More than 40 people gathered on Dec. 4 at IndieGrove to hear writers describe their experiences with self-publishing as part of an event hosted by Jersey City Writers. The panel is part of a series of events to help inspire and support our growing community of scribes who seek to develop and hone their craft. It was timed shortly after National Novel Writing Month, as a number of our members considered next steps having completed a 50,000-word manuscript. Panelists Lana Rose Diaz, Patricia McFerren, and Laryssa Wirstiuk shared lessons learned, tips, and a number of resources, some of which are listed below.
As the moderator, I had the opportunity to ask the panelists in-depth questions about self-publishing including how much it costs, what the process is like, and whether or not it is a worthwhile endeavor. While self-publishing has grown in popularity in recent years, especially with the availability of free tools, it does require a significant investment of time and energy as the audience learned during the event. Despite the work required from book design to marketing, all of the panelists highly recommended self-publishing.
“The real work starts after publishing,” noted Wirstiuk, author of “The Prescribed Burn,” a collection of short stories. After pitching her work via traditional publishing channels, Wirstiuk chose to launch her own company. She ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and raised over $5,500 to print 1,000 copies of her book. She handled all aspects of publishing her book from cover design to printing to public relations. Wirstiuk advised writers to assess their strengths in determining what technical aspects they can effectively handle beyond the actual writing.
“Do your research,” said McFerren, author of the Lt. Guy LeBlanc mystery series, a collection of three self-published novels. She used Amazon’s free Kindle Direct Publishing service. McFerren dedicated time to meeting with law enforcement experts who advised her on technical details for her books. She also had a cohort of friends and fellow writers provide feedback on her writing.
Poet and writer Rose, who used Kindle and CreateSpace to self-publish, “Guerilla Poet Tree,” stressed the importance of producing quality work and making sure a manuscript is final. She advised the group to invest in an editor before publishing.
While McFerren and Rose noted that formatting could be frustrating or confusing on Kindle, both authors were pleased with the result and highly recommended using the service. Amazon offers a 70 percent royalty, which both authors lauded. Rose stressed that the service is free as long as authors use the basic package.
In addition to investing in an editor, the panel advised writers to dedicate time to marketing, networking, and developing a support system. The panel suggested promoting books through social media tools, traditional marketing channels, and attending writers’ conferences. They also advised reaching out to local, independent bookstores that often support up-and-coming writers.
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP): Publish and sell Ebooks in Kindle format through Amazon.
CreateSpace: An Amazon service to publish trade paperbacks via print-on-demand. The basic set-up costs are free. If you choose additional features, rates range accordingly.
Kickstarter: Web site to help fund independent, creative projects through individual solicitation.
Kickstarter campaign example: Laryssa Wirstiuk’s campaign for her collection of short stories.
Lulu: A self-publishing service.
Lightning Source: A print-on-demand service.
WordPress: Free blog-hosting site.
Hootsuite: Offers social media management tools to schedule tweets and Facebook posts among others.
Booktrope: Not a self-publishing site but rather a team-publishing platform. Manuscripts are vetted.
“Self Publishing Manual,” by Dan Poynter: A resource and how-to for writers thinking about self-publishing.
“How to Market a Book,” by Lori Culwell and Katherine Sears.
Funds for Writers by Hope Clark: A resource for grants, awards, contests, and fellowships for writers among other funding opportunities.
Local/area independent bookstores:
A writer and communications professional since 1998, Adriana Rambay Fernández has written about women and politics, environmental issues, international development, and art and literature. She has won awards for her work as a journalist covering local news, arts, and politics in Hudson County, New Jersey. In addition to teaching yoga as a certified Kripalu yoga teacher-RYT-200, she is currently at work on a collection of short stories.