Friday, March 25, 2016

Adventures in Indie Publishing

Today I'll be discussing a new adventure I've been on the last few months. I don't have a poem to share, but on this Good Friday, I'm honored to have a Gospel reflection posted on the CatholicMom website, More about that at the end of this post.

After my middle-grade novel, Rosa, Sola (Candlewick), went out of print, I made sure to get my rights back. The book had been published only in hardcover and I wanted to see it come out again in paperback and e-book form. I researched companies that bring books back into print but didn't find any I thought were a good match. Given that Rosa, my main character, is a devout Catholic who struggles with her faith after a family tragedy, I thought I might be able to interest a Catholic publisher in re-publishing it. However, I discovered that few Catholic publishers publish fiction for children, and those that do have very limited lists. I confess: it's rather disheartening to receive rejections for a book that was previously published by a major publisher (and that was featured on several award lists).

So, after weighing my options, I decided to self-publish, or what is also known as "indie publish" (as in "independently publish") a new edition of Rosa, Sola. I'm well aware that indie published middle-grade novels generally don't sell well. Some of the reasons why are explained in this 2014 post by Daniel Kenney:
"The key seems to be that kids don't make the buying decisions in their home and the primary way self-publishers reach their audience is through the internet, not through bookstores and libraries. Even kids who read e-books on Kindles or e-readers usually aren't the ones making the buying decisions. While it's easy for an adult power reader to buy books online, it's not easy for kids to do this. Ultimately, kids continue to learn about new books from their friends, from their teachers, and from their librarians." 
Interestingly, in a more recent discussion on bestselling indie author Hugh Howey's site, Kenney talks about achieving some success with his middle-grade titles.

In any case, my goal in bringing Rosa, Sola back into print isn't to make a ton of money. I'd simply like to have copies available for my students, who often request them, and for school visits. I'm also toying with the idea of writing a sequel. But that will definitely depend on how things go with the new edition.

My first step in researching indie publishing was to ask advice from my friend, bestselling indie author Megg Jensen, Megg recommended I start by reading Susan Kaye Quinn's Indie Author Survival Guide. Quinn's book turned out to be a great resource for not only the mechanics/process of indie publishing but also evaluating and setting personal writing goals. Both in the book and on her website, Quinn provides resources for indie authors, including this list of freelance service providers, such as cover artists, book designers, formatting services, etc.
I'm currently working with one of the designers recommended by both Megg and Susan to create a new cover for Rosa, Sola. I hope to do a cover reveal here on our blog at the end of next month. Meanwhile, I'm adding some discussion material to the new edition of the book and researching how to use Scrivener to create the formatted documents I need for both the e-book and paperback versions.

In addition to reading Quinn's book, I recently attended several workshops on indie publishing presented as part of the 2016 Catholic Writers Guild (CWG) Online Conference. Jane Lebak, who has published both traditionally and independently, gave two presentations on indie publishing that I found extremely helpful. And Dawn Witzke, who is both an author and cover designer, spoke on "Book Cover Design Basics." Even though I'd already done quite a bit of research on cover design, I still found her discussion of specific examples of both appealing and unappealing book covers quite eye-opening!

As an aside, I first learned of the Catholic Writers Guild (CWG) when I was looking for Catholic publishers who might be interested in re-publishing Rosa, Sola,  Two years ago, I attended the CWG LIVE conference, which is held in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Network's annual trade show. The Catholic Marketing Network (CMN) is an association of religious publishers and booksellers, so their trade show is analogous to Book Expo America (BEA), but on a MUCH smaller scale.

At the conference, I pitched to several Catholic editors and attended presentations by CWG members on writing and marketing for a religious audience. I also learned about the CWG Seal of Approval. As it says on the CWG blog,
"The purpose of the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval is to help Catholic bookstores and venues in their determination of both the Catholicity of a work as well as its being held to a higher standard of editorial quality. This reassurance from a professional organization can assist authors in marketing and promoting their works." 
I subsequently submitted Rosa, Sola for consideration, and am happy to announce that the book has been awarded the CWG Seal of Approval. Now I have a batch of embossed stickers I can affix to the paperback edition when it is released, hopefully soon!

If you're interested in writing for the Catholic market, I encourage you to attend the next CWG LIVE conference, which will be held in Schaumburg, Illinois, July 26-July29, 2016. I plan to be there.

And if you join CWG, be sure to also join the member Facebook group. That's where I connected with Lisa Hendey, founder of the CatholicMom website. She put out a call for submissions, and that's how I came to have my Good Friday Gospel reflection posted there today. If you have a moment, I hope you'll check it out.      

Don't forget: if you haven't already entered for a chance to win an autographed copy of TeachingAuthor April Halprin Wayland's More Than Enough—A Passover Story (Dial), you want to do so soon. The giveaway ends on March 31, 2016, and is open to U.S. residents only.

Happy writing!


Bobbi Miller said...

What a very informative discussion! Hearty congratulations on the CWG Seal of Approval for Rosa, Sola! Can't wait to see the cover!

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks, Bobbi!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks for sharing this adventure, Carmela!
Your efforts were well-worth it: ROSA SOLA is once again in the world!

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Excellent post that is helpful and informative.

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks, Carla and Esther. Esther, Rosa isn't quite in the world again yet, but I'm working on it. :-)