Self-Publishing: A Revealing Reflection

When I finally accepted the reality of self-publishing my first non-fiction memoir, Beyond the Scoreboard: Examining Teamwork, Tension, and Triumph in High School Athletics, I never realized how much of a learning experience this journey would ignite.  While there have been periods of anxiety, the journey has provided a multitude of episodes in which learning has occurred.  The arena of writing and publishing has expanded my life experiences and allowed me to explore the depths of my own creativity and knowledge.

The object of this post is to catalog a few episodes that, at times,  spiked my anxiety yet allowed me to gain valuable experience for future publishing endeavors.   Maybe a first-time author can gain insight on self-publishing by reading and reflecting on the situations presented in this post.  However, I desire to use this post as a journal entry for my own reflection as I embark on the book launch of my first completed project.

1. Choosing a Self-Publisher:

In March 2010 I shared my ideas on what I was looking for in  Choosing a Self-Publishing Company in a blog post.  After months of research I finally decided upon Mill City Press.  I explained my rationale in Beyond the Scoreboard…Published by Mill City Press, yet another blog post.  I have been satisfied with the company’s professionalism, punctuality, and constant willingness to be of service.  My experience with MCP is not completed yet, and time will tell if this project will end with complete satisfaction.  As of today, I would highly recommend, without hesitation, MCP to anyone interested in self-publishing.

2. Acquiring Feedback

Before submitting my manuscript I had several people read it and provide feedback.  As an author, it is important to be humble enough to allow several people to read the manuscript knowing that the reviews may not always be glowing.  I wasn’t looking for complimentary comments so I chose carefully to get a variety of people from various walks of life.  I believed it to be important to have people with a variety of backgrounds and experience read my manuscript.  I also wanted people to read my manuscript who understood and appreciated the content of the book but could be objective regarding the real life anecdotes provided.  Two of the readers of my manuscript read exclusively for grammatical errors and improvements.

Once acquiring the feedback it was up to me to decide whether or not I would apply the feedback, positive or negative, to the actual text of the project.  Not once did I feel hurt or offended by feedback.  Some acquaintances of mine felt awkward at times commenting on my writing.  It never bothered me.  I was happy to get the feedback, I was happy to know that the collaboration would help to make book as good as it could be.

Finally, I have found that it might be a good idea to share any anecdotes used in non-fiction that include others in our lives to get feedback.  As an author, it is important to present the material exactly how it is meant to be rather than leaving anything open for interpretation, that is when it comes to using my experiences with others in the book.  It is always exciting for people to read about themselves so, as author, I wanted to be sure that those closest to me, those individuals who mean the most to me, were represented in an appropriate way.  After all, the stories are my stories too, but it is wise with friends and family I respect to share the stories I am using prior to publication.

3. Submitting Manuscript

Soon after getting hooked up with MCP, I was eager to begin the journey.  I submitted what I thought was my final manuscript.  When I signed on with MCP there was an onslaught of e-mails I received ranging from introductions, to marketing, to production, and to submit my manuscript.  Well, I did, on that day, submit my manuscript.  This was a bit overzealous on my part.  I was still awaiting feedback from some of my readers.  The editing that took place after I submitted my first manuscript cost me more money.  I wanted to make it right therefore I did not allow the extra editing and financial challenge to affect my desire for this project to be the best I could offer.

Because I didn’t include pictures within the pages of Beyond the Scoreboard, one of the best pieces of advice that I received was to add bullet points, charts, and highlighted passages.  This also was not a part of my first manuscript.  The process of creating these took extra time as well.  I had submit all of them as PDFs and, by using bold, highlighted print, show exactly where I wanted these in my manuscript.

Advice: Be sure to submit your best, most complete, finished manuscript to save time and money.

4. Copyrights and Permissions

The biggest delay in confirming the electronic proof from MCP for Beyond the Scoreboard has been obtaining permission to use the intellectual property of others.  I have used several quotes from various people ranging from Oprah to Shakespeare to Michael Jordan as chapter lead-ins.  Such use of quotes fall under the ‘fair use policy’ of the Copyright Law.  In my research, I have found two websites extremely helpful in obtaining permission for using copyrighted material, the U.S. Copyright Office, an official website provided by the United States government, and the Copyright Clearance Center.

I am currently waiting permission from Random House to use part of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.  It has been two weeks since I faxed all required material and I was informed it could take up to six weeks for a response.  Unfortunately, MCP is waiting on me now as they have completed the electronic proof of my book.  Some publishers will accept permission requests via e-mail.  In a matter of a few hours I received permission electronically from Eckhart Tolle’s publisher of The Power of NowThe New International Version of The Holy Bible provides copyright permission right on their website.  It doesn’t take long to find information on a web search.

Getting permission to use lyrics is a little different.  I decided to use the complete lyrics to a song written and performed by Keith Urban as an epigraph to the book.  There was some bouncing around with various people via telephone before I actually found the right place to make my request.  Because the lyrics were being used in their entirety and as an epigraph I was asked to make a semi-significant financial commitment.  At that point I had to decide whether or not I truly NEEDED these lyrics in my book.  I made the decision to use the lyrics because they were important to me and set the appropriate tone for the book itself.

One last permission I needed to obtain was the right to use a photograph of myself taken by a professional photographer.  The head shot is used on the back cover of the book.  Because it was a local photographer, people I know, they gave me the permission to use the image without asking.

I have found that all permissions must be included on the copyright page of my book, near the beginning.  The only exception to this was the music lyrics.  Hal Leonard, the agency I received granting permission, requested I include their statement in the ‘acknowledgment’ portion of my book, near the end.

5. To Be Continued…

As stated above, I am waiting on one more permission request from Random House.  When I finally am given permission or denied permission, I can adjust the electronic proof given to me by MCP on July 1, 2010 and begin to fully prepare for my first ever book launch.

The story doesn’t end here.  I am sure there will be more lessons to be learned.  When the book is finally published, I will be sure to share ‘the rest of the story’.

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About jpsteltz

Proud husband and father of four; Literacy Specialist; Reading Teacher; Literacy Coach; HS ELA Teacher; Published Author
This entry was posted in Authors, Books, Reading, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Self-Publishing: A Revealing Reflection

  1. While you may think your book will be nicer with the complete lyrics to a song in it, you have to make a business decision–not merely an emotional decision.

    I assume you will pay $1,000 or more to use the lyrics.

    Will you sell enough additional books because of the lyrics to pay for the lyrics?

    Will you lose even one sale if you did not include the lyrics?

    Also: you said you did months of research before selecting Mill City. maybe you did not do enough research.

    Like most vanity presses, Mill City is not completely truthful. The company says you’ll get “10 complimentary books.” They’re only complimentary if you ignore the fact that you’ll pay Mill City as much as $3,798 to get the free books.

    Mill City’s royalty chart is deceptive. The company says you’ll make $10.05 on each $13.95 book. That big royalty applies to books sold on your own website and “fulfilled” by Mill City. Your royalty is reduced by a $1.50 handling fee and a 3% credit card processing fee.

    How many people are going to find your website and order books from you? How much will it cost to drive traffic to your website. What happens if nobody shows up?

    It ain’t Amazon.

    Michael N. Marcus
    — Independent Self-Publishers Alliance, http://www.independentselfpublishers.org
    — “Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press,” http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661742
    — “How to Get the Most out of Self-Publishing Company,”
    http://silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing/selfpubcompanybook.html– “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
    http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com

    Like

    • jsteltz says:

      Michael-
      I appreciate your perspective. From reading your thoughts, it appears as though you have experienced many of these highs and lows of publishing before. It’s generous of you to share your thoughts regarding these issues on my blog.

      Thank you so much for reading and responding.

      Like

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