Should I self-publish?

NOTE: I recently got an email asking about my experience self-publishing with a certain publisher. I think most points are applicable for most self-publish services. This post is not promoting or denigrating any particular publisher.

Advantages…

  1. Pretty well any publisher will provide stability to a project, too often missing in self-published books. [Be sure to do an internet search for other people’s experiences because there are a few bad eggs out there.]
  2. They provide some editorial and design services.
  3. They put you in contact with sellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble
  4. They take care of the e-book formatting, etc.
  5. Many will allow you to pay for their services over a ten month period.
  6. I have heard and experienced mostly good reports from in house “publishing experts”

Disadvantages…

  1. The price often seems very high for the services they provide.
  2. In my case I needed to find my own contact editor. The publisher said that they edit the books but it was only a copy edit, and they didn’t edit structure or story flow. This is a very important editorial function and a normal sized book will probably cost you an additional thousand dollars or so. When I contracted with them, I thought this was part of their editorial process. My book was too far into the process for me to pull, so it actually didn’t get the editorial treatment I like for my writing to have. [Make sure you know the details.]
  3. I ended up doing a suggested cover layout of my own. Their designer added finishing touches which were good, but I’m not sure what they would have done otherwise. I get the feeling they have certain templates they use that allow them to fast-track design. You have to be clear in your expectations and not afraid to ask for changes. BUT each change request adds a month to the process. My project ended up taking close to a year.
  4. The first uploads to Amazon and Barne’s & Noble had obvious errors in the descriptions. While my publishing expert was quick to get this fixed, it again depended on me to ask for it. I felt that for the price I paid, they should have been more careful about details in various times throughout the project. I asked for advice different times and it seemed like the person in charge of my project was reluctant to step out with concrete suggestions.

More Thoughts…

Maybe my expectations were too high. But it is the little things that derail the success of your book. If you feel comfortable being your own general contractor, here is what you probably need to expect.

  1. You need some good reviewers, not just people who pat on the back for your “wonderful work.” You need critics. Cost? It depends on who you know.
  2. You need a good content editor. Say a thousand dollars? Depends on book size.
  3. You need a thorough copy editor. Another thousand? Amazon has both available, but look for some good freelancers. I’d say that a good content and copy edit would cost you at least $1500 and maybe as high as $2,000, depending on the length and complexity of your book.
  4. You need someone to design the layout and the cover of your book. Maybe $750 or so.
  5. You need someone to design / format your e-book. Another $500 – 750.

My publisher also did a video trailer, which makes a good sales point, but I’m not impressed with mine and I don’t think it will really generate a lot of sales. They gave me a page on their website, but I have my own website. They do a press release, but I don’t know how many get printed or read. They do make the book available on a world wide distribution network.

I’m waiting to see how much their marketing efforts will help my book. But I suspect that in most cases, you will have to do your own promotions to make it work. It is hard to know who much these things help and how many simply make a good sales pitch. I don’t feel that they are dishonest, and a lot of people do seem to like their work. The books I have from them are good quality.

I paid them around $4800, most of which I borrowed. Add content editorial and I would be at close to $6000. [That was CND $$. US $$ might be cheaper.]

To produce the same thing on my own, if I had to hire everything, would cost around $3500. Say $4000 to be safe. So the extra $2000 goes for services like getting an ISBN, getting the book into the distribution chains and online, and giving me some security. Is it worth that? I’m glad in some ways that I took this route for my first self-published project. I know what to expect now. However, I used to do layout and cover design when I worked for Rod and Staff Publishers, so I could probably knock up to another $1500 off that. If I do another self-published project I’ll likely do it myself. But my next book has already been accepted by a regular publisher, and they have made me an offer on writing future books for them that I really can’t turn down. It takes some of the variables out of everything. Especially, they pay for editorial and review and do all the design without me financing it. 

That should be your long term goal. Look at self-publishing as an investment in your future. But be sure that you do a good job of it, so that you can use your books to sell yourself to a publisher. I haven’t been very impressed with many of the kindle books I’ve download from Amazon to try to get a feel for the market.

Blessings on your work. If you have more questions, feel free to ask in the comments, or contact me using the contact form. However, I’m finding my way as well, so I’m not an expert. Note that the costs I mentioned are off the top of my head, but they should be close.

There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else.
(Ecc 12:12 MSG)

UPDATE: This book has now been on the market for about nine months. I have found the biggest downside of self-publishing through a publisher to be the fact that you can’t set your own prices. You can’t do any kindle give-aways, or sell hard copies at a discount. My impression is that the pricing is about 25% to high.

The marketing my publisher did for me [if any] accomplished nothing, as far as I can tell. On the other hand, about four months ago a traditional publisher released a small book that I wrote. I didn’t really expect much of it, but someone I knew wanted a book on that subject. They sold over a thousand books in the first three months. No cost to me for editorial, marketing, or layout. I won’t tell you how many self-published books I’ve sold in the past nine months.

Poor Me!

Potential brother?

How Can You Tell?

Right now, I’m sitting at my desk trying to put together an answer to an email. This is the third email now from this person and everything I tell him just triggers another rant against me and Christianity in general. As a former Christian, he feels that he knows everything there is to know about Christians, their beliefs, and their shortcomings. If I recommend a book that I think covers his questions or challenges, he rails at me for not knowing the answers myself and needing to refer him to a book. When I do try to answer his questions myself, then my approach isn’t Christlike. I think you get the picture.

Jesus said: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” 

In this verse Jesus said we are be careful with our pearls . When do we get to the point that we are violating this verse in our discussions with unbelievers and scoffers? Is it ever right to write someone off? Should I just stop answering this particular person’s emails?

What bothers me about doing that is that I don’t know what is going on in this person’s life. Maybe he isn’t “yelling” at me at all. Maybe he’s really fighting with himself. Maybe he’s crying out for help and doesn’t even know it himself. It would be sad if I quit now when maybe a little more patience would bring him to Christ. And yet, I’m responsible to be a good steward of the time God has given me, and while I’m responding to these emails, I’m not doing other things that might be important in helping someone else.

I don’t discuss for the sake of winning an argument. I dislike controversy too much for that. But I do want to do what I can to help others. The person writing these emails might be a future brother or sister in the Lord. Wouldn’t it be great to walk into the New Jerusalem some day to be greeted with a big hug from someone you helped to find the way? Maybe someone you almost wrote off as being impossible to help, but kept on?

I hope I can meet at least one person in heaven who will tell me, "I'm here because you didn't give up on me." Even if it is just one person, it will be worth it.

I think I’ll say another prayer and answer that email. You never know…

Never despise someone Jesus died for…

ACCOUNTABLITY

WHO ARE YOU ACCOUNTABLE TO?

Some people don’t worry about accountability. If they want to do something, they do it. If they don’t, they don’t do it. It’s as simple as that.

But the Bible gives us a different perspective, as this passage shows.

“For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL CONFESS TO GOD.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom 14:10-12)

This is something worth thinking about. If we voluntarily hold ourselves accountable to God, and ask Him to show us how He feels about what we are contemplating, we can save ourselves a lot of grief. One way to find out what God considers sinful is to read the Bible, especially the New Testament. Jesus stated that we would be judged by the words that He has spoken. Those words are recorded in the New Testament.

But the Bible also teaches another level of accountability. In our church, we are having our biannual communion service [known as the Eucharist to some]. It is our practice to have a separate service before communion that we call counsel meeting. During this service every member who is planning to take communion the next Sunday will give a public testimony of his personal status before God. This may include confession of sin, testimony of victory, joy for the goodness of God; pretty well anything you feel led to share.

There are no Bible passages that tell us that this is how we should do. But passages like Matthew 18:15 – 20, etc., make it clear that we are accountable to fellow Christians. Our counsel service is one way that we have chosen to do this. We give public testimonies since we do not believe that we are accountable to church leaders alone, but to the entire congregation.

However, this opens up an area that most Christians would like to ignore; their responsibility for their brother and sister. Not only am I accountable to the brotherhood I am part of, but each of them is also accountable to me. For this to work, each of us must be willing to go to a brother or sister that we see is struggling and offer our help. Jesus makes it even stronger than that in this passage:

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. (Luk 17:3)

Accountability is serious. It helps us to follow God and be ready to meet Him. It also helps us to help those around us in the church to be ready. Accountability works two ways.

Site Migration…

I am in the process of moving my blog and website to SiteGround.com from WordPress.com. There shouldn’t be any disruptions in service, and if you have signed up as an email follower, you will probably not even notice the change. If you have followed me through WordPress, however, you will no longer get emails notifying you about new posts. You might want to sign in as an email follower to be sure that you continue to find out about new posts. However, I am told that notifications will still go out through your WordPress Reader like before.

I don’t want to lose anyone! But you might not hear from me during the transition, which I hope will take place early next week.

God, please help me…

Have you ever felt like this? Something was wrong, but you weren’t sure what? You wanted to pray, but didn’t know what to say?

I’m guessing you have, because it is a situation so common that God talks about it in the Bible.

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26-27).

Sometimes a burden becomes almost too much to bear. Maybe you don’t feel well. Maybe you have failed God and don’t know how to find your way back. Maybe your life is caving in—you’ve lost your job, or your wife says she is leaving you. Maybe one of your children have turned their back on you or God. Or maybe your best friend has accused you of wronging them.

Life is full of situations that can hit us like a bucket of bricks falling off a roof. If nothing like this has ever happened to you, just wait. It will, sooner or later.

God knows how tough life can get. In fact, I suspect that He sometimes takes us into tough places to help us remember how much we need Him. You see, we forget so fast and we need his reminders at times.

So how does the verse above apply to such a situation?

We get to the place that we don’t have any answers left. We don’t even know what to pray. This doesn’t mean that God has turned His back on us. Instead, He wants to show us how much He cares. The Holy Spirit is able to read our hearts, and transmit our hurt, our sorrow, our guilt, to God. In fact, He does more than that, He intercedes for us. He prays the prayer for us that we can’t put together.

“Father, Lester is in trouble. He needs your assurance. He has failed you and he feels horrible. So horrible that he doesn’t even know how to talk to you about it. He wants to serve you, and be faithful, but he failed. Father, please forgive him, and give him your grace to go on…”

Just the other day, someone told me that the best prayer he ever prayed was one without words.

The point of all this is simple:

God cares about you. He loves you. He has made a way for you, even when you have no idea how to go on. Never let the devil persuade you that its all over and you have no hope.

In fact, right after the verse in the beginning of this post, it goes on to say this:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:28)


 

What is YOUR Dream?

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

Martin Luther King started his world-famous-civilization-shattering speech with these words.

I HAVE A DREAM!

His dream changed the face of the United States, because he stuck to it. He even died for it. Especially, he believed in it.

To often dreamers are afraid of their dreams. They think of them more as fantasies than dreams. So they plod through life with their dreams nagging them, but never doing anything about them. If King had done that, we would still have “apartheid” in the southern United States.

Dreamers often are creators. They want to invent something new. Or they want to create something beautiful. Or they want to create something meaningful. It might be a better way to heat a house. It might be beautiful painting. It might be a penetrating book. Whatever it is, it won’t go away.

I’m not an inventor or a painter. I do write books, and I keep thinking of books that should be written. I dream of writing a book, or books that will move the hearts of thousands. And maybe even support me in my old age, though that isn’t as important. So what holds me back?

  • I’m not sure of my ability to do it.
  • I’m afraid that some of the important people in my life won’t understand my dream.
  • I can’t afford it to take the time I need.
  • I might fail if I try it.
  • If you press me, I can probably think of some more but maybe that gives you an idea.

So I am allowing four things — four fairly small things — keep me from trying to pursue my dreams. I wonder what King’s list would have looked like?

  • People would hate him.
  • They might put him in prison.
  • They might even shoot him.
  • History would label his as a civilization destroying rabble rouser

That sounds like a much more intimidating list than mine. The first three even came true. But in the end, they were an important part of fulfilling his dream. So maybe I should rethink my stumbling blocks.

The one big stumbling block that stops many of us from fulfilling our dreams is the fear of failure. I know all about that one. I’m not a very confident person. But which is worse? failing to succeed, or failing to try? I suppose failing to try is safer, but will you really be able to live with yourself if you do? Failures make us grow, because at least we tried. But regularly failing to even try will turn our backbones to jelly.

I started this post with the last verse of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. This has long been one of my favorite poems, because it so clearly pictures the dillemma of the creative person. Sometimes in life you come to forks in the road and you are faced with the poet’s question.

Will I take the popular road? Or the one less travelled by?

If we make a habit of simply mixing with the crowd and taking the popular road, we will plod through life with little effect on the world around us. We will be safe–maybe–but not really useful. I believe that God has placed our dreams within us for a reason. He has a road picked out for us and has given us the gifts we need to travel that road. By taking the broad road, we might be disappointing not only ourselves but God as well.

So take another look at your dreams. Run them past God, and some close friends. Make your list of reasons for NOT traveling the narrow road, then over power them one by one. Most of them are caused by fear, and God said that He is not the author of fear. So you know where fear comes from.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Mat 7:13-14)

It’s Here!

This morning the doorbell rang and a Purolator delivery man was standing on the porch with a package. I couldn’t think what it would be, but when I opened the package it contained ten complimentary copies of my latest book!

It doesn’t matter how many books you write, this is always an exciting moment. It will take a little bit of time until they hit the distribution channel, but they will  be available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and any local bookstore.

Where is God, when life doesn’t make sense? Have you lost your connection with Him? Have you never connected? Solomon lost his connection with God, and this is his story of trying to reconnect, as he wrote it in Ecclesiastes. But it is a relevant process for most of us, because it is human to get sidetracked by life.