ESSAY: Self-Publishing, Here I Come!
By Anne Centers
Mary Rose Shannon cuddled up with her pink stuffed poodle, her thick strawberry blonde hair spilling over her eyelet pillowcase. It had been a marvelous last day of school! Summer vacation stretched out ahead of her. She put a thumb in the book she was reading to save her place, sat up and looked in the mirror. Bright blue eyes, a freckled nose, and a dimpled chin stared back. As she continued to read her book, her eyelids grew heavier with each turned page. Mary Rose looked out the window to watch fireflies fashion a design with pinpoints of light. She thought she heard faint singing in the distance, but before she could focus, sleep overtook her…
First time authors often have a drawer-full of rejection slips — look at J.K. Rawlings. Even if a publishing house accepts the manuscript, it can be a year or two before it is in print. Since I’m now 65, so I’m well aware that I could drop dead tomorrow — and I felt it was important that my book be out in the world.
After spending a year and a half rewriting a children’s chapter book, I had made two inquiries of publishing companies that might be interested. Floris Books required that the setting take place in Scotland. (My story takes place in Asheville, North Carolina.) Steiner College was not taking on any new projects.
I took the quick and easy route of self-publishing through Amazon’s CreatSpace.
First, I needed to find an editor who could also format my book and upload it to CreateSpace. (One can pay Amazon to put a book together for you. I did not ask how much they charge.) Second, it had to be somebody willing to accept low monthly payments. I didn’t have to look far. I found Julie Savage Parker one story below me on the 9th floor of Battery Park Apartments in downtown Asheville. There are many educated and talented people who live in this subsidized Art Deco, red brick building from the 1920s.
Julie loved the book and set to work using “In Design” and “Photoshop” software. She took my material and made it more beautiful than I could imagine. She had self-published her own book, “The Vocabulary of Joy,” six months earlier so she knew the process. Aside from the title and dedication page, I had never heard of front matter and back matter. It took many rewrites for us both to be satisfied with “About the Author” and “About the Book.” The blurb came to me upon awakening one morning, which I wrote down in two minutes.
I sat next to Julie while we filled out the information online. Name, address, email, tax and banking information. Royalties are deposited into your account at the end of each month and CreateSpace collects tax on each book. So simple. The only cost is $99.00 to buy an ISBN number that is on the back of each book. Other questions include Categories — is the book fiction, fantasy, fairytale? What is the readers age, reading level? The price of the book?
Julie uploaded Mary Rose and the Enchanted Forest. It takes about 24 hours for them to process it to make sure that the title fits on the spine of the book and that it is formatted correctly. Beware! They do not proofread. After the file is processed, you are given a choice of a free copy of the book sent to you or a PDF to peruse. A couple days later the book arrived and with great anticipation, I opened it. The baby that I had put so much work into had Chapter Two before Chapter One. The rest of the book looked beautiful, but upon closer examination the page numbers were not correct in the Table of Contents… and there were three typos.
Since we needed to make changes and upload again, I swapped out some words for others. We also were not consistent in capitalizing Fairy Folk. (Does editing ever end?) I sat next to Julie reading off the page numbers and changes. Warning. For every correction there is a chance to make more errors!
The file was uploaded again, but it took 48 hours to process instead of the usual 24. We were in a hurry to place an order for the book launch, so I did not proofread. Never do that!
The process to self-publish had begun in mid-summer and my celebration was scheduled formid-October. Hold-ups included me outrunning Hurricane Irma, redrawing illustrations, and Julie’s health. Unfortunately, even expedited the books would not arrive in time for my big event. Who has a Book Launch without any books? I did. My daughter Amy ordered three on Prime so that people could see what they looked like. I had order forms, and displayed a copy of the page from Amazon.
After the launch, I read through the book and was horrified to find many mistakes, mostly small errors, two commas in a row, an extra space, lacking a space, an ‘n’ missing in the word ‘on.’ My name was on this shoddy work. That’s what I get for not proofreading!
Two days later, I flew to Idaho for my grandson Jace’s first birthday. My daughter Mereya, ex-husband Steve, and I read through the book making changes, correcting errors and sending them to my editor. Julie and I share the same birth date, August 18, only 3 years apart, yet our minds work very differently. We have trouble communicating by phone, text, or email — an exasperating experience for both of us.
Two weeks later, I flew home and sat at her computer careful to make the corrections. Once again the book was uploaded. The next evening I was proofreading the new PDF as I sat at the airport. (For me, it’s easier to find mistakes in print than online.) This time I flew to Florida to visit my granddaughters. The changes were texted to Julie, and again the book went up for processing … or so we thought. After three days of not receiving an email from CreateSpace I called and Julie had forgotten a final step so the book had been in limbo. When a book is processing, it is not for sale on Amazon; instead their website says that the book is sold out.
While in Florida, I arranged to be a vendor at an annual Children’s Faire in Chapel Hill a few days after I got home. Ugh. Once again, I would not get the books in time. It finally occurred to me to set the price as low as they would allow, considering their costs. My daughter Becky placed the order on Prime and 50 books arrived at my house two days later. As soon as the order had been confirmed I changed my price back. It can take up to 3 to 5 days for the price change to show on Amazon, but it only took about 15 hours for me. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. It is your book and you can do whatever you want with it. Amazon takes 30% of the profits. It costs $79.00 dollars to upload my book on kdp, which makes it available on Kindle.
Julie and I have placed many phone calls to CreatSpace from when the book was first uploaded. A representative calls back within a minute of typing your phone number into the contact box. An email can take a day or two. Each person I have spoken to has been helpful, courteous, and extremely patient. I have been impressed with everything about CreateSpace.
I am just beginning to promote my book. That’s another story. Although, it is easy to self-publish, (if you learned from my mistakes) it is like salmon going upstream to sell because a first-time author lacks credibility. After all, anyone can self-publish. I have gotten good reviews on Amazon, but I need peer reviews before libraries and bookstores will even consider my book.
Meanwhile, I’m writing the second one in the series and will continue to be a vendor at events to sell my book in person.
Anne Centers was formerly Managing Editor as well as a contributing writer and photographer at the Pagosa Daily Post. You can learn more about her book at her website, annecenters.com