Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole…, or My Adventures in Self-Publishing

by Janis Susan May
I put off self-publishing my backlist for a long time. Not that I didn’t want my early books given new life or to find new readers. I was even entranced at the thought of maybe making the kind of BIG MONEY that some self-pubbers are. (Am still waiting for that…)

So why did I wait? Because I am such a thoroughgoing techno-naif the entire process terrified me. (Yes, there are services who do this sort of thing – I couldn’t afford them.) As one who can open and save a Word document and feels inordinate pride in being able to read and respond to emails, the idea of putting up a book was overwhelming. What if something went wrong and I looked like even more of an idiot than I already felt? What if I pushed the wrong button and my book disappeared? What if I pushed a bunch of wrong buttons and crashed Amazon or Barnes&Noble? (Yes, I do tend to overestimate my abilities.)

Finally, after a small amount of my favorite adult libation and a heartening pep talk from The Husband, I put up my first ebook to a resounding round of… silence. The first review complained about the formatting, over which I had slaved. The second trashed my baby so badly we were both bleeding, so I and my ego crawled into a metaphoric hole and pulled the dirt in over us.

The Husband was relentlessly encouraging, and urged me to persevere. I had enough royalties from my trad published books to hire a formatter and buy some inexpensive pre-made covers for a few more books so I gave in. My sales inched up and I was overjoyed.

Time passed. I became less terrified of the process. The Husband pushed me again, even though I told him it would probably be a couple of centuries before we could retire (his dream) on my writing income. We went back to the drawing board and he agreed to float my writing career a much-needed loan.

I found an incredible cover artist who, for a surprisingly reasonable amount, created a fantastic cover that would do for both paperback and ebook. (Most pre-made ebook covers will not go for paper – the resolution is too low to print well. Who knew?) She also created a beautiful logo for my newly christened publishing company, Sefkhat-Awbi Books, a name that resonates with both The Husband and me as both of us are enthusiastic amateur Egyptologists. For those who are curious, Sefkhat-Awbi is an obscure New Kingdom regional variant on the name of Sheshat, the Ancient Egyptian goddess of writing.

I went back to my fave formatter, who not only re-formatted my newly tidied ebook but created a paperback that would rival anything done by New York. Frankly, considering some of the things that have come from the Big 5 recently, it looks much better than many a New York product!

Curious about the result? FAMILY OF STRANGERS is a traditional Gothic romance set in Victorian-era Scotland and is now available from better retailers. (The paper version can even be ordered through brick-and-mortar stores as well as on the net!) Here’s the cover …

Stay tuned – I’ve scheduled a few more Gothic mysteries (not necessarily set in Scotland, though), a clutch of traditional Regencies, a couple of international romantic adventures and a cozy mystery or two to come.

I’m not to the point of feeling smug or truly comfortable with the process of being my own publisher yet, but it’s getting less intimidating by the day!


  1. Love your blog entry! I'm impressed with anyone who can conquer to techy part of indie publishing. I knew enough not to even try it! I At least you gave it a try before paying someone as I did from the beginning! Good luck with your venture!

  2. Kudos, Janis. Having self-pubbed my last two books, I feel like we fought in the same foxhole. The self-publishing world is not an easy one to conquer, but you're well on the way. The book looks great - very professional. Good luck with it.

  3. I have to use a service. My technology skills consist of off and on. I don't think I could do it on my own and do it well.

    Congrats for going through the process. Mrga sales to you

  4. Great cover. It's a big step to take, but you seem to have done it well.

  5. Janis, it looks wonderful! All the best!

  6. It is a scary first step, and just as scarier the second time. I went the route of hiring a cover artist and formatter for my first indie published nonfiction title, Writing the Cozy Mystery. My next self-pub project is also nonfiction. I'm hoping one day to dip into the waters of indie publishing an original novel, but that's down the road. Keep going with your projects. Supposedly the more you have out there, the better.

  7. Schweet! Very nice job! It looks very professional and sounds like a great story. And there's a special little place in my heart for all things Scottish. Scottish Gothic. Neat.