By: Marie Lavender
If you choose to self-publish either through an independent publisher or a publish-on-demand basis, it can be challenging. For my last thirteen books, I chose to go this route mainly because the competition is so steep and there were stories I wanted out there, but I was not sure how they would be accepted. I do plan to seek out mainstream channels, of course, but I will get into that later.
I chose Lulu because my budget was very slim. It is, for the most part, free. Aside from dishing out a bit of change on the proof copies, it is very affordable. In 2010, I compiled a group of short stories and poems, and decided I would try to publish them. It was actually more like a chapbook, and it happened to be a collection that I had turned in for a writing project in college. Of course, I fine-tuned the works, added some extra details here and there, but for the most part, it was the same collection.
I called it Express Café and Other Ramblings. I had done my research on self-publishing, especially publishing on demand, and Lulu seemed to be the best option. Because I was so gun-shy with the application, I used the first book as a test run. I had trouble formatting it correctly and had to keep adjusting the page size. Lulu suggests that you make an official copyright page, and they provide you an ISBN so that was nice. When I finally got everything right, I chose a pretty standard cover for the book. And then I paid for the proof copy, all the while hoping that I wasn’t being sucked into some kind of scam.
When I received it, I was in awe. I had never before seen my name in print or a collection of my work look so professional. It was so exciting! I thought, “Now, this is why I wanted to be a writer.” Not for the glory. Not for the money. But, for the feeling of accomplishment. Don’t we all want to feel proud of ourselves for something? But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Editing came next.
I proofed the copy, made the corrections to the document, and resubmitted it. Of course, Lulu demanded I buy another proof copy to make final revisions. So, I did, and I tallied that investment in my ahead and hoped it was worth it. Believe me, I’m not naïve, but I was willing to take this chance. Wouldn’t you if you wanted to get published?
A few days later, I received the next copy. The surprise at seeing my own work was reinforced, and I poured over it, making sure it was perfect. Of course, it wasn’t. Do we ever catch our own mistakes on the first run? So, I made those changes. I resubmitted. I paid for another proof copy. By now, you’re probably wondering if this lady is so gullible it’s ridiculous. Well, I’m not. I received that final copy, and I was satisfied. I was ready to move forward. I went onto my account on Lulu, pressed the ‘approve or deny’ button and wavered over my options.
I waited. I sat there at my computer, staring at the screen. Oh my God. Was I ready for all of this? Being in print? Being published? I pressed the ‘approve’ button, wincing at the same time. And then the screen came back, saying it would be published. I had to purchase distribution, of course, but I chose the one that was free. As aforementioned, my budget was limited. Then the screen said my book would be available on Amazon in four to six weeks. My heart was pounding with elation this time. What had I just done?
For the next week, I couldn’t think of anything else. Was I being taken in a scam? Or would I really be published? Even though I had done my research, and a lot of people seemed to recommend Lulu, I had my doubts. I checked Lulu the next day, and I was surprised to see my book already available on their site. Wow, anyone could purchase my book there? They didn’t have to wait to get it on Amazon? I was amazed, and I felt a whole lot better.
It was about six weeks later when I had practically forgotten to check that I was shopping casually on Amazon. For kicks and giggles, I decided to search my name. Lo and behold, there it was. My title was listed under my name. I clicked on it, and my book was available. I wanted to shout! I wanted to jump up and down! I wanted everyone to know my book was on Amazon. I mean, how many people can say they are on Amazon? And not as a seller, an author. I was finally an author. An author. How many years since I was nine years old had I been telling people, “Hey, I’m going to be an author when I grow up!” An author. A dream fulfilled.
Suddenly, I had a voracious appetite for writing, as if I didn’t already have one before. But, I just felt more focused, more into it for some reason. I was motivated to finish my works in progress.
Of course, life can get in the way for writers. For anyone really. I did keep writing though. Then, about a year later, I decided I was ready to try again. I compiled another group of stories and poems, and I intended this book to be sort of like a second volume to the first. So, I gave it a related title, Ramblings, Musings and Other Things. I went for Lulu again. I chose a pretty standard cover, a different color, of course, and I went through the steps to get published. I formatted the document and submitted it. I included a short description and set a price for the book. I paid for the proof copy.
When I received the book, I was excited again. But, this time, I started to think critically. What did an audience want to see? Well, with novels, we usually see some nice illustration, possibly a good font. I made my changes, but when I was in the process of revising on the site, I played around with it some. I decided to use my own image for the cover, which is a nice option Lulu gives us. The trick with using your own image is that it might come out grainy in the printing process so you have to keep an eye out for that. But, I believe I chose well for the second book because when I finally received the copy, I was amazed at how well the image came out. It really was the perfect picture for the cover. Inspiring with a sunset and trees. A nice picture for my second book. But, I digress.
By the time I went through the revisions, I was very satisfied with the book. I pressed the approval button with less hesitance this time. And right on time, about six weeks later, it was available on Amazon. A little over six months later, I published a third volume, Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things, which not only had a group of short stories and poems, but each one had a bit of a paranormal element to it. I chose a fitting, mystical but romantic cover for that volume as well. The book took two revisions, but I was satisfied with it.
Shortly after that, I published another book, a full novel, but I put it under a pen name. I titled it Hard to Get, pretty apt because the villain in the story is just that. This document was longer, and so revisions were more detailed. I found the cover a bit of challenge because I wanted to convey the fact that it was a detective story with some violence. So, images are always a bit of a problem. I struggled with this choice. When I received the proof copy, I found out the image I’d chosen was too grainy so I ditched that and found a different image, actually pretty bloody if you ask me. But, apropos for the book.
I got nuts with publishing for awhile, finishing a book every two or three weeks so that when they came out, they were staggered. Some of them I definitely found challenging, but I think I found the right covers. I published them subsequently as follows: Without You, A Hint of Scandal, Memories, Strange Heat, Terror in the Night, Haunted, and Pursuit. All of these were under the same pen name. Some of them took more revisions than others, but that’s part of writing.
I felt a bit of accomplishment in all of this, of course. I kept a copy of each of my books for display, and did what I could to advertise my work using social network avenues. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. I even had an account on Goodreads.
Then, a couple of months later, I decided to release a book under a new pen name, a pen name that I would reserve for only paranormal stories. I titled it A Misplaced Life. The revisions were many, mainly because I decided at the last minute to change the point of view from first person to third so that was challenging. And the cover was very difficult to decide on. Not only did I struggle to find an image that so perfectly fit my book, there just wasn’t much to choose from. Finally, I found the right image, and settled on that. When it was published, I felt the excitement again. Not only did I have too many pen names to handle, I knew I had published 12 books. Twelve. A complete dozen. It was baffling. How in the world had that happened?
I reflected on it. What in the world had made me take this step, other than flat out rejections from too many literary agents? But, I was published. I could add this to my resume if I wanted.
This woman has published 12 books under various pen names. Whoa.
Anyway, shortly after that, I reviewed one of my works in progress, about a writer who goes to Kenya to research her book. I suddenly knew I had to publish it, had to get it out there. I even had a funny idea it would make a good movie, but that’s neither here nor there. There were so many gaps to fill though. It wasn’t anywhere near ready. It lacked research.
So, I did something crazy. I went ahead and did a proof copy, knowing that I didn’t have to actually publish it. Nothing is ever final until you approve on Lulu so there is that fallback. I had the instinct that if I did this, it would suddenly motivate me to do what I hadn’t done thus far. I received the book not long after that, titled Perfect Game. I wasn’t crazy about the cover, but I didn’t worry so much about that. I focused on the spaces I needed to fill, the things I didn’t know yet about the story or the setting. I wrote like a maniac. I did the research. Suddenly, I had written 100 pages more than I had. And it all just fit like a glove. I couldn’t believe how motivating it had been to receive the book, and see how unfinished it was.
I went through several revisions, and finally found a good cover for it. I published it, and at this present time, though it is available on Lulu, it will be on Amazon in a few short weeks. And that,
my friends, makes the last book I published. Well, so far.
But, I suppose I’m digressing from the topic.
If you are raring to self-publish, Lulu is not a bad option. Like clockwork, Lulu was very good with publishing my books and making them available for purchase on Amazon. Lulu also does e-books, which is the way the industry is moving these days.
I would say the most challenging thing is that the royalties are higher if a customer purchases on Lulu than they are through Amazon. You can, however, purchase a global distribution package if you want your book available through Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores can carry it. You can also purchase your own book and resell it. This extra distribution package runs around $75, which is a bit higher than I wanted to spend, but I’m considering it for a major book I do sometime in the future.
All in all, Lulu is a great option for self-publishing or publishing on demand. I have been very
satisfied with the website. They even have a forum for questions that might cross your mind.
I am not limiting myself to self-publishing, folks. This is just an option, and I fully intend to keep pursuing mainstream publishing. I have submitted query letters and my present manuscript to literary agents and publishers. And yes, if you’re wondering, I’ll have one under Marie Lavender soon.
Marie Lavender has been writing for over twenty years. She always wanted to be an author and has dedicated most of her life trying to achieve that dream. As of today, she has had fourteen books published under various pen names and two short stories published in a private university publication. Her focus is romance. To contact Marie Lavender, feel free to visit her website and her blog at http://marielavender.blogspot.com/.
A list of her books and pen names follows:
Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other Rambling; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things
Erica Sutherhome: Hard to Get; Memories; Without You; Strange Heat; Terror in the Night; Haunted; Pursuit; Perfect Game; A Hint of Scandal
Kathryn Layne: A Misplaced Life
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