Sometimes authors wonder when and if they should self-publish a book. Author Helen Haught Fanick, a traditionally published author, had the same concerns. As our Guest Blogger this week, Helen shares with us the decision to self-publish a book she had to see published, why she did it the way she did it, and – even better – how she did it. Was it a decision that paid off? We’ll let her tell you. Enjoy “The Checks Are Coming In: Why I Self-Published My Book and How I Did It” by Guest Blogger Helen Haught Fanick.
– Clay Stafford
I’m a writer whose search for an agent has finally ended. No, I didn’t find an agent who’s working diligently to find a publisher for my novels. After sending out seventy-five queries to agents for my first cozy, Moon Signs, I decided to make my book available through Kindle Direct Publishing and in paperback through CreateSpace. In other words, to self-publish, and to do it myself with only my computer to help me. Well, I completed the interior of the book myself. I did have help with the covers in the beginning, as I’ll explain later.
Writing Moon Signs, a cozy mystery, was the most fun I’d had in a long time. It’s set in one of my favorite places, West Virginia’s Canaan Valley, and in winter, my favorite time of year. I’d written other novels, but this one was the most important to me. I was determined to see it in print. I received several encouraging notes from agents, and there were a few who wanted to see my complete manuscript. One of these suggested changes and wanted to work with me, but our ideas were so divergent that after a year of struggling, we parted company. Then I queried some more, spending every Sunday printing letters or emailing them, recording my submissions on a growing list, and going to the post office on Monday. For a long time, I rejected the idea of self-publishing, but deciding to do it has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
Sure, formatting the manuscript for the first book was a challenge. I submitted more than one manuscript for Moon Signs before I finally got it right (it’s possible with CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to make changes, even after the book’s been published).
One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to create a table of contents (TOC) when I switched from the PCs I’ve always used to a new Mac OS X Lion 10.7.5 with Office 2011 for Mac. I found blogs that said creating a TOC was impossible with a Mac, but after much browsing I learned that it is possible with the use of bookmarks to mark each chapter, the acknowledgments, etc., and with hyperlinks to the bookmarks in the actual TOC.
This is a link to the post that steered me in the right direction: http://www.tuaw.com/2012/05/05/ibook-lessons-creating-amazon-kdp-tables-of-contents-on-ms-word/. After a lot of experimenting, I modified the instructions a bit and came up with my own procedure:
- Create a separate page for the TOC and type TABLE OF CONTENTS at the top.
- Place the cursor in front of TABLE OF CONTENTS and Insert > bookmark > name > toc > add.
- Bookmark in a similar manner everything you want in the TOC. When adding the name, I’ve found it simpler to use one word, since spaces and various characters aren’t allowed. If you want to use more than one, an underline can be used between words.
- Create a list on the TOC page of everything that’s been bookmarked.
- Select the first item on the list and Insert > hyperlink > document > anchor > type in the bookmarked word > click OK. Follow this instruction for each item in the list, making sure to select the item before going to Insert.
- Check your TOC to make sure each entry is working.
Something else that gave me problems was page numbering for the CreateSpace version. I didn’t want to bother with numbers on the front material. I just wanted to start with Page 1 at the beginning of Chapter 1. Here’s a link to a site that had some useful information: http://www.mcstech.net/blog/index.cfm/2012/1/5/Page-Numbering-in-Word-with-Different-Formats. Again, I came up with my own system to accomplish what I wanted to do.
- Insert a section break between the front material and Chapter 1. If you’ve already inserted a page break there, be aware that inserting the section break will create a second break that results in a blank page. Delete the page break to prevent this.
- Place the cursor in the header or footer area where you want the page number to appear, click on the Header and Footer tab in the toolbar and unselect Link to Previous.
- Go to Insert > Page Numbers > select Position and Alignment > Format > unselect Continue from previous section > make sure page numbering starts at 1.
I wish now that I’d kept a journal while working on my first novel so I’d know just how long it all took and how I completed each step. I’d advise doing this to anyone who wants to go the self-publishing route. Now the next books in my Moon Mystery Series, Moonlight Mayhem and Hunter’s Moon, are available through Amazon, as are my other works. I did keep a record while getting Moonlight Mayhem ready for publication. It includes hints that have helped a lot as I’ve worked on other novels.
The process has been challenging, exhilarating, but most of all, liberating. No more Sundays laboring over query letters that sometimes don’t get answered. And the process does get easier once you’ve been through it. Instructions are available for CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Barnes & Noble submissions, although in some instances they aren’t specific—the dreaded TOC, for example. And for the very technically challenged, CreateSpace offers to set books up for a fee. I decided to do it myself, and I haven’t been sorry.
Publishing on CreateSpace is free if you do the work yourself, and the same is true of Kindle Direct Publishing and the Nook Press program with Barnes and Noble. I’m lucky to have a daughter-in-law who’s a graphic designer, and she designed the covers of my first three novels. Now I do them myself, using my own photos or those of my son, who’s also a novelist and copywriter and most helpful as an editor for all my works. I reciprocate by critiquing his novels, which, incidentally, is an excellent learning experience for writers.
I’ve been hearing for years that writers who go the indie route don’t sell any books, so I’ve been surprised and exhilarated to find this isn’t true. Publicity is the key. I’m a member of Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Linkedin, Sisters in Crime, Book Blogs, and SheWrites. I blog or post notices on these sites when something is happening with my novels such as a new publication, a giveaway, or a period when the books are free for Kindle users. I’ve joined various groups on Facebook that are designed for authors and book lovers.
The trait that’s essential for being a published indie author today is perseverance—the resolve to write a book, edit it till it’s the best it can be, and figure out how to make it available to the millions of readers out there. If nothing else, I have perseverance, and I now have proof copies of my novels at my desk, I’m receiving royalty payments directly into my bank account, and I’m having a wonderful time with a totally new experience.
I don’t usually enjoy all the little platitudes that pop up all over Facebook, but I recently saw one that applies to my self-publishing efforts—“If you want something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done.”
Helen Haught Fanick grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Texas, and both states provide settings for her novels, which are available on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback. Her work includes cozy mysteries, suspense novels, a World War II espionage novel, and mystery short stories. Helen has won several local and state awards and two national awards in the Writer’s Digest Competition. She lives in San Antonio with her husband.
(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog series is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/). To be a part of this series, contact Beth at email@example.com.)