Why I Self-Published

CherryBlossomsInTwilight-coverThis week I’m pleased to feature an invited guest post from Linda Austin, author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, and a colleague from the Life Writers Forum and Story Circle Network.

My mother has a lot of interesting stories of growing up in Japan during and around WWII. I wanted to write her memoir. Although it started out as a family project, this memoir became something I thought would interest a lot of people, particularly educators as Japanese civilian stories from WWII are rare. This project took so long that I began noticing signs of Alzheimer’s in my mother, and then the newspapers began writing about the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII and I knew I had to get busy.

After three months of drop-everything-to-write, I was able to hand a softcover print memoir to my mother in early September 2005, in time for her 80th birthday, barely in time to publicize it in conjunction with the anniversary of the end of WWII. Cherry Blossoms in Twilight was self-published through a local printer featured in the newspaper along with an article about the St. Louis Publishers Association. This article led me to self-publish – I had no time to bother with finding a publisher because I wanted this book for my mother before she lost her ability to read or understand what I had done.

My mother, our family, friends and strangers raved about the book, but I wasn’t satisfied with it, especially after I joined the St. Louis Publishers Association (SLPA) and learned so much about publishing. I produced a second edition using everything the SLPA taught me. I tweaked the story to better suit what readers might want, had a new cover by a professional cover designer, and uploaded the book to Lightning Source for print-on-demand and an excellent distribution system. Schools, libraries and bookstores could easily buy it, and I’m proud to say Princeton University carries a copy. Amazon’s CreateSpace was not in existence then, only Amazon Advantage (Take-Advantage, I called it).

I’ve been a board member of SLPA for over six years now, with my nose in everything to do with publishing. Yes, I’d self publish again. I’m working on a book of poems inspired by my mother’s dementia and my visits to the nursing home, and I’ll use CreateSpace because I won’t need distribution (poetry books don’t sell well). I’m also formatting Cherry Blossoms to upload to Kindle Direct Publishing. I’ve used Lulu.com to publish hardcover and softcover short memoirs for elder folks – just for the families, though. Lulu was very easy to use and perfect for producing a couple dozen copies, but using it to publish for the public is expensive, as it is with most publishing services companies.

With the advent of e-books and affordable, good quality print-on-demand technology, there’s never been a better time to take charge and self publish. But, you’d better know what you’re getting in to and what you’re doing or you could spend a lot of money unnecessarily or end up with a book that won’t sell (or both). Self-publishing is the shorter route, not the easy route, and many authors balk at marketing.

I advise new authors to read everything they can about publishing – and marketing. (Marketing actually starts with writing.) Every author these days must market his or her own work. Traditional publishers are struggling with Amazon, the bad economy, the advent of easy self-publishing, and the popularity of e-books. They can’t afford to market much and are more careful than ever about taking on the risk of unknown authors. You can wait ten years or more for a traditional press to accept your work, which may never happen, try for a small press (easier to be accepted, but buyer beware), or take the reins, study the road map, and make your own way into the realm of publishing.

Linda uses her website, Moonbridge Publications, to encourage others to capture life stories. She has collected and created some resources to help get started on the journey of memoir writing and publishing. Self-publishing is an intricate topic way too big for one post, but articles listed under the resources tab of the Moonbridge Publications website will help new authors navigate the field of publishing choices and make smart decisions that result in a professional-looking book without breaking the bank.


Lisa MacDougall said...

I am relatively new on the scene. I have been a writer all my life but have only begun to admit it. At 48, I am just beginning to attempt to write something of worth - even if it is just left for my children to enjoy.

I appreciate any and all information I find by searching the web. I have just created a website and blog. It is a newborn at the moment so the best is yet to come. One of the goals of my blog is to learn about womens lives - all ages and ethnic backgrounds.

Cherry Blossoms in Twilight sounds like a wonderful read. I will put it on my list of must reads.

I have some interest in writing a memoir of my father's family. It, too, involves a war theme.

Thanks for the encouragement and for passing on your experience.

Lisa MacDougall

Linda Austin said...

Thank you Lisa. I didn't publish my mom's memoir until I was about your age, and it changed my life. I've heard of 80-year-olds publishing for the first time! Your blog sounds right up my alley. Continue to read all you can about writing and publishing and go for your dreams. Best wishes.

Rosanna said...

Thank you for a very inspiring post. I hope someday I'll be able to write my own memoir. for now, I've subscribed to your blog, so I'll learn more.

Linda Austin said...

You're welcome, Rosanna. Thanks for subscribing. Sharon here is a host of the Yahoo Life Writers forum, too, which is very welcoming and supportive.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thank you to Lisa and roseanna for the comments, and to Linda for reminding people of the Life Writers Forum.

kathleen said...

Thank you for this very practical guide to self-publishing. I appreciate all the resources you share here and on your website. I also appreciate your openness in sharing what you learned through your own self-publishing experiences. With the current changing publishing industry, it is important to get some solid tips on what has worked.

Thank you Sharon for featuring Linda.