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Self Publishing : What You Need to Know Before You Take the Plunge

Self Publishing : What You Need to Know Before You Take the Plunge

By Leslie Stern

Self-publishing “Betrayal Beneath the Spanish Moss” was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I was impatient and leapt before I looked. Had I slowed down and researched the expenses and the attitudes before I did it, I would never have chosen the self-publishing route.

When evaluating self-publishing, I didn’t include the massive expenses of self-promotion. I spent a fortune on book tours, signings, and marketing. And that was after the ridiculous expense of the publishing itself through CreateSpace. I paid for all the extras, including editing. They did such a terrible job editing the book, they had to re-print the entire book. There was a typo on the back cover, for goodness sake!

Once I received my books (always negotiate for as many books as you can get – they’re very open about the number), then I had to promote them. I scheduled a month-long book tour which garnered maybe ten sales. It cost me two thousand dollars or more to sell those ten books. Then add in the advertising, which is necessary.

What I had no knowledge about was the stigma attached to self-publishing. Few bookstores will even schedule a book signing for a self-published book and they certainly won’t stock them. Libraries wouldn’t touch my book. Book Festivals put my book under a tent with a hundred other self-published books. In short, I received no credibility. Ron Howard called me to say that the screenplay I adapted from my novel was the best he had read from the actual author, yet the book buying public gave me no credibility.

Once I recognized the mistake I had made by self-publishing, I looked for new avenues. New York agents and query letters was not the answer. I attended a local conference which brought in agents and publishers from New York. It was a shocking revelation. They knew nothing about the new world of publishing and were rather tongue-tied. Because of self-publishing, small publishers, and of course e-books, they were confounded. Until the industry catches up with Kindles and e-readers, I would recommend staying away from them.

So what is the answer? My answer was a small publisher. He is re-publishing my novel and sending out review copies prior to mass publication. This is the right answer. I will also reply to the question before it is asked, no you can’t send out your self-published books to Publisher’s Weekly or The New York Times to be reviewed prior to selling them. They won’t accept them. The publisher must send out a special ‘review copy’ for that purpose. Once your book gets good reviews, then the book will be mass printed with the reviews on the cover. This will massively help the marketing campaign.

Once it has been sent out for reviews, then my publisher puts his head together with mine to create press releases that will be generated. Even small publishers may have contacts with Barnes & Noble to get the book into bookstores nationally.

The only expense with a small publisher is editing. Either pay the price for a professional editor or find a student who will carefully edit the book. There are many avenues to find a good editor, depending on how effective you are at self-editing. Small publishers don’t have editors on staff, so the burden of that is on you.

Most of the expenses or energy in the marketing portion of book publishing will be on the writer regardless of who publishes. During that conference I asked the agents about that issue. Their reply was unanimous. Marketing is up to the writer. Having the big mouth I surely have, I asked “then why are we paying the extra 15% to you?” The answers were, “to get your book published professionally.” Well, nuts to that! If you work closely with a small publisher, they’ll do just as much for you as the mid-sized or large publishers. Unless Random House publishes your book, you’re going to do all the same work marketing your book. So, are you ready?

Leslie Stern is a freelance writer and writing coach. Leslie wrote her first short story when she was ten years old and has never stopped writing. She owes her passion and work ethic to her family : Her step-father was world-renowned animation genius Iwao Takamoto, whom her mother married when Leslie was five years old. Leslie's next book featuring her personal stories about Iwao is called Living with a Legend and will be releasing soon.

Leslie is a member of several writers groups including Writer's Guild of America, Atlanta Writer's Club, and Zona Rosa. Find out more at

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