The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese –
How to Avoid the Traps of Self-Publishing
Author: Carolyn P. Schribr, Ph.D.
Carolyn Schriber is someone whose blog I have been following for some time now, even though her focus is on the history of America’s Civil War, in which I really don’t have much of an interest. The reason that I follow her is that she writes well, includes tid bits about her everyday life, and often gives out tips to authors that are incredibly insightful. Indeed, this book grew out of her blog posts.
I wanted to read this book for many reasons, not the least of which was that I have self-published, want to continue to do so, and want to do a much better job at it! I was impressed from the start with this e-book – it was easy to download, and started out with a short paragraph informing readers not to resell or share this e-book, as it was the work of an author that essentially deserved to be paid for it. (I am paraphrasing here.)
The table of contents was clear and concise, with active links to each chapter, so that they could easily be read out of sequence. When I am looking for information, I want to be able to go straight to that information, so this is a huge plus for me! Chapters include View Publishing As A Business, Build An Online Platform, Sample New Software Choices, Explore Genealogy, Know The Difference Between Fact and Fiction, Choose Quality Over Quantity, Know Where the Story Is Headed, Clarify Points of View and Themes, Listen To Your Inner English Teacher, Listen To What You Say, Hire An Editor, Reject the Get-Rich-Quick Schemes, Market, Market, Market, and Embrace New Technology.
Schriber is a retired tenured professor from Rhodes College, specializing in medieval history. Her most recent books are “A Scratch with the Rebels” and “Beyond All Price”. Both books are set in South Carolina during the northern occupation of the Low Country. Her upcoming book, “The Road To Frogmore”, tells the stories of a slave woman and an abolitionist who face, and conquer, the challenges of emancipation.
The foreword is autobiographical, describing the author’s journey in publishing, beginning with her master’s thesis. Her style is very conversational, and I was a little bobble-head as she talked about things that I too had experienced, such as manual type writers, carbon copies, and placing footnotes. Along came the electric typewriter and the word processor – yay team! Then the computer age arrived (complete with the five inch floppy disks!), and we all breathed a sigh of relief! Then there was the turn of the century – from 1999 to the year 2000. We were all literally in a panic, fearful that computers would crash and lose all of their information, because they would not be able to make the changeover to the dates of the 21st century. As we can see now, we had nothing to worry about! Back then, our fears were very real!
Schriber talks about her initial forays into self-publishing, and what she learned from them. I see some of my own mistakes in her words. Mistakes are how we learn – and we do learn! One point that she makes is that we need to think about how we are going to publish our work while we are writing it – waiting until we are done is not what we want to do! She talks about her approach to finding a publisher, and the results that she got. Quite a journey! Part of that journey includes building a platform for your work, including a website, a blog, a personal page on Face Book, a fan page on Face Book, a Twitter account, and a LinkedIn account. (I was checking things off in my mind as I read here words – did I have this, did I have that? I did!)
Finding their way into the process were the Production Company that the author chose for self-publishing (Create Space), and how that worked for her. She talks about editing, book covers, and all the minutia of self-publishing.
I was impressed with the section on viewing publishing as a business. This is not vanity publishing, people. We want to make a living here! There are reasons for forming your own company, and formulating a business plan. Tax deductions, a home office – it’s all good. Then there are the staff members – and they come from many diverse avenues! Accountants, bankers, promoters … all necessary people! And they aren’t hard to assemble. Remember, Schriber is showing us how to do this through the story of her own life, so we can see how real this all is, and how we can accomplish the same thing. Then there is the little thing about the ability to take orders for your work on your site. All explained in a very matter of fact manner.
The why and where of ISBN numbers, copyright law, building an online platform, blogging, and social media – this is all addressed in a manner that is easy to follow, and easy to comprehend.
Now we move into the really good stuff – software! Scribner talks about what she is familiar with, what she uses, including Scrivener, Dropbox, Evernote, Amazon KDP, Smashwords, BookBuzzr and Good Reads.
There is also a section on genealogy, because this is pertinent to the type of writing that the author does. For most of us, this may be a section that we set aside until we need it in our writing. Important to know here – there are different data bases for different purposes.
Schriber addresses points of view (first person, second person, limited third person, third person omniscient, and mixed), theme, who the story belongs to (which character is predominant), and the challenge of addressing touchy subjects in your story. She also addresses the “how” of writing – the punctuation rules that we all need to keep in mind. Then we come to editing – and how editing for a Kindle edition is different from editing for any other type of publishing.
Now you are off to choose a printing company – which needs to be done with care, and contracting for services such as the book cover and book layout. Now you are ready to market – to get your “elevator speech” ready, and to hold a virtual launch party, a blog tour, and get press releases out.
Bottom line – embrace the new technology (e-books), understand it, work with it, and you can do well.
I found Shcriber’s work to be well researched, well written, coherent, and at a level where everyone could understand it. She walks us through the process of writing and publishing a book in a manner that is realistic – because she is telling us her own personal story. We are not all writing Civil War era historical novels, but we can still take the meat of her work and apply it to what we are doing. For anyone serious about publishing their book, this is a must read!
© January 2012 Bonnie Cehovet