A Model for Successful Self-Publishing
Grow Old with Me by Melinda Evaul
LYNN: Today let’s celebrate the release of Melinda Evaul’s first novel and learn about some exciting new options available in the publishing industry!
In Grow Old With Me (the first novel in the Quilt Trail Series) a modern-day Beauty and the Beast meet in their fifties when a disfigured carpenter becomes a guest at a bed and breakfast in the western-style tourist town of Love Valley, NC. Benjamin Pruitt plans to repair the town’s buildings before retiring to a solitary life. Sarah Campbell longs for freedom since her long task as caregiver has ended. Can Benjamin and Sarah piece the tattered remnants of their lives into something beautiful to warm their waning years?
The book will be available after Thanksgiving–in time for Christmas!–from Winding Road Ink by email to email@example.com or via mail to Winding Road Ink (Attn. Melinda Evaul), PO Box 1465, Soddy Daisy, TN 37384.
Winding Road Ink is Melinda’s own publishing company. Melinda, did you attempt to find a traditional publisher for Grow Old With Me?
MELINDA: My manuscript initially went to a traditional publisher who requested the book based on a book proposal. Six months later, they rejected it. This is a common occurrence in the publishing industry. I tried to secure an agent to represent my novels, but finding an agent is as hard as getting a publisher. In the traditional publishing world, it’s almost essential to have an agent to market your books to the publisher.
LYNN: When did you first consider that self-publishing might be a good option?
MELINDA: I took a serious look at the market and audience for my novel. My story has a quilt related theme, so I joined an online quilting forum and received welcome emails from 28 states and 3 foreign countries within one day! I’d found my target audience. A road trip along the Tennessee Quilt Barn Trail confirmed this. Fabric shops, craft stores, produce farm owners, horse enthusiasts, and even a feed and seed store wanted copies of the book to sell. The quilt squares painted and displayed on their stores and barns attract tourists and preserve American heritage. I decided to become a promoter of this art form and let these total strangers–many are now fond acquaintances–help market the book. This will help maintain rural culture, promote the arts of quilting and painting, and earn some money from my book sales for local businesses as well as for me.
LYNN: Sounds like you hit upon a win-win strategy! But first you had to figure out how to get your story printed. Can you explain the difference between a publisher and a printer?
MELINDA: A traditional publisher offers you a contract and pays for the right to sell your book. They design a cover and the book’s interior (setting the type and arranging for any graphics), print the book, and give marketing help. A self-publishing company offers these services, but you pay them instead of receiving money for the book. The price and options vary widely. (Mark Levine wrote a wonderful book, The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. I’d say it is a necessary read for anyone considering the self-publishing route.) A printer, on the other hand, binds and prints your book. The author does all the preparation or hires someone to get everything “print ready.”
LYNN: Which option did you decide on and why?
MELINDA: I chose the printer route. I formed my own private publishing company, Winding Road Ink. This allowed me to keep the rights and profits from my book, but it requires a great commitment when you “do it all yourself.” With the help of friends and family, we designed the cover and interior pages of Grow Old With Me. We tackled many intricate details. I selected Snowfall Press to print my novel. I’ll pay them to print the books on an as-needed basis. This is called print-on-demand, POD. They send a bound and printed copy to one reader or any quantity to a store or to me. This gives me a larger profit, but it also required me to learn many new skills and pay much attention to small details.
LYNN: In going with a printer and starting your own publishing label, what sorts of new skills did you have to learn in addition to writing and editing?
MELINDA: I could write a book on this topic! Those UPC barcodes on the back of a book…I ordered mine. My book has an identity or ISBN…ordered that too. The Library of Congress needed a form to issue the LCCN (Library of Congress Catalog Number). Yep, another item to order. Each of those is incorporated into the books cover design. Once the novel is printed, I’ll mail the Library of Congress a copy to catalog. Formatting the interior required a large learning curve using special formats. Each item has its special location in the book–little things we never notice when we read. My husband and daughter took the cover pictures. Lynn Dean designed the beautiful quilt graphics and blended them with my husband’s photo-shopped pictures to make the cover. Jim Shelley converted everything to the printer’s file format. This support team provided hours of work. Now I’m learning about collecting taxes and running a business.
LYNN: Whew! Writing the book is only the beginning! I had a great time designing your cover. 🙂
After your book is printed, marketing is the next adventure. How will you let people know that you have a book for sale?
MELINDA: Word of mouth is the best way to sell books. I’m asking friends to tell their friends. You could post a link to this article on your Facebook page. I spent four days traveling the Quilt Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee. It was great fun meeting quilters and proprietors. Those new friends will link to my website and sell my books in their stores. I’ll help them by linking to their website and blogging about their businesses. My Facebook Fan Page and online forums give me another route to spread the news. I have book signings planned in many locations. Attending writers groups to speak about self-publishing will get the word out too. I have a new website under construction (www.melindaevaul.com) that should be ready in a couple of weeks. That will be the primary link to my readers for this and future books. I’ll take book orders there.
LYNN: Sounds like a this process was a lot of hard work! With the job just completed, you may still be exhausted, but is self-publishing an option you would consider again?
MELINDA: Absolutely! My goal is not to become rich or famous. As a Christian, I believe each book I write has a purpose. Someone needs to read what I wrote. Unless a major publisher offers me a hefty contract, I’ll take the same road again with my next novel. And next time will be much easier since I know the routine.
LYNN: Do you have other stories planned for your Quilt Trail series?
MELINDA: Yes, but the trick is finding time to write and market at the same time. At this point, I have plans for five books in the Quilt Trail Series. I’ll see how that turns out as time passes. My next novel will focus on the Quilt Barn painter. Many of the quilts painted for the barns are replicas of family heirlooms. Each one has a story. I’m anxious to share those tales!
LYNN: Until I read your book, I knew nothing about the Quilt Trails…
MELINDA: Check out www.quilttrailswnc.org for the Western North Carolina trial,. My husband has two pictures in their 2011 promotional calendar. He will sell note cards featuring rural photos in my website store. To learn about the Tennessee Quilt Trail, go to www.vacationaqt.com. Almost every state has a trail that would make a nice home school field trip!
So how about it, readers? We’d love to hear your questions and comments about the self-publishing option through print-on-demand companies such as Snowfall Press. Or just leave encouragements for Melinda below!