5 Tips on Self-publishing from a Haven Writing Retreat Alum

Books published by Haven Writing Retreat alums!

Books published by Haven Writing Retreat alums!

Not everyone who comes to Haven Writing Retreats wants to write a book, or if they do, necessarily publish it.  Some come just to learn how to better express themselves, or to use writing as a transformative tool in their lives.  Others have a book in them that they absolutely want to publish.  Some go the traditional route.  Others self-publish.  The stack of books you see here shows a great variety of publishing choices.  Not all of these books were written at Haven!  Many were written before, but they show the dedication and diversity of the people who have this kind of commitment to their craft.  May they inspire you to believe in your ability to do the same! (publishing credits below)

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Here’s what recent Haven Writing Retreat alum, Laura Lovett, has to say about her publishing journey.

by Laura Lovett, Author of Losing Cadence– Haven Writing Retreat alum

So you’ve written a book…now what?  Some authors try to get a literary agent and go the traditional publishing route and others skip this altogether and go the self-publishing route.  I tried to get a literary agent and was unsuccessful (after 100 query letters in the U.S. and Canada!), but I didn’t let this stop me.  My novel was ready to go and I knew it was a unique and gripping story that begged to entertain readers.  Therefore, I forged ahead into self-publishing and I’m glad I did.  This is what I learned and what you need to know when considering self-publishing

1.    Edit, Edit, Edit!

Okay, so we’re supposed to be talking about self-publishing, but I couldn’t help myself when it comes to the importance of editing.  I suggest that you edit your own manuscript until you can’t see straight and then hand it off to a professional like I did (Sheryl Khanna, Writer, Editor and Publicist).  Professional editing services will not only find all your grammar and spelling mistakes (yes, there are still loads in there), but it will also deal with content and consistency issues, and polish your manuscript so that the story shines and moves.  If you cannot afford a professional editor, ask people you know and trust to review your manuscript. When it comes to editing and reviewing a book, the more the merrier to get the best end result.  You don’t want to be roasted on Goodreads.com for having errors in your book; I have read a few of these and it is most distracting and definitely takes away from the story and the author as a serious storyteller.

2.    Do Your Research

When it comes to self-publishing you can do it all yourself, which is a lot of work but will save you a lot of money, or go through a self-publishing house.  I did not have the time nor the inclination to go it alone, so I purchased a package with a large, American self-publishing house.  There are many different self-publishing houses out there from small to large, but do your research as the services they offer differ greatly, as well as the price and royalties.  Some self-publishers will format your book, help with your cover design and get you online with all major booksellers, while others go even further and offer everything from extensive editing and marketing packages to everything else in between.  I chose iUniverse.  As a Canadian author, iUniverse offered a self-publishing package for $3,000 which guaranteed me in-store shelf placement with Chapters Indigo, the largest Canadian bookseller (similar to Barnes and Noble in the U.S.).  This was a major selling feature for me and tipped the scales in favor of iUniverse.

3.    Beware the Upsell

Some of the larger self-publishing houses, like iUniverse, have huge editing and marketing teams.  If you need these services, it is great for one-stop shopping, but it can get quite pricey.  A full publishing, editing and marketing package could cost you well over $10,000.  If you have bottomless pockets it’s a great and easy way to go, but if you do not, the constant upselling is not only annoying but can slow down your project.  By being clear about your budget up-front, and researching the services you can do on your own versus where you need professional support, you can avoid getting pulled into unnecessary costs.

4.    Distinguish Yourself Through Cover Art

The first thing a potential reader sees is your cover art…it summarizes your story in an unforgettable image.  This is where many self-published authors fall short; they have a great manuscript but their cover art is an afterthought or rushed to meet a deadline.  Even though iUniverse offers cover design services (in fact, they were included in the publishing package I purchased), I wanted a custom cover so hired my own designer (Corey Brennan, ELEVATE Design). Whether you do it yourself, have a friend help or use professional design services, start thinking about your cover well ahead of time.  Just because you are a self-published author doesn’t mean that your book has to look any less appealing than the current New York Times Bestsellers.  Position yourself to standout with a killer cover that begs to be picked up. I felt I achieved this with Losing Cadence’s cover, and I smile every time I see it in someone’s hands.

5.    Marketing

So you’ve written the next New York Times Bestseller and with book in hand you think you’re finished.  Think again, as you’re only halfway there.  Marketing is a huge area where many self-published authors also fall short.  If you are not marketing savvy, many of the larger self-publishing houses offer marketing and publicist packages, but be careful as they are very pricey.  If you are doing this part on your own, which I did with the help of my Publicist (Sheryl Khanna, Writer, Editor and Publicist), you need to get out there and sell, sell, sell.

  • Get a Web site and/or Facebook page and Twitter going.  Social media is going to be your new best friend.  But only use the social media that you (or your publicist) have time to maintain as you do not want it sitting stagnant.  This is why I have yet to get a Twitter account going!
  • Set-up an author page on Goodreads.com – check mine out at www.goodreads.com/AuthorLauraLovett. My profile is gaining good traction and you can see the importance of reviews and ratings in building credibility and interest in your book.
  • Host a book launch and invite everyone you know; yes, everyone.  Don’t be shy, include your neighbors, your co-workers, your hairdresser, etc.; tell everyone you meet about your book.
  • Ask everyone who has read your book to write a review and/or post a rating on Goodreads.com, as well as their favorite online bookseller.
  • Schedule book signings with local bookstores (you may need to be persistent as they sometimes need to be pushed or reminded).  Essentially, get your book in as many bookstores as possible.
  • Don’t forget the local library or book clubs…get your book in there too.
  • If you have not already done so, start networking with local authors and writer’s groups.  Laura Munson’s Haven Writing Retreat in Montana was my first foray and an invaluable experience for learning more about the art of writing, meeting other writers and networking.
  • Do a virtual book tour with bloggers who blog on your genre.
  • Submit your book for applicable awards and competitions.
  • Read Indie Author Survival Guide by Susan Kaye Quinn – it’s a great resource for independent authors.
  • Do radio appearances.
  • Shamelessly plug your book to one and all.

losing cadence

Pros and Cons

One of things that I love about self-publishing is that you no longer need to rely on difficult-to-get literary agents to publish your work.  And, self-publishing has changed dramatically in the past few years so that it is very hard to tell a good self-published book from a traditionally published book, which is opening the world up to books that we never would have heard of ten years ago.

Self-publishing can be pricey and, like I said above, the upsell can be a bit bothersome.  You also need to be on top of all the details and push back when necessary.  For example, iUniverse originally set the price of my book far too high – so high in fact that I was priced right out of the market – I had to negotiate the price of my book down to a reasonable level for my readers and this took quite a bit of work.

Would I self-publish again?

I’m currently working on the sequel to my first book, Losing Cadence, and I am definitely going to try to secure an agent again, but if I am unsuccessful, I will once again forge ahead into self-publishing.  Knowing what I know now, I will do even more research, and compare more self-publishing houses, as I may not go with iUniverse again; the jury’s out on them as my experience was a mix of positives and frustrations.

I encourage authors to not let an unsuccessful attempt to secure a literary agent stop you from publishing or even writing.  Move onwards and straight to self-publishing either on your own or with a self-publishing house.  You’ll be glad you did when you’re holding your book in your hand or see it on the shelf at a local bookstore.

Laura Lovett is a psychologist and entrepreneur. An accomplished author in the academic and business world, she pursued her love of creative writing to pen her first novel, Losing Cadence, a psychological thriller.

Laura lives in Calgary, Alberta, with her husband and three children. In her spare time she loves playing squash and spending time at the family cabin in Montana.

Visit Laura at www.facebook.com/Author.Laura.Lovett

 

Some of the books published by Haven Writing Retreat alums:

Sukey ForbesAn Angel in my Pocket (best-selling memoir)

Laura Lovett– Losing Cadence (novel)

Frances StrohBeer Money (memoir)

Justine FroelkerEver Upward (self-help)

Angela Leigh Tucker– Me Now– Who Next? (memoir)

Maria O’RourkePrepare Your Heart to be a Great Mom, Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas (devotional)

Fateme BanishoeibTea of Tibet (poetry)

Katie Andraski– The River Caught Sunlight (novel)

Jill BurchmoreGroovin in the Canyon (memoir)

Byron ThompsonBuild Your Dream (self-help)

Kathryn Stockett– The Help (#1 New York Times best-seller– novel)

Cyndi NienhausThe Silent Schism (religious)

Sally Stevens– Poems from the Road (poetry)

Amanda BevillWorld Spice at Home (cookbook)

Justine Froelker– Taking Flight (workbook)

Laura ProbertWarrior Love (self-help)

Linda Lester– Blossom (children’s book)

Sarah ScottThe Wild Table (cookbook)

 

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