My whirlwind romance with self-publishing

I don’t know if it was romance, but I have to say that it was like being in a whirlwind, where you find yourself in the eye of a storm. The self-publishing experience for me wasn’t too horrible, but we certainly didn’t “dance the night away” either.

For any budding authors out there who are considering self-publishing, it is hard work. And a lot of it too. Did I mention that it’s expensive too? You’re on your own in finding (and interviewing) your editor and proofreader. And they are very important people for your book. But it’s tough to find the right people. They may seem right on paper, but when you find errors they should be correcting or certain terms and historical facts were overlooked, be ready for another round of interviews.

A publishing company would have their own editors and proofreaders, people they’ve worked with for years, and find them indispensable.

You’re on your own in finding and working with a printing company and staying on top of how many pages your manuscript will shrink down to, when formatted into book form. If you’re not on top of things, you might find a surprise on your invoice.

A publishing company would have their contacts with printers, printing companies they know they can rely on and won’t pull a fast one.
You’re on your own in finding a graphic designer to design your book cover, to match the vision you have in your heart and in your mind. Choose somebody who wants to do it not because they think they can get away with a minimum amount of work for a lot of money. They won’t get far in this world, with that attitude. Choose somebody who’s not afraid of a bit more work then what they’re accustomed to. Find someone who loves graphic designing so much that they would do it for free. You will see and feel their soul on your book cover.

A publisher would set you up with the right graphic designer.

You’re on your own in designing and ordering your business cards and posters. I have to admit, I enjoyed this process. It was fun designing my cards to the way I want it to look and that reflects my personality. Who knows me better than me? Certainly not someone from a publishing house. Designing and ordering my posters and business cards was probably the smoothest and stress-free part of this romance. Just like going away for the weekend. It was nice, but too short. Ordering my business cards and posters from Vistaprint.com was fast and cheap, and the products are not cheap looking, as one would expect. I highly recommend ordering from Vistaprint.com. No, I’m not related to anybody who works there, and no, I am not dating anybody who works there either. I am happy doing business with them.

A publisher can whip all of this up for you. It would have saved you a couple of lunch hours designing.

You’re on your own in trying to figure out how to self-publish on Createspace.com, via Amazon.com. Amazon is one avenue to distribute your book, if you don’t have time to go door to door to every home in your country. Amazon will take a cut for their services of handling the administrative side of things when someone orders my book. I also like the fact that it’s an “on demand” program, whereby I don’t have to front up any money to print the books. The book is printed and put together only when someone orders it. It was the formatting process of the manuscript to book form that sprouted a few white hairs for me. If you didn’t have the time and you had lots of money, you can hire Amazon to format your book, for close to $400 (US). I didn’t have the time and I certainly didn’t have the money either. I didn’t want to be cornered like this, so, I did what any frugal budding author would do. I googled “book formatting software”, and I instantly (well, after some contemplation and justification) purchased the Book Design Wizard 2.0 for $40 and change, US. It took me awhile to get the hang of using this software to format my manuscript to book form, but I did it. But not without any white hair, of course.

A publishing company can do all of this, and I wouldn’t have any white hair. And imagine the number of hours I could have spent rock climbing.

What are books without e-books. Unless you’ve been living in a remote cave as a hermit, e-books are the way to go today in the book world. My manuscript needs to be converted into an e-book form, and guess what I also had to do…format it. Good ol formatting, we meet AGAIN! I don’t know what news I will have for you in a few weeks or in a few months about e-book formatting, but from my research online, it looks like I’m not the only author pulling out their hair throughout this grueling process. I hate to admit it but I might have to cave in, dig deeper into my pockets, and pay for a e-book formatting software. When Kindle or Amazon says “you will have your book and e-book ready in 3 easy steps”…. don’t believe them.

I had ordered 1000 (yes, 1000) of my books from a local printer, and before the books arrived, I thought I would be sitting on boxes to eat my meals, or using the boxes as furniture to hold my pictures, or tripping over boxes when I’m going from room to room. But it’s not too bad, actually. The books came in 23 boxes and I stacked most of them in my den. My carpet is in full view!

A publishing company would have made arrangements for storage and handle the distribution end of my book.

About 2 hours after the driver brought up my books from his truck, I drove to a particular neighborhood (which shall remain anonymous) to sell my book door to door to get a feel of how my sales technique is. It’s rusty, but not too bad. It was a lovely windless evening and I had a really nice walk as I was going from door to door. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. The people were really nice and I had some really good conversations. If anything, this particular experience had really made an extrovert out of the introvert in me. If I had any hesitations, it was only because I was afraid a huge dog would pounce on me because I trespassed on their property. Ok, so I didn’t use the sidewalk, all the time. Shoot me. But it never happened. There were no dogs. Would I go door-to-door again? Maybe. One guy said it was ‘old school’. Yeah, so what. I love the connections I have with people… face to face… to talk about culture and discrimination and Canada. I love signing my books for my readers, right in front of them. Sure, I was nervous because I don’t like to push people to buy anything, and I certainly don’t like to be pushed myself. But really, they can say “no, I am not interested”, and I’ll be on my merry way. No harm done. You’re not going to make me cry (well, maybe, when I’m 25 feet away).

I also tried hustling my beloved at the St. Albert Farmer’s Market. Though I’m a bigger fan of browsing and buying my homemade banana loaf bread, being a vendor wasn’t as exciting as I had anticipated. But it wasn’t all bad. Besides the scorching heat, it was nice chatting up with potential customers about my book and getting to know about the Farmer’s Market community. I felt really welcomed that first time. My tent neighbors were really friendly and approachable and there was no sense of ‘dog eat dog’ competition. I didn’t sell as much as I had hoped, the heat was unbearable, I was in shock by a racist comment, and due to exhaustion, I don’t remember how I got home. I have every reason to toss in the towel of ever doing a Farmer’s Market again. But I won’t. I had a good talk with my good friend James (the same James whom I had acknowledged in No, Really, Where Are You From?) He told me, “you haven’t won the battle”. He is right. I will march on. I set my expectations too high and after some reflection, I realized how hard the business of sales is, and I have a new found respect for all of the salesmen/women everywhere. I tip my hat off to you!

That experience really taught me to be patient and that good friends bring me back to earth (or slap me in the face!).

A publisher, on your behalf, would call all of the bookstores in their roster to set up book signings and place ads in the paper to promote your book, for you.

I spent a couple of lunch hours in between eating my lunch and speaking to managers of Chapters/Indigo stores throughout Edmonton, to see if I can come in for book signings. I am glad to say I have 3 signings confirmed. It was unfortunate that most of the Coles bookstores do not do book signings and only get their books from distributors, not from consignments. I was lucky that Audrey’s Books (Jasper Ave and 106 street) could take 10 of my books, to sell. The Chapters/Indigo stores that I had called are either full on consignments, or not taking them at all. I was told that authors normally sell more books at signings because the customers have a chance to speak to the author and talk about the book topic or just about the author’s writing/publishing experiences. I’ll take the connections I have with people, face to face, over connections online, any day.

I’ll post another article on my experiences book signing at Chapters/Indigo.

I also wanted to celebrate this important milestone in my life, so, I decided to hold a book launch, or, a celebration party for my friends on Sunday September 9th, 2012 at the TransAlta Arts Barn (Fringe Festival Headquarters). But I had some mixed feelings at the beginning about this. I don’t know how it can be celebratory when my friends are paying for the book. Is it tacky? Maybe. I see it more as a coming together of new and old friends to celebrate something that I had created with my own 2 hands and that I am very very proud of. My baby… my book. I’ve invested into No, Really, Where Are You From? on so many different levels. My friend’s money wouldn’t be a donation. They would be paying for something that was made out of love. I would pay for that!

Sorry, I don’t mean to get sidetracked. Back to the launch. Yes, lots of work involved in this as well. I researched into the different kinds of venues around the city for the right size, right price, and the right location. Besides, I had a good feeling when I stepped inside of the PCL Studio Theatre inside the TransAlta Arts Barn. I’m going to go with my gut instinct. TransAlta also provides the chairs and tables. I’m going to go with Mothers Music to rent out the speakers and mike. I’ve pre-ordered the food from a local bakery (Sweet Heart Bakery), and I will buy the non-alcoholic drinks probably from Safeway. I’ve found a student photographer who is willing to shoot for free, in exchange for a reference and experience. My friend John Yee was kind enough to let me borrow the paper lanterns used at the Chinese pavilion during the Edmonton Heritage Festival. I’ve designated some friends to be the door person, music person, food person, cashier, and of course, the MC. I also planned for 2 surprises, each honoring both of my cultures… Spanish and Chinese. I’ll have a book signing and book reading as part of the launch as well.

I will post another article about my book launch, in the upcoming weeks.

I am a bundle of emotions right now. It’s about 2 weeks until the launch, and I am excited and nervous, at the same time. I promised myself to not put pressure on myself. If the paper lanterns fall, they fall. Will anybody really notice? If I run out of sparkling apple juice, so be it. And if the mike fails on me, I’ll just step up a little closer to my audience and speak from my heart. I hope that would be loud enough.
Would I change anything about this whirlwind romance? No.

How boring and not to mention, suppressing, it would be, if we held hands the whole time, him constantly guiding me and telling me what to do and where to go. How exciting would it be if everything was done for me. Where’s the magic in that?

Would I self-publish again? In a heartbeat.

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