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Calling all authors of self-published historical novels -- or authors from small publishing companies


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Initial post: Jul 8, 2007 6:14:07 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 8, 2007 6:15:41 PM PDT
D. Salerni says:
Greetings! Are you the author of a self-published historical novel? Or are you published with a small company? Are you NOT Philippa Gregory, and therefore have to do your own book promotions?

I recently found a discussion topic in the science fiction forum devoted to self-published authors -- a place for commiseration and sharing of ideas -- and decided to see if I could start one in this genre.

My name is Dianne K. Salerni, and I have recently published a novel for young adults and (ahem) not-so-young adults about the Fox Sisters. Maggie and Kate Fox were two teenagers who accidentally founded the Spiritualist Movement in the 1850's when they claimed to be spirit mediums with the ability to contact the dead. My novel follows the story of Maggie Fox's life as she first learns to make a living as a fraud, then becomes a national celebrity, and finally falls in love with a man who tries to extricate her from a life of deception.

I am published with iUniverse. My book is High Spirits: A Tale of Ghostly Rapping and Romance. It is listed here with Amazon and also with B&N. I have a website: www.highspiritsbook.com.

Are there any other authors out there interested in commiserating about the challenge of taking the non-traditional route, sharing ideas and thoughts on the Publish-On-Demand field, or possibly exchanging links on websites for mutual promotion? It's a big, bad world out there with a lot of books in it, and we can use all the friends we can get!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2007 5:47:10 AM PDT
You're right, there are hundreds of self-published books on the market and it is important to share ideas. One of the most difficult resources to find is a good editor, one that will honestly fault an author's work as well as praise. I have published three books and always find errors after publication.Do you have a solution?
A Gal from Denver

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2007 7:33:32 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 9, 2007 7:35:40 AM PDT
D. Salerni says:
Charlene,

I have only published one book so far, and my experience is therefore limited. As near as I can tell, you get what you pay for -- but since I believe traditional publishing houses use multiple editors, it's a challenge to equal their accuracy. I went with iUniverse's best package, which included an editorial review. It was a very thorough review and it made several suggestions for revision which would improve the marketability and also the literary value of the book. It also suggested a professional copy-editing, which of course was at extra cost. I did pay for this, and they did a good job. But it certainly wasn't perfect. In spite of the cost and the amount of time it took (it was supposed to take 3 weeks, but for some unexplained reason took 9 weeks), I still found errors on my own. I don't know if this speaks to the quality of their editors, but I think it is more likely that it just takes more than one editor to do the job. However, I did fix the remaining errors that I found, and I believe the published version has very few mistakes. (I haven't found any yet.)

But here's the next problem. This was very costly. My husband and I budgeted for this project, but what happens when I write another book? It hardly seems fair to my family to foot the bill for a second book too. So unless I find a less expensive way -- or get that dreamed-of traditional contract -- there may not be a second book.

Dianne Salerni
www.highspiritsbook.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2007 7:42:18 AM PDT
Thank you for the info and the inspiration. After a lengthy struggle, with everything about writing a book, an author could become discouraged. I agree the cost can overshadow even the most promising endeavor. I use Outskirtspress and enjoy the many financial options.
Thank you,
A Gal from Denver

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2007 8:16:10 AM PDT
Readalot says:
Hi there, Dianne! I have a foot in each camp. I've had historicals published by mainstream companies, also by small press and also by myself. It's a hard row to hoe. Having a "name" in another genre doesn't much help. I am pretty well-known for the Jack Russell: Dog Detective series, and my kids' books regularly sell several thousand copies. However, my self-pubbed and small-press books shift VERY slowly. Perhaps we could swap website links:-) I'm at www.sallyodgers.com

Sally Odgers.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2007 9:33:48 AM PDT
D. Salerni says:
Hi Sally!
I've been checking out your website. That's an impressive list of books! Wow! It's very interesting (and a little discouraging) to know that being published and successful in a certain genre doesn't guarantee you an "in" with the big publishers when you write in a different field.

I am an elementary teacher, so I know that I have seen some of your books in Scholastic clubs. The Jack Russell series looks particularly familiar, as does Amy Amaryllis.

I would be happy to trade website links. I am working on listing some authors I "met" in the science fiction forum, and then I want to go back and add a descriptor for each link. So, it's a work in progress. Any titles you particularly want me to mention?

Dianne Salerni
www.highspiritsbook.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2007 1:41:14 PM PDT
Barry Yelton says:
Hi D:

I just wrote a lengthy post in reply to yours and Amazon informed me that there was a problem but to "rest assured we are taking care of it." So here I go again.

I published my first novel, Scarecrow in Gray, with iUniverse in September of last year. I spent probably a year and a half trying to find either a traditional publisher or an agent. Guess what, both routes were as closed to me as the Blue Ridge Parkway in winter.

I went to self-publishing reluctantly but I must say I was generally pleased with iUniverse. I too chose their best package, but did not pay for copy editing, which would have tripled the price. Their editor even called my novel "wonderful." Too bad I can't use that as a review!

My book is the fictionalized story of my great-grandfather's Civil War service. I started it in 1997 and with my sense of impeccable timing, Cold Mountain came out the same year. That pretty much eliminated my being able to bring the book to market, so I shelved the project for about six years.

Then I decided that it was a story I wanted to tell and I dove back into it. I think every writer today needs to understand that you have to be a known quantity to get published by a traditional or you have to be as lucky as the winner of a $100 Million lottery.

There is a love story within my book, but most will perceive it as a man's book about war. I happen to think it is much more than that.

I tried to imbed imagery, poetry, morality, and moral ambiguity into what is at heart an action oriented journey novel. With as much impartiality as I can muster, I must say I have read a number of books from traditional publishers which are not as good. I think that is true for many self published works. It is not a mark of quality to get a book published, it simply means the publisher believes it is marketable.

So the reader often gets pedestrian mediocrity between two covers which tout the author's previous "seven New York Times bestsellers." What it doesn't add is that he has also subsequently written eight stink bombs.

I am a commercial lender who develops corporate loans for a large bank. In my view as a business person, the fundamental problem with publishing is that the supply now far exceeds the demand. Fewer people are reading. More people are writing. Ergo, the publishers eat about 70% of what they print. Not a good situation if you want to see your work at the local B&N.

This all sounds like sour grapes, which is pretty much what it is! I think my book deserved to be published. Is it War and Peace? No. It is however well written, thoughtful and evocative. Check it out on Amazon or B&N.

One caveat. I must say I do not particularly like the cover copy iUniverse chose, but I did not object at the time, thinking perhaps they knew what they were doing. I am not so sure about that now.

My blog is www.scarecrowsdreams.blogspot.com, where I posted the first chapter of my book along with some poetry and a few modest screeds about this and that.

All the best to all you fellow wannabe's. One thing you must never do. You must NEVER quit.

Godspeed.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2007 2:02:11 PM PDT
Donna Aviles says:
Hi, I am the author of 2 self published, true stories about my grandfather's early life as an orphan train rider at the turn of the century. Both were published in 2004 with Wasteland Press. Their publishing plans are excellent and I can honestly say that although I paid $600 to have each book published, I received 100 copies free of charge. Had I sold them all for the cover price of $10.00, I would have gotten ALL my money back. I sold most of them for 7-8 dollars each and gave some away to family members. I have purchased hundreds of more copies at 50% off and I sell them when I go to schools to talk about the Orphan Train Movement which is now part of school curriculum. I can truly relate with regards to the editing. I had five adults read carefully word by word and still a few mistakes got by us. At Wasteland Press you can always go back and change the interior if you find an error. I know I sound like a commercial for Wasteland Press, but they really were that good.
Donna Aviles
orphantrainbook@bravehost.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2007 2:26:34 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 9, 2007 2:27:22 PM PDT
Barry Yelton says:
Donna:

Wasteland Press sounds terrific. I will check them out for my next tome, whenever that might be.

Good luck,

Barry

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2007 2:33:02 PM PDT
Hi, Dianne. I'm a self-pubbed author of World War II-era romance. I've published three novels, so far. One is available here on Amazon. WWII-era romance is a small, niche market and that's the reason I chose to self-publish.
I've had a wonderful support group who have helped me not only to polish my writing but also with promotion.
To learn more about me and my books, please feel free to visit my website http://www.lkcampbell.com
I have free reads posted along with free previews of each one of my books.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2007 3:26:50 PM PDT
D. Salerni says:
Hello Barry, Donna, and Lucinda!
I was just checking out your site, Barry, and coming back here to reply when I saw the posts from Donna and Lucinda. It is very interesting to read about the different experiences that people have had with self-publishing.

I agree with you, Barry, about the strange world of publishing. I imagine it's similar to the phenomenon which has created so many restaurant chains in our country. People want to know what they are going to eat before they actually go in the door. And publishers know that people want to read the same authors they read before, even when the work is not as good as the prior work.

With that said, the more chances that the public has to see your name and the title of your book, the better your chance of acquiring more readers. I will definitely list everyone's book on the "Discover New Authors" page of my website. It's a humble little site, but I do have some hits, and I figure every little bit helps. If any of you would like to reciprocate with a mention of High Spirits on your sites, I certainly would appreciate it. :)

Also, may I suggest signing up for the Search Inside Feature with Amazon? It doesn't cost anything. You just have to contact them and then follow their directions to send a pdf file of your book. They were very prompt activating the SI and I know that many people want to check out the first chapter before buying. I have been mostly pleased with Amazon, although I haven't been able to get them to remove the incorrect reading level for my book. It is not for ages 9-12.

Dianne Salerni
www.highspiritsbook.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2007 4:17:09 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 10, 2007 4:18:45 AM PDT
Barry Yelton says:
Thanks, Dianne for the mention. I just posted some of your comments about your book on my blog.

I tried to sign up for the Search Inside feature here at Amazon and I could not do it because they said I did not have "exclusive ownership" of the title. I went to iUniverse who responded that I had what I needed. I thought I was lost in the twilight zone.

What procedure did you use to make it happen?

Thanks,

Barry

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2007 6:11:32 AM PDT
D. Salerni says:
Barry,
That's strange. With iUniverse (or any self-pub) you retain all the rights to your book. All I did was click on that link beneath my book image (it is addressed to publishers, but that's okay). I gave my name, the title, the ISBN and told them I owned all the rights to the book and wanted to sign up. Within a day or so, they sent me instructions. You can send 2 copies of your book to them, or you can send a pdf file. If you want to send a file, you have to let them know, and then they set up an account to receive it.

I don't know why they said you don't have the rights, because you absolutely do. I would just suggest trying it again. Maybe you just happened to get a response from an inexperienced employee.

Good luck!
Dianne Salerni
www.highspiritsbook.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2007 6:14:47 AM PDT
Barry Yelton says:
Thanks, Dianne:

I have tried again. We shall see what happens.

All the best.

Barry
www.scarecrowsdreams.blogspot.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2007 10:16:57 AM PDT
Dianne,
I failed to mention the titles to my books. I am a Christian fiction writer and have my books available on Amazon and B&B. "Wild Flowers Are Forever" is a story about a young girl that lived in 1850 and faced the struggles of faith discrimination in Utah. "A Season In Paradise" is the sequel and includes the civil war. "A Diamond for Charlotte" is the third in the series and is set in Denver, Colorado and addresses discrimination against anyone with mental or physical problems. "Our Cup of Blessing" is a work in progress and is about the Great Depression and WWII. I'm anxious to read your book and look forward to seeing you on the BEST SELLER list.
Charlene
A Gal from Denver, Iowa

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2007 1:12:16 PM PDT
I am also the author of a self-published novel, A Question of Respect:The First of Three Novels of the War of 1812. The three-volume story follows James and Dolley Madison, Winfield Scott, and a host of secondary characters through the years 1807 to 1815. I published it through Infinity.com in June 2006. My website is Robertlworley.com. I am excited about helping everyone get the news of their books out there and would be happy to promote all on my website.

My greatest issues in marketing my first book have been those surrounding the name and cover design. Both are relatively tame, but the story is action-filled and fast. I've had great feedback on the story, but the cover and title are not attractive to readers; I've heard this several times. This will not happen with my second volume (tentatively titled Courage and Glory:The Second of Three Novels of the War of 1812).

I look forward to becoming more involved in this discussion!

Robert Worley

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2007 2:31:41 PM PDT
I signed up for "Search Inside" back in March and mailed a copy of my book to the address I was given. It's now the middle of July and the feature has never gone up on my book page. I know that the book went to where it was supposed to go, because I tracked it. Hmmm?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2007 4:24:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 10, 2007 4:25:42 PM PDT
D. Salerni says:
Hello Everybody!

I listed every person who posted in this forum up to this morning on my site, along with a one-sentence summary and a link to a website or Amazon listing. (Hi, Robert! I'll add you tomorrow!) Obviously I didn't read all your books; I just used that snappy summarizing skill I keep trying to teach my fifth grade students. So, if I got something wrong, just let me know and I'll fix it.

Lucinda, that certainly seems too long to wait for the SI feature to be activated. I know they said that pdf files were faster and if you sent a book, it had to be scanned. But four months is obviously too long. I would contact them again and see if you can get an answer from them.

I have been excited to "meet" so many other authors in this forum and to have the opportunity to exchange ideas and website links. I know that we are all listed here on Amazon, but not necessarily promoted. Do any of your books come up on searches for your subject matter, rather than a specific search for your author name or title? I tried doing a search today for "Fox Sisters", who are the main subject matter of my book, and High Spirits did not appear in the first 120 books listed. (I got depressed and stopped looking at that point.) Books that referenced the Fox Sisters in even a single line of text came up in the list, but not my book. Are POD books placed in some special, black hole category for searches?

Dianne Salerni
www.highspiritsbook.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2007 5:29:50 PM PDT
Donna Aviles says:
If you do consider Wasteland Press, please let them know that I referred you to them, since they pay a referral bonus. thanks and good luck!
Donna Aviles

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2007 7:39:45 PM PDT
Barry Yelton says:
Dianne:

It is really funny how these search engines work. They pull your info from the strangest places sometimes. I have had no luck in getting my novel pulled up with a search of "Civil War Novels, Historical Novels," etc. I was able to get my book to come up when you do the search on Amazon for CW Novels, Historical Novels, Literary Novels, etc., by using their search feature gizmo.

Thank you for kindly including my book and others on your site. I read an excerpt from your book on your site and your writing shows real talent.

The first Chapter of Scarecrow in Gray is posted on my blog, but not as elegantly as yours. It is good to meet you as well and I wish you and all the struggling authors out there all the best.

Kind Regards,

Barry Yelton
www.scarecrowsdreams.blogspot.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2007 7:41:59 PM PDT
Barry Yelton says:
Donna,

Will do, but it is probably going to be a while for me. Wasteland seems to have the best deal with regard to the number of books they provide you.

Thanks for the heads up.

Barry Yelton
www.scarecrowsdreams.blogspot.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2007 1:44:36 PM PDT
Dianne and others:

It was certainly refreshing to hear the personal experiences that each of you have had during the course of publishing your literary works. I like all of you have succumbed to the many challenges of the POD world. Xlibris published my first novel, Heirs of Fortune, in 2003. Initially it was 775-pages in length, so my first task was to get it under 200k words, this took months. By the way, I began this book in 1984 at the age of 21, and after three rewrites spent the next 19-years attempting to get it published via a conventional publisher. I can assure you that I at one point had a rejection letter from every house you can possibly imagine. Finally, after years of sitting on the shelf, it falls out of the closet one day while I am doing some house cleaning. Voila--thence began my circuitous journey into self-publishing.

The staff at Xlibris was great to work with; however, I had nothing but problems with the manuscript. It went through corrections twice, then files were mixed up on their end, and the Author Copies came out with a plethora of errors. Of course, I discovered this after I had sent them to about a dozen of my closet friends. I was completely embarrassed, and walked around red in the face for about a week. MY DISSENTERS JUST LOVED EVERY MOMENT OF THAT...

Long story short, I had the files pulled, reedited it again, and it was re-released in October of 2003. So, if this was not punishment enough--masochist that I am--I had to conclude the story with a sequel, which IUniverse will release this time. Currently I am in the midst of the whole publishing process, and returned my manuscript early last month after taking heed of the Editorial Evaluation. An evaluation that I thought, although generally positive and complimentary of my work, was at several junctures contradictory.

I was heartened to hear your personal stories; occasionally an author thinks they are alone in their own version of "Publishing Hell." Dianne, Barry, I really liked the covers of your books, I have been a little concerned of what my sequel, Fortunes Betrayal will look like. However, I feel a sense of comfort after seeing yours.

Best wishes to all,

Tom Boyes
www.tgboyes.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2007 2:12:57 PM PDT
Barry Yelton says:
Wow, Tom. I feel like a real whiner after listening to your "Perils of Pauline" story. 19 years of rejection. You truly most be one of the most persistent people on earth.

Further you wrote 775 pages. I had trouble organizing 218 pages.

Thank you for the kind words and inspiring story. All the best to you with your writing and your publishing.

Barry
www.scarecrowsdreams.blogspot.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2007 2:34:21 PM PDT
D. Salerni says:
Tom,

I agree with Barry! You certainly win the prize for perseverance!
Now, here is everybody's favorite question: What's your book about?

Dianne
www.highspiritsbook.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 12, 2007 11:40:46 AM PDT
Dianne,

Thanks for starting this thread. After seven years' worth of racking up 208 rejections I went with a small e-publisher for my House of Pendragon series. The first, House of Pendragon I: The Firebrand has been in print since Oct 2003. The second, The Recruit, was released in January of this year. (Both are also availible in print from Amazon.) It's a struggle to promote the work, hard to get the local chain bookstores to carry copies because my publisher doesn't list its titles through Ingrams, and getting people to learn about e-books in the first place. But there are tons of places on the internet to promote--Author's Den, MySpace seems to be working well for me at the moment, entering and placing well in book award competitons has helped!

Debra
member EPIC
member Broad Universe
member IWG
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