Writing books is all about community so beware of self publishing.

Having read the above blog, I’m more excited than ever about being at the upcoming OIW Book Fair on Oct. 27 with fellow authors and readers. As for debates over whether to self-publish or with a traditional publisher, or as an e-book, I’d like to add these bullets from my 15 years of trying. As you will see, I come down on both sides of the fence, depending on where I’ve been able to find ‘community’:

  • Good, practical advice came in the otherwise-depressing rejection letters I got from traditional publishing companies. I had a maximum of a thousand dollars to put into my book and this advice was free. Structure, length and target audience were some of the trouble spots. I was angry and wanted to prove them wrong in rejecting me but, at the same time, I had to be humble and work harder at revising because ‘might is right’. If I could make my book better, everybody would win.
  • Getting impatient, I decided to self-publish my book as a paperback on BookSurge (one of the first digital publishers) in 2002 for two hundred dollars. They touted the success of some of their authors who had gone on to sign contracts with traditional publishers so this was my goal and role model.
  • I lavishly spent $500 on a review by a New York Times best-selling author, since I still had some money burning my pocket. This was an honest review by Ellen Tanner Marsh whose good reputation stood behind it. BookSurge offered it and it came out in time for me to quote from it in my back cover blurb.
  • BookSurge invited its authors to appear at their booth at the Frankfurt Fair in Frankfurt, Germany in 2003. The dates coincided with a solemn trip to Hungary we had to make to bear my mother-in-law’s ashes home for burial, so we added on the Fair expense as a more cheerful motive for our trip. What I gained from this was a chance to introduce myself face-to-face to just about every reputable Canadian publisher. Again, I got brutal advice, some insulting, which a self-publishing interloper on these hallowed premises might have expected. My new, improved, revision was the upshot of this experience. It was an exhilarating week. My book garnered good international comments and buyers. Some of the publishers called me after we got back home. I began to understand the publisher landscape and how digital books disrupted their financing and marketing.
  • A friend of mine, the guru behind the excellent online community Savvyebookwriters.com, persuaded me in 2011 that the central love story/Indian reserve part of my book could stand on its own if published as a  Kindle e-book. I worked very hard, even doing ‘overnighters’ in my late seventies, to explore this fabulous new world of authors and readers.
  • What I realize now is that this new way of doing things lacks the real, essential community of writers and readers. I’ve been saddened by the superficial support games authors play on line. Also, I find Amazon’s free book promotions unhelpful for authors. I took part and got into the Top 100 ranking of Kindle ‘sales’. However, not only did I make zero, I didn’t get any customer feedback indicating that I was a part of a community of anything.

Still I’m hopeful that we can all have the best of all worlds. I’ll be bundling my e-book on to my paperback for a special offer at the OIW Fair. See you there!

Margaret Kell Virany is the author of A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void and Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.