Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Can You Offer Me Some Advice on Self-publishing?

Yes, I can. I should say first that this is not a math equation. One plus two doesn’t necessarily equal three. There are no guarantees here. You can do everything I did and not get a publishing deal. But I hope you do!

It’s important to know that a self-published book was not my goal. I self-published because I couldn’t make any headway on the conventional road to a book deal. My self-publishing goal was to demonstrate that Still Alice had an enthusiastic and sizeable audience. I wanted to give my book a chance to wave its arms in the air and yell at the top of its lungs, to create a buzz loud enough for the literary agents and publishing houses to hear. And at the end of my self-published day, I still wanted a book deal from a traditional publishing house.

So with that goal, in 2007, I paid iUniverse to publish my novel. I required no editing, no book cover design (thanks to my talented husband), and no marketing. They offer all of these services and more, but I had either already done these things or was willing to do them myself. I simply needed them to print the book.

iUniverse is a print-on-demand company, which means they only print books that are ordered by customers. There are no stockpiles in warehouses, which is why it doesn’t cost the author an arm and a leg. There are other self-publishing companies out there, but I didn’t use them, so I can’t speak with any insight as to their pros and cons.

Since STILL ALICE was not going to be carried in physical bookstores outside my local area, it was crucial to have it available for purchase online. iUniverse made Still Alice available for sale at a lot of websites, like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I should also say that iUniverse did a great job producing a professional-looking, quality book. One reader, while holding the book in his hand and learning that it was self-published, said, “But it looks like a real book!”

So now I had a “real” book. Now what? iUniverse allows you to purchase copies of your own book at a discount. The % off retail increases as you buy more. Always have one with you. You never know who you’re going to bump into!

Get a website. Network online. Write your own press release and post it for free at Become viral.

If you can start to feel the vibration of a buzz and you have the money, you might want to consider hiring a book publicist to assist you in your efforts.

After being self-published for ten months, I found an agent who sold the book to Pocket Books. The Pocket Books edition of Still Alice came out on January 6, 2009. Barnes & Noble sold more in the first two days than I sold in ten months. And in its first week, it debuted at #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Brunonia Barry did it with The Lace Reader. Julia Fox Garrison did it with Don’t Leave Me This Way. I did it with Still Alice. It can be done.

Say yes whenever possible. Be tenacious. This is likely to be a marathon, not a sprint. Be sincerely grateful to everyone who helps you on your journey, because it will take a village to raise a self-published book. And remember to enjoy it all!

I hope this helps, and I wish you good luck!