The Next Step

I finished my novel a few months ago. Since then I’ve had a few folks read it and the feedback I’ve gotten has encouraged me to go forward with trying to publish it.

As a first step, I sent a query to a New York literary agent, as one would buy a lottery ticket. He politely declined the representation.

So now what? I could pursue other agents, but getting a literary agent is a long shot and the process could take years. I don’t have the patience for that and I’m doubtful that my book would be attractive to an agent in any event. So that leaves two options: small/indie publishers and self-publishing.

As much as I’d like to have a copy editor and a professional cover design, I’m inclined not to pursue a traditional publishing house. My guess is that the book is going to have limited appeal, and I don’t want to spend the time trying to find a publisher that would be interested in it. And there’s always the risk that the house goes under and takes the book with it.

So by the process of elimination, I’m looking into self-publishing. The good news is that self-publishing has never been easier. There are lots of options out there, but the dominant player is (unsurprisingly) Amazon. CreateSpace is their self-publishing platform and the reviews from those who use it are pretty uniformly positive. Cherie used it to publish her cookbook a couple of years ago and was very pleased with the process and the end result. And it costs the author nothing to create and publish a book on CreateSpace.

As far as I can tell the principal negative with Amazon’s service is that most bookstores won’t carry their books. Considering the threat Amazon poses to bookstores, that’s understandable of course. While I don’t have any reasonable expectations of seeing my book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, there are some indie bookstores in the area and I’d be delighted to see my book in them. Is that enough of a disadvantage to make another more expensive self-publishing platform preferable? I don’t know, but at this point I’m inclined to say no.

What sayeth you dear readers? I’d love to hear from anyone with thoughts on this. Nothing I’ve written here is written in stone. I’m open to any reasonable suggestions for how best to proceed. I’ve grown attached to the characters in my story. I want to do the best for them that I can.

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35 comments on “The Next Step

  1. karenhumpage says:

    Hi Bill,
    Ah, the problems with getting published! I’ve had a similar problem with my cow paintings – what I thought would be a great idea for a pictorial book with gently humorous dialogue has turned into a bit of a bugbear, despite getting loads of positive feedback from those that have seen them. I’ve tried numerous publishers and artists’ agents without success. I don’t like the idea of ebooks (I just don’t like them!), and self publishing is financially not an option at this stage. So I’m trying to get as much local publicity for them this summer with a couple of local exhibitions in the hope that somebody out there with the right connections might see them and be interested enough.
    I think maybe you have to do a similar thing – make it known to as many people as possible that you have a book to publish. Start with the local or state press, you have a really interesting life story and I’m sure someone out there would want to write about you and give your book a plug. And I must say – you’ve written to ONE agent? From what I’ve read, budding authors send out dozens of manuscripts before getting a positive response, so don’t give up on that just yet! Getting published is hard, but stick with it Bill and I’m sure it’ll happen for you one day.

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    • Bill says:

      Good luck to you Karen. I don’t have to tell you how incredibly difficult it is to get an agent (and that still leaves the challenge of finding a publisher). You’re right that typically it takes dozens (I’ve even read hundreds) of queries to agents and the process can take years. Of course having an agent and a traditional publisher is the only way to assure broad exposure, but I just don’t want to go down that road. I sent a query to one agent, just so I could know that I did at least try that way. I admit that I have nagging doubts about my decision not to try harder. For now I’m focused on self-publishing options, but maybe I’ll change my mind. I think “right connections” is what matters most. Hopefully your exhibitions will generate those for you!

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  2. thesnowwoman says:

    You have put so much work into your book, you really should publish in some format.

    Like

  3. Laurie Graves says:

    My husband and I recently self-published my YA fantasy novel, “Maya and the Book of Everything.” No, bookstores and libraries—don’t forget libraries—won’t go through Amazon, but they will go through Ingram Spark. However, with Ingram, you do need a professionally done cover designed to exact specifications. (Amazon is more forgiving and has more free help.) If you have the extra money—we paid $600 and went through the excellent Bookfly Design, it is well worth doing this as my book is now in many libraries. Also, some bookstores are indeed carrying it. Here is the link: https://www.bookflydesign.com/ If you have the money, I would highly recommend this, not only because your book would then be available to bookstores and libraries but also because you will have one first-rate cover, and yes, people do judge books by their covers. No, I’m not getting a commission from Bookfly Design 😉 About copy editing…again, if you have the money, then spend it on having your work carefully edited. Oh, the typos! If you don’t have the money, find someone who is good at it and beg them to help you. I have a ton more advice I can give you but I’ll stop here but would be happy to answer any specific questions you might have. Good luck and onward ho!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Laurie. I was hoping you’d respond. I saw your reference to your book in your blog post yesterday and I followed the links on your page. Everything you’ve done looks very professional and classy. Well done! I very much appreciate your comment. It has sent me to researching Ingram Spark and other options. I’m notoriously frugal so I don’t like the thought of spending the money, but your comment (and DM’s below) makes me realize that I should bite the bullet and pay for a good cover design. I’m also glad you mentioned libraries. Like you, I’m a big fan of them and I would be thrilled to have my humble novel in the stacks. I don’t want to rule out that possibility. Thanks again for the great advice and I may very well take you up on your offer for more. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Good luck and don’t hesitate to ask any questions, should you have them. The learning curve has been STEEP for me, and I am still learning as I go. If you can afford it, having a good cover is well worth the money spent. It makes the book look professional, and I do believe it also helps sell the book.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Trying one agent is not enough –my non-fiction work was declined as well, and I’m trying to figure out where to go from there, but I think I’m going to keep trying agents, at least for awhile. My friend just self-published with a local printer doing the work, and the book looks very nice. But now he’s got tons of books and not quite the energy to advertise and sell it himself. If i were you I’d try a university press nearby…

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    • Bill says:

      I really dislike the process of trying to land an agent. Everything I’ve seen says you should lead off a query by referencing some connection with the agent, even if it’s just that your book will appeal to fans of their client x. Everything I’ve read says to approach agents who represent authors who have the same style as you. In my case, I read very little fiction. I truly don’t know what authors write the same kinds of books I’ve written. And I have zero connections with any agent other than the one I queried (with whom I had a remote relationship). On the other hand I’ve read the success stories of authors who were rejected hundreds of times before someone accepted their future best-seller. Persistence is definitely required! Good luck to you going forward. Maybe I’ll send out some more queries too. If I could only figure out who to send them to…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. avwalters says:

    Here, there is some cache to “local writers,” so much so that it’d be a shame to use a format that precludes being in local bookstores. Especially if there is tourism in your area, you’d want to keep that venue available.

    Self-publishing has never been easier. Or more confusing. It’s like cable tv, too many channels. I use Lightning Source (essentially Ingram.) I understand that since I published my books, they have started an imprint for indie writers (Spark?)

    Create Space has a hammer lock–through Amazon–and you can also publish ebooks on their forum–but has the limitation for local bookstores.

    Some authors I know swear by Book Baby–which does charge upfront (but not after that). I’d check with bookstores to see if they have the same angst with Book Baby.

    When I self-published, I started with ebooks on Smashwords. It was essentially up-front free (they charge a small percentage on sales.) It was fast–even if you just have a Word version, you can upload and publish NOW. The main reason I chose that path was that I wanted to collect comments and reviews to put on the back, when I published the print version. Smashwords does not require exclusivity (where many of the others do.) Even if you’re not interested the Smashwords format, I highly recommend that you take advantage of Mark Coker’s free downloads on self publishing and marketing. He is enormously generous with the information he’s garnered over the years. (Just check out the Smashwords.com site.

    I took my Smashwords successes and went to Lightning Source. A word to watch–whichever outlet you ultimately choose, try to use your own ISBN numbers (available online through Bowkers–it gives you more flexibility and mobility. (www.bowker.com)

    Feel free to reach out. I cannot say that I’ve been a pillar of success, but I’ve learned a bunch.

    Liked by 2 people

    • DM says:

      I also went with Lightning Source with my latest book. . Can’t say enough good about them. I did hire a graphic designer for the cover.. Bill, I would also be happy to talk to you more about this if you have any questions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill says:

        DM, I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know you are an author. I have a dim recollection of you writing about wanting to publish something related to local history, but evidently you’ve already written more than one book. Congrats my friend! Thanks to your comment and Laurie’s above I have reached out to a friend of mine who is a graphic designer. I had only been considering the two extremes: publication by a prestigious NYC publisher, or the cheapest possible DIY option. As usual, it seems that what is sensible lies somewhere between those extremes.

        As I mentioned to AV, I’m having trouble figuring out where to go to get started on a self-publishing project on Lightning Source. A link would be appreciated. 🙂

        I may very well take you up on your offer for more guidance. It is greatly appreciated.

        Liked by 1 person

      • DM says:

        Bill, here’s a link to Lightning Source home page: http://www.ingramspark.com/ I published my first two books (Both Christian devotional types) through Xulon Press. After shopping around for the last book (combination/ local history/ personal reflections) Lightening source was the perfect fit. Great prices, especially once you begin ordering a case @ a time……and with the help of my graphic designer, he made sure everything passed their muster when it came to proper formatting etc. We can talk more via e-mail any time,. DM

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Thanks so much for your comment and your great advice. I was hoping you would weigh in. When I started this process I pulled The Emma Caites Way off my bookshelf to see what you had done. I wondered about the review quotes on the back cover. Very good move on your part!

      Thanks to these great comments (exactly what I was hoping for) I spent an hour or so researching other options. It seems a lot of people are using CreateSpace and Ingram Spark together. Neither requires exclusivity. So authors are publishing on CS to capture the Amazon market, with their own ISBN number and declining CS’s “extended distribution” option, and also publishing on IS, in order to get in bookstores and libraries. It seems to require some technical proficiency that is over my head, but I’m going to look into it further.

      I’m very interested in Lightning Source now, as both you and DM have recommended it. Is it the same as Ingram Spark? I’ve having trouble finding a self publishing entry point for it.

      I’ve been thinking about this all day now, and doggone it I want my book to have a respectable chance of being in a bookstore or library. I’m such a cheapskate I bristle at spending the money (CS’s platform is amazingly entirely “free”) but I think I just have to get over that.

      Thanks again and I may very well take you up on your offer for more advice!

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      • avwalters says:

        Lightning Source was Ingram’s initial author interface/platform. It was also used by small publishers. Later, as self-publishing took off, they created Spark to serve that market. That was after me, so I don’t know much about Spark. Lightning Source is POD–Print on Demand. The book doesn’t exist, until it is ordered. That’s a big advantage in not having to print a gazillion books. The down side is that it’s expensive on a per page basis. You need to be careful about your price points. Amazon is alway pushing you to lower prices–but if you’re not careful, you’ll end up in the hole. I know that a copy of Emma (at just over 400 pages) costs me almost half the sticker price. It makes it difficult for small bookstores–who are seeking discounted pricing. I cannot discount to bookstores because, especially with shipping, because the print costs are so high. My advice? Write skinny books.

        Liked by 1 person

      • avwalters says:

        Another minor thing, each format in which you publish needs a different ISBN #. So if you have an ebook, a hardback, and a paperback of the same book, that’s 3 ISBNs. Another if you do an audiobook version. So, when you go to Bowkers, get at least ten of them–having ten ISBNs qualifies you as a publisher–and that let’s you deal with the world as a publisher. For example, Lightning Source wouldn’t have taken us, had we not had the Fictitious Business Name filing and the 10 ISBNs.

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  6. ast117@wildblue.net says:

    hey Bill…my name Russell Aston pka Russ Allison. I have read your blogs for a couple years….thoroughly enjoy. Let me give you a perspective for your self-published book. I made a living in the music industry for several years (for major record companies. The “old” days an artist could walk in and get signed off talent. Those days have been long gone for quite sometime. Looks like the same attitude in the publishing industry….The big companies say “we don’t need you”!…we already have a hundred artists on the best selling list already” “what makes you think you can compete with them?” The rule now….you prove you have what it takes and then come see us. In other words…spend your own money, printing, distributing, marketing, etc. With enough money (and the right attorneys) you can finally get on a major label. As an example….(if you know country music) the group Alabama was an ordinary club band. A man from Texas, that knew nothing about the record industry and had LOTS of money. (advertising and marketing) He took that group all the way to #1 and they haven’t stopped since. Garth Brooks parents owned a car dealership, and that’s how he got started. I hope this makes sense. Best to you

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Russell. Yes sir, I know exactly what you mean! The senior partner in my old firm had a sign on his desk that read: “A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge.”

      Fascinating info about Alabama and Garth Brooks. I did not know that. I knew that Alabama was playing clubs on Myrtle Beach when they were “discovered” (and I’ve long regretted not having seen them before they were famous) but didn’t know they had big Texas money behind them. Likewise Garth.

      There are plenty of stories of great authors who went undiscovered for a long time, even until after they died, because they didn’t have the right connections. I don’t consider myself in that category. I have a good story that deserves to be told and I’m convinced that it will resonate with a few people. But dang it’s a pain to get it published. 🙂

      Thanks much for weighing in. I greatly appreciate your perspective.

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  7. Leigh says:

    Bill, that’s great news! Congratulations on your writing accomplishment. I am very much looking forward to reading it.

    All of my books (so far) have been published through CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Smashwords. (Not a fan of eBooks, just tried it to learn about it. Not a fan of monopolies either, which is why I publish eBooks through both KDP and SW.) For my first book I was going to go with Lightning Source, as recommended by an already self-published friend. About the time I was ready, LS created Ingram Spark, but the turn-off was that the author could no longer control the wholesale discounts (which were raised) so the royalties were less. Between that and the fees Ingram Spark charges, I decided to go with CreateSpace instead. Lulu is an option too, but they pay the lowest royalties of them all. Interestingly, CS often uses Lightning Source’s printing services!

    I have been extremely happy with CreateSpace. Yes, there’s a lot more work involved in self-publishing (including self-promotion) but the freedom is marvelous! (I can say that now, because I’m currently struggling through a contract offered by a small book publisher, but, YIKES! They practically want you to sell your soul!) You can hire out services, or do it all yourself and publish completely for free (which is what I do because I don’t have the resources to pay anybody). You can join the CreateSpace forum (community) beforehand and learn a lot. They have been SO helpful for newbie questions. Also, I find the CS support team to be fantastic. They are always quick to respond, polite, helpful, and bend over backwards to help authors be successful.

    I also wanted to mention (in response to a comment above) that libraries CAN buy your books if you publish with CreateSpace. I’ve had a number of people request that their libraries buy copies of my books and they’ve been able to. CreateSpace will tell you that the only way to get on the library lists is by letting them supply the ISBN (so that they are listed as publisher) but I always provide my own ISBN with myself as publisher of record. I think the key is registering your books on bowker.com (the same people who sell ISBNs).

    What is more difficult to do as an indie, is to get your books into brick-and-mortar stores. They don’t want to take the risk. Some indie authors have been able to go in person and get stores to buy a few copies, so that’s an option if you’re willing to do the footwork.

    Oh dear, it’s late and I hear goats hollering for breakfast! Anyway, if you have any questions, email me! I’m a shameless encourager and enabler when it comes to indie publishing.

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    • Leigh says:

      P.S. If you think you might be interested in Ingram Spark, sign up for their newsletter (may have to create an account, but that’s free to do.) Periodically they send out promotional codes which waive the processing fees for new print and electronic books. You may still have to pay the annual per-title catalog fee, but it’s still a good deal.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Thanks much Leigh! This is all great info. I have an acquaintance who has written a best-seller. He still has an open option with his trad publisher, yet self-published his latest book with Lulu because he (in his words) “hates fooling with publishers.” I had a traditional publisher with my first book and they took care of all the technical details. I just don’t see that being a realistic option for me this time. You’ve had great success with your books, so I’m very interested to see that you’ve done it primarily through CreateSpace. Everything I read about CS is positive, except for the bookstore/library issue. I’m thinking that some combination of CS and Ingram Spark might make sense for me. Reading the technical specs for IS manuscripts had my head spinning. That kind of stuff is just not a strong suit of mine, to say the least. I’m really torn between wanting to do this as cheaply as possible and wanting to produce something that doesn’t look terrible. I’m probably going to have to get some help. Great tip about the IS newsletter/discounts. Thanks!

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      • Leigh says:

        Be sure to check submission requirements when you do your research. All POD publishers will expect a print-ready file, but the format they want them in may vary. As I recall Ingram Spark requires the file to be PDF/X-1a:2001, whereas CreateSpace will accept any PDF and also Word files.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. valbjerke says:

    My friend is a published author (a trilogy no less) – started out with one publishing company and eventually dropped them because she (and other authors with the same company) weren’t getting their royalties. She has since been picked up by another publisher. I asked her the other day – how on earth she was able to make any money when her novels could be found on Amazon for a song (especially the kindle version). She replied that ultimately, she really didn’t make much money at all – rather she continues to write because she loves to write.

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    • Bill says:

      I don’t expect to make any money from this novel. My only financial hope is that I can recover my expenses. This story just came out of me, quite unexpectedly. I know how this will sound, but I believe it is a story that needed to be told. I don’t expect it will resonate with everyone, but I believe it will speak to some people. I’ll admit to being a bit intimidated by the process of getting it published, and a little apprehensive about the potential for embarrassment. Nevertheless, I am anxious to finish the process!

      Liked by 1 person

      • valbjerke says:

        Well that was kind of my point – you obviously love to write, so whichever route you take – you will be able to give people the opportunity to read it 😊.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Bill, one more quick comment. We have sold enough books to cover our expenses 😉 My book sales won’t make me rich, but not too bad for an Indie writer.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Wildflower says:

    I am pleased with the Amazon publishing. My books are reaching a much bigger audience than with just farmers markets. I cannot wait to read your book. My first novel is in the process as well!

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    • Bill says:

      Best wishes for your novel! I really dislike this part of the process. I’d rather be writing my next book. 🙂 But I think I have a plan now, thanks in part to all these great comments. Problem is I have very little time to work “inside projects” this time of year. I’m trying to learn patience. 🙂

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  10. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, hmmmm, I think I’ll just stick to blogging.

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  11. Have you checked out Blurb? I heard it’s better than Amazon. Or do they have something like this on your side of the country : http://www.powells.com/book-machine ?

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  12. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Bill, I am going to self-publish through Create Space sometime this year. A memoir. I’m thinking, with regard to small bookstores, that I might purchase a number of books from Create Space–and get a discount possibly–that I could sell to those small bookstores. Doing that wouldn’t garner much financially but it would get word out–possibly. Peace be to you.

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    • Bill says:

      Congrats on the book Dee! All best wishes as you finish it up. Just beware that many small bookstores won’t carry books published by Create Space, because they are opposed to Amazon.

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