07 September 2009

Author Interview: T. L. Gould, Part Two

Here we are with Part Two of my interview with Terry L. Gould, self-published author of How Can You Mend This Purple Heart?  Last time we talked a bit about Terry's background and the story behind Purple Heart.  Now Terry shares some insight into the self-publishing process.

JLL: Why did you decide to self-publish?

TLG: In one word—impatience. I studied dozens of websites and learned as much as I could about the publishing industry and the publishing process. I followed that with an intense study of all the how-to advice on finding an agent, writing a great query letter, writing a powerful synopsis, the why’s of following agent submission guidelines and the dos and don’ts of just about every rule that should never be broken—and then what rules should be broken.

To make a long story short, after twenty-some queries (very targeted to the genre), followed by nine rejections and the remaining no responses, I lost patience.

I did as much research on self-publishing as I had on traditional publishing and decided it was the best option for “Purple Heart”.

JLL: What can you tell us about the self-publishing process?

TLG: If your writing is the ultimate goal—not the act of getting published—then self-publishing is worth a look. The best advice I can give is to do your homework. Research as many self-publishing firms as you can. Compare everything. Compare rates, options, marketing add-ons, design costs and copyright ownership clauses. Read every contract thoroughly. It’s time consuming, but every contract I looked at had some amazing obligations required by the author and some even more amazing “rights” given to the publisher. And don’t just visit the firms’ websites. Scroll down Google and look for any news about each firm. There are a lot of bad apples and thankfully there are a lot of dedicated people to point them out to you and tell you just which apples have worms.

Access to the internet deprives anyone of an excuse not to know everything needed to make a sound decision.

JLL:  How long did it take?

TLG: The research process took about three weeks. Once I had decided on the publisher, it took approximately three weeks to see a printed book.

JLL: Where/how did you find out about the service you used?

TLG: Other than the internet search, the company came very highly recommended from a member of a writer’s group.

JLL: Has there been a lot of out-of-pocket expense for you?

TLG: The company I am working with, Published by Westview, charges $1,089 to format, change font throughout the book, set up table of contents, obtain ISBN for both paperback and hardcover and create a design cover. Two opportunities for review and revisions is included. The cost also includes the first five paperback and hardcover copies.

JLL: Do you make a decent profit on the books you sell?

TLG: The printing costs for Print On Demand, are very high compared to volume printing. A single paperback, 235 pages, black and white is $6.00. The “retail” price must be set at the time the ISBN is assigned and that dollar figure must be able to compete in the “big box” market, should the writer decide to go with full distribution. (Westview offers two options for the author; full distribution through Ingram, or “publisher distribution only” which is restricted access. The books are only available through the publisher’s or the author’s websites. The publisher must sell the books at the retail price, however, the author can set his/her selling price that is lower than the ISBN retail price).

So, if an author sells the book for $15.00 on the website, and the book costs $6.00, the author’s gross profit is $9.00. However, if the author decides to sell the book on his/her website for $8.95 the gross profit is $2.95. Shipping and handling costs from the printer are additional and depend on the number of books being shipped.

Self-published writers need to be very cautious not to price the book too high. As an “unknown” writer it is very unlikely anyone is willing to pay the same as they would for an established author.

JLL: Are you your own editor, or are those services provided?

TLG: This is the one area where I wish I would have/could have had a real editor (you Jen!). Self-editing is like asking a politician to watch your wife for a couple of days. (JLL: HAHA!)  I literally re-read, re-wrote and revised the story nine times. EVERY time I found mistakes. I was too close to the story itself to separate the emotional attachment from the technical requirements. I’m pretty good with English, grammar, quotation rules and sentence structure, but not good enough.

I don’t care if you think you’re Webster, every book needs an independent, qualified, sincere and talented editor. If I’ve learned one thing it’s this; the editor is just as important as the author.

JLL: What about cover art?

TLG: The cover art was provided by the publisher, however, with “Purple Heart” I knew what I wanted on the cover and they obtained the photos and provided the electronic art.

JLL: Would you self-publish again? As a last-resort option, or a first- or second-choice?

TLG: I’ve been kicking around a book concept for some time. It’s a full-length memoir that chronicles the shenanigans of me and my two older brothers. It’s more of a family history story than anything else. That I might self-publish.

As for the other stories I’m working on, well, I can only say I hope I have gained a little more patience as I’ve gotten older.

JLL: I know you’ve been pursuing some marketing/publicity opportunities. Would I be right in assuming that you’re also solely responsible for marketing your book, or do you receive any help?

TLG: The marketing falls squarely on the writer. If a self-published writer wants to sell lots of books, he/she better know the audience they want to reach. A lot of time and money can be wasted chasing the wrong group of readers. In the world of traditional publishing, not many newspaper editors will even consider reviewing a self-published book. It’s a closed community at this time, although I have read articles where that is changing a little.

Marketing is very time-consuming and frustratingly slow. You have to make it fun, make it a game. The best thing I’ve learned is to be creative with ideas on how to gain awareness for the book—and don’t expect too much. (You know, it’s that low pay ego thing).

JLL: Any advice for other authors considering self-publishing?

TLG: Just like your writing, do it because you enjoy it. Don’t go into it thinking you’re going to be the next Tom Clancy or Steven King. Remember, 50,000 new book titles are printed in the U.S. every year. If you self-publish, do it because you love your story and you’re proud of your accomplishment.

JLL: Terry, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions!  I hope you have great success with Purple Heart and the rest of your writing endeavors.  And if you have acquired a bit more patience with the traditional publishing process, I'm sure it won't be long before you see success there.

If you'd like your own copy of Purple Heart, please visit http://www.purplescribe.com/ .  Don't forget, not only will your purchase support an independent author, but also Veterans Airlift Command.