Self-publishing, Part IV: The nitty-gritty

Hello, readers —

I’ve been THRILLED with the extremely positive response to this week’s series on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing for nonfiction books. Turns out that a lot of us were curious.

Once again, I am pleased to be able to present the fascinating insights of Jim McFarland, self-published author of DO OR DIE: THE BABY-BOOMER MAN’S GUIDE TO REGAINING HEALTH, HAPPINESS, VITALITY, AND A LONGER, FULLER LIFE, and Gary Graf, author of Ligouri’s AND GOD SAID, “PLAY BALL!”: AMUSING AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING PARALLELS BETWEEN THE BIBLE AND BASEBALL. Today, our good friends will be discussing production and marketing.

Anne: Was the actual editing process much different?

Jim: Again, I paid for an editorial review and did not have my publisher edit the material. The self-publisher did offer publishing services for a reasonable fee. My editor actually charged me about the same price.

I had received cost estimates for both options prior to making a decision and just felt more comfortable having my editor nearby where we could discuss the material. I am now very glad that I did that.

Anne: That was really smart!

Gary: To be able to publish the book at a page count and price point that made economic sense, I was asked to cut about 10% of my content. Liguori left it to me as to which portions would be sent to the minors. Everything from contract talks to edits to galley proofs took place via telephone or email. Such is the nature of our cyber society that I did not meet my editor face to face until the book had already been printed!

Anne: That’s not uncommon at all anymore. I’ve never met my editor in person. The only reason I could pick him out of a police lineup is that I’ve seen a newspaper clipping of him playing bass in a band. But do go on, please.

Gary: While I was busy making edits, Liguori used its contacts to collect a set of wonderful vintage baseball photographs by Jack Zehrt, a St. Louis photographer. From Mr. Zehrt’s personal archive we were able to include rare photos of Joe DiMaggio. Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and more. Not only did the shots add a great deal of richness to the book, they were something that on my own I would not have had access.

Anne: Tell us how the cover design process worked. For my memoir, I didn’t have any say over it at all. I felt very lucky that I ended up with a cover I liked.

Jim: For a fee, my publisher would have designed the cover. Fortunately, I work in a marketing communications company and our creative director designed a very striking cover. My cover depicts an overweight man with a robust stomach, wearing a pear of cut-off jeans, washing his 1965 white Bonneville car. My company designed the front of the cover, the spine and the back cover under guidelines provided by the self-publisher. I have received many compliments on the cover of my book.

Anne: Including from me! It’s incredibly evocative, such an appropriate choice for the book. I wish I could post it here, but here’s a link to it.

Jim: If you have competent design capability within your circle of friends or co-workers, then this is a viable option. If not, then work with the self-publisher.

Cover design is a very special art form. Frankly, I am not convinced that the self-publishing industry has highly competent cover design capability. However, finding alternatives can and is difficult. The easiest course of action is to pay your self-publisher for the service if you cannot find a suitable cover designer.

Gary: Per the contract, my publisher had the final say on the cover art and overall book size, page count, graphic treatment, photography, typography and content. Fortunately, not only were we on agreement on content and writing style, we both had the same idea for the cover art treatment.

Anne: That WAS fortunate! Again, I wish I could display the cover here, but I seem to lack the technological ability. Here’s the link.

Gary: Using the image of God touching the hand of Man from the Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel as inspiration, Liguori’s graphic artist developed a version where God is handing a baseball to mankind. Liguori was gracious enough to consult with me during all phases of production and thoughtfully considered my input. At the end of the day, however, while I wrote the book, they had the final word on all decisions regarding production and publishing.

Anne: Let’s turn to marketing. Big differences here, right?

Jim: With my self-publisher, you are able to purchase various kinds of marketing services. I purchased (a) an editorial review, and a (b) marketing workbook. I could have purchased various kinds of publicity services, but I elected not to, due to budget considerations.

Please also note that the majority of large daily newspapers do not review self-published books. As a result, you need to be very creative with your publicity approaches to get attention.

Anne: Yes, not everyone knows that; it’s actually policy. It’s a big consideration. But then, not all traditionally published books get reviewed in the large daily newspapers, either. So how did you get creative?

Jim: In October of 2005 I sent out 145 books to opinion leaders and health and fitness reporters throughout the U.S. I received publicity coverage in Washington, DC, Seattle, Michigan and other markets. I have been interviewed on one local Seattle TV station, as well as on two Seattle radio stations. One radio station and the TV interview were for _ hour each and one radio station was an hour.

In February of 2006, I created a “Fattest Male Baby Boomer Markets in U.S.” list and have been featured in the Cincinnati Inquirer and as I am writing this, I am forwarding out another 20 releases to media outlets around the country.

Anne: What a great idea! Publicists always tell writers to find a way to sell their books as tie-ins to news stories. What about you, Gary?

Gary: While Liguori had final say over production and marketing issues, they did allow me quite a bit of input based upon my advertising and publicity experience.

Anne: Really? Most traditionally published authors merely get to fill out author questionnaires. They were smart to recognize your expertise.

Gary: One key element of marketing was the securing of favorable quotes from sporting and spiritual sources. I had sent review copies to various book reviewers, sportswriters, and clergy in the area. Fortunately, a well-known Seattle baseball columnist, as well as the Archbishop of Seattle offered kind words about Play Ball. For their part, Liguori enlisted a senior editor at The Sporting News to write the foreword. These testimonials were used in any and all inquires to media, bookstores, and church groups.

Anne: A very good idea. Readers, that’s a good thing to bear in mind when you’re pulling together a NF book proposal: do you know any big names who would be willing to provide a blurb? Is there any way you could get the blurb in advance, so you can include a glowing blurb page in your book proposal?

But I digress. Do go on.

Gary: We jointly conceived of a launch event at the owner’s box at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. Local press, media, bookstores, and friends were invited to an evening of books, brats, and beer.

Anne: I assume that brats refers to sausage, not to children.

Gary: Both Liguori and I were successful in setting up syndicated radio interviews with local and primarily Catholic/Christian radio stations. I taped a TV show for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Together we sent review copies to mainstream and archdiocesan newspapers all across the country. My two alma maters, the University of San Francisco and the University of Washington, ran blurbs on the book. I also have participated in signing and speaking events at various Christian churches in my area.

I am happy to report that sales were such that the hardcover edition begat (to use a Biblical expression) a paperback version to be released in time for the 2006 baseball season.

Anne: I noticed that on Amazon. Congratulations!

Gary: From press reviews, I had collected a list of favorable quotes, the best of which will adorn the book’s back cover. To paraphrase Chicago Cub great Ernie Banks, “Great book for baseball, let’s publish two!”

Anne: Again, thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Jim and Gary. Aspiring writers tend not to hear very much about the post-contract aspects of the publication process, so I am delighted that you were willing to give us so many interesting insights.

Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up self-publishing week with a few final thoughts. In the meantime, keep up the good work!

– Anne Mini

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