Often, when discussing the difficulties of getting published, I’ve had people say to me: “Why don’t you just publish it yourself?” Why, indeed? Self-publishing, done properly, takes a special determination, a singular belief in one’s work, a great deal of marketing knowledge, an extraordinary amount of work… oh yeah, and money.
It’s not for me because I would rather put all my efforts into the writing. And I’ve seen far too many botched self-publishing attempts, with unrealistically high expectations countered by poor manuscripts, no planning and no hope. But for someone who has the necessary knowledge and drive, and a really good manuscript, self-publishing can indeed be the way to go.
Today at Literary Clutter, we have a guest post from David McLean, who recently self-published his YA novel, Finding Coaby. I read an early incomplete version of the manuscript quite a while back and was struck by its insight and potential. Dealing with teenage depression, I thought that this novel would be hard to sell to a publisher. So I was delighted to recently receive an invitation to the book’s launch.
David had decided to self-publish. Here are this thoughts on the whole process…
Self-publishing Finding Coaby
By David McLean
Self publishing is not about writing. Self publishing is about placing your writing in the context and perspective of generating words to reach a market.
The writing of Finding Coaby, my first adolescent novel, was actually the easy part — but it was not the first step, or the last, in the whole process.
The novel commenced as an idea — for which I had my niece to thank. It was her experience with adolescent depression that gave an impetus to the writing. I talked to my niece and used her journal to give substance to the writing.
The first draft began the whole reviewing process and a reality check. The advice I was given involved having the correct word count to correspond to the number of printable pages to make a commercial book.
Others reviewed the book — people whose opinions I respected. In other words, I needed to remove myself and my bias about the writing, and view things critically, as a publisher.
With the writing finished and drafts edited, the design and layout was next on the agenda. My good fortune was to have neighbours who owned a photographic studio and their daughter who was a suitable age to be a model. I had my cover design. This alone could have cost me over $1000 dollars if done professionally and not as a favour.
I applied to register an ISBN number. You can call yourself a publisher once you have this number regardless of the quality of the book. You also need the money to pay for it.
A graphic artist set out the pages and formally designed a cover. He charged by the hour. Each adjustment was costing money. I liaised about the layout concerns that worried me and, at the same time, saw errors in my own writing (and grammar) that needed to be corrected. Whatever you think, you can’t see them all. I hadn’t employed a professional editor, thinking I knew what to look for. But here’s another $1000 that had to be made available. The time investment was considerable and you have to be meticulous, which diverges considerably from the creative writing process.
The PDF file was then sent to the printer. If you pay, they’ll print. The cost will vary depending on the number of pages, the need for colour and the volume you want printed.
Marketing is next on the agenda and the most important. You need to have a market in mind and channels of access even before you start writing. It’s no good printing a book unless you have a means of letting people know. Think about the possibility of reviews in print and through other media. Have access to mailing lists of interested parties. And the writing of copy will have to be even more creative than the original text.
In all, the writing of Finding Coaby was but a small component of the overall process. You need to be conversant in marketing, editing, layout and design, and the language of printing to realize and release a book. You also need the money to pay for each stage. You can learn a lot, however, about why writers are only offered 10% royalties.
George’s bit at the end
David has taken a brave step in self-publishing his novel. But, given his background, I think the venture has a high chance of success. David has been an English teacher for many years and has, in fact, headed a number of English departments in prominent schools over the years. He has written a topical book that is likely to appeal to the schools market and he has the knowledge to market it to that sector. He also has previous experience in marketing to that sector, having run Video Interaction, a company that produces educational resources for classroom use, since 1991. So he has not stumbled blindly into the self-publishing arena, as so many other first-time authors have. So it is with much admiration that I wish him the best of luck.
To learn more about Find Coaby, check out the official website.
And tune in next time for author Kirstyn McDermott.
Catch ya later, George