(Jen Havice’s interview with author Mary Farr originally appeared on Studio30+, a social media site for writers. Reposted by permission.)
For anyone considering diving into the world of book publishing, there are so many issues to think about. These days an author can choose to go in one of several directions: traditional, self-publish or some combination of the two. It can be a minefield of questions that need to get answered even before beginning the process.
This is why I sought out a colleague and friend who recently published a book using a hybrid model, combining some of the best aspects of traditional and self-publishing. Mary Farr, author of Never Say Neigh: An Adventure in Fun, Funny and The Power of Yes, kindly agreed to answer some questions about how she published her third book outside of the traditional model.
Q: You have published books before traditionally. Why did you decide to go the self-published route?
A: I have published three books, and each has been with a “traditional” publisher, meaning the publisher purchased my manuscript outright. In each case, the publisher managed the design, editing, production, printing, sales and distribution of the book. In each case, I received a modest advance and a small royalty going forward.
My reason for choosing the self-publishing route was twofold:
One, it’s very time consuming and not particularly rewarding to research and query publishers who might or might not be interested in a book. In the case of Never Say Neigh, I have worked as a writer and marketing professional for years and felt reasonably confident that the content of this book would resonate with several audiences. Hence, I was prepared to take the risk to invest in myself.
Two, writing is labor intensive, hard work, and few authors enjoy grand financial success. In the interest of fairness it seemed to me that every author deserves reasonable remuneration for his or her work. Self-publishing can offer better financial rewards than the traditional route, provided authors carefully research their publishing partner and ask plenty of questions before setting out to produce a book.
Q: You ended up publishing Never Say Neigh using more of a hybrid model. Can you explain what that means and why you decided to use that model?
A: Like so many of our country’s institutions, the publishing world is churning with change. I chose to work with what I call a hybrid publisher, meaning this publisher provided a variety of publishing packages and individual services that included both traditional and self-directed tasks. By traditional, I’m referring to access to experienced book editors, designers, book sales and distribution systems, e-book conversion and distribution, and book reviewers. By self-directed, I’m referring to the expectation that I assumed a lot of responsibility for completing the production steps. We used online software to communicate throughout the entire process. This included a message center for ongoing questions and answers; an author coach to help with the process; questionnaires regarding audiences, book cover design, book interior design and layout, recommended retail price, and a book launch and marketing plan.
Q: After having published with the hybrid model, would you do it again?
A: A few questions remain about whether or not I would use this model of publishing again. It’s pretty clear the entire industry is testing new processes and standards. For example, the software program we used to communicate and complete production steps seemed like an excellent tool, though one that could use refining. Occasionally the task sequence felt a bit off, and in the end I was confused about who did the final proof reading. Having said that, I felt this group offered clear, straightforward advice and a broad range of important services. I’ll have a better answer to this question in six months.
Q: Do you have any advice for writers interested in self-publishing their first book?
A: On one hand, self-publishing throws the door open to virtually anybody who wants to write a book and is willing to invest a little (or a lot) of money. On the other hand, throwing the door wide open does not equate to success. There is no shortage of expensive and discouraging “pot holes” for an author to fall into. I am still learning, though can offer some well-tested advice:
Good editing is absolutely essential if an author wants to turn out a professional product. Spell check or a friend who majored in English cannot provide the level of editing a manuscript deserves.
A distribution plan is a must. Ask your publisher how they plan to help you distribute your book. Once friends and family have made their purchases, we need a well-oiled system of managing sales, distribution and book storage.
Interview publishers before signing a contract; ask detailed questions about their contracts; compare their contracts to other publisher’s; budget wisely, and don’t purchase more than you can comfortably afford; develop a comprehensive marketing plan, including a website, social media accounts, book reviews and other means of reaching your audiences.
Make it fun. Whether you intend to publish a memoir for your family reunion or hope to knock out a hot mystery novel, don’t forget the real joy of writing and sharing our ideas with others.