A couple of months ago, my brother asked me some questions about my self-publishing experience as part of his coursework for the Chang School Publishing Certificate Program. I thought it might be of interest to other Canadian self-publishers, so here it is:
What was your general experience when submitting your work to publishing houses?
A lot of jumping through hoops and then waiting. For entirely necessary reasons of economy, the traditional publishing industry is not a good friend to would-be authors. If I did find a publisher who was willing to read even a tiny part of my manuscript, I put together a package (usually cover-letter, synopsis, first 20 pages, s.a.s.e) and sent it in the mail. Sometimes I heard back in six months or so, sometimes I did not. This was especially frustrating when publishers requested that I not submit my manuscript simultaneously to other publishing houses.
How many publishing houses did you submit to?
Including queries and all lengths of manuscript submissions, probably about twenty-five, over the course of five or six years.
What were some of their names?
Dundurn Group, Insomniac Press, Coach House Books, Cormorant Books, Mercury Press
Did you try submitting your book to publishing houses of various sizes?
I queried almost all of the publishing houses in Ontario that have a literary fiction catalogue, but I submitted my work only to the smaller houses who accept unsolicited manuscripts. Which is tough, because they are also the publishing houses with the least money to spend.
What was the main reason you decided to publish independently?
Fatigue. I was tired of the process and the endless waiting (usually for disappointing news).
Could you describe generally the process of publishing your book independently?
Very generally, I researched my available options, chose the platforms that worked best for me, (KDP, Kobo, CreateSpace, and Book Country) uploaded my completed manuscript and finalized cover art, proofed it, set a price, and clicked the PUBLISH button.
Why did you decide to use KDP, KOBO, CreateSpace and Book Country rather than other potential online publishers?
At this time, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is the leader in independent ebook publishing. Because it is an Amazon company, my book is listed on all of Amazon’s worldwide pages which means huge exposure.
I chose Kobo because I’m in Canada and a lot of the people who will buy my ebook are Kobo, not Kindle users.
CreateSpace is the publisher of my paperback books. It was my least favourite user-experience. The proofing interface is slow and the shipping costs outside of the United States are horrendous, but at this time, there isn’t a good Canadian option for publish-and-ship on-demand.
And finally, I used Book Country more for their distribution services, than for publishing. They distribute my book to all formats of my choice (iBooks, Sony e-reader, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, google books) without an upfront fee to me.
What level of success have you had using these independent publishing platforms?
My main objective, when I decided to publish my book on my own, was to get it from manuscript to published work in a short period of time. I achieved this goal. Sales and Marketing, and time will tell if Fathom Lines will have any kind of success, but I am satisfied, no matter what happens, with what I learned. I count this experience as a success.
What is your level of creative control over the publication process?
Almost total. With the CreateSpace store there are minimum pricing rules that have to be followed to cover their costs of printing a physical book, but that is the only printer-imposed rule that I could find. There may be restrictions about certain types of offensive material, but as my work didn’t contain anything of that sort, I’m not sure what those rules might be.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about the process of publishing your book?
I think that about covers it! Thanks, Michael.
Anything you still want to know? Ask away in the comments!
Erin Bedford, writer.