We continue our "Notes from the Field" with a series of posts from BookWorks author Carole P. Roman, a prolific, successful writer, BookWorks Book of the Week and Featured Author, and head of her own self-publishing dynasty. Carole just launched a book, Navigating Indieworld: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing and Marketing Your Book, that draws on her considerable experience as an indie author, and she has agreed to share some of her secrets with us. In Part One, she discusses the genesis of her business and the key practices that have shaped it. In Part Two, she’ll reveal her marketing and promotional strategies, and in Part Three, she’ll elaborate on the creation of her award-winning children’s series.
Now, in her own words…
Self-Publishing, Our Unexpected Enterprise
I started writing on a whim. My son, Michael, published a self-help book (using a pen name) through CreateSpace. To our utter surprise it shot to the top ranks on Amazon’s bestsellers in its category. He followed with a paranormal thriller that also became a bestseller on Amazon, then dared me to try my hand at children's books. CreateSpace made it easy providing (at the time) illustrators and the ISBN's. I picked two artists, described what I wanted and voila! We were in business!
We became a publishing family. We all work together in this new enterprise and instead of morning meetings about our regular jobs, we became consumed with turning this idea into a viable business. My younger son, Eric Jay Cash, published a children’s book based on his children’s speech disabilities, and my five year old grandson, Alexander, both wrote and illustrated a book that ended up a finalist in the Foreword Review’s Book of the Year.
We have run our own thriving company (in an unrelated field) for over forty-five years and approach everything we do with the same attitude. Writing and self-publishing books is a business too. It's fun, sometimes painful, can be expensive, but ultimately we are in it to make a profit. While it is an art form, and you may write the most wonderful book in the universe, unless you promote it, it will disappear into the vast pit of choices on the web, never to be read and appreciated.
I had to learn everything from the ground up, in a whole universe I never knew existed. We decided that to be noticed we had to brand ourselves. In other words, each of us was to be identified with our product. I will discuss this further in Part Two, when I delve into our marketing and promotion.
Good Editing is Fundamental
So, you have a book. The most important thing to do at this stage is tedious and can be expensive, but as you’ve heard often from BookWorks, you must use a reputable editor, even two. I use two different kinds of editors for my son’s books, one for plot and storylines, the other for grammar. Getting a good, reliable team is vital. Nothing irritates readers more than editing errors and they will trash your book.
Michael starts off with a good beta reader. This is someone who reads as he’s writing and calls him out on things that are not clear. You can find them on Goodreads and on blogs. Look for top-notch writers in your genre. I discovered Julie Gerber from Away We Go Media on a parenting blog and Bianca Schulz at The Children's Book Review. Michael trusts Julie to beta read for him. I had hired her originally to set up our social media and her job kept expanding. We liked her honest input and invaluable advice. I enlisted Bianca Schulz to beta read my books. She has a bead on what is trending in children’s literature and has offered wonderful insights.
Once Michael is finished and happy with the manuscript, it gets sent for the first edit for content. A good editor will find holes in the plot that the beta reader may have missed, things that need further explaining. I’ve used the editors on CreateSpace, paying anywhere from four to five hundred dollars for each edit. Next is a grammar edit—again, usually from CreatesSpace. After all the edits are complete, you’ll need someone to proofread. I have a full-time assistant who is my proofreader. Never try to proofread your own work! My eyes always read what they are expecting to see. For children’s books, don’t depend on the illustrator to catch errors. They are not trained to really read the text, but only to use it as a reference for proper image placement.For my children’s books, I initially used CreatesSace for editing, but have subsequently found reviewers who do a much better job. I met them when they responded to a press release to review books. Their eagle eyes caught something I had missed, so I recruited two of them and now we check the books a dozen times before they go out. Even so, errors get missed. Luckily, with CreateSpace I can make the corrections and reload a new manuscript.
A Professional Cover is Non-Negotiable
Equally important, (as you’ve read here before) your cover art has to be professional. There are many sites out there; some offer premade, others, custom, with a range of prices. Cover Quill and Ampersand Book Covers are a couple that come to mind. We found 99designs the most prolific as well as diverse. Ultimately, for Michael’s books, we chose an artist at 99designs who understood what we were looking for. This has enabled us to dispense with all the preliminary ideas and allows for a speedier process. Now, we send our description and he sends back three covers for us to consider. Whatever you do, don't settle! Keep looking until you get it right.
For my children's books, again I used CreateSpace, and later, Upwork, for illustrators. There are several ways to engage an illustrator. Some share the royalties and if you’re lucky enough to land a toy or movie deal, their rights have to be included in any negotiation. I prefer to pay outright for all artwork. I own the rights to the images, and my characters and can use them as I see fit. Having a solid legal contract outlining everything from scheduling and rights to payment, protects both you and the illustrator, making it a stress-free experience.
Author to Author...
I hope I’m not giving the impression that any of this was easy, because there is nothing easy about self-publishing, but I hope you find some of this helpful. Stay tuned for my next installment when I’ll share our marketing and promotional strategies, the ones that have worked along with the embarrassing mistakes. And please add your comments. We can all benefit from each other’s experience!
Award winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Her nonfiction series, "If You Were Me and Lived in..." combines her teaching past with her love of customs and culture around the world. She has expanded her nonfiction culture series to include historical times periods. Roman lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children. If you’d like more information on Carole P. Roman, check out her websites:
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