The decision about whether to pursue traditional publishing for your manuscript, or to go with the self-publishing model, isn’t a decision taken lightly. The road to success in traditional publishing can be a long road, even if your words are accepted the first time you send them out to a traditional publisher.
Once your manuscript is accepted, it has to go from one person to the next, be edited, sent back to you, prepared, printed and then distributed, with who know how many other steps I may have missed out. Only one of my actual books printed was printed by a traditional publisher, the first one.
This was a school reader entitled “My Dog”, published by Eleanor Curtain Publishing, first published in 2004. It’s been a successful book, translated into French for the Canadian market, and sold in various other countries. I still receive royalties for this book, all these years after the first royalty cheque. The book has probably made me more money than many other authors receive for their more awarded literary works.
I welcome the money, obviously. It doesn’t feel like my book though. I wrote a manuscript, and a friend/writing group leader forwarded it to Eleanor Curtain Publishing. I forgot about it entirely, until I heard from the publisher much, much later. Ever since then, royalty statements, with or without accompanying cheques arrive in the post every six months. I cash the cheque and am glad about it, but I have no real sense of ownership.
The words in my manuscript do bear some resemblance to the words in the book, but there is no feeling for me that it’s the story I wrote. I realise school readers of the kind mine is, and fictional narratives (ie stories), are two different things. It all happened so long ago now, and I’ve moved in a different direction.
My next book is the one I’ve put the front cover of up there. “Dig It! Gardening Tips For Dogs”, is what can happen when two stay at home mums get together and get creative.
Ally and I became friends when our sons were at Primary School together. Ally loved drawing things, and I loved writing things, and a plan was formed. That plan lead to me creating the text for this book, and Ally doing some wonderful illustrations. Ally put the whole thing together in Publisher and we took it to a local printer, voila! a new book!
I don’t remember now how many copies we had published. They sold reasonably well though, and we easily covered our costs. Every now and then I think about the possibility of another print run, or of doing the sequel to the rather tame “Dig It!” The sequel is about, (or would be, if I ever wrote it) Sex, from a dogs point of view, with the working title of “Doggie is not the only style”. I blush to even consider it now, but I do know there is one lady in Mallala, my closest town, who really wants to read the sequel!
Self publishing happened much more quickly than my first traditionally published book. I had total control over “Dig It!” too, and I love this little book. It will never make me as much money as “My Dog” has, but it is personally more satisfying to me. I’ve largely lost touch with Ally now, and our sons have both moved off in other directions now that they’re adults. I got a hint of what self-publishing can be with this cute and funny book, and I liked it!
I liked it so much, that I was very keen to go for it again. I’d been writing lots of poems, with many on a particular theme that was very personal to me. Two of my friends, Garry and Sharon, had gone into helping authors/poets with self-publishing. I’d seen what they were doing and I decided to use Gary’s services. And so began my journey into assisted self-publishing. The resulting book was my first poetry collection, “damaged children, Precious Gems”.
This book went well, and I had my first book launch and book signing. It was lots of fun, and very exciting, of course. Book sales went well, and I’ve received wonderful feedback from others for this collection. Book sales went so well, in fact, that I went for another print run. In retrospect, this may not have been my smartest decision. I have quite a few copies of “Precious Gems” taking up space in my spare room, car and various bags scattered around the house.
I’m proud of this book too, though. It’s a lovely looking ‘proper’ book. The cover is lovely, it looks completely professional, and there are copies available in various libraries around the place, included the National library. Putting this collection together happened at a stressful time in my life. I had just begun putting the book together, when I was hit with multiple sclerosis (MS), and my life had to stop for a while.
Once I was able to though, I got back on my computer and tapped my way to a completed manuscript and sent it off to Gary. At the book launch I mentioned, I learned the truth of what stress can do to your body, when you have MS. I wasn’t stressed out in a bad way at my launch, I was excited. My body didn’t care, it considered excitement to be stress, and it decided to not work properly. I leaned and stumbled my way through the day, and was glad to get home again safely. I was glad I was with family and friends too!
My family and friends have helped me so much in my new life with MS. It’s a slower life, but still a good one. I’m learning about MS, through research and through lived experience. I would have loved to have had a book to tell me what to expect once MS had hit me. I couldn’t find such a book though, so decided I would write one, of course!
So, I was diagnosed with MS in 2010, and in 2013, I self-published my memoir about life with MS, written in verse, just for the fun of it. The book is “Mick, Jane and Me – Living Well With MS”. I received financial assistance in the writing and production of this book, firstly from the State government in the form of a Richard Llewellyn Arts and Disability Trust grant to help pay for a mentor Dr Ray Tyndale. I worked with Ray, meeting her in a lovely cafe for coffee and discussion about how I was going with writing my memoir in verse.
I applied for assistance from the MS Society SA & NT through their ‘Choice’ awards and was successful. This meant that when my book was written and ready, the Society’s printer produced 100 copies of it for me. That was a wonderful help, and those 100 copies are almost all sold now, with $2 from every book sold going to the MS Society.
I’m going to get 100 more copies printed, which I have to pay for myself this time. I’m happy with this, and I’m sure I’ll cover the printing costs easily. So that’s my take on the whole publishing thing. If you want control over every aspect, and you’re not afraid of self-promotion, self-publishing wins every time!