Self-Publishing: Ham and Cheese on Why
September 6, 2012|
By Katy Brown
There’s an old song called “The Farmer in the Dell.” Ten children (or more) join hands and dance around the farmer, who stands in the center of the circle as they sing. At the end of the first verse, the farmer chooses his wife, who joins him inside the circle. At the end of the next verse, the wife takes a child, and so on, until the last verse when everyone is in the circle except the cheese, who stands alone.
“The rat takes the cheese,
The rat takes the cheese,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The rat takes the cheese.
The cheese stands alone,
The cheese stands alone,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The cheese stands alone.”
Teachers of children’s literature explain the reasons that the cheese may stand alone. Some varieties of cheese have such a strong odor that they have to be separated from other foods or flavors (characterized as the person who loses “The Farmer in the Dell” game). On the other hand, in order for cheese to mature and reach its richest potential, it needs to stand on its own. I often think of this cheese metaphor when I write—as an author published on the independent market.
If a writer wants to be taken seriously, isn’t it necessary for him to be represented by an agent? Shouldn’t a prestigious publisher endorse a manuscript? Why would anyone want to go at it alone? Is it because the writer doesn’t have faith in himself? Is it because the writer knows his work isn’t quite good enough? Is he afraid of being rejected?
I wish we could ask Mark Twain and Beatrix Potter these questions. It would be nice to hear what Walt Whitman and Thomas Paine thought of self-publishing. Moreover, let’s not forget the dynamic duo of William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White. All of these famous writers’ self-published books (in their original form) are still being read by people of all ages all over the world. Have you picked up a copy of “Robert’s Rules of Order” lately? How about “The Joy of Cooking”?
Corporate folks may have heard of Seth Godin. Now do you see “The Purple Cow”?
The phrase self-publish confuses people because they don’t understand how much is involved. Does the writer handle everything, or does the writer pay someone else to worry about it? In short, self-publishing is like selling a house by owner. You may employ people to handle parts of the project, but you aren’t paying them for opinions.
To be independent means to be without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. The author is responsible for the entire process, including design, format, price, distribution and sales. The author can do it all himself or outsource parts of the process to companies that offer these services.
When I wrote “Kat Tales: Stories of a House…Broken,” I was forced to make a major decision: shop the manuscript or sell it myself. I didn’t write the humor/memoir/animal nonfiction book to become famous. It was a “Bucket List” item that I wanted to cross off to please my aunt. “Before I die, I want to feel that book in my hand,” she announced. Not knowing if she had eight to 10 months or eight to 10 years to wait, I chose to take matters into my own hands. Well, with the help of AuthorHouse.
I had worked as an editor on Pat Kelly’s book, “Rainmaking 101: How to Grow Your Client Base and Maximize Your Potential.” When he gave me a copy, I was very impressed with the artwork and galley design. I don’t know what I was expecting from a vanity press production, but his book looked fantastic. At that point, I decided that AuthorHouse could have my business, too.
I wrote “Kat Tales” in three weeks and received a pre-press copy within two months of final submission. I chose everything from the color of the interior pages to the author’s headshot. I worked with a designer on the front and back cover artwork; I met with a marketing director to manage the book’s sales strategy and a publicist to coordinate a launch party. I had a team of eight people working on “Kat Tales,” but I was the one in charge. What did it cost? Well, you can go to the AuthorHouse Web site to figure that out. What I will admit is making my money back after the first month of Amazon.com sales.
This is one of the reasons that most writers choose self-publishing. Speaking for myself now, additional reasons for self-publishing are as follows:
- I’m impatient. When I want something, I want it now.
- I’m not a team player. I’d rather work alone.
- I’m a control freak. If I’d handed “Kat Tales” off to someone else, they might’ve changed the title to “How the Fur Flies” or “When the Fur Hits the Fan.”
- I own the material. The rights belong to me for life, and that means…
- I get to keep all the profits. I get higher royalties and I don’t owe anyone a commission of any type.
That is, if the book sells.
The most important thing to remember about self-publishing is that words count but marketing sells. Had it not been for a background in business development, I might have struggled to get the book onto store shelves—particularly at Tamarack. You can’t sit on your byline. You have to get out there and sell that book. If the cheese is going to stand alone, then it had better be a bit of a ham.
About the Author
Kathryn (Katy) Brown is the owner of The Write Word, LLC. Her work appears in a number of regional publications and newspapers, such as the Charleston Daily Mail’s Mommyhood, WV blog. Brown’s first book, “Kat Tales: Stories of a House…Broken” debuted in May 2012 and has been selected as one of the top 10 West Virginia books of the year. She is working on her second title, “Cooking for Dead People,” which will be published once again on the independent market. To learn more about the author, visit www.thewritewordllc.com and www.authorhouse.com. For locations to pick up Brown’s book, contact the West Virginia Book Company or visit www.wvbookco.com.