Linda Pressman, this year’s winner of the WD Self-Published Book Awards, had quite a long path to publication. We asked her to describe her process and expand on her overall thoughts on self-publishing.
1. Describe the process of publishing this book.
Once I made the decision to self-publish, I began working my way through the CreateSpace requirements. Taking my 300 page manuscript in 8 ½ x 11 inch paper and copying it into a document the size of a 5 ½ x 8 inch book immediately made my page count about 700. Even though it was hard and even though I thought eventually certain parts of the formatting were going to defeat me, I ended up learning how to do all of this: dropped capitals, alternating headers, margins, spacing, imbedded fonts. When I was done I ordered a proof and, several days later I had the joy of holding my book in my hand and surprising my kids with it as well. There were typos, however, and so, two more rounds of proofs later [CreateSpace now allows online proof reviewing] I was able to publish.
2. Why did you choose self-publishing?
When my book was finally in what I considered to be its publishable form, the publishing industry had changed greatly from my earlier years attending writing conferences and meeting with agents and editors. I knew that it might be impossible for an agent to sell my book to a publishing house so I decided to self-publish. I'd had a few disappointments with the publishing industry before I decided to self-publish.
In late 2007, I was being represented by an agent who unfortunately failed to sell the book. I decided that the book needed a thorough edit and that I needed to work on my platform before trying again, so I ended my representation with the agent to do these things. By 2010, I knew the book was in good shape. I also knew that I had a pretty decent platform, having established myself as the Blog Editor of Poetica Magazine and as a blogger but that, by then, the publishing industry had gone through a lot of changes, making it harder than ever to sell a book to a pubishing house. I felt that it would be almost impossible to approach an agent with a book that had already been submitted to publishing houses and expect them to be interested in representing it. Luckily, self-publishing had grown greatly during the same time period, both in numbers and in reputation, so I decided to go with that. My top priority with the book was always to get the story out there so I consider myself very lucky that a self-publishing option existed!
3. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced self-publishing?
By far the greatest challenge has been that, by the mere fact of my book being self-published, people have assumed it cannot be good. It’s been incredibly hard just to get reviewers and bookstores to give the book a chance—just to read one page and judge it on its own merits.
4. What are the most important benefits of self-publishing?
In self-publishing the work is truly judged on its own merits. I had no agent or publishing house standing behind me to convince people of the quality of my work – the work itself had to do that. My book and I, in essence, stood or fell together.
5. What surprised you about the process of self-publishing?
I was very surprised by how connected I feel to my readers. About two weeks after I published Looking Up, I received my first complimentary email and I didn’t know what to say, I was so amazed that someone would write to me to tell me how the book had touched him or her. People have now done that many times, sometimes they send multiple messages as they’re reading. I didn’t expect that at all, it’s always a surprise and it’s always wonderful.
6. What are the biggest misconceptions about self-publishing?
There’s a misconception that self-publishing is expensive. I used CreateSpace for my publishing needs and, although there are methods of publishing with them with costs attached, I chose to do all my formatting on my own and published for nearly no cost, just nominal sums related to distribution.
7. What's the worst mistake that self-publishing authors can make?
Probably one of the worst mistakes self-published authors make is in thinking that because they’ve got a story that they’ve got a book. Many, many people have interesting stories and interesting lives and histories, but these stories may not necessarily make interesting reading. One of my later professors told us that while we were writing we needed to constantly ask ourselves, “So what?” Each story has to pass the “so what?” test; he told us that without an answer to that question, our story probably would not be interesting to anyone outside of our family and friends.
8. If you were to self-publish again, what is one thing you’d do differently?
I’d probably do my best to learn some type of cover design so that I could translate my own concepts into reality. For me, getting a cover that matched my content has been very challenging.
9. If you were to self-publish again, what is one thing you’d do the same?
I am working on a second book right now, the sequel to Looking Up, and, although I don’t know right now if it will be published by a traditional publisher or self-published, if I did self-publish, the one thing I’d do the same is work like crazy to get the writing right.
10. What’s your advice to other self-publishing authors?
The marketplace can be brutal and readers will notice flaws in a book – from non-standard formatting and unprofessional covers to typos and storyline flaws. Take the time to make sure that your work looks and reads like the best work coming out of publishing houses; something you’ll be proud to call your own. Then, whether it stands or falls, you’ll be proud to have written it.