Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Self-Publishing Journey

As most of you know, my first six books were traditionally published. I have loved my publishing experiences and feel like I have learned so much. Yet, when I submitted my last manuscript, Ribbon of Darkness, to my publisher, after many months of waiting to hear back, and a requested rewrite, the manuscript was ultimately rejected.

It was devastating to me because I loved this story. I knew it was my best work to date and I was stunned that my publisher had passed on it. It was a hard pill to swallow.

As I grieved a bit over the rejection, I started making some decisions for myself. Another publishing company had offered to take it, but the more I thought about it and the more I talked to other authors, the more I leaned toward indie publishing.

And that’s exactly what I did.

Self-publishing Ribbon of Darkness has been a scary and exhilarating experience. I have learned so much about cover design, typesetting, and marketing. It has been a crash course for me on the publishing side of the business and while it has been hard, it has been so worth it.

It’s also been interesting to me to see the reaction to others when I tell them that Ribbon of Darkness was self-published. Most people have been very supportive and want to hear the story of my journey. Many authors want tips and tricks on how best to do certain things. But some people have sort of drawn back, and I’ve heard comments that since it was rejected it must not have been as good as my others that were traditionally published. I don’t believe that to be true. My publishing company explained to me about market trends and felt that it wasn’t something they could get behind at the present time. I can understand that, even though it hurt at the time. It wasn’t a matter of good vs. bad. But with the advent of CreateSpace, Kindle, Nook, and other marketing venues, I knew this was a title that I could get behind.

And that’s exactly what I did.

It’s been a long journey, with a lot of ups and downs, but I can honestly look back and smile now at how fortunate I am. I got a wonderful distributor that was able to get me into stores I’d been in before with my other novels, as well as new stores my books had never been in before. When I did my booksignings I heard from fans who had been waiting breathlessly for this book, because they knew it was Ethan’s story (Ethan was introduced in Dangerous Connections.) I have met so many wonderful people with my marketing efforts and I’ve gotten reviews from people I never would have met any other way. I couldn’t have asked for a better self-publishing debut novel.

Of course I know self-publishing isn’t for everyone and there are risks to a career when you self-publish if your numbers aren't great and publishing companies might not want to take another chance on you. But, ultimately, I know this was the right thing for Ribbon of Darkness. I have two more manuscripts that I plan to submit to my publisher, because they have been good to me and they have clout that I don’t have, and I hope they are accepted. But with the experience I’ve had with Ribbon of Darkness, I know now that I have a lot of options open to me and I’m grateful for that. It is a brave new world for authors in both the traditional and self-publishing markets and I think it’s exciting to see where it’s going to go.

So, I want to thank all of you who have supported me through this journey, who have taken a chance on Ribbon of Darkness, and who come to read my blog to buoy me up and be my friend. I couldn’t do it without you.

Do you feel differently about self-published books? Is there still a stigma attached or do you feel attitudes are changing? If you’ve read Ribbon of Darkness, how did it compare with my previous books?


Sarah Tokeley said...

I either like a book or I don't. I don't care about where, when or how it was published, only that it entertains me :-)

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I agree with Sarah. That's awesome that you are able to get into the book stores. My publisher is mostly an epublisher so I don't think they even push to get into the book stores at all. I don't know if that is a good or bad thing.

~T~ said...

I usually don't care about who the publisher is unless I find an inordinate number of typos. Then I do some research to see who's letting them slip by. I'm sure your previous publishing experience has taught you to be careful about that kind of thing!

Stephanie Black said...

I had a similar situation to yours--a book rejected not because my publisher didn't like it, but because they didn't think it would sell well. Someday I'll probably be coming to you for advice on how to self-publish that book!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Sarah, that's how I feel, too. Although I relate to T in that I hate a lot of typos. It totally takes me out of the story.

Michael, I was so lucky to get a distributor that can get my books on the shelves. I think it's interesting that ebook publishing is exploding, and yet people still like paper. It's a balance I suppose. Congrats on getting your work out there, though That's a great accomplishment, I think.

Stephanie, I hope you get that book out there someday. It's just sitting on your computer when your legions of fans would snap it up in a second! Totally can't wait for Rearview Mirror. :)

Debra Erfert said...

What I just can't believe is that your and Stephanie's publishers (I don't know if they are one in the same) would give your books a pass. That's totally insane! You are proven sellable authors. If women like you can get rejected--then . . . whew, I don't know. I kind of feel like I had the breath knocked out of me. I didn't know you self-pubbed, Julie. I guess I just took things for granted. I'm walking on new and more tenuous grounds now. I loved Ribbons.

Melanie Goldmund said...

When I read the website of a published author and find that they are turning to e-publishing because their latest manuscript has been rejected, for whatever reason, then I'm sure the manuscript was good enough to be published traditionally and is therefore worth reading. It might not be to my taste, but it won't be a "bad" book.

When I find that an author has simply put their stuff up on Kindle, then I'm more skeptical. Yes, there's still a bit of a stigma there in my eyes. I really do wonder if they're good enough, or whether the authors are just desperate for a bit of cash.

I recently had two experiences with e-books where the authors had not yet been published traditionally. I bought each on amazon for a low price; one was really good, and the other started out promisingly, but ultimately failed to deliver. Even at that low price, I was disappointed and felt I'd wasted my money. So I'm going to remain very conservative as to what I buy, and finding out whether the author has already been traditionally published will weigh a great deal in my decisions.

I haven't read Ribbon of Darkness yet -- sorry! :-)

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Deb, I'm sure your stuff will be published. You're doing everything right! A lot of times publishing is a timing issue, that's for sure. And I am SO glad you liked Ribbon. :)

Melanie, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think you and I think alike in a lot of areas regarding ebooks. You definitely have to read Ribbon sometime and give me your honest opinion. :)

Rebecca Talley said...

You owe me for some lost sleep while reading Ribbon of Darkness:).

I nominated it for a Whitney.

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing people discuss the year or two (or even more) it took to get an agent and publisher and I'm having a hard time with that. I have 4 novels ready to go and I'm debating testing the self publishing waters with at least one, while continueing to query agents. I don't want to be overly impulsive and at the same time I wonder what I've got to lose.

Randy said...

David Farland is definately broadcasting the benefits of self publishing lately. A fair number of published authors are seeing that as the direction of the future. Good luck. I hope you break all previous sales numbers with this book.

smessick said...


It is encouraging to find an LDS author that has been published traditionally and has now dove into the self-publishing waters. I too have written a novel (Worlds Without End: The Mission), a Latter-day Saint science-fiction novel that I outlined while my 5 year daughter recovered from cancer at Primary Children's Hospital 7 years ago. I submitted my original manuscript to a Latter-day Saint publisher. They liked the story and wanted to publish it only if I cut the story down to 300 double spaced pages. This, of course, would have taken out most of my plot. As a result, I decided to self-publish under my own imprint, Empyrean Publications. I believe that this is where publishing is going. Self-publishing allows authors to keep their creative ideas that they originally had for their stories. Thanks for the post. By the way, I plan to read The Ribbon of Darkness. It sounds exciting.

Charlie Moore said...

The thing I hear come up over and over with self publishing is editing. Can all the things an editor does still be accomplished with self publishing. I believe if an author seeks out the help they need it can.