Monday, September 28, 2009


It seems like every conference, panel, or presentation I attend, someone asks about self-publishing. Will I hurt my chances to have a trade house pick up my project if I go ahead and self-publish? {in some cases, yes, unless of course you sell thousands of copies quickly, then it’s a great way to great way to get noticed, ask Zane} Isn’t self-publishing a good way to get noticed by editors? {probably not, unless you get lots of wonderful reviews and sell lots of copies quickly. Editors and agents typically have enough submissions on their desks without having to troll self-publishing sites.} Why aren’t self-published books given the same treatment as those published by traditional publishing houses? {While yours may, of course, be the exception, traditional publishers generally provide a measure of quality control that self-published works lack. To maximize limited resources of time and money, most readers are likely to look to the traditionally published.} And then from those who’ve tried the self-publishing or [heaven forbid!] vanity publishing route, the saddest of all questions: why isn’t my book selling/getting noticed? {Well, self-publishing means that you have to do marketing and promotion all on your own. If you’re not fully committed, the book is bound to fail.}

From what I’ve seen, authors who go into self-publishing with their eyes wide open and who have a strong sense of what they’re doing and why, have the most success. One of my authors, Bettye Griffin is a great, recent example. She is the author of sixteen published books of romance and women’s fiction with such publishers as Kensington, Harlequin and BET Books. Her latest, A New Kind of Bliss, was released by Dafina in May of this year.

Well, Bettye had this story that she had been thinking about and working on for several years. It’s a modern-day marriage of convenience story involving a strong, independent woman who finds herself in the U.S. illegally and the two men who offer to come to her assistance. As her agent, I had tried on several occasions to interest editors at traditional publishing houses in the story, but no one seemed to want to take a chance. So this year Bettye just decided to publish it on her own.

First, Bettye did what every good author must do. She wrote the best manuscript she possibly could. Then, because she understood the value of a good editor, she actually hired someone to go through and professionally edit her manuscript. I championed this decision because I know how hard it is for any author to see all the forest for the trees when she is deep into a manuscript. Everyone slips up from time to time (e.g., changing a character’s name on page buried deep in the story) and it takes a neutral party trained in such copy-editing skills to really work the kind of magic a published book needs. Then when the manuscript was polished, Bettye set out to handle all of those things that publishers typically do.

She designed an interesting cover, wrote clever and engaging cover copy, and with the help of the printer that she secured for the project, selected the size, fonts, page layout, and made all the other design decisions necessary to pull off a professional product. Once she knew she would have a great looking book to sell, she then went out in search of distributors. You’ll see that her book is available at Amazon (both as an e-book for the Kindle and in print form) and on her own website. She's also working on local bookstores, both to carry the book and for signings. All of these are arrangements that she has had to make on her own. She also contacted friends and reviewers and sent out copies so that she could get reviews posted to entice people to buy her book. As I understand it, sales are going well and Bettye’s delighted at the decision she made. To read more about how she made her decision to self-publish, see her blog, and definitely be on the lookout for her book -- a great read.

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