Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My Self-Publishing Adventure: Part II

One of the big changes in self-publishing in recent years is the birth of what’s called “agency-assisted self-publishing” (there’s a good explanation of this term in this article from Writers Digest, and a follow-up here). (In every case that I’ve heard of, including mine, this is an option only for writers who are already clients of the agency providing the service. There may be exceptions, though.)

In this scenario, the agent provides assistance in many of the aspects of self-publishing that normally get taken care of by the publisher. In my case, these were: copy editing, formatting, and cover. My agent, Lara Perkins, sent me a list of copy editors, formatters, book designers, and cover artists with their fees and areas of expertise, and her experience with them. I wasn’t bound to her recommendations (in fact, I tried to sign the copy editor who had done a brilliant job with King of Ithaka, but she was unavailable) but I was glad to have them, because, really, what do I know?

One thing I did know was that I really wanted to follow her advice as to cover artist—Joe Cepeda, who did the gorgeous cover of Esperanza Rising. His sense of color, motion, and light would be perfect for my book. I was so lucky that he had the time and interest to create the cover for The Song of Orpheus.

The deal we have is that Lara collects her standard commission after I’ve earned back what I paid out for the above services.

I’ve also taken on some additional expenses that do not have to be met before she takes her commission. More on these next week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A new (ad)venture!

After twenty traditionally-published books for young readers—by pure chance, they’re a nice round ten nonfiction and ten fiction—I recently self-published my twenty-first, a retelling of some little-known Greek myths with the title Orpheus Speaks: The Greatest Greek Myths You Never Heard (from now on, just Orpheus).


I’ve never said I would never self-pub. I did say, though, that I wouldn’t do it unless I could do it right. So what do I mean by “right”?

First, the book had to be good, as judged by someone other than myself. My wonderful agent, Lara Perkins, is a terrific editor, and she thought it had promise. Before submitting it, though, she suggested a whole slew of edits to what I originally sent to her. I went through several more drafts before she thought it was ready to go out.

Several editors seriously considered the manuscript. None of them wanted to publish it, but many were complimentary and considered it for a while before passing on the project. (Their reasons for passing on it varied, but appeared to boil down to fear that it wouldn’t sell enough copies to justify the expense.)

Second, it had to appeal to a relatively narrow niche of readers. I can’t begin to imagine how to market a general-interest book, but marketing for a book like Orpheus can be targeted to various groups. I already have a good relationship with many of these groups: organizations involved with Classical studies, as well as teachers and librarians.

Third, every aspect of the finished product had to be done by a professional. I’m a professional in only one area of all the various tasks required to create and market a book: writing. The editing, copy editing, cover design, cover art, formatting, and marketing and publicity had to be farmed out to qualified professionals. The last thing I want is a book that looks, feels, or especially reads as amateurish.

Lastly, self-publishing had to change. There had to be a way that someone with expertise in only the writing part of the process could put out a quality, professional book without going broke.

Next post: How I went about accomplishing numbers three and four.