Self-publishing and the meandering path to success

Note to readers: I connected with Scott on another blog and was impressed with his self-publishing success. I hope you enjoy his post–and I do think you will learn a thing or two from his determination and perseverence!

Self-publishing and the meandering path to success

When I finished writing a fantasy manuscript, I had little to no knowledge of what it takes to get a book published—but I had the desire to learn.

In 2006 I attended the Glorietta Christian Writers Conference in New Mexico. I was 20 at the time. I reserved a time-slot with Dan Penwell of AMG Publishers. I remember three other aspiring authors at that table, all pitching their books. That month I submitted my proposed manuscript to him, and he replied that it did seem a fit for the publishing house. I was thrilled. My family and friends told me that surely the publisher would give me a contract. But I’d heard stories of novelists getting turned down by publishing houses for various reasons, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

For the next two years I worked back and forth with that editor. During that time I submitted a couple manuscript revisions, acquired a couple author endorsements, and picked up or bought a pile of books on publishing, editing, writing, marketing, etc. Anything to do with the publishing industry interested me and I became fascinated with the idea of someday creating my own publishing house.

Ultimately, the publisher turned down my novel. I was very disappointed, but my friends and family seemed to take it harder than I.

I decided to start my own publishing company (Flaming Pen Press) using connections I’d made in the industry, and knowledge from the books I’d studied. First I contacted a fantasy author I’d become friends with and from him obtained contact information for the first editor he’d worked with. He highly praised her work and I knew she had a reputation for being harsh on manuscripts, which is what I knew I needed to bring my manuscript to a professional, publishable level.

I had previously commissioned a fabulous piece of dragon art to be used on my book’s cover, and I got a recommendation for a cover designer who could create a cover that would show off that art.

At that time I was under the impression the cover designer would also lay out the book interior. However, the designer informed me this was not the case, but he did know an excellent typesetter. So one contact led me to the next and I ended up outsourcing my book’s edits, cover design, typesetting, and art to a fabulous group of individuals.

With all the necessary files in hand I bought the ISBN and barcode, and set up my book with Lightning Source. Unlike other Print On Demand (POD) companies, they did not offer publishing services and they were owned by Ingram. Companies such as Lulu and Book Surge charged for “publishing packages” making them little more than subsidy publishers—and the quality of their books was below industry standards. I also needed to do a combination of offset printing and POD.

On March 30, 2009, I released Swords of the Six and held signings in bookstores and libraries in my home state of Connecticut. POD printed to order for Amazon orders, bookstores, and libraries. But my offset print run of 1,500 books served me well in hand-to-hand selling. As sales grew I quit my hourly job to pursue promoting and selling my book. People eagerly grabbed it up and my fan base grew rapidly. My wife and I embarked on a five-month book tour. We hit stores, libraries, and schools in thirteen states from New Hampshire to Indiana, Georgia, and North Carolina. In one year we sold over 3,000 books!

During my travels I was invited by AMG Publishers to meet with them again concerning my proposed book series. They had heard how I took the initiative, published my book, and made it a success. On my way through Tennessee I met with the editors and proposed a three-book-series. A week later they offered me three book contract, which I ultimately accepted. My first novel is going out of print (from my company) and end of this year will be re-released by AMG Publishers, with the second novel to follow in spring 2011.

This has been a long journey. I’ve been working on my series for six years now and the results were hard-earned. I am now in the process of growing my publishing company (Flaming Pen Press) and in September 2010 we are releasing another debut author’s novel, Kestrel’s Midnight Song. My goal is to launch first-time authors to success and then sell them off to larger publishers—and we will.

For more information about Scott and his books, visit his blog.