This week a mystery author asked me about my plans for publishing my forthcoming memoir, Stealing Home. My book is the story of a father and a son on a road trip to the perfect game. I choose to self-publish because midsize and larger publishers have a limited appetite for memoirs from writers without a big platform, established fiction readerships, or swelling social media accounts.
For me, the story and the writing is the thing. This time through on the self-publishing journey, I will truly publish. Not just produce a professional looking book like my Viral Times and drop it onto the online sales outlets. Publishing means selling, the end result of finding an audience for your book by letting them discover it through your efforts.
I’ve hired an editor, then revised and expanded the story based on Dan Crissman’s evaluation and close edits. I have a publicist to consult with about my push for the book. I manage my own mailing list and I’ll be submitting review requests to bloggers, to review sources like Midwest Book Review, and to my friends and supporters.
There is a lot to recommend when selling paper books. Indiebound is a good resource to get yourself into bookstores. A distributor (Ingram Spark) can make that happen. Nobody will sell but you — first to the bookstore owners, then to the readers you can gather via emails and signing.
Any company that sells the services to edit and produce your book isn’t really publishing, but simply producing the book. Professional or not, this doesn't drive sales. Getting it sold involves more work than that. Every author hates marketing — and without it, our books have a much shorter reach. Traditionally-published authors still operate their own publicity and marketing efforts to be most successful.
Ebooks may not be enough. Some review providers, for example, won’t review a book unless they can get paperback copies. That means your official release date has to be set months later than the actual availability of your ebook file and printed copies. You can do presales for months in advance on Amazon, for example.
The book advertising and discounting company BookBub shared a checklist from author Debbie Macomber about the steps needed to publish. Summarize with a synopsis (some reviewers need that). At the same time, a publisher must be scheduling for print production and create a cover to begin to draw interest in the book. Everyone must work up a set of author webpages as part of their website.
Reading and signing in Austin is on my own list. I’m considering a trip through the Midwest to the ballpark cities in the book, a tale of two weeks spent with my Little Leaguer in a convertible. I was driving to redeem my fatherhood after a divorce. I found a perfect game and the reasons why my own dad failed and ended his own life.
It’s useful to write such a summary over and over, because things like those descriptions, or podcasts, or video trailers, or appearances on radio and TV, all help people discover any published book. If this all makes the head spin, it’s a least a list of things to ask a prospective publisher about. The good ones can earn their keep and give you the 15 percent royalty.
Getting an advance is the tough part. Publishing yourself doesn’t give you an advance. Your book can be discovered, though, once it’s professionally produced. Your readership doesn’t start to grow until someone commits to publication. Sometimes that best person is you.