The Publishing Journey

type.jpgI always knew I wanted to write a book, but it didn’t seem feasible from all of the stories I’d heard about how impossible it was to get a book published. So, when I decided to try anyway, I went the traditional route, and contacted over 100 literary agents.  As the process evolved, I realized just how difficult it truly was.

Then, I slowly realized that even if I was lucky enough to get an agent and a publishing deal, it would require signing over my rights (and creative input to an editor) allowing the agency and the publisher to decide on my book cover, interior layout, formatting, pricing, release dates, all which could take between 1-2 years, maybe more.  I was jumping through hoops, when I met  an author in my genre that was lucky enough to be signed to a rather well -known traditional publishing house, and asked her about her experience.  She shared with me that she had to sign over her rights, got a $3000 advance (that she split with a co-author) and that was the last she ever heard of it.

I started to listen to book marketing teleseminars, most notably with Steve Harrison, and how there were several advantages to self-publishing. Then, I walked into a Barnes and Noble, and just for fun asked if they ever carried self-published books. The person directed me to their website, where I found an offer for a free self-publishing guide from Outskirts Press.

Upon further investigation, it seemed that I could not only be in charge of my own pricing, interior, be involved in book design, set my own distribution discount, order authors copies at a deep discount, get a free website, but also be published within 12-16 weeks, all for under $1000. And that is precisely what I did!  My book looks exactly the way I want it.  The cover designer took my ideas and created something that was to my specifications, and even exceeded my expectations.  I did my own interior formatting – something I never thought was possible.   I also received free marketing advice on a weekly basis.  I have a real product that is mine, I own it 100%,   It is available online, with national online distribution through Ingram and Baker & Taylor.

And what a thrill to hold my book in my hands for the first time!  But now what?

I found out about the best-seller campaign, a course given by Peggy McColl and Randy Gilbert. So, I went about creating an on-line campaign, and took my book to the #5 spot on, where it’s held court in the top 100 in it’s category ever since.  I made so many online friends, and got into a pool of authors who now ask me to promote their books by contributing mine as a “bonus gift” which creates even more online exposure on a regular basis.

I also took a course called Sell Your Book by the Truckload which answers the question: would you rather sell 10,000 copies of your book to 10,000 people, or the same amount of that book to one person? I was excited about going that route, but the cost per unit through POD was too high.  Therefore, I purchased the cover art from Outskirts Press, found an off-set printer, and did a short run of 250 copies, to test the waters.  By this time I was getting more and more interested in book marketing, so I attended Steve Harrison’s publicity summit.  I used these 250 copies as “calling cards” to give to the media, with a finished product that cost me only about $2.50/unit.

Because I self-published, I have gained media coverage from over 65 sources, ranging from TV and internet, to print and radio.

And now that I have some sales numbers and some real media momentum behind me, I have decided that the next step is to either get national distribution (bookstores)  or go back to an agent, and see what transpires.

But I continue to educate myself. There is a wonderful site called where there are free teleseminars that you can download to your computer or iPod that features interviews with many people ranging from authors, to publishers, to media trainers, agents, radio hosts, producers, distributers and more.  I get ideas from every single class, and try to put at least one of the ideas into practice from each speaker that I listen to.

If I hadn’t gone the self-publishing route, I never would have learned so much about publishing, book marketing, the media, creating on online presence or special sales.  It’s a wonderful way to get started learning about the business, and to make some contacts so that you can transition into traditional publishing with confidence.  I have made enough contacts so that I now know several agents and publishers, book marketing mentors, printers, copyright lawyers and editors.  Perhaps in the future I might be lucky enough to choose otherwise (have my books published by a trad. publisher) but it certainly is and fun rewarding way for an author just starting out to completely own their book to do whatever it is that they want with it.  Because as Steve Harrison points out, very few people get rich from their book.  It is the back-end products and services that are created from the book that can make the difference between a struggling writer to million dollar author.

Sally Shields is an author, speaker, award-winning pianist and composer. Her latest book is THE DAUGHTER-IN-LAW RULES: 101 Surefire Ways to Manage (and Make Friends with) Your Mother-in-Law! and is currently being followed up with, The Collaborator Rules: 101 Surefire Ways to Manage (and Stay Friends with) Your Co-Author!  Please visit Sally “The Mother-in-Law Manager” Shields, on the web at for contest giveaways, free bonus gifts, The DIL Rules newsletter, 44 Top Tips Cheat Sheet, Sally’s blog, free music  … and more!