One Writer’s Journey

February 4, 2019

Self Publishing: Do You Have What It Takes

I suspect most of us have considered it – self publishing and selling our own work.  With dozens of articles ripe for reprinting, it would be very do-able for me to publish several volumes on horses and how-to books for writers.  I’ve got the material.  I’d just have to put together the actual books.  But would it be worth my while?

Last week, Sneed Collard III authored a guest post on Melissa Stewart’s blog, Celebrate Science.  In his post, Sneed confirmed many things I have long suspected about self-publishing.

To sell, you have to get a glowing review in a big name publication.  Sneed has noted that to sell well, a volume has to be reviewed.  And not just any review will do. It has to come from a big name journal. What does Sneed mean when he says big name? School Library JournalBooklist, or Publisher’s Weekly. Can you get these kinds of reviews?  If not, self-publishing may not be a money-maker for you. Me? My work has been reviewed but not in these journals.

Name recognition.  To get these kinds of reviews, you need name recognition.  Sneed has that at least when it comes to science and nature.  When he branches out and publishes fiction, the book doesn’t sell as well.   He’s self-published four novels.  Only two earned modest profits.  When Children’s Writer was a thriving newsletter, I had name recognition as a how-to writer.  But the newsletters been gone for a while now.

Invest in a team.  To earn money self-publishing, you have to be willing to spend money.  Many self-published books look self-published.  The designs are clunky and amateurish.  And that isn’t just Sneed’s opinion.  Hand me a stack of books and I can generally tell you which are published by traditional publishers and which are self-published.  Book design is tough! Sneed hires not only editors but also a book designer.  His self-published books come in a professional package.

So would self-publishing work for me?  Collard started self-publishing during a recession when book contracts were few and far between. As it is, I make a living writing.  I turn out a book.  I get a check.  If this was to change, it might become more appealing.  Until then, I’ll most likely keep my focus where it is, on educational nonfiction published through established publishers.


March 20, 2015

Self publishing: No right or wrong answer

Self publishingLast week, I read with interest that Cheryl Klein’s writing how-to, Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults, will be published by W.W. Norton.  What does this have to do with whether or not you should self-publish?  The book, which Klein self-published, is now in its fourth printing.

That’s right.  Klein, executive editor at Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, originally self published the book.  It made sense when she did it because she had already written the talks.  Believe me, if you’ve ever heard her speak, her talks are detailed and contained a wealth of very specific information.  Instead of taking notes, she asked us to listen and she would send us the text of her talks.  To create the book, she compiled these talks.  Given that she already had the talks and that she has ready access to a well-defined market, it made sense.

But now she wants to update and expand the book. There will be a lot of new content.  It will be more comprehensive.  Klein has a good idea what she wants to do, but this time around she sought out an editor and a publisher.  Why?

As she explains on her blog: “. . . I was (and am) at a different place in my life than I was when I put Second Sight together, and I could really use the support, structure, challenge, and deadlines provided by a traditional publisher.

What I wanted to emphasize is what this new approach by Klein made clear to me.  There is no right or wrong answer in the self-publishing vs traditional publishing debate.  It is all a matter of what you need/want.

Traditional publishing offers:  design and editing; an editor that you have to listen to at least to some extent; external deadlines; and a host of people who will add their ideas to the project.

Self-publishing offers:  speed; a greater level of control; and more of the profits.

The path that you choose will depend both on what you need and what you want, but also where you are on life’s journey.  The decisions that you make today may not be the ones you would make in five years, but that’s okay.  Klein is making it crystal clear — you don’t have to choose self publishing or traditional publishing.  You can make a career out of doing both.





April 8, 2014

The hybrid author: Combining Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing

HybridNot long ago, I was reading agent Jenny Bent’s blog and came across a new term, the Hybrid Author.  I don’t remember if it was her term or if she borrowed it from someone else, but I like it.  It describes an author who didn’t choose traditional publishing vs self or independent publishing.  A hybrid author chooses both.

And, truthfully, it makes sense.  Why should we have to choose one path or another?  Some books have a large audience and are something that a traditional publisher can easily get behind.  It makes sense to bring these out traditionally so that you have the marketing edge and editing and design talents of a major house at your back.

Other books appeal to a smaller niche or require greater flexibility in terms of marketing.  That’s when self or independent publishing makes the most sense.

At this point, all of my work is traditionally published but I can see the appeal of independent publishing.  I also see the pitfalls (having to get behind the editing, design and marketing).  I’m not ready to take this step yet but I also know better than to say never.

What about you?  Are you a traditionally published author?  An independently published author?  Or a hybrid?


March 7, 2013

What Is the Future of Publishing?

Some of my work is in print.

Some of my work is in print.

For this company, I write e-content.

For this company, I write e-content.

Ebooks and ebook readers are the wave of the future.  Stick with print and you’re going to go down.

It’s fact.  If you don’t believe me, I’m sure someone else, someone very authoritative and knowledgeable will tell you so.

In spite of this, sales of the Barnes and Noble Nook have dropped.  Because of this, they are going to quit pushing the Nook itself and push e-content instead.  You can read more about that here at the New York Times.

Not long after I saw that particular report, an author acquaintance, Arthur Slade, posted some interesting things about his own e-book sales.  You can read about that on his blog.  Arthur is happy overall with his ebook sales, after all it is passive income.  These aren’t new books but books he had already written and for which he holds electronic rights.  But his sales per month have dropped from 249 units last July to a mere 53 in February.  Arthur surmises that this is a result of two factors:

  1. With more and more new titles being released in e-book format and more and more old titles coming back into “print” in e-book format, there is more e-book competition.
  2. The sales of e-readers have dropped.  The larger numbers of people who bought their readers at an earlier date gobbled up content enthusiastically.  They are buying less now.  The smaller numbers of people with new ereaders may also be gobbling up content but there are fewer people gobbling so fewer sales.

What does this mean for e-books as a whole?  I’m not sure.  Just something else to think about, but beware those who say that “everything” is going in one direction.  Their crystal balls seem to be a little cloudy.  Me?  I wouldn’t put all of my eggs in any one basket.


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