independent publishing enables the author to shine

I recently attended a terrific workshop put on by the Manitoba Writer’s Guild featuring a panel of self-publishing experts. I was most impressed by the personal  story of Winnipeg author Mary Anne Appleby, whose book Winnie the Bear won a gold medal for the Canada West region in the Non-fiction category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards held in New York City in June, 2012. That’s quite the achievement for a first-time author!


Author Mary Anne Appleby proudly shows off her book and award from the Independent Publishers Awards.

Appleby says it was her lifelong dream to write this book, as her father had a personal connection to Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, the man who raised and nurtured the black bear cub made famous in the Winnie-the-Pooh books authored by A.A. Milne.

In November 2011, Appleby saw her dream come true and Winnie the Bear was published, all under her own direction, and with the assistance of a team of independent publishing professionals which she assembled herself. These included an editor, book designer, illustrator, and printing house that helped bring her vision to fruition. The result is a beautifully illustrated published by Appleby’s own company, Dominion Street Publishing.

Appleby prefers the term “independent publishing” to that of self-publishing and was generous with advice learned as she experienced the reality of writing and publishing her own book. Here are her tips to getting it right:

  • Let your project percolate. Don’t rush it through the evolutionary process as your idea develops.
  • Know your intended audience and create a product they will want to buy.
  • Be determined and follow your dreams.
  • Finding the right people to work on your project is key. It can make all the difference to the success of your book.
  • Consider yourself a business owner. Cost out the price of your product (book) before you begin and know what to expect when negotiating with book stores and other retailers.
  • Develop a marketing package for your book. That may include customized business cards, postcards, notecards, and complementary products that fit nicely with the theme of your book.
  • Don’t put the price on your book so that you can change it according to the country you are selling to, and so that you can include unexpected cost variances, etc.
  • Get to know the media and look for free publicity opportunities to help publicize and sell your books.
  • Enter your book into any awards for which it may qualify.

Appleby says every writer should publish their own books. “It’s a real learning experience. There are a million decisions to make along the way, but it is so worth it.”

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

45 Responses

  1. That is a great tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Short but very precise information… Thanks for
    sharing this one. A must read article!
    ebook publishing recently posted…ebook publishingMy Profile

  2. Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Many thanks for providing
    these details.
    how to publish books on kindle recently posted…how to publish books on kindleMy Profile

  3. richa says:

    These are some useful tips for the writers..No doubts many writers are taking up independent publishing…Way to go..

  4. Emilia says:

    I’m a big fan of independent publishing because writers are not pressured to write content that will please publishers. They write to please themselves. It’s a great victory for writers everywhere.
    Emilia recently posted…The Benefits of Guest Blogging for SEOMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for that comment, Emilia.

      I think that the biggest independent (self-publishing) authors feel in their work is that they are able to provide the reader with the best, most authentic product (book) vs a book that is just about the commercial aspect of books and literature.

      We authors who choose to self publish are often doing so because we really CARE about the product we are creating, producing, and offering to the reading public.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…courage to crowdfundMy Profile

  5. Kristine says:

    To read about a fellow writer’s success makes me happy. It takes a lot of passion and perseverance to be able to finish a book. I hope you continue to relish in the field of writing.

  6. Sandra says:

    A lot of writers now have been turning to independent publishing to realize their dreams. It’s a smart move. Just look at the results.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks very much, Sandra. Here’s hoping folks will step up to help with the crowdfunding campaign. It’s at a bit of a lull right now, so if you know of anyone who might be able to help, please forward the link to my campaign.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…courage to crowdfundMy Profile

  7. Veronica says:

    Cheers for the success of fellow writers. It’s such a good news. I’m very happy that passionate writers are realizing success.

  8. Thanks for this very informative post. There are more and more independent publishers who are assisting authors in the design and creation of their books. I think that the bias against self-published books is disappearing. Readers want good information or a book that entertains and don’t care who publishes it. The big hurdle is promoting the book to a large enough audience that turn into buyers. As many prominent authors know, traditional publishing companies only promote the huge block-buster books. Even writers with those publishers have to do most of their own promotion. So promotion is key.
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    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thx for the comment, Jeannette.

      Yes, that’s what I learned with my last book (which was traditionally published by a small publisher.) I had to do most of the promotion and marketing myself, so I figure a small advance and 8% royalties isn’t worth it to save myself the little bit (or lot!) of work it takes to put the book together and get it out to the world.

  9. Aayna says:

    Stepping into the shoes of being a self publisher comes with loads of responsibilities as well as opportunities. The trick lies in capitalizing on the best of the opportunities, and trying to do away the things which pose a threat. Thanks for the share.
    Aayna recently posted…Managing Users and Switching Accounts Windows 8My Profile

  10. Fatima says:

    Learning through people’s experiences is more effective than learning through books. I appreciate your sharing your experience.
    Fatima recently posted…Is Now the Right Time to Sell Your Business?My Profile

  11. I like the idea of having control over your own work. Having a book published by a publisher, and now moving to self publishing it will be interesting to hear you share your experiences and comparisons.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      It’s definitely been exciting, Suzanne! Not only am I doing the writing, but I’ve come up with the cover design, taken almost all of the inside photography, helping design the book’s layout/design, chosen a printer and the paper to be used for the book, and am about to launch my crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Wow! Here’s hoping it will all work out favourably. 🙂

  12. It is the marketing part that I, and I imagine so many other writers, falter on. It is really hard to find good marketing advice. Often we hear supposedley good marketing ideas but no one actually gives us a template for how to implement those ideas. I especially like the idea of letting the project percolate. Sometimes we are in too much of a rush to get something finished when a delay will improve the project ten fold.
    Susan McNicoll recently posted…Chronic PainMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Susan.

      Yes, my biggest problem was learning how to slow down and not force myself to rush the writing. Now that I’m going with the flow and letting it come as the muse allows, it is going much better.

      I am allowing myself time to spend on the marketing, and specifically, the finalizing of my crowdfunding campaign that I will launch on Indiegogo this week. Stay tuned! And thanks so much for contributing to the conversations on both my blogs. They have been a happier place since you joined us. 🙂

  13. Karen Cioffi says:

    Great information. Looking for and seizing opportunities is very important, often things don’t just land in our laps. Thanks for sharing

  14. Donna D'Amour says:

    Would be interesting to know the names of the people or companies she worked with. I guess she covered that in the workshop. I have a friend who is considering self publishing now and isn’t sure where the best services are offered. She has looked at a few printers.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Donna: Thanks for your comment, and welcome to the blog!

      Mary Anne used local service providers: A Winnipeg-based editor and designer. And Friesens Printing from Altona, Manitoba. They do a great job.

      I can’t recall where her illustrator was from, but I’m sure you can find out by contacting her via the link I gave for the book. Cheers!
      WizardOfWords recently posted…independent publishing enables the author to shine My Profile

  15. KellyWade says:

    I’ve never published anything but I’ve always wondered if it would be better to self-publish or use a publishing company. It seems like a lot of work, but ultimately you have way more control over everything that goes along with the story you want to tell and how you want all of the material to come out. Good advice, and I was obsessed with Winnie the Pooh as a kid!
    KellyWade recently posted…Why You Should Consider Unplugging from Technology for a DayMy Profile

  16. satinka says:

    Doreen, it is awesome of you to shine the light on this amazing author, Mary Anne Appleby. She is an inspiration to many of us, I feel sure. Thanks for sharing the suggestions she offers even to aspiring first-time authors like meeee!!!
    satinka recently posted…AffirmationsMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      You are so welcome, Esther. It’s wonderful to have you as a part of this writing community. We’ll all be here to support the efforts of one another. How is your own book doing? When will it be out?

  17. Harry Hobbs says:

    Thanks for sharing this Doreen. I think it is time that publishing on your own or contracting out to small independent publishers who charge a fee for doing their work, became legitimatized. There are too many out there (more in the public than us writers) who sneer and say you can’t really consider yourself a published author unless someone buys your book and it is good to hear that times they are a changing. I think we as writers need to educate the public that there is nothing wrong in publishing your own work and this is a valid as any other publishing.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Harry. I look at the prospect of independent publishing as being an investment in my future and a statement of my intense belief in the viability of my work.

      My 1st two traditionally published projects were Work-for-Hire contracted books. I had little (if any) say in the look or feel of the book. My last book was a solo project with a small advance payment and royalty driven contract. That meant I only earned $1.80 for every $20 book that was sold to the public thru traditional channels. I think if readers knew just how little we authors made from traditional publishing, they would be much more supportive of independently published projects. I’m happy to share such info on this blog and thank you for sharing your thoughts with us all.

  18. Self publishing has a lot of headache potential, but if you are writing professionally it seems like a great way to learn the ins and outs of the profession.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      There is indeed a huge amount to learn! But it’s so worthwhile, as the end result will be a book that the author can truly be proud of.

      My last book was published via the traditional publishing route. I didn’t like the cover the publisher chose. They didn’t like the illustrations my friend had done for the book and chose not to use them. The result was a book whose appearance didn’t reflect my personality, other than in the words that I had written. In my upcoming book, I have control over every detail. As an author, that is exceptionally rewarding, and I hope for the reader, it will result in a much for enticing product.

  19. A.K.Andrew says:

    Thanks for this Doreen It was really inspiring & encouraging. I particularly liked the idea of letting the project percolate. It’s so easy just to charge into something like this as its all described as being ‘so easy’ . But to produce something that is a quality product you really to need to take the time & money. First impressions as we know are only given the one chance.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thx for your comment, A.K.

      Yes, I was definitely rushing my chocolate book last year and was guided to slow down by my 1st editor (who is also a very close friend.) We decided I should get a new editor who was completely independent from the project, and she, too, cautioned me not to rush. But rather to take my time and do the job right. It is really important to heed such sage advice.

  20. Jeri says:

    I am going to most likely try to get my novel picked up by an agent, but I have learned so much in the process of making shorter titles available in the Kindle store. The longer I write, the more I realize that a marketing degree sure would come in handy 😉 If Lost Girl Road can’t go the traditional route and benefit from a team of experienced professionals marketing, I will at least be able to use that time to learn more about marketing and branding.
    Jeri recently posted…JeriWB Writes: Such is Life (Word Cloud)My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Jeri and thanks for your comment. They do indeed say that marketing skills are every bit as important as writing skills when you publish a book. In the days before the internet and all the social media platforms, publishers had to traditionally do all that for authors and their titles. Now, it is clear that we authors can make great strides in publishing and promoting our own work, thereby cutting out the middleman and improving our opportunity for profit.

  21. Geek Girl says:

    I am working on my second book now. It will still be indie but I am trying some different tactics this time. She makes some really good points that I will take in to consideration. 🙂
    Geek Girl recently posted…Author Interview: Katherine Lowry LoganMy Profile

  22. Jon Jefferson says:

    Putting on the business owner hat is what will seperate those who succeed from those who see themselves solely as artists.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      That’s so true, Jon. It’s all well and fine to honour the creative aspects to our project, but if we are doing them for the purposes of trying to earn a living from our writing (as I am) we really need to be practical and view things from a business perspective.

  23. Susan Cooper says:

    This is awesome. I love the advise she gave and how she went about producing and publishing her book. I am now in the process of compiling my stories and have hired an editor to work with me on this project. From what she says there are many other things I need to consider. 🙂
    Susan Cooper recently posted…An A-Ha Moment: StoryMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Right on, Susan. As I have found with my own (upcoming) book, and from what Mary Anne has generously shared, assembling the right team for your self-publishing project is absolutely critical. good luck with your storybook. I hope it will contain lots of your wonderful illustrations.

  24. WizardOfWords says:

    Thanks to the Manitoba Writers’ Guild for helping spread the word about my blog post. Much appreciated! Thanks for the great workshop. It’s nice to have the MWG back as an important player in the local writing community.
    WizardOfWords recently posted…independent publishing enables the author to shine My Profile

  1. March 7, 2013

    […] blog post on Mary Anne Appleby’s presentation at our recent Self-publishing intensive! Thanks, […]

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