My Journey to Novelist, part 3

Penguin, vanity or Indie?

Six weeks had gone by since I’d sent out my queries when the first of the ‘thank you, but no thanks’ responses began arriving. I was half-way through the first draft of ‘Kristin’s Ghost’, the sequel to my first book. I was still having a ball, writing and creating. Initially, each rejection letter really stung. How could these people not recognize the value and potential of doing business together? After a dozen or so, I was already getting numb to the polite, sterile, and terribly unhelpful ‘Thank you for your submission, but this is not what we’re looking for at this time…’ form letter that arrived, when a small ray of sunshine broke through the clouds hanging over my head.

An agent responded positively, to my submission. She’d liked the story, the characters and the concept, but my writing needed some editing. She even suggested a few editors, including one in nearby Tucson, and encouraged me to submit the whole manuscript after it was more polished. I was about to learn how important a good editor is to the process.

A few days after delivering my ‘baby’ to the editor in Tucson, I attended a writer’s conference in Las Vegas. The focus of this conference was ‘Independent Publishing’, a concept I knew little about. I heard several stories from published authors who had taken back control of their work from publishers. These were authors who’d gotten agents, who in-turn had sold their manuscript(s) to a publisher, a dream come true. Except, if your book doesn’t jump off the shelf, it gets quickly removed to make room for another that will, leaving your books to gather dust in a warehouse.

Authors are expected to market their own books. Wait, what? We do the writing, pay for outside editing, and then the marketing falls on our shoulders, too? All this for pennies a book? I was told there is a better way… Make dollars per book rather than pennies, by publishing yourself. Dollars are better than pennies, even I could see that. Of course, several sponsors of the event could help with the difficult parts of the process. The basic or Bronze packages usually offered cover and interior design, e-book available on Kindle and Apple, plus 5-10 free printed books. The Platinum, all-inclusive packages practically guaranteed your soon-to-be best-selling book would be competing side-by-side against James Patterson or Steven King. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these are the ‘vanity’ presses. They are tempting, but expensive. A basic package usually costs $1500-2000, while an all-inclusive package can cost $10,000 or more.

One of the presenters offered information about the true Independent Publishing experience. Handling the whole project of publishing yourself. Transforming your manuscript into multiple formats and sizes, hiring out the cover art, calculating spine width, creating the back-cover copy, purchasing ISBN numbers and setting prices. Then he spoke of cover reveals, book launches, author platforms and social media marketing. I didn’t have a website, had never been on Twitter or Pinterest and hadn’t checked my Facebook page in months. The whole idea sounded exhausting and well beyond my technical expertise.

I returned from the conference believing that I wanted control of my book, but needed help to get it published. I began seriously researching all the companies that promised to help, guide or handle the publishing process with or for you. There are many of them, some big, some small. All of them are slightly different, offering mostly the same things but packaging them distinctively. Reviews and price, were my main criteria as I narrowed the list of contenders to three. Then when a local author revealed her beautiful new book by one of these three I knew I was on the right track. I bought a copy.

Watch for part four, Critique me, please!

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