Thursday, August 30, 2007

Panel Discussion: Self Publishing

Shani Greene-Dowdell, Anna Dennis, Alethea M Pascascio, Barbara Williams, Evelyn Palfrey, Rose Beavers, Dara Girard, Carmen Leal, Rhonda Jackson Joseph, Linda Beed


Rose said...

Hi Everybody:
I'm Rose Jackson-Beavers of Prioritybooks Pulications in St. Louis, MO. I am happy to participate in this panel discussion. I get a lot of questions about Self Publishing. These are the reasons that I decided to go this way.

Why Self Publishing?

1. To learn about the publishing industry: As a self published author you are forced to learn about the business if you want to sell your books. You must understand the literary industry, what sells, how to market your books and so much more. Personally I think self published authors are hungry. They don’t have big publishing companies behind them to distribute, so the self published author has to create a demand for their book. They are hungry because they’ve spent their money to print and create the book and now they just want them out of the basement and out of their garages. They hustle. This is not to say that authors with mainstream publishers will not hustle to market and sell, because they will. But when self published authors put all their money into books, the desire to get them to readers and out your door becomes even stronger. Once you go through this experience you know enough about the industry to survive. Knowledge is power.

2. To get your book into your readers’ hands quickly: You can publish your book fast and see it in print in weeks. Large publishing houses work on 18 month cycles and for most of us that is way too long.

3. Make more money: If you write a good book, create a demand and have an interesting topic that fills some kind of void or need, you will make more money than you would with a standard contract. Most authors receive up to 15 percent in royalty but as a self published author you can make up to 80 percent of your book purchase price. Plus if you are successful you can negotiate a deal with a traditional publisher.

4. Control: You can control every aspect of your book, from the cover to the release date. This is good for those authors who need to control every facets of their book.

Rudelle Thomas said...

Now that I've self-published, how do I get my book out there? What marketing techniques work best for self-published authors?

Barbara Joe Speaks said...

Good morning,

My name is Barbara Joe-Williams from Tallahassee, Florida. I started Amani Publishing in 2004 and since that time, I've published five books for myself and ten titles for other upcoming authors. I would like to address the marketing question because that's a very important part of the publishing process, especially for self-published authors. I've developed a list of over thirty "low cost and no cost" marketing strategies. But for this workshop, I'll post the top five: 1) Word of mouth; 2) Sending e-mail blasts; 3) Developing a website; 4) Using printed materials; and 5)Sending press releases. Please contact me if you'd like more details.

F. D. Davis said...

I recently did an interview for AMAG with the Literary Divas. The article hasn't ran yet but you'll see it soon. Anyway talking to those five women was a real education. They are smart and savvy business women. They have a fantastic marketing plan and are executing it to the max. Renee Fleger is the brain child for their tour. I am totally here for more information.


The Paperback Diva said...

Hi, folks. I've been looking forward to this discussion. However it took me awhile to find it because the link is missing on the opening blog page. I hope more folks will arrive so I can learn a lot today.


F. D. Davis said...

Andrea, I am so glad you posted because I thought it was me. I have been trying and trying. LaShaunda.....where are you? LOL.


Anonymous said...

Good morning. Very grateful to all on this panel.

This post is for all on the panel and is rather lengthy so I ask that you all stay with me.

While strategizing how I would promote my book, I did quite a bit of research in terms of the best avenues to walk for marketing.

Looking at getting my book into the big boys was at the top of my list, until...

As I went out into the stores, the first thing I noticed was the rounder witht the release of the month, i.e., Creighton, Morrison, etc.

Next to these are the 'trends of the season' -- The Secret, fad diet and so on. Running a close second were rows and rows of clearance books.

With the exception of the technical and how-to section, few books on the shelves were in multiples.

Next I pulled out my list of top AA authors. Of the ten, only two could be found. One was current the other was a book written several years earlier. One that had just won an award was not even listed as available in their system.

Consistently I was told the book could be ordered. What was the point? I could have saved my gas and time and just ordered off the Internet.

An article came out this week showing the fiscal loss of Borders in terms of their physical stores. A previously published article spoke to the fact that a majority of books sold, are sold online.

Through distributorship it is suggested that the author opt for the 55/45 split in order to guarantee their books being ordered. That was obsurd to me, especially after what I had found. When seeking placement at independent stores, the 60/40 split was graciously accepted. Some even gave me a 70/30 split.

I spoke with a well-known author who was in town the other day. She told me how she sent a scout to see if her books were in the store she would be signing at. They were not, but did arrive in abundance the day of the signing. I went there yesterday to see if any remained -- they were all gone. And I don't mean because they sold out at the signing. As soon as the author left the book store returned the books to the publisher.

I said all that to say this, should independent authors reconsider seeking the 'big stores' as resting places for their projects enlight of the fact that few of our books are physically on the shelves and they require a lions share of the profit to provide virtually no service to you?


Anonymous said...

"should independent authors reconsider seeking the 'big stores' as resting places for their projects enlight of the fact that few of our books are physically on the shelves and they require a lions share of the profit to provide virtually no service to you?"

Linda, great question. I'm not self-published anymore but even with a publisher an AA writer is concerned about there books being accessible to readers in the stores. Borders and Wal-Mart have been real good about making sure a lot of our books are on the shelves; but some of the other stores from what I've seen, it's been a hit or miss; some will carry the book while others won't. If customers request it, they order it.

I say all of that to say, still go after getting your books in to the chain stores, but also seek the independent book stores and make your books available online.

Anonymous said...

To the Panel:

What was the initial (estimated) cost of getting your book self-published?

What were your primary reasons for going the self published route instead of the traditional route?

Does a self-published author seek a professional editor before publishing their books? The reason I ask because that tend to be the one main criticism I hear from traditional published authors and some readers?

Is there a written guideline for someone who's seeking to self published their written words?

... and one final question, after self publishing your book, how do you gain the attention of a big publishing company to reprint your book?

rhondajjoseph said...

Good morning!

My name is Rhonda Jackson Joseph and I self published my debut contemporary romance novel "Call It What You Want". While I admit I am still learning something new every other day about the self publishing biz, I am more than willing to answer any questions I can.

I couldn't possibly have done a better job as Rose did in her post when she summarized the "why" question. I will add that if it's something you might have considered, please keep these two things in mind:

1. If you go this route you definitely have to hump to make it work. To piggyback Rose's term, you have to be "hungry" to achieve your goals.
2. Please, please, PLEASE designate a portion (no matter how high the fee might be) to having your book edited by a professional. This professional might be a trusted critque partner, someone you know is really good at picking up errors in writing, or a freelance editor. I say this because self publishing has been given such a bad rep, and I think that is partly due to the error ridden products so many self pubbed writers release. No matter how good you are at self editing, a second set of eyes can't hurt.

Anonymous said...

On the self-published guidelines, I just checked out, thanks for the info.

rhondajjoseph said...

Hi, Linda,

To address your question on the big boy bookstore chains, I personally haven't even listed them on my radar (with the exception of

The reason I decided to place my focus on the smaller, independent bookstores is simply because I love them. I always shop in small bookstores when I don't purchase my books online or at book fairs, and I think they are much more personal than the large chains. One independent I called immediately set up a book signing for me after having read the book and agreeing to stock it--and they sold 11 at the signing. I was impressed with their determination to make sure the signing was a success.

I have had such a good time fellowshipping with these delightful business owners, because they are kindred spirits--they sell books because they love books, just as I do.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about the cost too. I have a manuscripte completed but I'm thinking of the time period of getting my book out on the market with a big publisher vs self published. My income is limited but I would like my work out asap. Out of pocket, how much I should be expected to spend if I'm looking to just get my book out on the market and then print on demand?

Anonymous said...

Good morning everyone! Thank you to those on the panel and those interested in the subject matter of this panel. I am Anna Dennis, self-published author of WHO WILL HEAR MY SCREAMS and THE PUREST OF PAIN.

My third piece of work, which is a compilation project entitled ON THE LINE will be out in January 2008. I got a break when I was invited my romance legend, Donna Hill to participate along with 17 other authors.

I think you will hear as many different stories about self-publishing as you will about those who have been published through traditional means. However, my motto is: Develop a thick skin for either path you take because rejection, criticism and hard work are a large portion of both.


Anonymous said... had some really good questions that I would like to address.

For my first publication, my husband and I negotiated a deal with the printer at $0.98 per book for a printing of 5000 copies. This was great because we knew that we would make our money back with the selling of a mere 600 books. We sold them all and did a reprint.

My motivation for self-publishing was rejection...plain and simple. I had received a number of rejection letters from publishers and agent. I believed in my work enough to take a chance on myself despite what anybody had to say (thus the thick skin) and it paid off!

A self-published author should always seek a professional editor. Someone subjective because mama and cousin RayRay will always be jaded :-)

There are many resources at books stores about self-publishing. I used Dan Poynters Guide to Self-publishing which provides step-by-step directions. There are also a lot of resources on the web and various author sites. You can Google "self-publishing" and a plethora of sites will come up.

I believe the best way to garner the attention of a large publisher is to hustle as Rose mentioned earlier. If you have stats, locations, reprints, etc. publishers are inclined to want to take a look. However, there is still no guarantee that you will get a publishing deal, so be prepared for that. But, I believe this definitely moves you to the top of the "slush" pile.


LaShaunda said...

Good morning everyone.

Welcome panel. Yes you're in the right room. I tell you M&M with you conference people all night has worn me out. I forgot to post the link.

I see a few of you found the room.

If there's no link, you can always scroll down and find the room, or look on the left side there will be a link with the title of the room.

Abigail McKenley said...

Good afternoon,

I've been thinking of self-publishing. If I decide to go that route, will editors and agents not want to buy my next book?

LaShaunda said...

I had the pleasure of being a contributor to an anthology, How I Met My Sweetheart. Published by Amani Publishing – Barbara Joe-Williams’s publishing company.

It taught me a lot that I’d like to share.

1. If you’re going to self publish be prepared to work.

The book came out at the same time I’d had a baby and I had no extra energy to do what I’d planned on doing. Make sure you have the time to market your books or you won’t sell a thing.

2. You have to promote your book; don’t expect someone else to do it for you.

Barbara had a lot of exciting things to do for the book and I was surprised by how many of the contributors didn’t want to participate. Your book won’t sell if know one knows about it.

3. If you don’t get your book in the big stores, make sure you can get into

Most people shop online, they don’t care for buying a book from you. They want to make sure the sales are legit and their not just sending money to some rip off artist. If you can’t get a secure shopping cart on your site, then make sure you have a few books through Again you want to sell the books not keep them in your garage.

4. Your friends and family want free copies.
This is fine if you don’t want to sell books. However you have to let them know that their friends can’t get copies too. Somebody has to pay for the book.

5. There is nothing like seeing your name on the book.
I for one can’t wait to see my name on the cover. Showing my children my story in the book was priceless. They were too proud of their mommy.

Sylvia Hubbard said...

Would anyone know where to find step by step instructions on placing your items on Amazon yourself.

Someone has done it for me always, but being an independent and always loving control, could someone send me instructions. I have the general idea.

Sylvia Hubbard said...

"4. Your friends and family want free copies"

LOL, Shaunda, you're so right about that one. and they think just because you're independent you're just rolling in the dough like Oprah.

Most times they and other just getting in authors don't realize that your publishing business will work just like the real business world and no real profit is expectted until after four to five years. Most times you're rolling that "dough" right back into the business to help it grow even if you are selling out of product all the time.


Sylvia Hubbard said...

okay this is my last pop in

final draft wrote:Is there a written guideline for someone who's seeking to self published their written words?

I know it's to the panel but I thought I'd also add although I know the panel might have already responded to this.

THE WRITTEN GUIDELINES FOR SELF-PUBLISHING can be found in Dan Poynter's novel The Self Publishing Manual

Shani Greene-Dowdell, Author, Playwright said...


***I've been thinking of self-publishing. If I decide to go that route, will editors and agents not want to buy my next book?***

To the contrary. If you start out self publishing and do well by making a name for yourself then editors and agents will want to work with you.

The most important thing is to make sure you put out an exceptional product the first time and try your best to make it a success.

Barbara Joe Speaks said...

Hello from Barbara Joe-Williams,

I'm pleased to participate in the workshop and excited to see so much interest in self-publishing. First of all, I decided to publish myself because after many rejection letters and doing some research, I found that some of my favorite authors had started out self-published and went on to secure contracts with major publishers. So after examining all of my options, I decided to step out on faith and do it myself. After all, I wrote the book myself so why not publish it myself. I spent approximately $5,000 to publish my first book which included computer equipment, software, editing, book cover, business licenses, office supplies, and 400 paperback books. I sold those books in four months and ordered another 400 books. Since then, I've moved on to a POD printer so I order books as I need them. And as far as editing, I strongly recommend that you make the invest in finding a professional editor that specializes in the genre in which you write. Believe me, if you can't afford an editor, then you can't afford to be a publisher because it will come back to haunt you later on. And as for the the major bookstores, I think that you should still make sure that your book is available to them even if you're only making $1.00 a book because if you sell a million books somehow, you'll have a million dollars. Now for the independent and black-owned bookstores, I have to say that I haven't had much luck with them paying for books after they've been received and sold, but that's a whole book in itself. Anyway, I enjoy being a self-published author because it allows me the freedom to do what I love and help others to reach their goals. And although I'm not getting reach, I'm making money which is my second favorite thing.

Shani Greene-Dowdell, Author, Playwright said...


Q: Now that I've self-published, how do I get my book out there? What marketing techniques work best for self-published authors?

A: I am still in the learning process of self publishing, but here are some things that are helping me get established as a well-known writer.

1) Get with a good distributor, so that your product can be available to stores throughout the country.
2) Network through online message boards, etc. Share samples of your work and get your name out there!
2) Find local literary, poetry, and/or writing groups and become an active part of them.
4) Set up book signings. Start locally because that is where you will get the most support and work your way outward.

Barbara Joe Speaks said...


Amazon has several associates program to get your book listed with them. Check out their homepage, stroll to the bottom, and look for the associates program. And if you're using a POD printer like Lightning Source, your book will automatically be listed with Amazon and many other online bookstores. Or if you're using a distributor, they should be able to get you a free listing with Amazon, too. Please let me know how it works out...

LaShaunda said...

I found that SORMAG’s biggest supporters are self published authors. They’ve set aside a budget to promote and they have no problem paying for promotion space.

I don’t charge a lot for promotion, but I find that the authors who are published with the big companies want free advertisement and have a problem paying for promotion. Where as a self published author, knows the importance of getting their name out there and they are willing to pay for promotion.

I make it my business to promote new writers, I know how hard it is to get your name out there, so I’m willing to promote self published authors. I usually go out and beyond what they pay for, because I know this is a hard business and it takes time to make a name for yourself.

So my advice is to make sure to have a promotion budget. Hit the online venues they are more welcoming to the self published author.

Barbara Joe Speaks said...

I have to say one more thing regarding the family wanting "free" books and how to handle them. I tell my family that I don't give away freebies unless it's a special occasion where I want to give someone a copy. But I do give a family "discount" and most of the time, they're happy to hear that. I went on vacation this summer just visiting family in several differenct states with a suitcase of books and I sold out. I didn't make the full price that I would have selling at another venue, but it was more than I would have made selling at any bookstore. So just smile when a family member asks for a free book and offer them a "special" because they're special...

Donna D said...

My question is, is it wiser/cheaper to go with a POD printer vs. doing it yourself (e.g. hiring a printer, etc.)?

Shelia said...

If you can outright self-publish...meaning the printer delivers them directly to you and you work with the distributors and stores; than do so.

If you're on a strict budget, I would suggest Lightning Source because their books are distributed by Ingrams (which means the stores can order them) and also they post on Amazon/Barnes & Noble...etc. You won't have to spend as much "upfront" money as you would if you were to go directly to a printer.

Shelia said...

Here are a few books that I highly recommend:
The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poytner, and How to Self-Publish & Market Your Own Book by Mark E. Smith and Sara Freeman Smith

Anonymous said...

My name is Carmen Leal and I am the author of nine books, three of them self-published. I'm sorry to be jumping in so late but I live in Hawaii and I just sat down for my day at the computer.

I'll post my journey here and then leave some specific posts later.

I self-published my first book because it was written about a rare disease and I knew no publisher would want to take it. I never submitted it so maybe I was wrong, but I am not unhappy I self-published.

Faces of Huntington's was truly one of those God books. A professional editor asked if she could edit it as a way to support me. A professional artist friend did the cover and another friend, I didn't meet him until after the book came out, loaned me the money to pay for the books.

I used a company called Essence Publishing in Canada. At the time to dollar conversion made them very affordable. I paid a little over $3.00 per book back then (1998) but the cost has actually gone down since then. One of the great things about self-publishing is that I got to keep all the profit. So when I sold a book for $15.95 I kept over $12.00 a book. With my royalty books I get maybe $1.00 per book so that's a huge difference.

I ordered 6,000 books which I never recommend no matter how much your mom or cousin loves your book. I was already a professional speaker and well known in Huntington's disease circles and even then it was hard work. I am hoping to reprint the book because I still get orders each week and can't fill the orders.

My next book was another non-fiction book, sort of a Chicken Soup sort of book, called Pinches of Salt, Prisms of Light. I co-authored this with a friend from church and we severely underestimated how many we should have printed. We did 2,500 I think and they were gone in about 3 months. Again, we attended a church of 12,000 and between our friends and family and church people the book sold well.

My last self-published book was Portraits of Huntington's and was aimed at buyers of my first book along with new families. Because I cut back on my speaking at Huntington's disease conferences I didn't sell as many as quickly. But I certainly paid for the book and the book is still selling.

I have written two books for writers, and You Can Market Your Book. The first book talks a little about self-publishing and the second one is all about marketing.

I have also written 4 gift books. I have easily made more money on my self-published books than I have made on all my other 6 books combined, royalties included.

Carmen Leal

Anonymous said...

I’m impressed! The stories the panelists have shared are truly inspirational and encouraging. I hope that everyone will become an advocate for their dreams as you ladies have. I don’t have much to add to the fantastic information the other panelists have offered, however, I’ll do my best. My name is Dara Girard and I came into self-publishing after being traditionally published because I was lured by the idea of freedom and creative control that self-publishing offered.

I treat it like a separate business from my writing career (I still work with a traditional publisher) so I have a distributor (with an aggressive sales force) cover designer, interior designer, editor, copyeditor, and publicist. As a single self publisher (you only want to publish one book and you have limited funds) of course you don’t have to have all these people on board. I just like to use other people’s strengths. My latest release is The Writer Behind the Words: Steps to Success in the Writing Life, a book for writers that I hope will offer encouragement from the obstacles that might hit.

I've done both POD (print on demand) and off-set printing. If money is really an issue, POD is probably the better way to go just to try out the title and your audience. Both POD and off-set have their pros and cons that one would have to look into so they can decide which method would work best for them. And as others have stated, put money in your budget for MARKETING. A lot of self-publishers spend so much time creating the book they forget that step.

As stated before, the best thing about self-publishing is getting a chance to understand how the industry works. Many authors don't get to see how things happen behind the scenes (why a book is dropped; why one title is promoted more than another; why certain covers or titles are chosen).

Of course, self-publishing isn’t for everyone. You really have to like business and the prospect of wearing a lot of hats. If you’re having trouble getting published by the ‘big boys’ don’t forget that there are a lot of smaller presses that are looking for manuscripts too.

Some people say self-publishing can damage a writing career others disagree. I've heard from editors and agents that they want to see a book 'sell' not just 'printed' before they'll take any interest in it. So as others have said, 'market your baby.' Make it a product that will gain attention. Perhaps you’ll sell so many copies you won’t need them anyway. I wish everyone much luck!

Barbara Joe Speaks said...

My first novel titled, Forgive Us This Day, was self-published using a traditional printer and working with Baker & Taylor Book Distributors. After that, I found out about Lightning Source and it has been a lot easier. Although the copies cost a little more, I feel like I'm getting more because they handle the distribution and placing the books with the online bookstores. And I don't have to order 1,000 books at a time to get a decent price per book. But if you want to use a traditional printer and find a distributor, be prepared to work and I mean really work it...

The Paperback Diva said...

I'd like to ask the panel to address a point that I haven't seen come up yet. With traditionally published books, I think most of us expect an advance payment as well as royalties. Do you think self-publishing is worth giving up the advance? Is there a dollar amount that would make a difference to you?

Anonymous said...

Self-publishing is not for everyone. For me it depends upon the project. Other have mentioned this, but it is essential to treat this as a business. I write a book proposal for every book project and, yes, I have rejected myself. A book proposal helps me see whether or not the book is viable and worth my time and money.

Here are some self-Publishing tips designed to help you have the best success possible.

a. Study the competition. b. Write what others want to read.
c. Recognize voids in the market. d. Get professional editing
e. Have a memorable, easy title f. Have a fabulous cover.
g. Give attention to the inside pages.
h. Always go for quality
i. Distribution - always have a plan!
j. 20% writing, 80% marketing

These questions are some you might want to consider before self-publishing.

a. What is my motivation and purpose for publishing my book?
b. Is my book written for a specific market niche or group of people?
c. Do I have a way to sell books direct?
d. Who will buy this book?
e. Is it my intention to make money on this book, or to simply get my work out?
f. Have I thought marketing from the very beginning?
g. Am I willing to publicize and promote?

Carmen Leal

Anonymous said...

What would you say is a great source of promotion?

Anonymous said...

Paperback Diva asked a fabulous question and one I am dealing with right now.

"Do you think self-publishing is worth giving up the advance? Is there a dollar amount that would make a difference to you?"

For me it depends on the project. Because I was so well known in Huntington's circles I knew I could sell books. I made about $50,000 on my first book after expenses. It was non-fiction and I was speaking extensively. It was not unusual for me to sell 600 – 800 books after a one-day conference. Most people don't have that experience.

My first advance was $1,000 and the printer did zero to promote the book. I maybe earned another $2,000 total. What did I gain from that book? I can say I am published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Random House. That is a huge thing. That book also opened doors to teach at writer's conferences around the country. So while I didn't make any money I am glad I did the book.

My gift book series is stunningly gorgeous. There is no way I could have afforded to do hard cover four-color books. Yet the publisher has done so little to get these books out. In four books my advance totaled $24,000 and I have yet to earn a penny or royalty. I get maybe $1.00 per book. I should finally, after 3 years, get a royalty check on two of the books.

I am launching a new conference for caregivers. This is a nationwide conference with an anticipated attendance of, conservatively, 500 people each. I'd say realistically we'll be hitting 1,000 minimum in 2009 and probably 4 to 6 conferences. If I become the publisher for the new book I can sell the conference the book for $10.00 each and bump the conference price up by $10.00 and give everyone a book with his or her registration. On 1,000 people that's a cool $10,000 per conference. That's cash money today, not $1.00 per book down the road. What do I give up by doing that?

Well, if I can come in with those kinds of numbers I can get a major publisher and name does matter. I can also get a promotional budget as one of their higher profile authors. I can get on major TV and radio outlets usually denied a self-publisher. I can get my books in stores. I have sold a lot of books but very few in stores. Even if I do 6 conferences a year with 1,000 people each that's only 6,000 caregivers. There are 46 million caregivers nationwide and I want to reach every one of them. Bookstores and media have a much larger reach than an individual author does.

So, what would it take for me to go with a royalty publisher?

#1. It would have to be a top-level publisher. W, Thomas Nelson, etc.
#2. I would want a minimum of whatever it would have cost me to print 10,000 books plus enough to round out that figure to $25,000.
#3 I would want a generous author discount (70 – 80%) so I could afford to buy my books for the conferences.
#4. I'd need a promotional plan in writing with a top-notch publicist of my choosing.

If I can get that kind of deal then it's worth it to me to go with a royalty publisher. They have a machine in place to make someone a celebrity which means books sales in the hundreds of thousands and more.

Carmen Leal

Anonymous said...

D.L.Sparks said...

What would you say is a great source of promotion?

It absolutely depends on the type of book, your budget, and your goals. The best bang for my book has been a solid web presence. I have had one or more Web sites since 1997 and each one of them has sold more books than all my bookstore sales combined.

Spending time in online groups of individuals who should read my book has helped, too. The next best thing for me has been speaking at conferences around the country.

I have a book you might want to read called You Can Market Your Book. The publisher initially proposed this as a book for self-published authors. I explained that royalty publishers do precious little for their authors and so we should expand it to any authors. There are tons and tons of ideas on how to market your book. There are also concepts to learn. It was a Writer's Digest Book of the Month alternate.

Carmen Leal

LaShaunda said...


Thank you so much for breaking the process down. It really opened my eyes.

I highly recommend Carmen’s book - You Can Market Your Book

Rudelle Thomas said...

Thank you all for the great information. It's all been helpful. I know it will be a lot of work, but I'm willing to do it and your suggestions will definately be put to use.



Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure in meeting Sara Freeman Smith and rec'd an autograph copy of her book, she hosted a writer's workshop in Katy several years ago. I read it and found it to be very resourceful. I highly recommend it for aspiring self-published authors.

Anonymous said...

As a self published author do you start your own publishing company and eventually publish books for other unsung writers?

Anonymous said...

I would just like to add that if you are interested in it! Despite whether you are picked up by a major publishing house or not, the business experience you get is unparallel. Because you wear so many hats, marketing & sales rep, accountant, writer, editor, promotor, distributor, etc., you obtain this vast business accumen that most of us would not normally encounter.

It also transcends itself into other opportunities like speaking engagements, radio, TV to name a few.

Bottom line...with anything dues must be paid. With self-publishing you pay them somewhat on your own terms. If you are fortunate enough to send out only a few synopsis and get picked up by a major publishers, if you can't hustle and make the book sell then your literary career will go no further than your next book...contract or not.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to add that not everyone who self-publishes will actually make much or even any money. Non-fiction is by far easier to sell than fiction. Most people buy their novels in a bookstore or check them out of the library. It's hard to get fiction into bookstores if you are a self-published author. Having a major distributor makes it easier, but it’s still not easy.

I know many have successfully self-published novels but I personally don't want to spend that much time and effort only to sell a few hundred. I don't see me ever self-publishing fiction though I do see myself writing a novel.

Some people choose to self-publish to test the waters, to see if people will buy it. POD is great for that. Or maybe they want to leave a legacy and they only want a small number of books. POD is great for that. The price per book is typically significantly higher on POD books.

At this stage of my life I will only self publish if I can make a much greater amount of money than if I went with a publisher.

But I will always hire a professional editor, have an amazing cover, and make my book indistinguishable from any royalty book.

Barbara Joe Speaks said...

As a self published author do you start your own publishing company and eventually publish books for other unsung writers?

Yes, that's exactly what I have done, and I'm loving it. After spending three years publishing and promoting my own books, I decided to help other aspiring authors get their name out there,too. And it has been a blessing to me and to them. So far, I've published ten titles for other authors since 2006. Please check out my website at: for a complete listing. I've also been doing workshops across the country on writing, self-publishing, and marketing. It a wonderful way to network and meet aspiring authors seeking a publisher.

Barbara Joe Speaks said...

I would like to add one other thing in regards to marketing from personal experience. A lot of authors (me included) put out a book and then hit the road promoting it. Well, consider building a local market and readership before you hit the road promoting your first book. Try to saturate the local market and become a household name by signing at the libraries, bookstores, colleges, universities, etc. Then when you start traveling, you'll have statistics and data regarding your book sales. And you'll have some idea of what will work as far as publicity and what will not...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Barbara. What a grea t thing you are doing to help other authors.

Are most of your authors doing fiction or non-fiction? How successful are they in terms of number of books sold?

Do you facilitate and train or do you also do editing and cover design and such?

Carmen Leal

Anonymous said...

Barbara, what you said is so wise about starting locally and then branching out. It's so much easier to get into a bookstore or a library as a local author. With my first book I went where there were Huntington's disease conferences. No one else really cared all that much about my book. Even my mother!

On the second book we did exactly as Barbara suggests and, as a result, we never got out of our market because we ended up selling all of our books.

What that did for both of us was to get numbers to give to publishers when went to the Christian Booksellers Show. Both my co-author and I got contracts at that show based in large part on our professional approach to self-publishing. Our book was well written, well produced, and was selling. When we talked to publishers and showed them our postcards, the book, and numbers we each got a contract.

Local first is absolutely the way to go.


Anonymous said...

A Comment on Using A POD

There a many asking what the cost of using a POD (Print On Demand) service may be.

The cost can vary depending on the services provided, books printed, etc.

You can eliminate being overcharged for services if you do your homework first. I researched and asked many questions before I made what I believed was the best decision for me.

The cost of doing business to some may be expensive, but is worth the investment in the long run. I know of people who, rather than receiving personal items for birthdays, asked for cash as an investment into their business. Others sold crafts, etc. to generate the funds they needed to publish.

Because I knew I would publish, I immediately copyrighted the book, purchased my ISBN numbers and attained my LCCN number. These are things that the POD companies will offer to do for you, but IT WILL COST YOU. And no matter what others say -- whoever owns the ISBN owns the rights to the book. BUY YOUR OWN.

Once my story was in the best draft form I could get it in, I invested in a professional editor. Selecting an editor is a very serious task. They have to know what you’re about, what you’re trying to achieve through you writing and then get you to understand the mechanics of what works and what doesn’t. While they were working on the MS I shopped for a graphic artist. I knew what I wanted, but did not realize that what I wanted would not draw the attention to my book it deserved. The person I selected took the time to interview me and my story before coming up with what I know is the perfect cover and interior design.

I chose Lightning Source (this is not an endorsement) as my printer for several reasons. 1) Through them I had automatic distribution through Ingram and Baker & Taylor. Online my book would be on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and; 2) I had the option of the size of my book. I chose the 6x9 format in order to minimize pages and costs; 3) Uploading the files was very simple (once I got the hang of it) 4) I had the option of setting my own vendor split. I chose the 60/40 because it is standard and I don’t believe others should benefit more from my work that I do.

The number of pages and the type of cover you have (most are 4-color) determines the cost of printing your book. CHOOSE THE OFF WHITE NOT WHITE PAPER FOR THE INTERIOR OF YOUR BOOK.

I worked hard to keep that cost under $5.00. At the 60/40, if your book cost $15.00 retail and the discount to the vendor is $6.00 this leaves you with $9.00. Deduct from that the cost of printing, say, $4.00, what comes to you from the sale is $5.00. It doesn’t sound like much until you ask a traditionally published author how much they are making. Don’t get too happy because the $5.00 must be used wisely. Like any business an immediate profit is rarely reality.

But here is where it gets good. There is no dollar reinvestment necessary for online sales. The book is printed, delivered, print cost deducted and the remainder comes to you.

What you will want to do is have a set aside for books on hand. I did pre-orders and strong-armed relatives. Be sure to make it clear to family that their books will be doled out with the second, NOT the first shipment. I’ll explain why below. The result was a tidy sum that I used to buy more books.

So, say your book costs $4.00 to print, you order 100, it costs you $400.00 plus shipping. This may not seem like a lot, but if you're pressed for space in your home this can work well for you.

SHIPPING – order books like you order a wedding dress – to be delivered at least one month in advance of need. In doing so you are assured to have adequate inventoryon hand and you save on shipping costs. I have the books sent basic mail. Turn around from placing order to receipt of shipment is between ten to fourteen days.

With the books, make sure you fill your pre-orders in a timely manner (lesson learned). Your family will have a lapse in memory, but remind them their books are coming in the second order (except for your husband and parents). With the remaining books, you need to sell them in order to enhance your general fund. Books for mailing should have a shipping fee attached to cost of book.

Make sure you have a spread sheet so that you stay on track. One book sold at $15.00 (plus tax in the lovely state of Washington, I deduct tithes/offer, sales tax and cost of reprinting the book:

$15.00 -$3.00 T/O -$1.35 Tax - $4.00 Reprint = $6.65 in hand.

The $6.65 looks like profit. It can be, but I suggest it go back into the general fund to help with miscellaneous needs such as postage and advertisement.

I hope this is helpful to you.


Shelia said...

Carmen, I'll add your book to my list of suggested books when I teach my self publishing course.

Anonymous said...


As it has been mentioned several times today, you will need to hustle. Take heart in the fact that what was once the norm is no longer a limitation for the savvy businessman/woman.

Your book should be like American Express -- You never leave home without it. I act like the next event is wherever I park my car. In the trunk is a traveling book signing waiting to happen. In my carry bag I always have no less than three books and promotional items.

It is said that success is preparedness meeting opportunity. When I’m at an appointment, dining solo etc., I pull out the book and act like I’m reading it for the first time. You will be surprised at how many people will ask about the book. One woman asked why I was reading my own book. My response was, ‘If I wouldn’t read it, why would I ask you to buy a copy?” She bought three.

Creativity is your key to opening wallets. I have hosted book parties, connected with beauty salons, shoe salons, church, social and business groups.

Online groups such as Shades of Romance are great supporters of the independent author. Look into advertising with them. Cross promote on one another's websites via contests.

I have several friends that I have exchanged books with. I promote their books along side mine at events then send the money to them.

Keeping an adequate inventory is crucial. When your inventory is at 50%, reorder. Remember, you have the set aside so you don't have to scramble for the money. Also keep tabs on engagements that may require a large cache of books. If you have the books on hand, still reorder.

These are some of my suggestions. I’m sure there are some very creative ideas you all could share with the attendees.


Barbara Joe Speaks said...

Are most of your authors doing fiction or non-fiction?
Most of Amani Publishing authors are doing non-fiction books. One author did poetry, one did a devotional, one did children, one did a memoir, and several did Christian books. So I like that they're all doing different things because it keeps it interesting for me. I'm working with one author right now on a novel, and one author is working on a positive book dedicated to the AA youth market.

How successful are they in terms of number of books sold? All of the authors are succeeding in reaching their goals regarding the number of books they want to sell. And they're all seeing profits from their work.

Do you facilitate and train or do you also do editing and cover design and such?
I do many local workshops throughout the year regarding writing, self-publishing, and marketing. And most of my publishing contracts have come from these seminars. I offer consulting services for authors wising to self-publish but most of them have opted to sign with me. However, I don't offer editig services anymore, but I have several editors that I can refer aspiring authors to. And I hire someone to do the book cover designs based on input from the authors and my drafts. Thanks for your questions...

Amanda H. said...

Wow! I had always been a bit afraid of self publishing, but this panel has really opened my eyes to the opportunity.

Someone said that self-publishing is easier for the nonfiction author. Are there any specific tips to help the self-published fiction writer make their book stand out from the rest of the pack?


Barbara Joe Speaks said...

Are there any specific tips to help the self-published fiction writer make their book stand out from the rest of the pack?

I would say to make your cover different from what everyone else in your genre is doing. And concentrate on having a bright color instead of a dark background to catch the readers eye.

Anonymous said...

this is a great website. But I was wondering about Lulu. I know you can hire an editor through them and self publish. What are your thoughts on Lulu?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to include my name. I was wondering what your thoughts are on Lulu, and would you recommend them?

Barbara (Popple)
Night To Dawn

Barbara Joe Speaks said...

I went to Lulu's website and they wanted like $11.00 or $12.00 to publish my book. So I didn't use them because I didn't see much of a profit margin on a $15.00 book. Maybe some of the other authors have used them and can shed some light on the subject for both of us.

Anonymous said...

I am a self-published author and I need to find ways to promote my books. I have five of them and I am not getting the response I hoped for. Thanks.

Carol Ann Culbert Johnson

Barbara Joe Speaks said...


I just went to Amazon and ordered a copy of your marketing book. As a self-published author, I'm always looking for new marketing ideas and your book sounds interesting. I'd like to keep in touch so that I can give you feedback later on. It's always an honor to support another author...

Anonymous said...

I use and it's a blessing for me. You will have to pay for your book, but it's cheaper than the other places like or, and your book is published and ready for the general public to see. It's a medium to get your books out there. I love it.

I have an editor and a book designer, and everything is controlled through me. I do want a traditional publisher, but in the meantime my five books is getting the exposure that they need while I wait for a traditional publisher to recognize my talents. My website is and you can check out my storefront.

Carol Ann Culbert Johnson

Anonymous said...


Thanks for ordering my book! And I too love to connect with other authors and those who know about self publishing and look at it as a business. I routinely ask people if I will consult with them and help them get their book into print and I always have to say no. It will be nice having another person to refer people to who are serious about this.

Please let me know how you like the book and please keep in touch.


Anonymous said...

Here is information from a handout on marketing fiction. I would also say that when it comes to a Web site most people don't give people a reason to visit the site and come back over and over and bring others. Make your site relevant and make it work for you.

How do you identify the people likely to be interested in a novel? How do you reach them without spending huge sums of money? Target your readers by asking questions and researching the answers.

1. What key subjects are in the book?

2. Is your novel set in a particular geographical area?

3. Is your protagonist employed? Is his career of interest to readers?

4. Are there associations and other groups with members who would read your novel?

5. Can your novel be used as required or supplementary reading for courses?

6. Are there bulk sales possibilities through obvious targeted groups?

7. Does the plot or subplot tie into news?

8. Besides bookstores, where are some places to reach readers interested in your story?

9. Are there non fiction articles you can write that relate to your book's plot, character, or locale?

10. Where can you get your book reviewed?


Anonymous said...

Hey E’erybody,

Evelyn Palfrey in Austin. I apologize for coming so late to the party, but I can’t access at my job and have had a killer evening. I self-published three romance novels for the ‘marvelously mature,’starting in 1996. They were bought by Simon and Schuster. I re-claimed the rights to one and continue to self-publish it. So I keep a foot in both worlds.

I’ve spent the last hour reading the entire thread and find all the postings fascinating. Much of it mirrors my own experience, so I don’t have much to add. I love self-publishing. But it’s not for the faint of heart. It requires a LOT of work—but I don’t consider work a bad thing=

Someone asked about getting their book on Amazon. That’s definitely a positive. If you have copies of your book, look into the Markeplace program. They fill the orders and handle credit cards. When an order is paid for, they notify the publisher (you) by e-mail and the publisher (you) sends to book to the buyer. They take a $1 fee on each book, then direct deposit the money in your account.

For those considering self-publishing, you must understand that you will be in the publishing business. Whoever said 20% writing, 80% publishing was correct. Your success will depend on how good a business person you are (or learn to be), more than on how good a writer you are. If you’re a purist or not really interested in being in business, you will find that chafing. And the business of publishing can consume a LOT of what would otherwise be writing time.

IMHO, the two major plusses for being with a royalty house is that they have distribution down cold, and they handle all that messy business stuff (shipping, collecting, accounting).


Anonymous said...

I started off as a self published author and because of what I learned others sought me out to publish their work. I have 10 authors and soon to have 14. But honestly, it does prevent me from doing what I love to do which is write. I enjoy the advantages of publishing for myself and others, but it takes alot of time and energy. Energy I could use promoting my own work which takes a back seat to my other authors.

If you are interested in self publishing, it is interesting to learn so much but it is hard, hard work. You have to do everything. That include invoicing, mailings, delivering books, setting up tours, contacting book stores, finding good editors, illustrators, interior designers, checking inventory, seeking distribution, enrolling your books in books in print and other services, etc. You must network, and have a promotion budget. You can't sell what people don't know about. It also takes up time from writing. Self publishing is a business, and once learned it becomes easier to branch over into starting a business.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the panelists. Very interesting comments on self-publishing.

Lupe M. Gonzalez

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