When You Don’t Fit the Mold

Traditionally published author LeAnn Hardy steps into the world of self-pubbing. Here’s her story…

Self-publishing is not for everyone. It certainly should not be a shortcut to avoid doing the work necessary to bring a manuscript up to commercial publishing standards. But it provides a great opportunity for those of us who don’t quite fit the traditional mold.

Several of my books were commercially published ten years ago. That should give me an in for my next book, right? Wrong. Despite great reviews, none of my books were big sellers. And then there was that gap when I lived in South Africa and wrote for children affected by HIV&AIDS—not a huge market for the CBA. I am passionate about my books—all of them—but they don’t fit into an easily-marketable brand. It was an agent at an ACFW conference who advised me to try self-publishing.

I started by formatting my out-of-print juvenile fiction for Kindle. For someone like me with a large network overseas, e-publishing is ideal since there is no shipping involved. Amazon has a free, easy-to-follow manual for preparing a manuscript for Kindle. Unfortunately, the instructions for preparing a book for Nook were written in topic sentences. For more detail they referred me to their manual in “computerese.” After wasting months, I gave up and just went with Kindle for the time being (much as I dislike the idea of the publishing world being taken over by Amazon.com!)

Print-on-demand means that paperback copies can be available without the initial layout for printing or a garage full of book boxes. Createspace charges no set-up fee unless you use their services for editing, design or marketing. I figured I had enough contacts and skills to do it myself. I designed my own covers for two books. I hired Kathleen Popa to design the cover of my latest release, HONDDU VALE, paying much less than Createspace. I do freelance editing and proofreading for a couple Christian publishers and have a strong critique group. Nevertheless I ran my manuscript by a grammar-meticulous reader who surprised me with the errors she turned up. Createspace now has a link when you have set up your book that lets you automatically convert it to Kindle. I have not yet tried that, but I intend to with my next release.

Marketing is the same challenge it would be with a commercial publisher—not natural for an introvert like me. You can hire a publicist or do it yourself. The biggest drawback to self-publishing I have encountered is being on my own. When my techie friends and I couldn’t figure out how to get the page numbers off the title page in the proof of Honddu Vale, my IT son-in-law said, “Doesn’t your publisher take care of this for you?” “I AM the publisher,” I was forced to reply.

It has been a steep learning curve every step of the way. Sales are still not huge, but I get a much higher percentage of what does sell. I even get to set the price.

Now if I can figure out this Nook stuff . . .

LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents as a writer and missionary librarian. Her plots and settings are inspired by these diverse locations. She currently lives in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where she enjoys her husband and grandchildren while trying to write Glastonbury Grail book three and do freelance editing. LeAnne recently launched Honddu Vale, the second in her 16th century Britain Glastonbury Grail series.