Member Katy Pye’s debut novel, Elizabeth’s Landing, won First Place in Fiction in the 2013 Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book Awards. This is a considerable achievement since approximately 400 fiction books competed in a range of categories (See writerdigest.com in April).
With so many self-publishing programs available, including the ubiquitous Kindle KDP, what is the difference between a self-published and a true artisan published book? Since Elizabeth’s Landing is clearly the latter, we asked Katy about her publishing journey.
One of Katy’s main concerns for Elizabeth’s Landing was timing. The book’s key theme is the BP oil spill, already fading from consciousness by the time the research was finished. Katy knew that with traditional publishing, it could take several more years for the book to materialize. The other concern was creative control. Since this story didn’t fit current trends in the market place, distributing through traditional markets would put the book at risk.
“Instead of risking abandonment by a publisher after six months, self-publishing keeps the book accessible so it can be found and developed in multiple readership categories. Teachers are showing interest in Elizabeth’s Landing for their classrooms. It may take time to build the middle-grade/young adult audience.”
The process of self-publishing is daunting because it’s all about us: the writer is not only writing the book but also producing the book. Elizabeth’s Landing went through two writing groups, six professional critiques and a copy edit. And that, possibly, was the easy part. By the time she worked her way through the artisan approach to publishing, Katy had a great deal of experience. She offered tips for the writer who wants to create and control her own book in her own creative way:
1) If you’re new to publishing, research it fully before making the choice.
2) Know thyself: personality, skills, and finances. Are you a hands-on or hold-my-hand person? Example: Can you format the manuscript into a book and/or eBook format? If not, what (and how much time) does it take to learn? If you like/need professional help, how much, what sort, and what’s the cost? What’s your patience level? Good on details? Did I mention the “ark” you’ll need to survive the flood of details? (See #3)
3) Plan a year ahead: make an editing and final revision, publishing and marketing plan. Include a budget. Time flies, only surprises are predictable, and costs add up.
4) Have your “final” manuscript professionally critiqued and edited.
5) Study covers you admire, then hire a professional, unless you have the artistic training to create a cover that carries its workload (Katy came up with the cover design for Elizabeth’s Landing, described more fully in an interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde. But even with an original idea, she worked with a graphic designer, Laurie MacMillan of Sunfield Designs).
6) Network. Continue to build your audience through your process, website, and social media.
7) Build a relationship with local bookstores. Your charming presence helps sell books. Many bookshops also sell through Kobo. Most of all have fun in your own backyard. The majority of your sales, especially your first, likely happen there.
To belie the idea that self-publishing, particularly artisan publishing, is easy and fast, Katy elaborated further on the process:
“I hired CreateSpace (CS) to help design the interior. That effort failed, as they couldn’t get me an acceptable product in time for my June 30th launch. Nice, helpful people on the front end. I don’t know what the problem was with the design team.
While I was waiting for CS to get it right (and fearing it wouldn’t), “The Book Designer” released Word-based interior templates by Joel Friedlander. I bought one, dropped in the manuscript, and sent it to Cypress House Press, a local publisher, for a final check. We hashed through some problems and I shipped the final off to a quick, high-priced, quality printer. Books arrived two days before my local launch event. No stress there! I later uploaded the Book Designer formatted manuscript successfully into CS and set up the Expanded Distribution channels. Since bookstores don’t buy many self-published books, certainly not from any part of Amazon, I opened an account with Lightening Source/Ingram.
Amidst the CS debacle and before my launch event, I took on formatting and publishing my e-books (Nook, Kindle, and Kobo). I used Scrivener (best on a Mac) and Ed Ditto’s eBook, How to Format Your Novel for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and CreateSpace in One Afternoon. Way longer than one afternoon. I don’t blame Ed; his book is terrific. My learning curve at that point resembled a mid-winter Himalayan expedition on oxygen-deprived brain cells. Still, my e-Books were out before the paperback.”
Worth the seven years of work? Absolutely, evidenced by the Writer’s Digest award.
“So many kind, patient, and talented people were part of my seven year journey with Elizabeth’s Landing. They gave me knowledge and insight, corrected mistakes, and kept reminding me: Someday there would be this book. They were right, and I am grateful they shared the path.”
Visit her website for more information about the book: http://katypye.com