A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing
Do you have a dream to publish a book? Have you written a book but now you are not sure how to get it published? I hope my story inspires you to expand your boundaries with this guide to self-publishing.
Some of us fall into writing and publishing as Alice fell into Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole. I’ve loved writing since third grade when I composed rhymed stories I read aloud when my teacher left the room. My classmates cheered me on.
My first book was almost published by a traditional publisher.
Fast forward a few years. At a large Midwestern Christian writing conference, a Baker Book’s editor read my book and told me to rephrase it as a children’s book with the boy telling his story. I did just that and Baker Books was interested in publishing it. But their corporate office bought Bethany House, and the company reorganized. They expanded their Chick Lit division but dropped their children’s book line.
“I’m so sorry,” my editor said, “but I believe in your story.” She encouraged me to publish my children’s book myself. What? I didn’t know the first thing about publishing. But I knew a wonderful Christian family who’d done well starting their own publishing company, Bethlehem Books, which produced excellent home-school books. They told me to publish the book myself. “How?” I asked.
“We’ll teach you everything you need to know,” my friends replied.
And step-by-step, they did. It wasn’t as hard as I thought. I established my small publishing house, TrueNorth Publishing, in my state. I’ve published four of my own children’s books and helped a few others get their books published, too. Currently, I publish three or four books a year for friends or industry connections. I charge an hourly consulting fee to edit, request printing bids, upload ISBNs, and other services. I contract out the formatting and art work to talented peers and friends.
Whoosh: A True Story is the title of my first children’s book that the Baker Book’s editor was interested in. It is a true account of my son praying for an owl, to keep as a pet, in our mountain valley where there were no owls—except one came. We named the owl Whoosh for the sound of its wings.
For me, publishing is more a ministry than a moneymaker.
I’ve more than regained my publishing company’s initial investment. I’m not in this career for the money. However, I enjoy writing and publishing. I see it as a ministry. These days I write novels for a traditional press. I’ve had two historical novels released this year with more to come. I appreciate the services my publisher provides that I don’t have to take care of. I didn’t intend to set up my own small press or an indie author, but I feel that is the path the Lord led me on. For me, the combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing works well, but the perfect publication solution will be different for everyone.
Is self-publishing for you?
Don’t postpone taking on something new just because you know little about it. None of us know how to swim while wading in shallow water. We can’t practice deep strokes and strong kicks until we plunge into the pool. Once we do, we find the water carries us. It’s also fairly easy to find experienced friends, skilled mentors, and author coaches to give instruction once you ask the right questions.
I’ve shared my personal journey with self-publishing. There are probably as many versions out there as there are individuals who love writing and publishing. The beauty of my arrangement is I can choose to hire the artist I want to illustrate my words. Before the illustrator begins, we discuss the scenes and mood I desire. We email thumb-nail sketches back and forth until I approve the illustrations. For my fourth children’s book, Woodsy the Wonder Bear, my American artist spent her summer in Brazil. Those same months I traveled extensively, but our emails flew back and forth easily and produced art that truly enhanced my children’s book. I believe providing top-quality illustrations helps sell books as much as the inspired words.
What’s stopping you from self-publishing?
Don’t be afraid to inquire and explore. Extend your borders and go further in your creative journey than before. Today, traditional houses publish fewer books than ever and this makes indie publishing a superb choice. It’s also fun as you are in charge of all the creative publishing decisions. That means you have unlimited opportunities to produce the exact publication product you want. I hope you will take the steps needed to make your dream of publishing a book come true.
About the Author
Delores Topliff is from the Pacific Northwest but now divides her year between family in Minnesota and warmer Mississippi. She published non-fiction and children’s books before writing novels. She teaches online college classes and provides consulting and freelance editing services. Learn more by visiting TrueNorthPublishingdt.com or delorestopliff.com and Delores Topliff Books on Facebook.