The Self-Publishing Experience


I’ve been writing a long time. More specifically, I have been writing stuff off the mainstream for the past five years or so. I tend to choose stories that don’t comfortably fit into one genre or another. And because of this, I’ve often gotten the word from publishers and marketers that my stuff may be hard to sell.

It all pretty well started when I decided to write a three-part Christian novel entitled “The Champion” that would explore the concept of Old Testament gods actually being demons. What would happen to these gods in modern day, I asked myself. The answer was that they would likely gravitate to anyone looking for power on earth, specifically corporations. While most Christian novels are positive and upbeat, mine was dark and ominous. The more I worked on my project, the more I felt that I was onto something, that it would be hard to find a mainstream publisher, and that it sounded more and more like a graphic novel.

At the time I knew nothing about writing graphic novels. Now I know a little bit more, mostly through reading and experimenting. But I did know how to write a traditional novel, and so that’s what I set out to do. Five years later, my trilogy is almost complete. The writing is done, the editing is not.

But this project put me on a nontraditional path. Two years of National Novel Writing Month also contributed an apocalyptic science fiction novel entitled “The Kiss of Night,” and a steampunk novel called “Tom Horn vs. the Warlords of Krupp.” When I finished those, I watched what was going on in publishing, and it wasn’t good. More and more I heard two things: (1) buying habits of readers were changing, and it was harder and harder to sell books these days; (2) self publishing was taking off. I watched my own buying habits and realized how often I visited traditional bookstores, only to buy my books online. And so I made a decision.

With the help of my son, Matt, who could contribute artistic and video skills to the process, I founded what I call Prevail Publications. The idea was to provide an umbrella under which all of my writing projects could safely fall. Each would be marketed independently. And the reality is, often the publisher expects the author to market their own writing anyway. Doing it ourselves may mean that we might not sell as many books, but the profit margin is substantially higher, so to me it was a wash anyway.

We decided to start with the easiest projects and work our way up. I spiffied up this website (with my blog), then we build another WordPress site. I was happy to change the URLs to glenchen.com and prevailpublications.com, which made them both sound more official. And we decided to go ahead and publish The Kiss of Night and Tom Horn.

Our first official step in publishing was to contact the site Create Space. They develop Print on Demand books, which means that a book doesn’t sit in a warehouse somewhere, but is only printed when someone wants it. I formatted the inside pages to their specifications; Matt did the covers. For Tom Horn, we used actual historical photos of Tom Horn for the cover to elude copyright issues. For Kiss, we developed our own art. The covers were the biggest challenge with Create Space.

The next step was to contact Smashwords.com, a site dedicated to developing ebooks. The challenge here was the inside formatting. Because they develop ebooks in a variety of formats, the inside formatting had to be perfect, and different than the formatting for Create Space. The secret was to follow their instructions to the letter. We overcame that obstacle and moved on to Kindle to do the same thing. That was simply a matter of keeping the same formatting, but changing from “Smashwords Edition” to “Kindle Edition.”

The nice thing about dealing with Create Space, Smashwords and Kindle is that they are all free. The only thing you pay for is when you order proofs of your books, and if you want a more upscale marketing program.

That’s where we are now. In coming weeks and months, we plan to:

1. Develop marketing trailers to promote our books.

2. Format If Tomorrow Comes for Print on Demand, ebook, and eventually audio book.

3. Edit The Champion series, format it, publish it and market it.

4. Develop The Champion Graphic Novel.

It’s a lot easier to talk about it than to actually do it, as you can imagine. But we are committed to our project. And we are having fun. And to the two of us, learning and having fun is actually more important than making a ton of cash.

Of course, money is nice too.

P.S. Here are a couple URLs. Come visit us at our website or our Facebook site. Please “like” us on Facebook if you are so inclined. Thanks.

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