Friday, June 15, 2018

Five Things I’ve Learned about Self-Publishing and the Book Industry

I’ve learned a great deal since publishing my children’s book, Bubble Wrap Girl.  At first, my learning was about the publishing process.  Once I chose a publisher, I learned about the specifics of what goes into making a book.  And then, after my book went to press and the boxes were in my trunk, I’ve learned a great deal about how to market, publicize, and sell it.
I’m grateful for the things I’ve learned, each step of the way.  I am also grateful that my learning has been able to be put to use to help others who have similar questions that I did.  One of the things I never thought to expect after publishing a book is how I would be a resource to others in this way. It’s been fun to meet other people who are interested in publishing or writing a book and being able to pass on some helpful hints there way.
With that in mind, I’ve written a series of blog posts related to this very thing.  Today's post is a few things I have learned about self-publishing and the book industry as a whole.
Perhaps the biggest thing I've learned is that traditional publishing isn’t what it used to be.  Last month I went to my first book award celebration and was seated next to a man who has been writing books for twenty years.  He was a former middle school teacher and had found his niche: writing books that related to Minnesota History, which is part of the public school curriculum for sixth grade.  

When I asked him how he got his start, he said an agent had contacted him, saying she had read his book and was interested in representing him.  I could be wrong, but I think this is what every person who writes a book dreams of. Yet what I have learned is that it doesn’t really happen this way any longer.  Instead, it is a writer’s job to seek out an agent by writing query letters and making contacts.

Though it is not impossible to get an agent this way, it is a time-consuming and lengthy process.  The downside is that you don’t know how long it will take to find one, and after you find one, you don’t necessarily know how much you will make on your book.  The alternative is to self-publish.
Although self-publishing might not seem as legitimate as having an agent contact you out of the blue, I have come to realize differently.  Self-publishing is just as valid of a way to make your book a reality, and there are even some benefits.  

The biggest benefit of self-publishing is that you to have much more control and input throughout the process than traditional publishing typically does.  For instance, I had a particular vision in mind of what I wanted the illustrations in my book to look like.  Had I pursued traditional publishing, I would not have had much, if any, say in who the illustrator was or what the illustrations looked like.  In addition, the editor could have made changes to my manuscript that I might not have learned about until seeing the book in print.

Once I got to the point of pursuing self-publishing, I learned there are many ways to self-publish.  Some traditional publishers have self-published divisions.  There are also several print-on-demand options through various web outlets.  I chose to use a brick and mortar publishing company that had published lots of children’s books and that connections to illustrators.  I valued the fact that I could meet with my editor and illustrator in person and that there was a team of people at the company who could guide me through the publishing and printing process.

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