Saturday evening, I participated on a panel sponsored by the Raleigh Right-to-Publish group at Quail Ridge Books. The topic was “How to Publish a Book,” and we had a packed house. Since the four of us have been published in very different ways, the discussion covered a lot of interesting territory.
Stacey Cochran (on the left) was the moderator and is a LuLu published author of a novel. Next is Luleen Anderson , the author of four non-fiction books published by a small press. I’m the one hogging the mike (and the water bottle) and I’m published in the “usual” way–by a large commercial publisher. Finally, on the right, is Adam Shepard, entirely self-published but well on his way to fame with his controversial non-fiction book, Scratch Beginnings.
There was so much to cover, and I’m sure many in the audience were left frustrated by how little we could give them in a mere ninety minutes. Any one of us could have filled that time with only a fraction of what we’ve learned along the way. Having four diverse paths to publication made sharing our knowledge especially tricky. I hope it also gave the audience insight into the different ways you can get a book on the shelves.
Stacey was a good example of how rejection by a string of agents ( a looong string, by his own charming, self-effacing admission) led him to success with the print-on-demand technology at LuLu. LuLu, unlike many of the Self-Publishing companies, charges nothing upfront to publish your book. However, the pitfall of being self-pubbed, as both Stacey and Adam acknowledged, is not having the distribution and promotional capabilities of a publisher.
Luleen had the lovely experience of a publisher approaching her after reading some of her essays. That’s a rarity!
I addressed the challenge of getting an agent and was quick to point out that, even if you publish with a large house, that doesn’t mean you get the publisher’s promotional dollars behind your book. You do however have a good chance at getting reviews and can be distributed widely to both chain and independent bookstores.
Adam had, in my opinion, the most intriguing story. He’s only 25, but he decided to plunk himself down in a randomly selected city, with $25 dollars in his pocket and the clothes on his back to see if he could go from “homeless” to finding “the American Dream.” He’s entirely self-published, taking control of every aspect of the creation of his book and most critically–putting his all into promoting it. He admits that’s a full-time job in itself, but he had a brilliant–and as I mentioned, controversial–idea, and that is sure to start people talking. Watch for him to appear on the Today show (every author’s dream, next to Oprah) on February 26th.
So this was a nice break from my mad dash to the finish line on AFTER THE STORM. I’m in my writing ’round the clock mode now. I love this part (except for the deadline pressure), where the story really comes together and grows deeper with each layer I add. It’s a challenge, writing three adolescents in first person, making sure each of their voices is distinct. Even more of a challenge is changing the one adult’s point of view from first person to third. I resisted, but the story demanded it, and it the story always has the final say!