I tried to think of all the questions you might have if you’re half thinking of self-publishing. Here are the questions I’ve addressed in this article. If you have others, I’d love to try to answer them.
Just shoot me an email.
Why did I write this book?
If you’ve read my blog, you will know that I didn’t set out to write a book. It wrote me. It came through me about twenty years ago, at all hours of the day and night. Sometimes I’d even have to look up a word I’d written because I didn’t know what it meant. A fantasy story of a soul’s journey appeared on the page, obviously my own insights in an abstract form. I thought it was purely for my own therapy.
Why did I choose to publish it?
Again, I didn’t set out to publish this book. In actual fact, if I had my way, I’d prefer to stay hidden. I’m actually quite a private person. It was only because of a major life upheaval that I experienced a burst of compassion and an inner prompting to share my story with others. There wasn’t a need for me to feel that I was helping anyone, but I did hope that someone, anyone, might resonate with my fantasy story and uncover some truths that ring true to them because they already know them deep inside. But the main reason was simply an inner voice telling me to come out of hiding and fully express what had been inside me all of these years.
My external world at the time had taught me a valuable lesson. I had been in a situation where I was endlessly waiting for a commitment from ‘out there’. The decision to publish reflected an important internal shift; to a real commitment to myself. That also involved a financial investment in myself. I was fortunate to have the money available. Was I prepared to invest it in fully expressing my truth? Yes.
Why did I choose to self-publish instead of approaching mainstream publishers?
I had had a brief experience with attempting to have some of my writings published over the years. You can read more in my Bio in About Me on this website. I knew from experience what a long and time-consuming business it is. I also knew how publishers are able to choose only a very small number of manuscripts from the thousands they receive each year. The inner prompting was very clear – I knew that the time for sharing my story was now. No two ways about it. No more procrastinating. No waiting for some expert or authority figure to give me approval that I had something worthwhile to say. No dillying and dallying sending it back and forth to numerous publishers, filing away rejection letters and waiting for that one to agree. It was time. Just do it!
How did I decide on this company?
I know this is getting a bit repetitive, but I didn’t really choose this company. It kind of chose me. Normally I would do hours and hours of research and nail biting, always fearful of being ripped off or making the wrong decision, stymied and stalled by not knowing how the process would unfold. It seems that once I actually listened to that subtle inner prompting, everything else just fell into place. I love that saying. It’s exactly what happens—all I need to do is just turn up, agree to go along with it, and watch it all unfold before my eyes, without any effortful forcing on my part.
This is how it happened: I made the decision to self-publish. I’d arranged to have coffee with a friend the very next day. I was sharing my insights about my recent life crisis. She said, “You are saying everything that’s in Blake Bauer’s book. I have it in the car. Would you like to read it?” Something made me jump at her words—I knew I had to read this book You Were Not Born To Suffer. You can read more about it in my blog. As well as a deep resonation with every word in his book, and an unexpected affirmation that my fantasy story wasn’t actually crazy after all, I learned that a) he is a Geelong author b) he self-published, and c) it became the biggest-selling self-help title in Australia last year. I looked at the spine of the book. There was an attractive logo and the words Balboa Press.
Onto the net I jumped. Don’t we just love the interweb!
“Balboa Press is a self-publishing company specializing in self-help titles that inspire and enlighten the reader.
By starting Balboa Press, Hay House founder Louise Hay opened the door for more authors to publish books that make a difference in our world. Due to the competitive nature of the publishing industry, only a select number of titles can be supported each year through the Hay House’s traditional model. However, with the launch of Balboa Press, more and more authors are empowered to reach their goals of having their books published.”
Oh my goodness, it’s an arm of Louise Hay’s company! Her book You Can Heal Your Life was one of my first life-changing personal growth books back in the 1980s. I read on:
“The Publishing Revolution
First, people started making films and music independently of big companies. Now, the indie revolution has caught up with what authors and readers have wanted for years – high-quality, professional self-published books.
The name Balboa Press was inspired by Balboa Park in San Diego, Calf., U.S., a true source of joy for founder Louise Hay, as well as all those who visit it…… Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the United States and is home to 15 major museums, nine performing arts venues, gardens covering 1,200 acres and the world-renowned San Diego Zoo.
The Balboa name reminds us to continue to look for new and marvelous discoveries in the world around us and within ourselves. Our publishing company is committed to doing just that – helping new talented writers explore and find their own paths, get published and share their insights.”
That’s it. It feels right. I carefully researched on this site and found accurate, well explained information, and packages that compared well to pricing of other self-publishing companies. There are so many out there to choose from. But this one chose me.
Can anyone self-publish anything?
Pretty much, but there are safeguards. This company required an initial look at the manuscript to ensure that it contained no offensive material and was in keeping with their ethos. Other companies will have their own stipulations to safeguard their reputations and protect the public.
I just love that I’m living in the time of the ‘indie revolution’. I can imagine the many people who can now invest in themselves and create a high quality book that expresses who they are at this point in their lives. Imagine all the beautiful family histories that are being written, all the autobiographies or children’s stories to be handed on to grandchildren and future generations.
How long did it take to get the manuscript ready for submission?
I worked on my embryonic manuscript for two to three hours every day, rewriting, deleting, rearranging, tweaking, and incorporating all the new insights I’d had in the intervening years. I was on annual leave at the time, and this took about a month. I submitted what I thought was a beautifully polished manuscript.
Who edits it?
Your self-publishing company will have their own arrangements, but this company includes a sample 2,000-word edit in the price of their packages. When this came back, I realized just how much I had to learn about writing! As I say in my blog, I’m a mum, a nana, a teacher, a learner, a dancer. I’ve never been a writer before, and can’t possibly put myself in the same category as those writers who have honed their craft for many years. Among other mistakes in my ‘beautifully-polished manuscript’, I’d failed to hyphenate my compound adjectives. I didn’t even know I was using them!
There are various ways to proceed after this initial editorial feedback, depending on what you’re aiming to achieve.
How long does it take to send it back and forth?
It’s all done online now, so no wasting paper and waiting for snail mail to send bulky packages across the ocean. Being an American company, they received my submissions or emails overnight, and then immediately emailed me back the next day. Similarly, their editorial corrections and queries to me were instant.
How big a print-run did I have?
Instead of doing a costly and potentially wasteful print run of 100 or 1,000 books like in the olden days, my publisher is using the very latest print-on-demand technology, which prints each copy individually as soon as it’s ordered. So there’s no wastage, no waiting, no unsold books gathering dust in storage, and it’s so good for the environment. I love that this is one of the reasons that self-publishing is affordable for many more people nowadays.
Who pays for each book to be printed? Are there any other costs?
My company pays for printing and distribution. I was careful to find out whether there are any other costs to me after buying the self-publishing package. I’ll need to pay postage on the free copies they include, along with any other books I buy at author-discount. I pay for any costs involved in however I choose to market my book.
How much do I earn?
As with mainstream publishing, the company receives most of the money paid per book, while the author receives a small royalty. When ordered through their distribution channels such as Amazon, this is 10%. This was spelled out clearly at the start, and my research showed it’s comparable to mainstream publishing. But unlike mainstream authors, as a self-published author I receive a larger 25% royalty if my readers order directly through the bookstore on the Balboa Press website.
This is not terribly relevant to me though because, for me, this whole exercise was not about becoming anything, or earning anything, or even covering costs. It was simply about me committing to myself, finding my voice, investing in myself and expressing my truth.
How do I get it into bookstores? Who designs the cover and the layout of the book? How do I get a library congress number? What is that anyway? Do I have to make it into an ebook? Wahhhhhh? etc. etc. etc.
Thankfully, all that is taken care of when you buy a publishing package. I know nothing about all that stuff, but they have it all covered. Phew!
How long does it take to be released?
How long is a piece of string? Again, it depends on how much time you have to devote to the project. A retiree might spend all day, every day and go from sign-up to launch in as little as four to six months. Someone with a full-time job may need to take a couple of years. I worked part-time during the process and I launched it on October 23rd. That was about nine months. Hah! Perfect gestation time.
Who markets the book? What about publicity? Do they give you any help?
The author is responsible for marketing the book. You can use whatever strategies and publicity you like. I don’t know about other companies, but mine provides a free one year subscription to a fabulous author resource website within the cost of the package. My consultant talked me through this resource, and alerted me to particular articles and podcasts at specific stages of my process. (Here we go, as I’m re-reading this, an email pops in from him about another useful article for me to read!) I’ve used this resource mainly for help with launching and marketing. I’ve spent many hours learning so much from authors, author marketing experts, agents, publicists and social media experts. One of the early videos gave me a huge shock when they said that I simply must have an author website! And look what happened. I did it!
It sounds like hard work. Is it worth it?
Without doubt, it’s a time consuming process that requires patience, perseverance and concentration—and a dictionary and thesaurus on hand at all times! If you’d told me when I first decided to publish that I’d currently be working on draft number 17, I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend it.
Yet somehow it’s an activity that suits me right down to the ground. I feel energised yet calm when I’m engrossed in my writing and re-writing. I’ve always naturally been drawn to finding the exact word or expression, even when writing emails at work. I know it’s not for everyone, though. When I was telling my son about the book, and that I was onto the fourteenth draft at the time, his eyes were glazing over and he was visibly shuddering at the thought of it.
I suppose that many people publishing their books would be seeking some kind of success. That word seems meaningless to me now—the success for me is in honouring the full expression of my whole self without holding anything back, and in following it through by getting it out there. That’s it. I’m done.
I always thought it would be a bonus if even one person were to be helped in any way. One of my very dear friends was moved to tears by the resonation she felt after reading just one of the chapters. She said it shifted something deep inside her and allowed her to see that her “pain is a privilege”.
That’s enough for me. Anything else is a bonus.