Paul Keskey printed his lushly illustrated fantasy A Field Guide to Chrysalies: They're Not Faeries! at Wisconsin's employee-owned Worzalla Press. He used a Kickstarter campaign to raise printing costs, as did fellow artist Polly M. Law (The Word Project: Odd & Obscure Words Illustrated).
Several local publishers offer assisted self-publishing to authors eager for a steady professional hand on the tiller. Rebecca McBride (Traveling Between the Lines) and Shadow Bay's creators chose Epigraph, the self-pub wing of Rhinebeck's Monkfish, which offers editorial and design services and distribution through Lightning Source/Ingram; packages currently start at $1,297. Judy Staber published her memoir Silverlands: Growing Up at the Actors' Orphanage through Troy Book Makers, which custom prices each project.
Though most authors launched their books in both print and e-book formats, Gary Allen's e-only "botanical humor" book Terms of Vegery "had so many color illustrations that its cost would have been prohibitive for a printed book." Brent Robison, who published others' books under his Bliss Plot imprint before self-publishing his story collection The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility with Lulu.com, lauds Smashwords as "a great free DIY e-book service with wide distribution," noting that "next time I'll start with a Kindle e-book, then add other e-book formats through Smashwords. Then I'll launch the paperback."
The 28 survey respondents reported up-front costs ranging from "none" (for e-book uploads) to upward of $10,000 (for professionally edited and designed projects, and/or bulk book orders). Most authors invested between $200 and $900, but there's an apples-to-oranges quality to price comparisons. It's wise to do lots of research, consulting experienced authors and networking websites like Indies Unlimited. Dara Lurie, who leads writing workshops, advises first-timers to "embrace the DIY spirit as much as possible, but understand where and when to spend money for outside services." Money that makes your book better is money well spent, avoiding such gaffes as typographical errors, inadequate margins and gutters (white space at the centerfold), ugly fonts, and spines without titles and author names.
Getting it Out There
Publicity is a challenge for self-published books, although—with the exception of certain anointed Big Books—most trade publications don't get major reviews or ad campaigns either. Ina Claire Gabler (whose Unexpected Return is reviewed here) points out, "The average writer needs to exert the same energy for promotion whether the book is published by a commercial house or is self-published."
Self-published authors promote via Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, author websites, blogs, mass e-mails, press releases, and review copies to local media, Amazon author pages, YouTube book trailers, radio interviews, Kindle free promos, group readings, postcards and bookmarks, and old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Some pursue niche-marketing strategies. Carol O'Biso (A Well-Seasoned Life) held a book signing at Little Italy's American Italian Museum, which sent out 8,000 invitations. Erica Manfred targeted Jewish media for Interview with a Jewish Vampire. Joan L. Reynolds and Sheila Dinaburg-Azoff met with parents' groups to promote Parenting in Your Own Voice: Finding Your Inner Parent to Bring Out the Best in Your Child. Polly M. Law sells The Word Project at galleries showing her work, as does fine-art photographer Juliet R. Harrison, who printed Equiscapes and four other books with Blurb.com.
Getting books into stores can be difficult. Big-box retailers like Barnes & Noble rarely stock self-published books, citing low sales. Most independent bookstores sell them on consignment (60 percent to the author is standard), and some will host author events.
Jackie Kellachan of Woodstock's Golden Notebook says, "We're thrilled to have author events for self-published authors, if they're truly local, and it's a really good way to sell books." Scheduling an event ensures visibility on the store's website, press releases, and e-mail blasts. Books are often displayed in the window as the event nears, and Golden Notebook keeps them on consignment for six months. Kellachan advises authors to e-mail in advance, rather than showing up unannounced with a box of books.