Friday, July 22, 2011

SCBWI Summary: A Chat On Self Publishing

This week my local SCBWI chapter hosted two self-published children's authors, Peggy Harkins (The WindSinger) and Carey Corp (The Halo Chronicles: The Guardian).  The two writers led our group in a discussion on self-publishing--a publishing route that is becoming more common every day.  Though it used to come with stigma galore and rampant snubbing, recent success of many self-published authors is changing the way readers and industry pros look at non-traditionally published books.

In the not-so-distant-past, self-published books were generally considered those not "good enough" to get picked up by an agent and editor.  Instead of making the book better or writing something else, it was assumed these headstrong authors just wanted their novel published, whether it was worthy or not.  Nowadays, though, authors are increasingly choosing to self-publish for a variety of reasons from desiring a bigger piece of their royalty pie to wanting more control of their product.  Our guest authors, Harkins and Corp, self-published for their own reasons.  Harkins wanted her book in her father's hands before he passed away and Corp had been told her angel-themed book was great, but that the "Big Houses" (aka Penguin, HarperCollins, etc.) already had their books in that genre, so too bad for her.  But just as they had different reasons for self-publishing, the authors had different methods, too.

Harkins told us how after researching various print-on-demand publishers, she went with Author House (the company Paolini used to originally print Eragon once upon a time ago.)  For her, Author House had a variety of packages and options that suited her needs including editorial services (both content and mechanical), marketing materials, and the hard-copy book itself.  Of course, this type of service comes at a price.  (A quick look at their website shows basic packages from $599.00-$1,999.00--and that's not even including the extra editorial and marketing services!)  In comparison, Corp decided to go the online route first and uploaded her book to Smashwords which could then be adapted to Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites for downloading to all e-reader devices.  She wanted to focus on her online presence and only printed a small number of hard-copy books for family, friends, her dentist, etc. and any potential book-signings, figuring strangers were more willing to take a chance on a new, self-published author by purchasing a $2.99 e-book rather than a $10.00+ hard-copy.  After doing some research, she decided to go with Create Space for her printer and just received her first box of books the same day she spoke to us!  (How cool is that?!)

Of course, there are many pros and cons of self-publishing.  Here are some they mentioned:

-Author own all the rights to their book--that's right, ALL! :)
-Author gets a bigger chunk of the royalties
-Author gets to design their own cover
-Author can put extra things in the book like websites to visit or hotlines to call
-Author controls their writing destiny (can publish one book or fifteen different books and no on can stop them!  Mwa ha ha!)
-If the book sells really well, it can invoke the interest of agents and editors for future projects...

-Author has to work extra-hard to promote their book (although arguably, you have to do this more and more even at the Big publishing houses)
-Author doesn't have Big publishing house contacts, reviews and reputations to back them up
-Author still has some self-publishing stigma to battle
-Author has to design their own cover (for some people, this is either a blessing or a bane...)
-Author can spend A LOT of out-of-pocket money
-Self-published books will rarely be added to "Big Box" book store shelves

Both Harkins and Corp are new to this game of self-publishing and are unsure how successful the endeavor will turn out.  Both are glad they made this choice but are open to pursing the agent/editor route in the future.  Quite frankly, there are ups and downs to whichever publishing method you decide to follow.  Agents, editors and publishing houses do a lot of the legwork for you and make sure your book is as spectacular as it can possibly be.  HOWEVER they take a hefty chunk of the books sales and are harder to get into than a Hanson concert in 1997.  Self-publishing gives you more control of your product and profit, but you're forced to face everything as a one-person army.  It's an uphill battle either road you choose.  But hey, no one ever said writing was easy!
Us writers (the crowd) ALL want that agent's/editor's attention (aka hunky Taylor Hanson).
Harkins and Corp are both indomitable, impressive writers who grabbed the bull by the horns and are helping to lead the way in this self-publishing revolution.  I wish them the best of luck and can't wait to find out what their futures hold!  Be sure to check out their websites:

(On a side note, at the end of our meeting both authors gave away their books and I won Harkins' novel, The WindSinger!  Might be seeing a review for it in the upcoming weeks!) 

Both cover pics are from the respective author's website
Hanson pic from

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