Portsmouth A Love Story

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Adventures in Publishing

My adventures in publishing began in 2007. I was seeing a massage therapist monthly. This massage therapist was quite intuitive, and we would often talk about what each of us received during the treatment. One day in 2007, she announced that she thought that I was to create a set of angel cards. My first thought was something on the order of Holy Crap, another thing to do. My second thought was, that I would need an artist to help me on this if I decided to do it.

I decided to give this venture a shot. I began to channel text to place on the cards. During the course of the channeling, the project morphed from angel cards to meditation cards which was fine with my angels and guides. I began to channel meditation text for each card for an accompanying book. I talked with the psychic I check in with from time to time (I am too close to myself on a number of issues) and was given that there should be 56 texts and that they would be dualities. (The original title of the set was Contemplating Duality.)

About three months later I met Linda again. We had not seen each other since meeting on a trip to Ireland in 2002. Linda is an artist and graphic artist with a background in marketing work as well as being a genuinely caring, intelligent and thoughtful person. She agreed to come on board for the project. We hired her husband to do the photographs for the backgrounds of the cards. Having worked with my angels and guides, I knew what that they wanted for the backgrounds. Things seemed to be moving along. Well, you notice I said seemed to be.

Life interfered here and there for both of us, slowing things down. The cards and the book were designed and redesigned. Photographs were taken over again. The text was read and reread and edited. We finally decided that we were at the point that we wanted to send out query letters or proposal packages to publishers. (I was being cheap and did not want to share a percent with an agent.)

I did not realize that the creation of the project would seem to be the easy part. I try to remind myself that it the author of the book The Help received something on the order of 60 rejections before she found a publisher. I also now remind myself that it took James Wanless 20 years to bring the Sustain Your Life card set into being. Is this a clue where this is going?

I researched all the publishers that I thought would be a good home for what is now called Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be. Hay House requires on agent as do a number of other publishing houses that might be a fit. At the time I was still being too cheap and did not want to share a percent of the royalties with an agent.

I read up on publishing proposals and query letters. Linda and I edited and reedited them multiple times even as I was submitting packages. I would make an effort to ensure that the cover letter reflected something about the publishing house and why Opening the Heart would be a good fit. I would also re-read the submission guidelines before I submitted a query letter or full proposal package. Despite this, Red Wheel/Weiser informed me that it no longer publishes card sets. I swear that this was not posted on its website. It would have been a useful bit of information, saving both Red Wheel and myself time and effort.

I believe that it was New World Library that said it either preferred or required email submission. It, at the time, stated on its website that it did not know how to let you know that it had received an electronic submission. My thought was, What—you’ve never heard of auto reply? It also turned out that I had to break up our submission into 5 emails as its email server could not accept our graphic heavy submission in one email. That was a big sigh you may just have heard.

I believe it was Sterling that rejected Opening the Heart on the basis that Sterling does not publish fiction. Opening the Heart is not fiction, not even close. I decided that I really did not want to publish with a house that could not send out the correct rejection letter.

And, so it went.

I had a long conversation one day with a friend who was published by Beyond Word before you needed to have an agent and has not self-published a book.(I believe it now says that you do not need an agent but it prefers to work with agents.) Her feeling from her experience and from talking to other authors is that you need to have a big fan base to ensure that a traditional publishing house will pick up your book. I suppose unless you have the persistence of the author of The Help.

I finally, with Linda’s concurrence, decided to try finding an agent. Imagine another big sigh here. We did have some interest. One agent apologized for keeping the proposal package so long. She said that she was interested in the project, but could not figure out how to sell it. One or 2 wanted to see more after the query letter, but did not really say why they did not want to sign us to a contract. One agent liked it a lot but expressed that she was concerned that it did not have a big enough platform. At the time I thought she meant additional follow up projects related to Opening the Heart. I have now come to the conclusion that she meant a big following that would snap it up once published.

I found the website of an agent named June Clark towards the end of trying to find an agent portion of this adventure. I saw that, for a fee, she will edit your query letter and for another fee she will edit your proposal summary. It was money well worth spending as it was her editing that helped convince me, and then Linda, that we should try self-publishing. Well,that along with not having a huge fan base in place and my sense that traditional publishing houses might not understand Opening the Heart.

I purchased Stacie Vander Pol’s book Top Self-Publishing Firms: How Writers Get Published, Sell More Books, And Rise To The Top: And Make Money Working From Home With The Best Print On Demand Self-Publishing Companies. This book was extremely helpful as I would have had no clue about trade discounts, author discounts, types of book binding, and the like. One of the most helpful things is that she rates the top firms, including recommending avoiding some of them. She recommends a book called The Fine Print of Self Publishing, which I have purchased but have not read as of yet. A friend tells me that this book has a lot of useful information about marketing. This book also rates self-publishing firms
Serendipitously, my sister told me that a friend of hers had self-published a book and was happy with his experience with the firm he used. I looked up his book and discovered that the firm, Dog Ear Press, is rated well in both books. Linda and I have had a number of discussions and lots of emailing with our contact and are happy with them. 

And, even with that, Linda and I are morphing the card set into images in a book to be able to easily publish Opening the Heart. We are now including the planned workbook/journal in the same book rather than having a second publication. This, frankly, swa.

So, here are some things I have learned along the way:

Compare the packages. Hay House’s self-publishing arm’s (Beacon Press) publishing package, e.g., that is similar to the one that we are using with Dog Ear is about $5,000 more than Dog Ear’s.

Traditional publishing houses may have a self-publishing arm, but they have most likely contracted with an existing self-publishing firm to handle that piece of the business. It is important to research whatever self-publishing firm that you think you want to use. Some are less than ethical. Check the ratings in books. Google reviews of the firms. Check out chat rooms.

Talk to someone at the self-publishing firm. Ask in-depth questions. Linda and I are lucky because the actual price of the package is reduced because Linda is able to create a print ready press file and design the covers. We are saving money because I am not having them design a website for me. Which is a note on decide on your must haves. I have a website, e.g., and do not want to have to manage 2 websites. So, I opted out of that service.

But, be aware that if you chose the cheapest package you may be doing a lot more work such as registering your copyright and obtaining the Library of Congress number and the ISBN. And, you might have to try to list your book in Bowker’s Books in Print, and on and on. So you might pay more up front, but you will be receiving more for your money. And, even if you pick a more expensive package, you still might be registering the copyright yourself. You actually have the copyright by creating your book. What many people think of as the copyright is actually the registration of the copyright.

Pay attention to the contract with the firm. It should be easy to find on the website and easy to understand. Dog Ear’s is about 2-1/2 pages and clear. I heard about a self-publishing company that has a clause in its contract that raises the fee if your manuscript is more than 100,000 words.

Look at the cost per page to print the book. Are there additional fees? Dog Ear charges the cost per page, plus $2 per book. The cost per page differs depending on whether we wanted the standard or the premium printing. Another company charges more up front and not the $2 per book, but at about $2000 more up front, I would have to know that I was going to sell a huge number of books to make the additional cost upfront worthwhile. This is also the firm that has the additional cost for manuscripts above 100,000 words. We were asked whether we wanted a glossy or matte cover. My question was whether there is a price difference. The answer was no.

Some self-publishing firms require a minimum order of anywhere from 500 books and up by the author. This means you will have to figure out how to warehouse them and distribute them. There is a cost for this, of course.

Choose your trade discount carefully. If you choose only 35%-40%, your book can be listed on line but most likely will not be carried in bookstores. They might special order it, but carry it? No. Stacie Vander Pol says that you have to go to 55% to be carried in bookstores. I have been advised that 50% will be adequate. You will need to make up your own mind.

I have learned that there is a bit of a war going on between Amazon which owns Create Space and Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores and Ingram book distributor and owner of Lightening Source. Barnes and Noble will not list books published by Create Space, and neither it nor independent bookstores will carry them, partly because they are at a 40% trade discount only, but mostly because Create Space is owned by Amazon. Amazon will apparently not list books published by Lightening Source. I know someone who ended up publishing her book on both after she discovered the local Barnes and Noble would not stock her book because it was published by Create Space.

I am sure that there are other things that I have learned but I suppose this is more than enough for now. I am not saying do not self-publish, but rather just do your homework. Ask every question that you can think of. Does the person you are dealing with have a lot of patience for all the questions and multiple emails and discussions? If not, it may not be the firm for you.

Jordan Stratford has an interesting blog post called There is no such thing as Self-Publishing . I recommend that you read this fairly concise post as he talks about a number of the roles that still have to be filled when you self-publish. He also has a post on running a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a publishing project.  I recommend that you read this as well.

I briefly considered running a Kickstarter and/or an Indiegogo campaign. But the most successful ones on Kickstarter have a video presentation—50% of these are funded rather than 30% without a video, meaning that a lot of campaigns are unsuccessful. One of the tricks with Kickstarter is that, if you do not receive all the requested funding within that stated time period, you receive none of the funding. Indiegogo does let you have whatever your raise in funding time period. Then there are the rewards that you need to create for the funders. Jordan Stratford had a really successful campaign. He raised over 9 times that amount that he wanted to raise. He asked his “community” what they wanted him to do with the extra. He says in his blog post that you have to do a lot with social media to have a successful campaign. Well, I really do not have the ability to create a good video, and I do not use Twitter, etc. After reading his post and researching Kickstarter and Indiegogo, I decided that this route was not for me.

If you live in the Boston, Massachusetts area and are looking for a publisher and/or agent, you might want to spend the money to attend the annual Grub Street conference, The Muse and the Marketplace. I decided not because of the cost. Attending this year might not be possible as the conference may have already sold out. But, checking on it will not hurt. I met someone who found an agent by attending.

Oh and then there is the marketing to be done after you publish. Even with a traditional publisher, you will be responsible for a lot of marketing. Another story for another day, maybe.

If you still want to publish, many blessings and go forth.

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Kathryn Samuelson, as an intuitive, channels your angels and guides who are delighted to connect with you, and who are uniquely suited to answer your questions and address your concerns. She can receive information as to who your angels and guides are, as well as receiving information for you about family, health, job and career, and life path among other issues and concerns. She provides this guidance through the use of spiritual writing, a practice that she has engaged in since 1993. In her life coaching practice, she welcomes all clients, but specializes in helping those who are undergoing a transition in their lives—whether it is a move, a job or career change, a loss of some type, or some other transition issue. She was certified as a life coach in 2007 by the University of New Hampshire. Kathryn also leads workshops based on the set of meditation cards and book called Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be. She created this set with her friend, Linda Lewis. For more information: www.kathrynsamuelson.com, klsamuelsonATyahoo.com, or 781-799-7332

Other Blog Posts by Kathryn Samuelson:  Social Media FatiqueSustain Your Life Card Set: A ReviewThe Day that Changed the WorldMetanoia or the Radical Transformation of Heart and MindThe Language of PlaceComing Back from the DeadDecember 21, 2012 - What I Believe, Something I Learned in FranceBuddha, Christ, Merlin: Three Wise Men for Our Age Book ReviewJana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes: Book ReviewPlease Keep Me from Taking Myself too SeriouslyNo One is an IslandBeing in TimeWhat Comes Before Happiness? Small Businesses as a Sign of HopeWhen is Enough Enough?Just Because We Can, Should We?, Choosing a Slower Path, My Journey with the Angels, Odds and Ends, Dissolving Limits, Brave Spending, Mindful Spending, Would You Have the Courage to Act?, Growth in the Winter, Book Review: Find Your Spirit Animals, As We Grow Through the Season, Simple Ways to Give, Turning Left Rather Than Right, Giving Thanks, Nurturing the Ego, Letting Things Go, Real Energy Book Review, Living with Doubt and Uncertainty, Bardo - The Things In Between, Musings On Mindfulness, You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps, The Choices We Make, Beyond: Buddhist and Christian Prayers CD Review, Riding Out Irene: A Practice in Maintaining Balance,
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