Need to Know About Self-Publishing? Melissa Bowersock Reveals All!

Last Updated on: February 17th, 2016

Just how DO people self-publish their books? Do YOU have a book that needs publishing? Do YOU need some information? Full of a plethora of much sought-after info, this post will both educate you and allow you to become “comfortable” with the idea of self-publishing!  In it I will share quite a few things — mainly, what I have learned about publishing from Melissa Bowersock, author, blogger, and creative spirit. 

Before I introduce Melissa, I want to inform you of what you can expect from this blog in the upcoming weeks. Since it has taken a bit of time to correspond with and assemble posts for everyone who has contacted me during April for “free promotion”, I will be featuring these people throughout May 2013. There is just not enough time left this month to promoted everyone, as I have been following a “schedule” of posting twice a week! So, in the upcoming weeks, my plan is to publish one post that I have written and one post that “promotes” someone else. I hope that this is to everyone’s satisfaction! (If it isn’t, leave a comment to complain let me know!)

Now, to introduce Melissa Bowersock! 

Melissa introduced herself to me via email, and taught me a few things during our correspondence with one another. She also permitted me use of the content of our emails in a blog post! I have included several snippets of our electronic conversation for your perusal, followed by our “interview”. I use this term loosely since Melissa wanted to answer the questions I had via email.

So, let’s dive right in, shall we?

Here is Melissa introducing herself:

I have been both traditionally-published and self-published, and my own blog is geared to helping indie authors traverse the minefield of the publishing industry.

Her blog is Wordlovers. In this introductory email, she sent me a link to The Joys of Journaling. Reading this article connected me to her, on a few levels. Not only was I able to relate to her as a writer, but I chose to use the same blog theme as she did when I created my poetry blog, Poetry Perfected (since then, my blog moved to this site)! I had not even heard of her when I created this blog, so I was a little bit surprised to see that we think alike!

Here is what she had to say about her article:

Sometimes it’s difficult sharing really personal stuff, but I believe strongly in the power of journalling and felt it was worth putting myself out there to make the point.

I know how you feel, Melissa! It took a tremendous amount of courage for me to post my “9 seconds of naiveté” video!

In another email, Melissa wrote:

 …with the rise of indies, the entire culture is moving from competition to cooperation. We’re all learning that we can promote each other and not be afraid that we need to squelch the competition. It’s a great time to be an indie!
I replied:
I must confess that I am somewhat confused about the publishing industry, and how everything works. Indie means what, exactly? An independent author who publishes him/herself? Is that what self-publishing is? Traditional publishing is pretty clear, when a publishing house does most of the publishing, but I am not sure what an imprint is. I should have asked Patricia… I am hoping that you can clear up some of this for me, as I am finding it difficult to define, in my mind, the differences.
She then offered:
I’m not surprised you’re confused about the publishing industry, because it’s in a huge state of flux. My first 2 books were published in the 80’s by a NY house, and back then the process was to send a 20-pound manuscript to a publisher, wait, wait, wait, get rejected numerous times, finally hit on the right combination and get published. Since then, tho, the big houses have gotten very cautious and conservative, and they won’t touch anything unless they think it’s going to be a blockbuster, which means newbie authors are out in the cold. Luckily, a lot of small presses have sprung up to take up the slack, and my next 3 books were published by small presses. When my first 2 books went out of print, I scouted about for a way to publish them myself and keep them available and that’s when I discovered self-publishing.
Self-publishing is exactly that; we do all the work except making the physical book. I write, proof, edit, format, design my covers, upload the final files and Create Space (an arm of Amazon) puts together the physical book. There’s very little up-front cost because the books pay for themselves as they’re ordered online. While Create Space or Lulu or other S-P companies usually offer editing or marketing help for a fee, any company that wants you to pay to have your book published is NOT self-publishing. There are a lot of scams out there, so you have to be careful. Indie refers to independent writers like me who are not represented by a publishing house. I’ve got several blog posts about the differences in publishing and my varied experiences, so you can read those when you have time.
 An imprint is a differently named subsidy of a larger publisher. My first books were published by Dorchester (the mother company), but under their Leisure Books imprint. I guess it’s a way of gathering one genre under one name.
She included a link to Preditors & Editors, an informative site that all would-be authors should take a look at!

I then said something silly to her, and highlighted my “amateurish” abilities and current struggles. I also tried to make her laugh, and I succeeded, evidenced in her reply:

LOL, been there, done that. Don’t worry; there are a zillion stages for writers now, and there’s a ton of them ahead of you and behind you. What’s great is that we’re all helping each other out. I’m very happy to pass on my experience and keep others from having to re-invent the wheel. That’s one reason I started my little publishing service. It’s not a money-maker by any means, but if it helps other writers get their books out quicker and easier, that’s great.

In perusing her site, I left a comment for her. I have left a bunch since then, because I love comments (as you all know), and was pleased to see that this is yet another one of our commonalities:

Just saw that you posted on my blog; thanks! Love to get comments.

In her attempts to help me find some relevant articles to read, she offered:

I’m going to put a couple links here on posts I’ve done about self-publishing. There are others in my archive about dealing with editors and about formatting, but not quite sure if that’s what you’re looking for. Feel free to browse thru my archives:
http://mjb-wordlovers.blogspot.com/2012/04/pariah-of-self-publishing-not.html

I did, and found a few other links you might like:
Wow… I did not expect to include so many links to Melissa’s blog! I am compelled to share them, though, since they educated me and answered many questions I had (and some I did not know I had) about the different processes that writers must endure in order to achieve their goals of being published. Melissa is a fountain of knowledge, and I encourage you to read these posts!

Now, let’s move on to the “Interview”, shall we?

Interview Questions – Publishing

First of all, let me express my gratitude towards you for your participation in this interview. As a budding author, I am plagued with the questions all new writers have about publishing, since this is an industry that has changed dramatically in not just the last two decades, but also in recent years. Thank you for making yourself available to answer some of these questions!

1. From reading your blog posts, I have learned that you have had experiences with both traditional publishing and self-publishing. You have also authored books in different genres. Should the genre of a book influence an author’s decision to choose one type of publishing over the other?

I was going to say I can’t think of any reason why any genre would require one type of publishing rather than another, but realized there are some caveats. When I was reading about the success of Wool, the self-published dystopian novel, I noticed that the author first put it out as a series, offering one chapter at a time. The story caught on and the clamor for more shot it up the charts. I think any kind of fiction would work well this way, while non-fiction might be a tougher sell. But all in all, I don’t think the genre determines the type of publishing, but more the needs and wishes of the author.

2. You have published books using both traditional and self-publishing. I would like to hear about you best and worse personal experiences with each method.

The worst experience with traditional publishing was with a NY house. This was back in the 80’s, when traditional publishing was the only game in town, and authors played by their rules or not at all. When my first 2 books were published, I had no input into the title, the cover design, the packaging, the distribution—nothing. Although my books were out there and selling, I cringed every time I told someone the titles.

The best experience with traditional publishing was with a small press. I and the editor traded daily e-mails and formed a truly collaborative process. We discussed everything from title to cover design to blurb to font and page count. He understood the parameters of the business that we operated within and I provided the artistic content. It was a perfect blending of creativity and practicality.

The worst experience with self-publishing was when I published a book that still had many errors in it. I’d gone through the book with a fine-tooth comb and deemed it perfect, but it seemed as soon as it was printed and made into a physical book, all the errors jumped up screaming for attention. I was mortified. Luckily with self-publishing, it’s a very simple matter to upload a new, corrected file and every book printed afterward will be better. I certainly learned a big lesson about editing on that one, though.

The best experience with self-publishing has to be my latest book, the biography of my aunt who was a prisoner-of-war. I did not ever expect this book to sell beyond friends and family, yet it was awarded a medal for biography by the Military Writers Society of America and was featured in a TV documentary on Wisconsin military history. The attention this book has received has been unexpected and extremely satisfying.

3. New Moon Rising is the name of your publishing company. When and how did you find this company, and what specific services do you offer?

New Moon is a publishing company in the smallest, most incidental way possible. Because I self-publish with Create Space, Amazon’s publishing arm, they are in effect only the book-binder and I am able to list my own company as the publisher. It’s never been my intent to actually build a publishing company, however. I can help other indie authors with the process, but I’m not actively seeking other writers’ works to publish.

4. What genres of books does New Moon Rising publish?

As above, so far the only books published are my own, but because I love variety, the genres range from action/adventure to romance to spiritual to satire to biography. Something for everyone!

5. Can you give me some information about the costs involved for an author who decides to use New Moon Publishing for his or her book?

The only service I offer to the public is help with formatting. I am available to help authors format their books for self-publishing and for formatting to e-book. These two processes are very different and each requires quite a bit of detail work. The cost varies greatly, depending on the size of the book, but the average would roughly run about $150 per format.

6. Does New Moon Rising offer a discounted rate for repeat clients?

Probably not. Formatting takes time, and time is money. No getting away from that.

7. How many books has your company published?

I have self-published 9 of my own books (5 that were traditionally-published but went out of print; 1 is still under contract with a traditional publisher), plus I have edited and published my father’s autobiography, 3 books of his artwork and 1 children’s book written by my mother and illustrated by my father.

8. Consider this hypothetical scenario: I have decided to use New Moon Rising to publish a book. I contact you via e-mail. Walk me through the next steps, and the ensuing process that will take my manuscript from “finished” to “published”.

As above, New Moon would not opt to publish a book for another writer, but I can certainly provide some help and encouragement along the way if a writer chose to self-publish as I do. I would map out the process like this:
Write the book (easy, right?).
Edit the book. You may choose to do this yourself or hire professional help, but this is critical. Self-published books are still deemed “less-than” by many, so we indie writers must be twice as diligent in the details. Be meticulous in your spelling, punctuation and word usage. Our job is to carry the reader along in such a way that they forget they are reading; we want them to float along effortlessly as the story unfolds, so any misspelled words or incorrect punctuation that pops them out of the story is an annoying disservice to both the reader and the story. Do everything in your power to make the story as perfect as you possibly can.
Format the book. With self-publishing, you do all the work and that includes deciding what size book you want (6×9, 5.5×8.5, etc.) and formatting your manuscript for that size. This also includes creating and using headers and footers, page numbers, chapter headers, maybe a table of contents or a bibliography. It might include inserting and positioning photos or graphics. There are many ways to format a book depending on the genre, but much of it is personal preference. Decide what look you want and go for that.
Design the cover of the book. Again, you may do this yourself or hire it out. There are many good book cover designers out there, or you may have a specific idea of your own. The cover of the book is extremely important because it’s estimated you have about 3 seconds of a reader’s time to catch their attention.
Upload the book and pull the trigger. With Create Space, you will be notified when a proof of your book is ready. You order the proof, check it out to make sure it’s exactly like you want it, and approve it. If the proof is not the way you want it, make the changes/corrections and order a new proof. When you’re absolutely sure the book is good, push the “Publish” button and go live.
Then starts the real work—marketing. Do everything in your power to get the word out. That could include your own web page, social media like Facebook and Twitter, social groups like Goodreads and LinkedIn. Send press releases to your local newspapers (or send a copy to be reviewed), ask your local bookstores to host a signing, donate copies to your local library. No one’s ESP is going to bring them to your book; you must take your book out into the world. And not just once; every day.

Interview Questions – Your Books, Your Writing, Your Success

1. You have written a total of 10 books; 9 fictional novels and the true story of your Aunt Marcia, which we will talk about momentarily. Of your fictional novels, which ones were the easiest and hardest to write, and why?

The one that came the easiest and fastest was Superstition Gold. I wrote that down in 3 months. It just flowed. The one that was hardest and took the longest to write was my spiritual novel, Goddess Rising. That one took probably two years, primarily because I was going through some personal challenges and much of my energy was invested in that rather than the book, but the two processes seemed to evolve together. I’m not a disciplined writer; I don’t sit down every day and bang out 1,000 words. I may go days, weeks, even months without writing, or the entire world might stop while I pour myself into the paper.

2. Are you currently working on another novel, or do you have plans to write another?

I’m just finishing up my latest, a ghost story. I’ve got probably 10-15 pages to go on it, and although it’s killing me to not rush to the end, I’m forcing myself to take my time. I’ve discovered that the story has more layers than I originally thought, so I’m taking great care on the resolution of it all.

3. The story of your Aunt, Marcia Gates is a true story. What prompted you to write about her?

I had heard family stories all my life about how my aunt was captured by the Japanese on Corregidor and was a prisoner-of-war, but I knew very few details. A couple years ago on Veteran’s Day, I began thinking about it, and because she and all her generation are gone, I had no one to ask about it. I did some research and found out the Wisconsin Historical Society had 2 scrapbooks that my grandmother had kept while my aunt was in service, and within those scrapbooks was every letter, every telegram, every newspaper clipping, every photo related to her odyssey. I realized this was a story that needed to be told, needed to be out there in the world, not shut up in a drawer where no one would ever see it. And I knew I was the one to write it.

4. You recently began converting Marcia Gates: Angel of Bataan into an audio book.  Converting words meant to be read into words meant to be heard must be difficult. What are some of the obstacles you need to overcome, and how are you overcoming them?

Through this process, I’ve discovered how many visual clues there are in words on a page that do not exist in the audio format. When we look at a page, the paragraph breaks tell us when a new idea is being introduced; quote marks tell us when dialog is being spoken. None of this is available in an audio book; it must all be inferred by the voice of the narrator. My narrator and I have been working closely to make sure that the spoken words impart all the information the listener needs, paying strict attention to pacing, inflection, tone, and pauses. It’s a much more intricate process than I had thought.

5. You have made several videos, which can be found on YouTube, and you have blogged for a couple of years. What do you enjoy doing the most?

I made the videos as book trailers for several of my books, and I found that creative process to be a lot of fun. I was less sold on blogging, but I kept hearing that an author needed to blog to create a platform, so I finally gave in and started. Imagine my surprise when I realized I enjoyed this, too! It’s a challenge to come up with new blog posts that are either entertaining or educational, but I’ve enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It’s a nice break, too, when I get bogged down in a book I’m working on; it’s a great way to change the pace and mix up the creative process to break through a block.

6. Some authors measure success as a direct correlation to how much money they make, how many books they have sold, or how famous they are. While I would like to know how many books you have sold so far, and how much money you make, you may not want to share such personal information. So, I will ask you this: How do you measure your success?

I don’t get particularly caught up in numbers, so adding up all the books and all the sales over the last 30 years would take some research. The fact is, I don’t chart my success that way. I mark my success first in being able to tell a story that has value, either via entertainment or education, and being true to that story. Secondly, I mark it by how well it’s received by readers. If I’ve done my job correctly on the first part, the second part should fall into place. If both those things occur, then I’m a happy camper.

Thank you very much, Melissa, for taking the time to answer all of my questions! Your willingness to provide me (and others) with such honest, heartfelt, informative answers clearly demonstrates that you are, indeed, a woman of character and someone whom I admire. I tip my hat to you!

 

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning writer who turns her hand to any kind of story that moves her: contemporary, western, fantasy, romance, action/adventure, spiritual, satire or biography. She has written nine novels and one non-fiction and has been both traditionally published and self-published. She also writes under the name of Amber Flame, and she is a certified hypnotherapist. She thrives in the Sonoran desert of Southern Arizona with her husband and an Airedale terrier. For more information, visit www.newmoonrising.net. You can buy her books here.

As always, comments are welcome, encouraged, and requested! Melissa will be available to offer replies, as well, so please take the time to leave one! (You have to click on “leave a comment” at the top of the page under the title. You took the time to read this… what’s another minute? 🙂 )

28 thoughts on “Need to Know About Self-Publishing? Melissa Bowersock Reveals All!

  1. Great post! And wonderful timing as I was asking for advice on self-pubbing just this week on my blog as we’re going to be putting out our novella around our two traditionally published books. So Melissa’s given me some things to think about. Thanks!

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      I am glad that this was able to help you, in some way. You’re welcome!

      I appreciated the information Melissa shared, too! Thanks for commenting, Jen!

  2. says

    Thank you for so much useful information and for the time you have spent sharing it. I can’t wait to check out Melissa’s posts.

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      You will find them very interesting, easy to read, and informative!

      I am glad that you liked this post! Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  3. Lorraine,
    Thanks so much for introducing us to Melissa and thanks to her for sharing so much information with us. Her insight to the industry is very valuable. I’m glad to see that she mentioned Lulu as an alternative to Amazon for self publishing. I published a training manual with them before and I was very happy with them.

  4. Kristy, you’re right; some do confuse self-publishing and vanity publishing. Altho both are pay-to-publish, they couldn’t be more different. Vanity publishing will often cost upwards of many thousands of dollars; self-publishing through a company like Create Space can cost, literally, about $10. With self-publishing, the author does all the work, including the marketing. With vanity, they do the work producing the book but at great cost (if I can do it through Create Space for $10, how come it costs thousands for them to do it?), plus the marketing still falls to the writer. Your last statement is the key: power to the people! It’s a great time to be an indie!

  5. Jessica Fedorko says

    I have always been interested in writing a story for older children but have never been sure how to go about it. Thank you so much for all of this detailed information!

  6. I think self-publishing is great, and not to be confused with vanity publishing – I think a lot of people still mix these two up.

    I like how self-publishing means that good writers that take the time to learn how to market themselves don’t have to rely on big publishing companies to give them a break (and then take most of the profit).

    Power to the people I say! This is a great interview – glad I came across it from Linkedin!

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      I am glad that you liked this post, Kirsty! On this blog, I try to help others as much as I can… 🙂

  7. Suzanne, Re: managing my time–now there’s a question. First off, you have to remember that my 10 books have been published over the last 30 years, so when you look at it that way, it’s not quite as prolific as it might seem. For the most part, writing has always had to fit into whatever “free” time I have; I’ve always had a day job, so I write on my lunch, breaks, weekends, evenings, whatever. It’s not easy, but I like to eat, so it’s necessary. I have never wanted to “work” at writing, i.e. write for a paycheck because (1) that kind of pressure is not conducive to inspiration (at least not for me) and (2) I don’t want the magic to be ground away under the heel of necessity. I would say my writing manages me more than I manage it; if I’m not inspired, I don’t write and if I am, I have been known to take days off work to do it. I’ve also been known to carry a pad and pen with me everywhere and to lose sleep at night while I’m “writing” in my head. Whatever works!

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      Thanks, Melissa, for sharing!

      (I feel the same way you do… I write mainly when inspired, wherever I happen to be AND also do not ever want to be forced to write in order to survive.)

  8. Its great to get advice about publishing straight from the source. I think a lot more people are considering publishing now that there are things like eBooks which make self-publishing easy and accessible. I always enjoy writer interviews because there’s so much to dissect and learn from their creative process.

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      I completely agree. Since we are all unique, we all have a different amount of knowledge. We also have processes that vary.

      (FYI, I recognize you from BHB, and want to thank you for stopping by!)

  9. Mary Slagel says

    I think the answer to #3 in the interview is very interesting. It shows that not only are there multiple outlets for publishing, but the fact that you can create your own publishing company which adds to the ways to get published is just another one.

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      Thanks for your input, Mary! I am glad you were able to “take away” something from this post/interview!

  10. Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) says

    Wow. Melissa’s output is impressive. I’d be interested in reading about how she manages her time to be as prolific as she has been.
    (Found this post on BHB).

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      BHB = Bloggers Helping Bloggers — a wonderful group, indeed!

      Maybe Melissa will address your interest via a reply to your comment?!

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      I agree. Success is not always about money… it involves our own personal happiness, the quality of our lives or lifestyles, our family ties, our friends, and our health.

  11. Thanks Lorraine – there’s tons of good tips here – I can tell you put a lot of effort into this, so thanks once.

    I haven’t read it all yet, and there is a lot to digest . . . speaking of which, it’s time to eat something now . . . then I’ll be able to concentrate more on the reading than the feading! 🙂

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      I think I put more hours into this post than any other… and I am exhausted! I am thrilled to have learned so much from Melissa, and I KNOW it it long and will take time to read and absorb. My advice: drink a lot of water! It will help to refresh you! (I have been drinking water lately instead of pop, and I am noticing a difference in how I feel — better!)

      Melissa truly has a lot to offer. The great thing is that she is willing to share her knowledge! Thanks again, Melissa!

    • Lorraine Marie Reguly says

      I think this post will help anyone who is struggling with the concept of self-publishing, who may be thinking about self-publishing, or who just wants to learn about self-publishing. I fall into all three of these categories, so it has already helped me!

      I am looking forward to upcoming comments, and the ensuing “discussion”/interaction between all of us… 🙂

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