In an earlier blog post, I discussed my journey in setting up my publishing imprint Heathermoors Books, and my thoughts about self-publishing in general. That leads to the next question: Would I recommend self-publishing to other authors?
The answer to that question? Yes! But with some “caveats.”
What are those “caveats”? As with everything else in life, anything worth accomplishing is worth due diligence and sacrifice: research, be willing to act, allow yourself to make mistakes, and let go of some things (in my case, it was my perfectionist ways). That’s not to say it’s okay to be careless. What I’m saying is that writing and publishing have a learning curve, so mistakes are inevitable for the sake of gaining experience. So, if you’re okay with those “caveats,” then self-publishing isn’t so much a problem in itself.
When I self-published my first book (a poetry book) in 2006, “How Fate’s Confusion Connects,” I was naïve about the process, so I made plenty of mistakes. Granted, the company and I had a good working relationship; they were helpful and guided me through the process. But I should have researched the industry so I could be better informed. Below I list my faux pas in publishing the book (the most obvious ones to me) and my reflection on them.
Mistake #1: The cover
Whenever I see or even think about the cover for “How Fate’s Confusion Connects,” I cringe, even to this day. I certainly don’t blame the artist or the publishing company, especially since I told the company what I want to see in the artwork (and the go-to people, in turn, informed the artist). I did research other poetry books’ cover arts but didn’t read about what elements make a good and bad cover. At the time, it didn’t register with me that it’s not just about the cover looking attractive; it’s also about how the artwork communicates to the reader what the book is about. The “How Fate’s Confusion Connects” cover is neither decent looking nor says what’s inside the book.
I told the publishing company I wanted purple and black as the color scheme. These are my favorite colors, but I didn’t tell them that. This isn’t to say you can’t use your favorite color palette for your book covers, but in my case, I regret purple and black because the result is they’re harsh on the eyes, especially the black border. Also, I requested puzzle pieces because they represent how “pieces” of life come together to make one whole picture. Yet all the pieces did was to further pull together the artwork’s ugliness. I should have gone for a softer palette, a lighter image, and no puzzle pieces!
Mistake #2: The editing
Another screw-up in the original run of “How Fate’s Confusion Connects” was the editing. As with the cover, someone from the publishing company edited the manuscript. In hindsight, I should have hired an independent poetry editor. With the publishing company, I didn’t know who I was getting – I didn’t know the person or the individual’s credentials; therefore, I didn’t know if this editor had a poetry background. If this person did, I would be pleasantly surprised. Plus, I should’ve had the manuscript beta read once the editing was done and before the book got printed.
Mistake #3: The (lack of) marketing
Poetry is a niche genre compared to mystery/thrillers, fantasy, and sci-fi, so it doesn’t do well in the more mainstream marketplace. Nevertheless, I should have done what I could to market “How Fate’s Confusion Connects.” Except for a press release I submitted to my old hometown’s newspaper and some bookmarks and business cards, I didn’t do much marketing. At the time I didn’t understand that being a self-published author is as much of a business as being a creative individual. Not until 2012 did it click with me that to be a successful author, you have to know how to market and sell your books and let people know you exist. I used to believe I wasn’t a natural businessperson and that business, in general, wasn’t something I did because real authors didn’t do that.
In 2009 – three years after I released “How Fate’s Confusion Connects” – I launched a blog because I heard it was a good marketing tool for authors. Although I was a newspaper journalist at the time, letting other people read my work on a different medium was a whole other level. Again, my mind wasn’t there to promote myself because “that wasn’t what real authors do.” Books are a business, and a business needs to be promoted. I know now that marketing is not a sign of shamelessness or desperation; it’s how a business is run. Robert Kiyosaki said in his book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” that he’s a “best-selling author” not a “best-writing author.”
My takeaway from my experience
Before, I used to be ashamed of my screwups, from the typos in my final drafts to the less-than-palatable reviews. But guess what? Witnessing my maturity as a person and as an authorpreneur (I like that word more every time I use it!), I’m happy to have messed up. I’m proud of and own my mistakes— or as I should call them, lessons. I am grateful for the blunders because they’re blessings.
Now armed with improved knowledge of self-publishing, I intend to reprint “How Fate’s Confusion Connects.” I mean a total overhaul – a brand new cover, new editing, even a new interior design (maybe). I already have a publisher in mind, but I’m reprinting under Heathermoors Books. This second edition will be better, as a reflection of how much better I’ve become as an authorpreneur!
Teresa Edmond-Sargeant is an award-winning journalist and author. She released her first collection of short stories “Inner Demons” in October 2020. She is the author of the short story ebooks “Eve the First,”“For My Sister,” and “Sammy’s Butterflies.” “A Symphony of Silence” is her second poetry collection. She will release her debut novel “Warding Off Reality” in August 2021.