Self-publishing: First things first

Jean Harkin

Jean Harkin

(A guest post by Jean Harkin, JPHARKIN@aol.com)

Oops! I may have put the cart before the horse. In August 2016 I published my short story collection, Night in Alcatraz: and Other Uncanny Tales. Not until April 2017 did I begin research for my blog series on self-publishing. Maybe I should have asked the questions before I published. I learned much about self-publishing by writing my blog series. Fortunately I did a few things right, but I also made some goofs in publishing my book.

For instance:

1) Just before I self-published my book, successful authors were advising other writers to establish a social networking presence. Dragging my feet, I joined Facebook. I also started an author page on Goodreads (www.goodreads.com/jeanatwritersmill), where I post my blog and feature my books. Acquiring a blog site on Goodreads was easier for me than signing up on Blogger, WordPress, Weebly, GoDaddy or other popular web hosting sites.

2) I began organizing and revising my stories in March 2016. I did something right: I made sure all the stories were edited. But I did something wrong: I didn’t state on the opening page (with copyright info, etc.) that the stories were edited and by whom, although I did note where many of the stories were previously published.

3) To print and publish my book, I used Createspace. That was a good decision in some ways, bad in others.

Good: Createspace offers user-friendly uploading and production; free ISBN number for print copy; e-book made available on Kindle; automatic exposure on Amazon and Amazon international; print copy available on demand to buyers through other online sellers; and the author can purchase their own copies direct from Createspace at a reduced price. An especially nice perk is the fast, friendly and professional help service Createspace provides by phone or online.

Bad: I recently discovered that independent booksellers will not stock books printed by Createspace or affiliated in any way with Amazon. Those booksellers see Amazon as a market bully. The indie sellers can’t sell my print books as cheaply as Amazon can and still make a worthwhile profit. Either I or the store would be shorted. I haven’t been able to determine, however, why the walk-in Amazon store at Washington Square in Portland, Oregon, won’t stock my book and won’t respond to my queries.

4) About marketing: While royalties on my book sales slowly accumulate, I haven’t received one payment. Apparently I must wait until $100 is reached; meanwhile Amazon makes money on each sale. (There may be a way to collect payments through direct bank deposit, but I haven’t checked that out.)

What I did right (but not perfectly): I offered my book for sale at local venues, including the Oregon Historical Society’s annual Christmas Cheer book festival. I’ve gotten the word out about my book—most recently to my high school alumni magazine and on the website of Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA). I recently joined that group—another smart move. Of course my book, Night in Alcatraz; and Other Uncanny Tales is featured on my Goodreads author page.

So far, so good as far as reviews on Night in Alcatraz: and Other Uncanny Tales. I’m grateful to readers for 5 stars on Amazon and 4.5 on Goodreads.

Author reading: Broadway Books, Nov. 18

Tall Trees cover

I’ll be reading from my recently released book, Under the Influence of Tall Trees, on Tuesday, November 18, 7 p.m., at Broadway Books, 1714 N.E. Broadway, Portland, Oregon, For more information: www.broadwaybooks.net.

Under the Influence of Tall Trees: Humorous Tales from a Pacific Northwest Writer, is a collection of quirky personal essays on the challenges of finding my true work, family and home in the Pacific Northwest

Sometimes tender, sometimes cranky, Under the Influence of Tall Trees presents my take on everything from the miracle of birth to my failure as a gardener. Along the way, I reveal myself as a bit of a curmudgeon.

As I say in the book, “I enjoy being funny. It just feels so good to let it all out—like a sneeze, only less wet.”

Whether arguing with The Other Phone Company, seeking out the perfect dancing dress for my young daughter (it’s “one-quarter Cinderella and three-quarters Mardi Gras”), or collecting yet another rejection slip as I start my freelance writing career, I use humor to describe the longings and labors of someone more than a little out of step with the rest of the world. When it all becomes too much, I retreat to the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge or duck into an antique shop, for relief from “life’s trendy newness.”

I also take up spinning, become an oyster chef groupie and visit Fort Clatsop to uncover the real cause of Lewis and Clark’s problems (“too much communal living combined with dense undergrowth”).

Original photographs, line drawings and cartoons round out Under the Influence of Tall Trees.

For additional information about Under the Influence of Tall Trees, contact me by email at wordpics@aracnet.com or via my website, www.nancy-woods.com. Copies of Under the Influence of Tall Trees: Humorous Tales from a Pacific Northwest Writer (ISBN 978–1-312–25642–2) are available in paperback at Broadway Books and lulu.com for $19.99.

Writing classes start October 5, 6

Writing classes:

Kick Your Writing Out of the Nest: Thursdays, Oct. 6-Dec. 15, 2011 (No class Nov. 24.) 6:30-9 p.m. Northeast Portland, OR. $200/10 weeks. You’ve spent hours honing your writing. Don’t let it languish in your computer or drawer. Do something with it. Kick it out of the nest. Whether you want to send your funny essays to magazines, submit your short stories to literary journals, or post your writing on a blog, now is the time to get started.

Kickstart Your Writing: Wednesdays, Oct. 5-Dec. 14, 2011 (No class Nov. 23.) 6:30-9 p.m. Northeast Portland, OR. $200/10 weeks. Whether you’re working on a novel or interested in short stories, memoir, essays, articles or other forms of fiction or nonfiction, Kickstart Your Writing offers a supportive environment in which you can work on specific writing projects. Students set weekly goals; read their work aloud; and receive positive, helpful feedback from the instructor and other students.

 To register for either class: Mail payment to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218. To pay by credit card call (503) 288-2469. For more information: (503) 288-2469, wordpics@aracnet.com, www.nancy-woods.com.

Writing classes start July 6, 7

Two Kickstart Your Writing classes start next week:

Wednesdays, July 6-September 14, 2011  (No class August 17)

or

Thursdays, July 7-September 29, 2011 (No class July 28, Aug. 18, Sept. 15)

Time: 6:30-9 p.m.

Location: Hollywood district ofPortland,OR

Cost: $200/10 weeks

Whether you’re working on a novel or interested in short stories, memoir, essays, articles or other forms of fiction or nonfiction, Kickstart Your Writing offers a supportive environment in which you can work on specific writing projects.

Students set weekly goals; read their work aloud; and receive positive, helpful feedback from the instructor and other students. The exact location is provided upon registration. The class can be repeated.

For more information or to receive Kickstart, a free, monthly e-newsletter for writers: (503) 288-2469 or wordpics@aracnet.com.

To register: Mail payment to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218. To pay by credit card call (503) 288-2469.