WRITERS AT WORK: About This Business of Publishing on the Internet, Part 4

Announcement: We’re having a busy day with readers from many other areas checking in on WRITERS AT WORK. So far we’ve had visits from United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Thailand, South Africa, New Zealand, and Singapore. Welcome everyone. If you feel like leaving a comment, we would love to hear your thoughts. David

Hi everyone,

As promised, today Sandy Asher concludes this month’s informal chat about a subject of interest to authors and others involved in the field of children’s literature. The topic, About This Business of Internet Publishing, has been discussed on March 6 by me, March 13 by Paula Morrow, and March 20 by Michael Wilde. Now we hear from Sandy who is bringing back her book, TEDDY TEABURY’S FABULOUS FACT, as a publish-on-demand title. Read on!

Part 4: Sandy
March 27, 2012

Reading the posts by Paula and Michael has made me want to wax poetic about editors. With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” I love editors for their intelligence, insight, and instincts. I love editors for their enthusiasm and encouragement. I love editors for their tenacity, which has so often roused me out of my natural laziness and forced me to do more and better. I love editors for not allowing me to publish anything that did not meet their standards. (Yes, I am referring to my file drawers filled with rejected manuscripts that fully deserved to be rejected. I’ve just spent a month rereading nearly 40 such manuscripts. Thank goodness there were editors who prevented me from going public with them. Fortunately, I have the rest of my life in which to revise.)

There was a time, very early in my career, when I balked at editors’ detail-oriented, nit-picky thoroughness. Now I worry they may be too busy with other projects to give my work the full attention it needs. Even after many years of experience, I’m really nervous about publishing anything that hasn’t been vetted by a professional editor. We’re all far too close to our own work to see it as readers will receive it. Editors help us bridge that gap.

And so, my only experience with self-publishing has been to reissue — twice — TEDDY TEABURY’S FABULOUS FACT, an already well-edited middle grade reader. TEDDY was originally a Dell Yearling Book. It had a good going-over – or three or six – for content and style by my then editor Bebe Willoughby, as well as meticulous attention to mechanics, typos, and other details from an in-house copyeditor and proofreader at Delacorte/Dell. When the book went out of print and the rights reverted to me, I could reissue it by simply having it set up in a print-ready manner by my son Ben, a freelance, professional copyeditor and proofreader. Together, we kept a keen eye out for late-blooming typos. (See Ben’s info at http://www.beneasher.com ).

That first reprinting of 500 copies was done with a clear marketing plan, though this was long before social media began providing world-wide exposure. School visits, children’s literature festivals, and teacher and librarian conferences were the main marketing opportunities, and I was doing lots of those. With a reissued TEDDY, I could continue to go forth armed with the dramatic and amusing story behind the book’s dedication “To the children of Otterville, Missouri, who asked me to write it and made sure I did.” I already knew from experience with the Dell edition that kids loved hearing the story and immediately wanted to read the book. I was confident I could sell 500 copies. And I did.

Then I got tired of listening to myself tell the story. Five hundred copies were enough.

Time passed, and the whole self-publishing picture changed. With all the choices offered by technology and writers doing so much of their own marketing anyway, it’s become quite an attractive way to go. Plus, TEDDY has appeared a couple of times as a 19-part newspaper serial, and the illustrations commissioned by the serial licensing company were available. (The original illustrations by Bob Jones were not; my first reissue had no illustrations – not a good way to go with a middle-grade novel.) My agent mentioned that she’d checked out CreateSpace and was recommending it to her authors who wanted to reissue their own books. And there you were, David, all excited about your ebook GOOSE LAKE. So I decided to give self-publishing another try. TEDDY TEABURY’S FABULOUS FACT seemed the logical choice for my plunge, since I knew how to market it. I’m ready to tell the story behind the dedication again — not here, because it’s too long, but anywhere I’m invited to speak (hint, hint).

Wow! This has been a very different experience from my first foray into self-publication. Back then, I used a general printer who did a nice job the old-fashioned way, following my directions but offering little guidance. With CreateSpace, I’ve had a steady flow of phone calls and email messages, an on-line account, a dashboard that alerted me to when I needed to take action and now tracks my orders and royalties, and helpful directions every step of the way. I got to alter and approve the jacket and proofread everything on-line first and then in hard copy, twice. And six days a week, there were real people to talk to, attentive, competent, cheerful people with satisfying answers to my questions.

I was impressed!

My personal “project team” at CreateSpace did an attractive design job and worked hard to get everything just right. Since my book had already been edited at Dell, I bought a simple and less costly package, but there are various options from do-it-yourself-for-free to full-service, in-depth editing. There’s a motive, of course, behind their perfectionism. CreateSpace books are automatically offered on Amazon.com and there’s a sizable cut for the company out of each copy sold. It’s to their benefit to create a superior product. I have no problem with that.

The books are print-on-demand, which means I don’t have a basement full of copies I don’t immediately need. (Will I ever forgive the long-ago cat who once used a carton as a litter box?) I can order copies wholesale for presentations as I go. I could pay a little more to have an ebook edition as well, but I don’t quite trust the time lapse between my presentation generating interest and the listener’s opportunity to order the book on-line. I’d rather have hard copies right there with me. I’m fairly confident I can earn back my investment before once again tiring of the story, but even if I don’t, there’s Amazon.com selling the book on-line for me. (See at http://www.amazon.com/dp/1467945153/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_zUgBpb0JEDDV5  ). Easy enough to email the link to family and friends and post it on Facebook. Best of all, print-on-demand guarantees that TEDDY TEABURY’S FABULOUS FACT will never go out of print again.

So, do I recommend self-publication? Under certain conditions, I do, with these caveats: Have reasonable expectations, know your market, and devise a plan for reaching that market. Self-publishing isn’t right for all books, and, no matter how they’re published, books rarely sell themselves. Last but definitely not least: Do not venture out there alone. See above for how I love editors!

9 comments on “WRITERS AT WORK: About This Business of Publishing on the Internet, Part 4

  1. Hi, Sandy,

    I know I’m the one who posted your remarks but I just read them again and enjoyed them again. I hope you have had as much fun with this series as I have. Asking experts like Paula and Michael to join us was a great idea. Thanks so much for the suggestion!


  2. My pleasure, David! You know, one of the great perks of writing for young people is that we work in a field populated with caring and generous colleagues. It comes with the territory. Paula and Michael are the latest of many who have willingly jumped right in and helped us make our ideas happen. Are we lucky or what?

  3. Sandy addressed the biggest misconceptions about self-publishing: that it’s too complicated and too expensive, and that a self-published book will sell just as well or better than a book published by a trade publisher.

    As Sandy said, there are reputable companies that make self-publishing relatively easy and economical. It’s the perfect way to get out-of-print books back in the public eye.

    We’ve all read about the self-published authors who have sold millions of copies. That’s made a lot of people think that self-publishing is the road to fame and fortune. Writers who want to self-publish previously unpublished works should think about how they’re going to market a book on their own and how they’ll get it reviewed.

    Wendy Schmalz

    Wendy Schmalz

  4. Sandy, you give a great overview of the opportunities of e-publishing and the things to watch out for and take care of to ensure (hopefully) some success. Thank you!

    • You’re quite welcome, Meryl. And just to underscore the need for editorial attention, I just noticed that there’s no ending parenthesis on my first paragraph. Should’ve run this past My Son the Professional Proofreader!

  5. Sandy, thanks for more helpful information to get our books out there. I love editors too. They have always maded my articles appear so wonderful. Thank you David, for bringing us helpful experieced voices onTuesdays.Mary Nida

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