Guest Post Series: Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is the ultimate test of merit.

This is a guest post from Fran McNicol.

I have been writing all my life, ever since I could hold a pen. I have used that pen to record my misadventures and process my feelings, and I have had a few articles published over the years. I won a couple of prizes that led to print, and I submitted helpful free contributions to activity magazines, but I didn’t consider Becoming A Writer as a career because I didn’t think I was good enough. I didn’t get properly published early on, and I couldn’t imagine making any money from writing.

But I have always been compelled to write.

On an expedition in Mongolia, I sat next to a well-known travel author on an internal flight. She gave me a complete tutorial about how to get published by the traditional route; how to write a synopsis, send it out to 10 agents selected from the trade yearbook. If they find your idea interesting or worthy they will pitch to their favourite publishers.

And then if you are chosen, you write the book and hand it over.

I started a blog a few years ago to share the life lessons I was learning from my journey with the horses, prioritising their holistic needs over my ego. I was writing it all down as part of the processing anyway, and I hoped I might be able to spare other horse owners some of my pain.

Blogging is an innovative and disruptive medium, and writing a blog is a weird and different experience. You start off writing for yourself, from the heart, simply because you are compelled to write and the act of publishing a blog allows you to imagine that you have at least one reader.

In the beginning, you have no idea if anyone reads your articles or cares.

Then something strange happens and people you have never met, from all over the world, start reaching out, to say thanks if something has helped them, they leave comments and they ask you questions and suddenly you have a family, a readership, of like-minded virtual friends. It becomes an interactive process, a conversation.

One of my blog posts went around the world, with 42,000 views, and I was contacted by a hoof boot company to write a short series for them. This was the first time that a significant audience found me, on my own merits, and it was the first time that I made any real money from writing.

But the real lesson came in the middle of Corona.

A UK broadsheet is always asking for contributions; there is an email address for shared experiences and commentary. My writing friends and I have been submitting both ideas and full pieces for years. I often wonder which junior intern checks that email address? Our various submissions have never been acknowledged, except to have our best ideas coincidentally written up by staff writers, a couple of weeks after submission.

One of our hospital doctors wrote a lovely piece about her experiences on the ward mid-pandemic. But she sent it to a family friend, who happened to be on the permanent staff, and it was published two days later. I’m not bitter. It was a good piece of writing and it deserved to be out there.

But it illustrated very clearly that publishing is a closed shop, that it all boils down to who you know.

The cream will only rise if there is someone from the inner circle ready to help it along. But if your good work doesn’t find its way to the right person, it will just get lost in the white noise.

The same thing can happen in the self-publishing market of course. There is a huge amount of work out there now, some good, some bad, and some frankly ugly. The difference with self-publishing, like with blogging, is that the whole world gets to vote; that anyone and everyone can find your work. It might be harder to find, but once found it is then easier to share, and pass on and engage with. Your work will get the chance it deserves. Your virtual family will get to see your work, and if it is good enough, they will make sure it goes around the rest of the world too.

Self-publishing is the ultimate test of merit.

Fran McNicol blogs about learning to keep the sports horse holistically- healthy at Nelipot Cottage in the English countryside. Her forthcoming title from Sea Crow Press explores her ongoing journey with horses and the wisdom they can teach us.

Guest Post Series: Self-Publishing

“I like the freedom of being able to write the stories that speak to me, and to make all the decisions about how they are presented and promoted.”

This is a guest post from Clarissa Gosling.

Why do I self-publish? 

One of the main reasons I decided to self-publish was speed. 

I had heard so many stories about great authors who took years to find an agent, and then for that agent to find a publishing deal for them. I had read numerous self-published books and could see that many quality authors were choosing to self-publish rather than wait for a publishing deal. 

I was excited to try my hand at it and see what I was able to achieve. Of course, the increased royalty rates that you get as a self-published author just made the deal sweeter. I also knew that even if I signed with a traditional publisher, as a debut author I would still be expected to do the majority of the promotional work for my books myself, so a traditional deal wouldn’t get me out of doing that. And if I was doing all the promotion work then surely I deserved to get the vast share of the royalties in return? 

I like the freedom of being able to write the stories that speak to me, and to make all the decisions about how they are presented and promoted.

 Self-publishing does bring with it a lot of challenges and the need to be able to switch between the creative and business sides of your endeavours. I choose my cover designer and have the final say in the covers. I choose when the books are published. I choose how they are promoted and when I run any sales or promotions on them. As a self-publisher I can be nimbler to take advantage of changes in the market and turn my business in a new direction. I am not beholden to anyone. If I make bad decisions then I will need to take responsibility for that, but equally I will reap the benefits of success.

I love the fact that I am not tied into anything and I can write and publish at my own speed, without worrying about publisher deadlines or whether the book I am working on would be published or not. 

I am building a team of other professionals and fellow authors who support and help me produce my books to a high quality. And I work hard to make sure that each one is better than the one before. 

Publishing has a lot of moving parts, so I am not trying to do everything at once, but to build a base from which I can expand in the future. With each book I am reaching further and building more of an audience keen to purchase my future books. 

I started with two non-fiction books about the experience of expat life (Moving abroad with children, and Raising bilingual children: when school speaks a different language) with the aim of helping other families in a similar situation. These were well received and I learnt a lot from doing them. 

I next published a selection of short stories, which is free across most retailers. And I am currently working on longer form fiction, which I plan to continue to expand over the coming years. My next story will be published in the anthology Realms of Fae and Shadows, which is due to be published in a few weeks.

Self-publishing has given me the opportunity to build my writing skills and author career alongside my growing children. I have the flexibility to work at home round their commitments and to build my skills as I feel they are needed. This is a long-term decision for me, and I can see my career growing before me. I am just at the beginning and I am excited to see where this opportunity takes me. 

Clarissa once missed the bus home from school because she was lost in a book. She no longer reads at the bus stop and now writes fiction she hopes is just as immersive. Though, she doesn’t advise missing buses! For more information about Clarissa and to sign up to her newsletter to hear about new releases and promotions visit clarissagosling.com 

Guest Post Series: Self-Publishing

‘Self-publishing has given me the freedom to write what I want and share it with those who are looking for what I have to offer.’

This is a guest post by Lauri Ann Lumby, OM, OPM, MATS.

My Journey to Self-Publishing

The seeds of my journey to self-publishing came forth out of the fruits of my independent and self-sufficient nature. These seeds were not firmly planted, however, until after I had the experience of royalty-house publishing first.

My first book, Authentic Freedom – Claiming a Life of Contentment and Joy, was published in the traditional way. I wrote a book, completed a manuscript proposal and then sent the proposal out to a hundred publishers. After receiving one hundred rejection letters, I went back to the drawing board. After another round of research and a reworked proposal, I sent out another batch. I received one response from a publisher who acted as if he was doing me a favor publishing my book and then laid out a series of threats. I turned down that offer. Shortly after listening to my gut and saying no to publisher number zero, I received another YES in the mail. This proved to be the right yes for a first-go at being published. My publisher was kind, generous, thoughtful, and gently guided me through the process. He also had some terrific insights on improving my book. I am eternally grateful for this first experience of publishing. And in this I learned a few things:

The value of a good editor (I hired my own)

Cover design matters (I hired my own designer)

By my own efforts, I sold exponentially more books than my publisher.

Then I got to thinking about self-publishing and how that might be a better route for me moving forward. At about the same time, the editor of Writer’s Guide published an article recanting his previous rejection of the self-publishing market. He cited such successful self-published authors as Amanda Hocking and Barry Eisler as examples and then admitted, “I take back what I previously said about self-publishing.”

Based on my experience with royalty house publishing, fueled by this encouragement from Writer’s Guide and buoyed by my own independent nature, I attempted my first experiment with self-publishing. I wanted to start small, so I put my Christouch Training into manual form. I had a friend edit it and hired another friend to create the cover design. I researched on-demand publishers and chose CreateSpace for my first go at self-publishing. Then Viola! Christouch – a Christ-Centered Approach to Hands-on-Healing was born.

The rest is history. I have since self-published an additional five books including my first novel, Song of the Beloved – the Gospel According to Mary Magdalene. Self-publishing has given me the freedom to write what I want and share it with those who are looking for what I have to offer. I no longer have to give 90% of the proceeds of book sales to an outside source and with distribution channels like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, my books are available to anyone who has access to the internet. It’s a win-win for myself and for those looking for the unique gifts that only I have to offer.

Lauri Ann Lumby is the published author of seven books. She was raised in Minneapolis, MN and currently lives in Oshkosh, WI. You can learn more about Lauri at www.authenticfreedom.love.