Recently I’ve had quite a few people ask me about my experience with self-publishing my picture books. I thought I’d share some of what I’ve told others here.
My road in traditional publishing hasn’t ended, but it has taken a detour. It was always my intention to publish traditionally so I could become a mainstream author/illustrator. I have been querying to agents and publishers for a few years trying to sell my books. I wasn’t having much success and I was getting a little discouraged. It’s a hard and long road to travel. I did get good feedback along the way from agents and editors, which is very valuable and you need to listen whenever they give advice, but they never accepted my books.
In early September 2012 I was contacted by Jim Long, an author interested in hiring me as a freelance illustrator. It was a Christmas story called Lucius and the Christmas Star. Jim didn’t want to mess around with traditional publishing for his book. He is an older gentleman and just wanted his books out for his family and friends to buy. He asked me to independently publish it for him. The process to do this was easy and very affordable (if you know the formatting involved). We released the book on the last day of November through CreateSpace.com, an online independent publishing platform owned by Amazon. They distribute nationally online. You can pay an extra $25 to distribute worldwide and this allows your book to be put into bookstores and libraries. The downfall is, unlike the big boy publishers who have a marketing team (once your book is released you get your own team for a year), you are your own marketer. It’s up to you to sell your books.
After seeing how easy it was to publish Lucius and the Christmas Star, I decided to self-publish the two children’s books that I had already finished. I was excited to see my friends and family jump at the opportunity to buy my books. And better yet when I received a phone call from a family who had purchased the books they shared how much they loved them—this made everything worth it.
Unfortunately I have received some negative feedback. Not from the books, but from how I went about publishing them. It is sad to say that there are still some that share a negative perspective on self-published authors. I thought that will all the success of some independent authors this stigma would have gone away. I hope that in time it can change and readers can embrace all aspects of writing whether printed by a large publisher or a one man operation. My goal is still to be a traditional published author; however, I feel in this day and age we should be able to be a type of highbred author who can share their art in both forums.
There have been many payoffs with self-publishing. The first that comes to mind is that its total control. I am slightly OCD and like to have everything a specific way (my way). Self-publishing allows you the freedom to make your book the way you want it to be, and not what some stranger wants it to be. That’s one incentive, there are more like the instant feeling of accomplishment, but this isn’t a post about the pros and cons of self-publishing, although I might have one soon. The downfall is not just the stigma of being a self-published author; there is also the upfront cost. For some it’s not a large amount of money, but for some having to put a bit of money toward something you may or may not get a return on it daunting. A traditional house does foot the bill, but that doesn’t guarantee sales either. I’ve have found that if I want my book to sell, then I have to sell it. I believe this is the case whether you call yourself traditionally published or not.
I hope this post has given you some insight on the self-publishing world and why I chose to be a part of it. I don’t believe that anyone should limit their art to just one way of distributing. The bottom line is it all comes down to what you want. I made this decision through lots of personal thought and prayer. I encourage you to do the same. I strongly agree with Tracy Hickman when he said, “A book doesn’t exist, until it is read.” I just want my books to be enjoyed. No one can see them when they are sitting in the prison of my computer.
And that’s my key on my path to publishing.