Self-publishing without shame: guest post by Ned Rozell

“My book is self-published.”

Loser is the first word that flashes into your head when you hear that, right? If his/her material were good enough, a conventional publisher would have taken the risk.

For my latest book, Alaska Tracks, I didn’t want or try to find a publisher. Here’s why: After I sent queries to publishers for my first book, Walking my Dog, Jane; from Valdez to Prudhoe Bay along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, three said they wanted the proposal, and two wanted the manuscript. I sent it, and Duquesne University Press published the book.

That was a decent experience, even though they couldn’t pay an advance on royalties, and offered a little more than a buck in royalties for each $24.95 hardcover they sold. Curious after meeting only via email and letter, I visited my publishing contact there once when I had a layover in Pittsburgh. She bought me lunch in the Catholic university’s cafeteria. That ham sandwich was one of the biggest perks of my deal.

Upon my urging, she decided to sell the rights of my book to Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co. in Portland in 2005. Since my contract stated I’d get half of that cash, I was pretty happy. But I still haven’t seen it all. Shortly after the sale, Graphic Arts sent me and other authors a form letter that they were going bankrupt and not to expect any checks for a while. And, no, they weren’t interested in selling me the rights to my book while they dug themselves out.

Fresh off that experience, I didn’t consider using a traditional publisher as I gathered material for my third book, a sequel to Walking Jane. I knew editors I could hire. I knew an artist who could design a cover for me. Why did I need to beg for someone to publish my new book? Why give away all my control to people I might never meet face to face? I knew my stuff was good.

So, without Writer’s Shame, I looked into what self-publishers were offering writers who can spell and have an eye for layout. Some offered decent distribution in exchange for about $1,000 cash. Others, including an company, offered less on the distribution end, but wanted only a modest cut of each title sold. I went with them, paid them $0, and have sold on Amazon at a clip that has rivaled my other books, with a return of $7.50 to me on each $16.95 book. And, since the books are print-on-demand, the only ones in my house are the ones I order to give away or use at book signings. The details, and what I believe are the pluses and minuses of my self-publishing option, in my next post.

2 thoughts on “Self-publishing without shame: guest post by Ned Rozell”

  1. Print on demand and Amazon's clout and accessiblity have turned self-publishing into a viable option for competent, capable writers who can reach the market for their books. There's a stigma, yes, because not everyone out there is competent and capable. But the reading public can sort through that. The success of this blog, with strong readership among the millions of blogs out there, has proven that to me.

  2. I did the same thing with the same satisfaction as a result. The publisher of my first book is narrowly focused on "spiritual" children's books. When I had a collection of small pieces that had been applauded in one context or another, I collected them in a lovely small self-published book. I have sold 400 copies (in three years) without Amazon though I will look into that. My investment about $1600 in four printings of 100 each. I have cleared almost that much. I felt like I ducked the stigma by citing awards and publication of some of the individual pieces –on the cover. Blurbing the back with solid endorsements. Sandy Kleven

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