people in the industry. And so, I spoke to a friend that was a retired schoolteacher who really probed me in a lot of good ways. However, even her help was not enough. I knew this.
And so, one thing you have to realize when you want to create something and love to do something, just talk about it to as many people as possible, because you never know what that leads to. In that thought process, I was just having small talk with a children's book librarian, who mentioned Book Expo America. And I thought, okay, let's go check it out. I went online, discovered that it was the largest book conference in the country. And so, I thought, okay, I'm maybe eight months pregnant, but I am going to Book Expo America. I'm going to be flipping tired, three days off, up and down, walking at the McCormick Place. But he was the best investment of my time ever, because it opened my eyes and made me realize there was so much to publishing.
It didn't change my mind to want to be traditionally published, but it just armed me with information that I needed to know. Because traditional publishers and self-publishers have one thing in common, we are both trying to reach our audience. We're trying to find our audience. We want to produce the most interesting book for that same audience, so it's not... Yes, you can get your book produced faster by self-publishing, but it doesn't mean that you need to go unnecessarily fast. So, once I was there, I learned about the Editorial Freelancers Association, which is commonly called the EFA. And this is where I found my editor, guys. This is where I went. And it was so easy. It was amazingly easy. I posted a job looking for a developmental editor, something that I had learned during my sessions at Book Expo. And I had over 60 resumes emailed to me within 24 hours. That was an amazing problem. I went from no editor to too many options.
So, I requested to have that job posting deleted, so I could go through and really try to figure out who might be the best fit for what I was doing. One thing I knew right away, was that I did not want only one editor. I wanted more than one eye looking at my work. And so, it was nice, because I could choose. And as I'm doing this, I'm also doing multiple things. I knew that I was going to have to register a company. I wasn't going to register a Christine Publishing House, because I didn't anything that would work. But I had just prior knowledge of running a business because at the time that I stumbled into writing, I was actually building a fashion design business. And I had spent quite a number of years working on my craft, learning what to do. And I was starting to really reap the benefits of my labor. And then, voila, a new idea writing came about. And so, I decided to shelf that.
But what happened, the process I took my experience in trying to build fashion and took it to publishing. So, I knew that I needed to register a company, which is named Global Kids' House, that is my publishing company. And the reason why it was important to do that for me was because, when you have an LLC, it's protects you legally from any potential lawsuits. I mean, we don't think that authors are going to be sued or illustrators are going to be sued. But you have to protect your family, your home, anything that you have that has nothing to do with writing per se but it's yours, you need to protect it. So that's what I did.
And along the way, I was also looking for an illustrator. And it's very hard to find an illustrator in Google search. I don't know why you can find an answer for everything on Google. But I feel like it's incredibly difficult to find the answers in the Google searches, and so I focused my efforts on Instagram and Facebook. It took a while because I'm doing this myself, I have a specific taste for my story. So, it's a blessing, but it's also a burden at the same time. So, when you're writing your story, you have a vision for a style that may give you the best chance to be exciting.
I'm going to just take a step back and just mention something I forgot to say in the beginning. I didn't... The choosing of self-publishing over traditional publishing was solely because I'm entrepreneurial. Like I said, I was building a fashion business. There's nothing terrible about traditional publishing. There are amazing benefits to it, but I'm a builder. I love to bring people, find people, and together, we do this exciting thing together.
Anyway, going back to my work finding illustrator. I also knew that in finding the illustrator, I was going to need an art director. How did I know this? Well, I'm writing a picture book, and I read a lot of things that have to do with children's books. And in the process, I discovered that most publishing houses have an art director on staff that collaborates with the illustrator, which to me, I thought, oh my gosh, yeah, that makes perfect sense. These people are more visual. They're visual artists, and the art director will or can translate what needs to be done better than I can. And he almost serves as a bridge between the author, the editor and the illustrator. Which I thought was incredibly important, because I couldn't... I can't truly oversee the work of an illustrator the same way that art director can. Once I see the final product, I can certainly love and appreciate what was done, but I may not be able to effectively give direction to get the best results.
So that's what I was going for. Again, that proved to be a very challenging thing to find an art director, anywhere. I mean, guys, I almost emailed a big five art director to say, hey, if you have any spare time, do you think you might want to work with a self-publishing author? I'm sure he was going to laugh at me. But in the end, I got extremely lucky. The illustrator that I found via a Facebook post that I posted. When she responded to my email, she also let me know that she works with her husband, who also happens to be the art director/book designer on all her projects, and they come as a package deal. I almost fell out of my chair. I couldn't believe my eyes that here I was scratching my head trying to find an art director, and voila, package deal.
They live in Australia. We've never met in person. We've never spoken on the phone. We've been working together for over two years. They are so talented. They're so passionate about children's literature, and I couldn't be happier. And I have so much respect for them and vice versa. So, it's one of those things as a self-publishing author, you really have to feel out who you are bringing on because you're paying these people money, your hard-earned money. And hopefully, they have as much respect for your project and you, and really have a passion for what they do. Because when they have that passion, you don't have to chase them down. They bring even more to you than you ever imagined. And that's what's happened every time for me, my design team is phenomenal.
My editor who was actually not my original editor, I came to her to do copy editing once my first editor was done developing the story with me. And she happened to be the person that was actually even more passionate about my category, which deals with a lot of geography and other cultures, and just travel in general. On paper, she seemed to have less experience. So, this way, I did not choose her as my go to editor. But from working to her, it was clear to me that she was more in love with children's books and with this particular topic, so she pointed out things that actually helped this story to be what it is today. This meant the manuscript was so much stronger. After working with her, she was so willing to give her time to me. So, I made that switch, and I knew that it was the right thing to do. Now I have another editor who is going to be doing any copy editing per se, but Christine is now my main editor.
These are the things that I went through to produce my book. Then of course, when I got to the printing components, I had a printing company that I came across, again, while at Book Expo for America was just making friends, different. And there's one girl who also happened to be self-publishing, she was based in Texas. She was using a printing company right here in Illinois. She's like, hey, let me go over to the booth with you and you can meet who I work with. And I met them. And the rep was amazing. She is so consistently attentive. Any question you may have at any time, she will answer it. And the process was so easy to partner my printers with my book designer, because whatever printing has to happen, the specifications have to be and have to meet. So, the book lays out perfectly. Once it's everything is all virtual, so it's got to be done.
And so that's kind of how I build my team, my editing team, my design team, my printing partner. Then the rest of the marketing stuff, that's all up to me. That's building your website, building your social media. Choose the social media platform you're most comfortable with. I am not a Pinterest person. I like Pinterest to find crafts for my kids, but I don't like building those boards. I just can't get into it. I have a profile on me, I don't use that. Twitter, super easy, you share a couple thoughts. I can't seem to do it consistently. But when it comes to Instagram, that's where I absolutely love social media. I can express myself in a way that makes sense to me. And it's led to author visits, it's led to book sales, it's led to bookstores picking up my book.
It's like two different things because I can express myself well, I enjoy it, I love it. I have Facebook, it's okay. It's not amazing, but I don't despise it the way I despise other platforms. And I imagine at some point, as I grow, I will have the ability and the additional resources or people to facilitate more marketing beyond where I am now. So, I try to think very lean. I'm very lean focused and focus on where I feel like I will be most effective and most profitable, because at the end of the day, I'm a business, I have to make money. I'm not going to be rich overnight, but I should be able to reinvest back into my writing so I can keep growing.
I think I'm going to kind of cut it off here because there's so much more than we could talk about, but I want to allow you guys the opportunity to start firing away with questions. Debbie, how would you like to approach it from here?
Debbie W: Well, first of all, I want to thank you for jumping us into your journey. And we can certainly see that self-publishing is not for the faint hearted, right?
Christine T: No.
Debbie W: Even as you're speaking, I'm thinking, oh my word, the work, and the thinking and the networking and just the researching that is involved. So, anybody, I think on tonight's call, who is interested in self publishers does need to realize that it's not a quick money-making scheme. It's not something that you can just do lightly. You put a lot of planning into it, that's definitely clear. And I also like what you said about making the right connections for you, how you built your team. So, it's not just about you being an author. It's about building your team and having that connection with the editor and the illustrator.
So, I really appreciate hearing you share how you found those resources. And some of the resources that you mentioned for everybody's interest, we will post those on Hadley's website under the show notes for tonight's recording. So, we're not going to repeat web addresses and things like that, we'll put those in the show notes.
We do know that in today's world of being an author, there's more and more options because of digital marketing to be self-published. So, at this point, it would be interesting to hear everybody's questions, their comments and their experiences. We'll open the calls in the room for your questions. Go ahead, Ann.
Ann: Well, I was going give a comment and then ask a question. But comment is you're right, self-publishing is not for the faint at heart. And marketing, even for me is a bit tough. So, it's best if you have more than one income stream if you're going to do this. But my question for you, Christine is, do you have beta readers before you even look for an editor?
Christine T: I did try that. I set up a very small group with families in my neighborhood. But in the end, I realized that it was a time management issue for me to juggle this group and keep them engaged. And so, I decided to pass on that after, maybe three months or so. It was helpful, but then it wasn't feasible with my lifestyle. Instead, I was better off having a critique group, or even just a critique partner. Like right now, I have a couple of authors I work with. I'm not a person that's big on groupthink. I think that's part of the issue. And so, once that happens, and I send it over to my editor. I'm fortunate that my editor is very honest with me. She does... She knows that even though I'm self-publishing, I don't want it to be just okay. I want it to be amazing. So, she freely gives me any feedback. Whether I like it or not, I have to sit there, and really process everything and think it through. And she offers beta services if I actually need them.
Debbie W: Ann and Christine, could you explain that term for maybe people?
Christine T: Oh, yes. Yeah, sure.
Christine T: There are some groups, especially, this is a very big and people that write adult novel, romance, thrillers and so forth, they would set up a Facebook group with people that may want to read what she is working on. And as a reader, you can give your thoughts on whether you like the story, what you like about it, what you don't like about it, what's working for you or not working for you. And that may help that writer find a way to edit their work before it moves on to their professional person, which is their editor.
And what's actually also great for authors when you have a beta group is that sometimes that ends up being the thing that kick starts your sales. Because if this group of 20, 30, 150 people loves what you're working on and they can't wait to see the final product. When it's finally released, they are the first ones to jump on board and say, oh my god, I finally got my hands on this finished book. And they're sharing with their friends, and their raving about it. So, you're building a tribe by having a beta group.
Ann: Right. Well, not only that. I do mine through email. And from what I've heard you don't want any more than five or 10 beta readers, because then you have too many conflicting [crosstalk]...
Christine T: Opinions.
Ann: ... Feedback.
Christine T: Yeah. Yes. That Yeah. So, it really varies. I've seen...
Debbie W: Like too many cooks in the kitchen is what you're saying.
Ann: Right, too many cooks... Too many chiefs and not enough Indians, so to speak.
Christine T: Yeah, so I've seen anywhere from like you're saying, a number of five and I've seen hundreds. And I don't know how they do it, to be honest. I could never do it. But I...
Ann: I think when I do the hundreds, they're looking to get reviews at that point.
Christine T: Oh, yeah. That they do get. They will get reviews, which is, when you're on self-publishing, those Amazon reviews are golden because...
Ann: Hard as the dickens to get.
Christine T: That's what you say it works, but I've seen it work like crazy. So yeah, thank you for bringing that up, Ann.
Debbie W: Thanks, Ann. Anybody else have questions or comments, anything they want to ask Christine or anybody in this group? I know there's other self-publishers in the group tonight, who may have some experience to share and people who are wanting to start that you may have a question. And don't think any question is not important, because at this point you want to jump in, right.
Christine T: Yes.
Debbie W: I like what Christina is talking about. She knows what's comfortable for her, but she also is willing to take the challenges that she needs to take to put herself out there. So, that's part of doing this. So, if you do have questions, don't be shy to ask. I do have a question that maybe we can address from the SurveyMonkey. Christine, have you had your books... Have you had success in getting your books into bookstores and libraries by using wholesale distributors like IngramSpark? Am I saying that right, Ingrams?
Christine T: Yeah.
Debbie W: Okay.
Christine T: IngramSpark is a division of Ingram publishers, which is actually the largest book, wholesaler and distributor in the country. They serve literally every publishing house in this country. And so IngramSpark is a division that was created to serve self-publishers, so that you can be part of that same ecosystem, although it's, we had some slight variations to it. And what this allows you to do is to be visible to librarians, and to libraries, and to schools and bookstores, which is great.
However, the caveat about IngramSpark is that they're not selling your book for you. They're not... They don't have a sales team that's working on your behalf. You still have to do that part. You still have to make these people aware off your product if you want this book to be in bookstores, and other places. And so, I am personally not yet at a point where I want my book in every bookstore. It's not a major, major priority to me, because I'm not big enough. I'm not big enough to absorb the cost. Every bookstore, they are a retailer. And every retailer wants a 55% discount off of the cover price. So, if your book is going to cost $12.99, $17.99, whatever it is. That bookstore needs that price to be 55% off, so that they can market out and make money from your book.
Now Random House, yeah, I mean, that's how they've been operating for the last 100 years. And they have enough capital to absorb any cost. But they also have enough buying power to get that book printed at $1.25 to begin with. Now as an indie author, maybe you've got your book printed for a lot more than $1.25. Maybe it cost you five, six, seven, eight, $10 to get that book printed. Well, can you... By the time you put a price on the book, can you afford 50% off the book to be able to still make money? I don't think so. I mean, unless you are really a good planner and plan ahead and can print in China and get it printed for less, it's still very hard for me to justify using IngramSpark to get into bookstores. I think down the road as I progress, and grow and have more books under my belt, which I will. Two years from now, I expect to have at least five books under my name. But right now, bookstores are not a priority to me.
I am in some bookstores. And the one I worked with, I offered them a 45% discount because I printed the books myself with an offset printer here in Illinois. So, it makes sense to me. Actually, more than... I'm sorry, in a more than one bookstore. And I have another bookstore that has been asking me if I'm going to have my book in their store. And I do want my book in their store, but I'm like, I don't think I want that today. I would rather at this time, focus my efforts on Amazon. Because as an indie author, that is the best way I can make money. Amazon or in-person events, which unfortunately right now in-person events are out of the question. And honestly, I think... I hope that answers your question. So yeah...
Debbie W: Yeah, what I think...
Christine T: ... My book can be purchased by schools, and libraries and bookstores. But I have to put the effort forward for them to know that the book exists, and that they can get it there.
Debbie W: Right. And what I like, Christine about listening to you as is, as I'm kind of, and I don't know if this is scary to you, but I'm in your head, kind of going through the thought process with you. Because it does take a lot of planning and knowing what your priorities are. And you put a lot of thought into what's important to me? What can I afford? Because that's a major factor. And what's going to work for me? And so those are all preplanning questions that I think anybody considering self-publishing needs to get some hard answers to and ask themselves. I think...
Christine T: Well, you know what, Debbie? So, another thing that has worked really well for those that are even better planners then I am, they have done crowdfunding campaigns. And for those of you that are not familiar with crowdfunding, you're essentially going on a certain platform like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, Indiegogo. And you are sharing your work, something that you've created that needs to go to market. And you need their help to raise the funds to do so. So, you have created this book that's going to teach kids about XYZ. Or you've created that you've wrote this novel that is so powerful in this way. Or you created this journal that is going to help people become more organized and productive, whatever it is.
Whatever it is, it has to be so compelling that people want to pledge $20, 30, 50, 100 bucks so that you now have $20,000 off the bat. When this campaign is over, you have 20 grand now for you to use to go to print. And you can print in large quantities, which means your cost is going to be even lower. And so, guess what that allows you to do? That allows you to have choices because now you're not money desperate. You are hopefully comfortable enough. And so, when it comes to working with retailers, you're not, so you're not going to push back too much. You're going to be even more aggressive so...
Debbie W: So that would be one way of getting funding is to try that resource if you're comfortable with that. I don't mean to interrupt. We have about six hands up, so I want to get to some more questions. Cheryl. Go ahead, Cheryl.
Cheryl: Thank you. Thank you for sharing with us, and good luck to you, Christine. First, I want to say thank you for that IngramSpark or whatever. I'll look into that. Because what I have found that Ingram wanted too much for distribution, whatever it was. But I do know, if you have a book and you want to do a book signing at Barnes and Noble, or Books-A-Million, Ingram is the one that they use, and your name is got to be somehow connected with them. Anyway, that was one thing.
The other thing is when we're self-publishing, being able to do them in quantities and buying, that brings my cost. This book I'm doing now as a memoir. It's going to be my most expensive because I'm not... I'm only going to do about 30 to 50 copies for the family I'm doing it for, and for myself. But when I can print 500 books, then I have an inventory of my five books. So, when I go out, I try to keep them with me. Then like when you can do that, looking at it in investment years, you're spending a few dollars on a chapter book. So, it's taken, like you said, for anybody new, there's a lot of research. I do a lot of reading, and we've covered a lot of this. And be having your ISDN.
The other thing about self-publishing is audiobooks. As a self-published audio author, you are able to pick your own narrator. Those of us who listen to books know narrators can really mess up a book.
Debbie W: They can make it or break it, can't they?
Christine T: Yeah.
Debbie W: Yeah.
Cheryl: And what happens with that is the company through Audible, gives you 25 free coupons to get 25 people your audiobook free to give you reviews. And that's how they move your thing up. So, there's a lot of... There's other different things and easy ways to do it, but I'm just, I don't want to take up a lot of time. But I'm available because I've been doing this for a couple years, and I had to take a break because of the house and personnel. And so now it's like, okay, my thing is, I want an agent or a manager. I want somebody to make all my appointments. I hate doing that. No, I want a marketer. I want to talk to somebody.
Christine T: I'm sorry, can I have your name again?
Cheryl: Yeah, Cheryl.
Christine T: Sarah, okay. Let me ask this. So, this is a memoir that you wrote, and who are you using to print your books?
Cheryl: I use Steuben Press in Colorado.
Christine T: Okay. And you say you printed 30, but then you printed 500. Is that right?
Cheryl: I do 500 of my children's books, so they keep them at a minimum [crosstalk].
Christine T: How much does it cost you for each book? So, how much do you pay for the 500 books?
Cheryl: Well, the most I've ever paid, and that was for a 90-page book was like $2.50 a book. And that's with 10 illustrations, with color.
Christine T: How much are you selling the book for?
Cheryl: It depends on where I go, and what I'm doing. And so, yeah. Well, I know there's other people want to ask questions though.
Christine T: Yeah.
Debbie W: Thanks. I appreciate Cheryl, you're sharing your expertise and your experience. We appreciate that. Thank you. Abby, you want to go ahead, Abby.
Abby: Okay. Thank you, Diane. Yes, I'm Abby Taylor, and I live in Sheriden, Wyoming. And I am the author of two self-published novels and a poetry collection. And I would just like to quickly as possible plug, put in a plug for a couple of services that I have used in the past that have been very good.
Recently, I started working with a firm in Denver, Colorado called DLD Books. And this is a couple, David and Leonore Dvorkin. They are both published authors, and they have a business where they help authors publish their work. They will edit the books, they will format the books, and they will post the books on Amazon, and Smashwords and other retailers in print and ebook formats. And their rates are very reasonable. And as for marketing, they contract with a company in Kingsport, Tennessee called, Tell It to The World Marketing. And this is basically a one woman show. It's owned by Patti Fletcher, who is blind.
Now the Dvorkins aren't blind, but many of their clientele are blind, but Patti is totally blind. She has published a couple of books of her own, self-published. And she has a business where she helps authors and businesses promote mostly through social media. And so, with the help of Tell It to The World Marketing and DLD Books, my self-publishing career, although it's still no bed roses has been made a lot easier. And that's all I have to say. I don't want to go on and on about it. I thought y'all might want to know about this [crosstalk].
Debbie W: Abby, that was a DLD Books? DLD Books.
Christine T: Digital Logic Design. As you were talking, I was looking all this stuff up. Definitely the name of the company.
Abby: Yeah, here in Denver, Colorado, and they also do cover design. They do everything. They'll do cover design; they will format the book. They'll copy edit, if you want. They'll format it. That if you don't have a cover, they'll find one for you. For my last book, The Red Dress, Leonore found a wonderful picture of a young woman wearing a red dress with long black hair and holding flowers, and it's a beautiful cover. If I say so myself, of course, like, well, how do I know? Well, I can see it. But other people have told me it's a good cover too, so don't put my eyes words first.
Debbie W: What we'll do is, we'll go ahead and put that resource in the show notes, Abby. Thank you so much. Thank you.
Abby: Yes, you're welcome. You're welcome.
Christine T: What I like about what Abby just shared with us is the fact that she knows where she belongs. She's going to write and she's going to write this amazing novel, but she needs a team of people to enhance and embellish in and edify what she's creating. And so, there you have it, DLD.
Debbie W: Great. We've had a couple other questions that came in through SurveyMonkey about self-publishing and braille. So, if anybody has any information about how to get self-published in braille, if you want to raise your hand and share that information. Sunshine, I'm going to unmute you. Go ahead, Sunshine.
Sunshine: Hey, Debbie and Christine, and everybody. Christine, thanks for your presentation. It's showing me just how totally uninformed, how many holes there are in my understanding of self-publishing. My thought was that what I was dealing with thinking about and trying to get some of my stories, my poetry out would basically be, it would be e-publishing effectively. And my questions were, well, geez, do I have to do like PayPal? How do I actually get this stuff out? Is there a way to protect it, so that one person pays me... I don't know, whatever dollars for the copy, and then suddenly 12 people have it and I'm not seeing the money for it.
But this has gone a totally different direction, anything than that I had in mind. I mean, when I think about an editor, I'm thinking about, probably an editor in a publishing company or a magazine with a magazine, who I'm trying to get my story in front of to get them to read it. And apparently, this is a whole... What you're describing is a whole different role that an editor can take. All of that to say, I appreciate, I'm not entirely sure what my question is... [crosstalk].
Christine T: Okay. Well, I have a question for you.
Sunshine: How can I be really stupid!
Christine T: No, that's okay. I have a question for you. So, this poetry, why did you want to publish it as an E-book? Was there a reason?
Sunshine: Then I guess the reason would be, I haven't found a way that has been efficient for me to find the right magazine. I've sent some stories to magazines, just kind of picking them since most and certainly at that time, at least many of the magazines were not in or any kind of adapted format. So, I was basically shooting blind, pun intended. And the rejection letters that I invariably got said, it's a really great story, I love it. It doesn't fit with my magazine. Good luck finding the right magazine to get this on with. And so that's... I mean, that has been my stumbling block throughout, is to find the right magazine the right way to get the poetry, the short stories. Most of my stuff is somewhere between five and 15,000 words as far as the stories. The poetry that is anywhere from a triplet to something, two pages in length.
Christine T: Wow. If you're really, really sure that you want to self-publish, then, yes. Do the research, find as many communities that are in that genre, so that you have even more information. I know that poetry is very specific, and there are certainly small presses out there that are looking for poetry. But again, it's a tiny corner of the publishing industry. So, you do have to spend a lot more time connecting with those people, but it can happen. But of course, if you do decide to go ahead and publish it yourself, be part of those environments and communities, where you're going to encounter people that love that. It's national poetry month, find a way.
Let's just say you publish this book, this poetry book and in this national poetry month or whatever day. You know there's a day for everything. There's a donut day. I mean, you can find a day on the calendar. There's a calendar for the weirdest things I've ever never imagined, and you can link what you're writing to that thing. And it could be something. You can email a journalist, a newspaper outlet and say, "Hey, I know National Poetry month is coming up, and I wanted to share one, two, three things to do with poetry." You email them in a way that it's going to help them do their job easier, but at the same time, they're going to give you an opportunity to share yourself. So, you have to be even more creative, because you're doing this yourself.
Debbie W: Great. Uncle Sunshine, thanks. I'm glad that you joined, and you chimed in, and shared your comments. I hope you got some good information.
Sunshine: Yeah, thanks.
Debbie W: Thank you. Kim, you want to go ahead.
Kim: Hi. I'm just wondering, basically, when someone wants to self-publish, how much money are we talking about having to spend?
Christine T: Sure. So, Kim, what do you... Do you write children's books or novels, or middle grade? What do you write?
Kim: I'm just writing. I haven't published anything.
Christine T: Anything?
Kim: I've done some poetry. I'm just curious.
Christine T: Yeah. Okay.
Kim: All these people, you got to pay for.
Christine T: Yes, the big unknown. So, it really varies. It's such a wide range. Because if you're writing a novel, I think it's a little bit of a no brainer, because your costs are limited to the editing components, editing, the proofreading, book cover design and printing.
Christine T: But when you're writing a children's book or a picture book specifically, which is most of what I'm going to be doing, you have an illustrator that has to illustrate 28 to 30 something pages depending on the length of your book. And that cost is, can be astronomical. Because if someone is talented, it's going to cost you.
So, I've seen a lot of people that go on this website called Fiverr. And Fiverr, you can find, or something called Upwork. These are all freelance websites where you can find people all over the world who can help you bring your idea to life. And I personally, I'm not going to pay $10,000 for an illustrator, right?
Christine T: Also, you're not going to pay $500 for an illustrator. Because 500 bucks, I don't know that I'm going to get the best quality of work. But I am willing to pay $1,500, $2,000, maybe not $3,000. But if someone is really good and I think it's going to really help what I'm doing be seen respectfully, then I might push it because that's just one cost off it. Now the editing actually is not that costly, because my editor costs $50 an hour. That is her cost. But if it's a children's book, she's not going to spend 100 hours doing it. Even if we work on it for three-four months, it's still not going to amount to 100 hours. I think at each round that she reviews my work; it might be two hours she's putting in. And then another time it might be two or three hours. So, I don't freak out over that $50 an hour editing cost because I know, well, it's...
But when it comes to novel writing, I know that's done a little bit differently. I think it's like, it's by word. It's not by word counts and not so much by the hour because [crosstalk]
Debbie W: Thank you. Thanks, Christine, for putting some figures to that. That kind of, instead of saying it's expensive, you're kind of giving some figures. So, I appreciate that. Kim, did that help you?
Kim: Yeah. I was just curios. I don't know if I'm ever going to publish, but I like to write.
Debbie W: Keep being curious and keep writing. That's great. I want to get to a couple more people before we have to wrap up. Let's get to area code 530 ending in 493. Go ahead, please.
Speaker 9: Yes, I've had a comment, which you might have already addressed this now, that there are illustrators in third world countries who charge way less. And you're helping them feed their families for the month, and they do a beautiful job.
Debbie W: That's a nice point. Thanks for sharing that. How do you find those people?
Speaker 9: I'd have to get a resource. I can get back with you.
Debbie W: Okay, if you can email that to me, I'd appreciate it and I can get it on the show notes. Thanks for sharing that.
Let's get to Mindy. Mindy, I know that you have some questions about self-publishing. Go ahead, please.
Mindy: Hello, I'm Mindy. I guess we've kind of had an interesting experience thus far a little different than Christine's, but some parts have been about the same. We've self-published, children's book my husband wrote called The Blind Princess, and we actually have gotten it put into Braille. I wanted to do... I'm a teacher of the blind and visually impaired, and have both of my grandparents were blind, my baby brother is deaf blind. So, I have a lot of experience in that world, and so I wanted to have a dual print and Braille copy...
Debbie W: Wonderful.
Mindy: ... And I found it to be really expensive. And so that was kind of, I was the one that asked about getting it printed in Braille. We ended up having to send it to Clovernook. They were the cheapest braille publishers we could find. Then they would braille it and send it back to us. And it was like nine dollars a book...
Debbie W: Oh, wow.
Mindy: ... Which is crazy.
Debbie W: Yeah.
Mindy: But, I mean, we did it.
Debbie W: Wow.
Mindy: But I found it...
Debbie W: It also speaks to you wanting the importance of braille and wanting to have those books out there. So maybe for something specialized that has such as that, you do have to put in the extra money.
Christine T: Right. Right. Well, Mindy, I'm curious. I was doing a little research, and I came across the national Braille press. Have you had any contact with them, or do you have any feedback about that group?
Mindy: I called around and asked around to different people. I know I checked out Seedlings, I can't think of some of the other ones. I feel like I would have checked into them.
Debbie W: Yeah, that, that's a major one. So, you probably did, I would imagine. Unfortunately, it's five till already, so we're going to have to wrap up. I have a few more hands up. I want Diane to share some resources before we close out. And then if we have a couple more minutes, I'll open the floor again. And it has happened when you have such a popular topic, you run out of time really quickly. And somebody that you know has been through the process, you have a lot of the information to share. Diane, I'm going to let you go ahead and share some resources before we close out.
Diane O: Well, basically Diane speaking, I found some resources that are pretty much free, and I thought it'd be really... That people might be interested. I don't know about you guys, but I love free writing resources. The 2020 Guide to Manuscript Publishers, we're going to put that on the link on the show notes. But it's free for a limited time, and it includes traditional publishers who do not require agents. And those are not easy to find. So, it's called Authors Publish, and it's a 2020 Guide.
There's also a self-publishing blueprint trial edition put out by the Children's Book Insider, and that's free for a time, for a period of time.
Another thing is, and I think I've mentioned this before, the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa. So we'll put that in the show notes, and hopefully you'll enjoy it. Happy writing?
Debbie W: Well, thanks for it. Diane's just an expert on finding so many resources for us. And if you... And again, they'll be in the show notes, and you can always contact myself or Diane for further information.
Do you have anything just profound you want to say to close it out, Christine?
Christine T: Sure. I'm just going to say, do your very best to surround yourself with a team. You want your book to be as professional as possible, you should not look homemade. I have had people often say how much they're stunned and shocked that my book is self-published. And the question that follows is, how did you do this? I know part of me thinks, wow, it's kind of funny that I get that question because as I was working on it, I heard a lot of people say that it's crazy to even try to self-publish. Just submit your work to traditional publishers. And again, I'm not opposed to traditional publishing. I just love building my own thing, and so make sure you get a copyright done. You get your ISPNs. This will do, the links for... Debbie has those links, you can find that from the resource sheet that I sent to her.
The Library of Congress where you can get your book. Your book needs to have a number that enables librarians to know how to catalog your book into the library system, so it can be found. You want to make sure you do that. Again, you want to make sure you register your company, your LLC. Think of a name, Treehouse Publishing, whatever, give it a name. It could be your child's name. Join professional organizations. SCBWI is a great place, and they are for people that are writing children's literature. There are other groups that are amazing, just be around like-minded people. Yeah and be on these webinars like this one for you free information. You can't be bad.
Debbie W: Yeah. And I think I really will go back to one of the first things that you talked about when you first began was talking about, this is a passion for people. And if you're a writer, sometimes you write in isolation, but it's important to get out there and talk to people because you never know who you're going to meet or who that person knows. So be willing to, if you're an introvert, be willing to put yourself out there. So, it's a very good advice, Christine.
Christine T: And hopefully as you're doing all that, hopefully you get to a point where you figure out that you absolutely hate the idea of self-publishing and you're going to query agents. If that happens, go ahead and query agents. That's what you're supposed to do. I have very good friends that are querying agents, because they have no interest whatsoever in doing what I do. And that's okay [crosstalk].
Debbie W: That's right. Yeah, find what's comfortable, challenge yourself. But in the long run, writing is a passion. And remember to keep it fun. We talk about that often in Writers' Circle. Christine, we do appreciate your sharing your time. I know you're a mother, so you probably have little ones that you had to tend to tonight. So, we appreciate your time and attention with us tonight.
I appreciate Diane finding you and bringing you to the group, and I appreciate everybody for what they had to share, their resources. And just your listening ear tonight. I hope you all were able to pick up one or two good tips. And again, come back and listen to the archived version. You might pull out some more. And let's see, Diane usually takes us out with the writing prompts. Diane, do you want to take us out with a writing prompt tonight?
Diane O: Sure. I'm taking these prompts from Fast Fiction by Roberta Allen. The prompts are, write about a wish, or write about something new. Happy writing.
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Writers Circle - Ins and Outs of Self-Publishing
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