Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sandra Stiles: Self-Publishing Worked For Me

Today Sandra Stiles, author of Steps To Courage, talks about her decision to self-publish.

I am a teacher by trade. When 9/11 happened I was sitting in a classroom with sixth graders watching the events unfold on the television. My students wondered if there were kids in the Towers. I had no clue since I’d never been to New York. It made me wonder how teens would handle such a catastrophe.

I let that brew for a few more years. I was sitting in a reading class. I had just assigned another writing assignment when one of my students said I needed to write books for my shelves. They liked what I wrote, they liked what I suggested to them to read. I went home and once again told my husband about my plans for a 9/11 book. He handed me a notepad and told me to stop talking about it and to start writing it.

In the meantime, I was signed up for a 2-year novel writing class and had collected books on writing. I had started a book review blog where I received a lot of encouragement from authors in my pursuit of writing. Since I am one of a handful of authors who enjoy reviewing self-published books, I received tips and hints from them. The class I was taking discouraged self-publication. I persevered in my pursuit of traditional publication.

Through an author friend, Marlayne Giron, whose books I had reviewed on my blog, I met my agent. She read my manuscript and started telling me what I needed to do. She said she would be glad to represent me. She shopped the book around for about six months. She and I discussed self-publishing and she actually encouraged me. I still had the voices in my head telling me if I self-published then I wasn’t a real author because “real” authors are traditionally published.

I talked with and prayed with some real close friends at school. They asked why I wanted it published at the time I did. I told them that I had been trying for three years to publish it traditionally and we were approaching the tenth anniversary of 9/11. It was important that I get it published before that. They looked at me and said; “I think you have your answer then.”

My agent recommended one of her clients, Karen Arnpriester, graphic artist by profession. She created my book cover, business cards and bookmarks. My friend Marlayne, worked with me and created my book trailer. I self-published through CreateSpace. I’ll never forget when I got the proof copy back. I held the physical book in my hands and bawled. It is not a feeling you can describe. Any author would understand that feeling. I don’t care how many books I write, I believe holding the proof of each one will feel similar. It is a sense of accomplishment.

My agent started hooking me up with other authors she represented. They promoted my book and ran my book trailer on Facebook. Several authors I had reviewed did the same. I was so pleased. My school ran my book trailer for a week. I took pre-orders and within my first week through school alone, this included parents ordering from Amazon, I had sold over 160 copies. My school library currently has six copies. My public library has a copy.

I’ve been comparing traditional with self-publishing. Unless you are a big celebrity or you are a J.K. Rowling, a traditionally published author has to work just as hard promoting their book as a self-published author. I have found that word of mouth whether it has been through Facebook, friends or whatever avenue has been the best thing for me, as it is for most authors.

As of this writing I have sold over 360 books in the ten months since it was published. I believe that is good for a self-published author. I live in an Amish area in Florida. One of our local Amish restaurants has a book section. I took a copy of my book in. A week later, I received a call from the manager. He ordered 50 books. They also asked me to do a two-day book signing, once each morning and evening so I would hit their biggest crowds. They scheduled it for the ninth and tenth of September. Every employee purchased a copy of my book.

Our school is an International Baccalaureate school. Student must choose to come to our school. When parents and schools are given tours, they bring them to my classroom and they mention I am a published author. I’ve made several sales this way. Since I am writing books for young adults that also appeal to adults, this helps.

There has been a little more expense involved than I was prepared for. When I talk to people now who would like to self publish I tell them they need to do all of their research about what is out there. I point them to several writing sites that have helped me. It is amazing how helpful well-known authors are to those who are starting out. Writers are one of the most helpful groups of people I have ever known.

Would I recommend self-publication? Yes. Does this mean I will never try traditional publication? Not at all. I think it is something we all strive for. However, if we have clearly defined goals, know what we need to do, self-publication can be the way to go. After all, well know authors like Roland Smith have self-published books. He has been a very successful author yet he self-published “Legwork” as an e-book. Why? He thought it was a wonderful book but his publisher didn’t.

I myself am looking forward to more self-publication. I am in control of things, not a publisher.

Steps To Courage
Trina Lacy is passionate about Angel Hope, a service that she once relied on to get her through one of the toughest times in her life. Required to complete community service hours for graduation she proposes a charity fundraiser held at Windows on the World, in New York City’s Twin Towers.

She is joined in this venture by her ex-boyfriend Lucas James. He is hoping to use this not only for his required hours, but to mend the broken relationship with Trina. Mark Jacobs volunteers for the project out of guilt. He has been carrying around the guilt of playing a major role in his parent’s death. He hopes to find a way to forgive himself.

They meet at the Twin Towers on 9-11 to divide and conquer. None of them expected terrorists to fly planes into the Towers. Each of them is a survivor of a horrific tragedy from their past and, now they must face escaping the burning towers with all the odds stacked against them. How will they survive this ordeal when each of them feels guilty at having survived in the first place?

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