Three DIY Publishers Speak

To follow up to our last column on the common mistakes made by do-it-yourself publishers, I interviewed three authors who have either self-published, or have published through independent houses they have a financial interest in.

First up is Caprice Hokstad, the author of the Duke’s Handmaiden:

1) What method did you use to publish your book?

Xulon Press, a “Christian” POD company

2) Why did you choose this method?

Because they were the only company at the time that promised I could get in Ingram AND Spring Arbor, and they were one of the few companies that would allow returns. These features were supposed to help me get in bookstores. It didn’t work.

[note: bookstores won’t carry your book unless it can be returned.]

3) What steps were involved?

I did all the formatting because they said they couldn’t do it and preserve my fonts. So I did it myself, printed it out on a laser printer, and sent it to them, camera-ready. They were supposed to take my suggestions on a cover, but they threw out what I suggested and tried to give me stock pictures of totally unacceptable castles that didn’t match any of my descriptions. After a phone call, I gave them a second chance, but they dragged their feet and took MUCH longer than originally promised. The resulting cover was okay, just not what I wanted or felt I paid for.

Have you been satisfied with the results?
I am very unhappy with the way I was treated and I was also not pleased with the way they raised the book price later.  The product itself was satisfactory.

4) Have you been satisfied with the results?

I am very unhappy with the way I was treated and I was also not pleased with the way they raised the book price later.  The product itself was satisfactory.

5) What, if anything, would you do differently?

I would NEVER use Xulon again. I took my second book to Lulu and got better service for a MUCH BETTER price. They put me in Ingram, which doesn’t really help get in bookstores, but I didn’t pay huge bucks for the “privilege” like I did before. They didn’t lie to me. They didn’t exploit me. I had to pay an artist, but the artist I hired listened to me and gave me exactly what I asked for. And even with the artist charge, I still paid a lot less for the whole process. Only difference: my second book is on Amazon and B&N, but not CBD. Big fat hairy deal.


Next, I chatted with Grace Bridges, owner of Splashdown Books:

1) What method did you use to publish your book?

Lightning Source, [LSI] which is used by traditional publishers both large and small and are directly connected to Ingram and Bowker, enabling worldwide cataloging and discounting. Unlike self-publishing services, such as Lulu, in which you can use your own ISBN and get distribution for an extra fee, LSI is a reputable printer where you HAVE to have your ISBN and the fee is for file processing and entering the book into distribution catalogs. LSI also accepts returns.

2) Why did you choose this method?

It provides a POD service while publishing under my own name and ISBNs.

[Note Graces means  Splashdown Books is the publisher rather than Lightning Source. Self publishing services like Lulu often offer printing services also, but are rendered disreputable by their primary product.]

3) What steps were involved?

Signing up with LSI, which proved to be quite complex. Then the individual book setup, which is not too hard if you’re familiar with Lulu, though it is certainly not quite that easy. To obtain the required pdf file for the interior I went through Lulu with a dummy project to convert from Word. For the cover, I hired someone from Elance for $50 to convert to a CMYK-compliant pdf as required. All they did was the conversion; I already had the wraparound graphic complete.

4) Have you been satisified with the results?

Yes, the print quality seems better than Lulu and the cover price has gone down while the profit margin has gone up.

5) What, if anything, would you do differently?

Take more time in the run-up. Yeah, right. But these projects will suck as much time as you can throw at them.


Finally, I posed my questions to Arlene Knickerbocker, owner of the Write Spot.

1) What method did you use to publish your book?

My first book was published by a traditional publisher in 2001- Circles of Blessing: Redemption in the Rain Forest.

I started my writing and editing business in 2001 also. After working with a local printer and publishing a few small booklets for people, I decided to self-publish my second book: Open the Door to Another Realm. I also published a children’s book for my granddaughter using the same method.

2) Why did you choose this method?

God directed me on the first book. The publisher actually called me about doing some freelance editing, and I asked if they were open to a book proposal. It was out in 3 months.

The second book is a daily devotional done with poetry. I know that is not an easy genre to sell to a publisher. So I decided to publish it through my business, The Write Spot.

3) What steps were involved?

For the first book, I sent a formal proposal including a personal marketing plan. The book is creative non-fiction about my co-author, and he has a broad speaking platform. Thus, we were able to buy several hundred books up front. I think that helped cinch our deal with the publisher.

I sent the manuscript. They asked us to add a sub-title (which we did). We signed the contract. They sent a copy for our okay. It was a simple process.

For the second book, I bought a bar code [ISBN] and set the book up as a PDF file. I designed my own cover. I sent it to the printer, received a sample copy, okayed it, and paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 per book. I printed 210. I have done some book signings, poetry readings, and writing workshops. I also sell it through my website. I have about 25 books left. Several stores carry them on consignment. They sell them for $12.99 and pay me $7.75. I sell them for $10.00.

4) Have you been satisified with the results?

Yes, they are not on the best-seller list, but I’ve received many positive comments from readers. My goal was to follow the Lord’s leading and put the results in His hands, so I have been satisfied with what He has done.

5) What, if anything, would you do differently?

I don’t know of any changes I would make.

[Note: the links included in this article are for educational purposes only.]

Recommended further reading: Self-publishers and piranhas

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