I contacted a self-published author of three YA books via e-mail. Susan Davis is from Inman Kansas and told me why she chose to go down the self-publishing route instead of the traditional one. She said that “Years ago, [she] submitted children’s stories to book publishers, and it took them forever to get back to [her]. And, of course, the response was always a letter. Also, [she] wrote a short story about a woman from Haxtun, Colorado … the story was published by the national magazine “Country Woman.” [She was] disappointed when the story made it to print. The editor took the liberty of changing facts without consulting [her]; and as a result, several facts were incorrect.” She said that other publishers were the same way and that the lack of control she felt with her own writing drove her to the world of self-publishing.
From her daughter, she found out about a company called Mennonite Press that was only about 35 miles from her town. Her daughter is a graphic designer and also helped her with the cover design and other formatting components of her first two books. With the last book, Mennonite Press designed the cover and Susan approved it. She also “met with a saleslady and chose the paper [her books] would be printed on, size of the book[s], where page numbers would go, size of the print and font, etc.” Susan never submitted her manuscript to any book publishers. Any and all changes or corrections were up to her to make.
After writing for about a year and a half per book, editing and re-editing, Susan said that she had to “set up as a small business and get a federal EIN and a Kansas Retailers Sales Tax Certificate.” She found help from an accountant to do all of this. After this, Susan had her daughter “submit the material on a CD.” Next, she “ordered the ISBN from Bowker Link off of the internet. The cost of an individual ISBN was $125.00. [She] could have ordered a block of ten for $250.00. However, [she] never knew how many books [she] would write” so instead she bought ISBN’s as she wrote. Although pricey, she wanted to get ISBN’s so that she could have her books in libraries. She also copyrighted each of her books which cost $75.00 each. She said that each barcode cost $25.00 and that she “needed them to sell [her] books in book stores” and other places. Fortunately, “Mennonite Press handled the paperwork for the copyright, library of congress catalog number and the barcode.”
After all of this was finished, “Mennonite Press would quote [her] quantities to be printed. On “Bushels Of Nostalgia”, they quoted 400, 500, 600, 700 and 800 copies. With “Small Farm & Big Family” [she] chose 1000 and with the overrun [she] got 1112 books. With “Ancestry’s Journey” [she] ordered 700 and with the overrun [she] got 736 copies. On “Bushels of Nostalgia”, [she] again ordered 700 copies and with the overrun [she] got 794 books.” I learned from Susan that for the protection of the printer, they make “quotes 10% under or over.” In Susan’s case, there were always extra books. She also said that the overrun books cost less, which is nice. With her book “Bushels of Nostalgia”, she “ended up getting the 94 books for $148.52.” With her first two books, she sold out but chose not to reprint because she worried about not selling enough to break even (she said that the lowest quantity she could reorder would have been 100 and she would have had to sell at least 70 in order to just break even.) With her most recent book, “Bushels of Nostalgia”, 57 have yet to sell. She’s sold her books to “libraries in Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Minnesota, South and North Dakota, Montana and a few in Wyoming. It is much easier to sell a book to a library that has previously purchased one or more of them.”
I loved getting to hear about Susan’s process because it was more detailed and clearer than anything I can find online. Before learning about her experience, I thought that self-publishing would be much easier than traditional publishing, but now I’m not so sure. Both avenues are time-consuming and headache-producing. I tip my hat to Susan and all self-published authors.