self-publishing = empowerment

Thanks so much to Larry Jacobson for his insightful post on self-publishing and for the dynamic discussion that ensued among our wonderful community here on the blog. As self-publishing is something that is interesting a growing number of people and one that has taken over my life at present, I’ve chosen to devote this week’s post to the process by which I built my self-publishing team, with hope that it might help some of you who are considering the process for your own creative work.


When I decided to self-publish Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. Although Chocolatour was my fourth book, I’d never been at the helm before. My first two literary projects were work-for-hire co-authorships. I had no say in the final drafts of the work and I received no royalties — just a flat fee for the contracted work. The first of those projects was a difficult one with some bumps along the road. The second, was a joyous one which restored my faith and interest in book writing.

The launch for "Before You Say Yes" was held at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

The launch for “Before You Say Yes” was held at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

In 2010, my first solo project was published by Dundurn Press, a small Canadian publisher. Before You Say Yes …  A Guide to the Pleasures & Pitfalls of Volunteer Boards was a fabulous book to write as I wrote from personal exuberance and interviewed friends and associates to enhance my own experiences volunteering in the non-profit sector. This was a royalty-based contract with a small advance. I didn’t get rich from writing the book, but I have gained great personal satisfaction in knowing that the book has been helpful to many people who volunteer for non-profit associations and organizations.

When I decided to write a book about chocolate travel in 2009, I had no idea it would become such a life-absorbing project. Chocolate has become my life. A very sweet life, mind you, and I’m not complaining. But for the past 10 years, I have been living and breathing chocolate, and I see that continuing for probably the rest of my life as I’m now working on the 2nd volume of Chocolatour focusing on the Americas and the Caribbean, followed by the 3rd volume that will take in the rest of the world. After which, it will be time to update the 1st volume (which focuses on Europe and the UK) and perhaps roll all three volumes into one super Chocolatour.

Quite the endeavour and back to the premise that I needed help in producing the book and achieving the level of excellence I intended for its publication.

the evolution of a hybrid author

I chose to self-publish Chocolatour because I wanted it to be perfect. And my vision of perfection. Not a publisher’s, who doesn’t share the same passion for my subject and the intense connection I have established with my audience. I wanted to choose the cover. I wanted to choose which pictures and illustrations would be included in the book. And I wanted this book to contribute to my success as an author and build the momentum for future projects. I see self-publishing as a form of empowerment.

To help me achieve my goals, I assembled an amazing team of talented individuals to help make Chocolatour the best book that has ever been written about today’s world of chocolate.  That team included:

1) a self-publishing coach/mentor who helped me with the logistics of making this project a reality — and a successful publishing endeavour.

2) a professional editor. Despite the fact that I have been a professional self-employed writer since 1993, I knew that having a professional editor on my team would bring my writing to the next level and make the book coherent, grammatically correct, and something in which I can take great pride.

3) a designer. I had a skilled individual who has designed a number of books, knows me well, and cares about my project. With his help, this book has been rocking the world of chocolate.

4) a printer. I obtained a quote from a very reputable printer who will brought my project to fruition and made the pages of Chocolatour sing with passion and excitement.

5) the right illustrator to bring some levity and character to the quest for chocolate, I had two extremely talented illustrators working on a draft cover for me. Both are amazing women who have expressed an interest in working with me on this project. Unfortunately, neither of their drafts shared my vision for the book, so I opted to go with a photo for the cover. Afterall, it is said that a great segment of the population judges a book by its cover, and so I really had to get this right.

6) ongoing technical support. I have a tech professional who has helped get my online presence in order and help me take it to the next level. She continues to play an integral role as we move forward in enhancing my site.

That was my self-publishing team for volume I of Chocolatour. Details of distribution for the book has been my biggest challenge, and I hope to have a better system in place by the time I publish volume II.

I hope you will stick around and continue to share the journey with me. Your comments and encouragement mean the world to me.

How about you? Have you self-published a book? Are you considering it for your next project? Let’s continue this self-publishing discussion as I think it is a most enlightening one that continues to evolve.

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.

43 Responses

  1. Nice post & I’m sure you learned a lot that will make the second Chocolatour book be even a greater success! Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi RoseMary, and thanks for your comment. We are always learning in the business of writing. Things keep changing so quickly. I’ve decided I will publish the e-book of volume II first and then bring out the paperback once I see that sales are good. That should require a much lower cash flow than doing it the other way around.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…embark on a northern safari to ChurchillMy Profile

  2. WizardOfWords says:

    I just wanted to post this link to an article in the NYT that clearly outlines some of the options available to self-publishing authors. It’s a great resource. See:

  3. Best of luck with Chocolatour! It’s a great idea and with all the chocolate addicts out there, myself included, it should be a big hit!

  4. The desire for total control was one of my motivators for self-publishing my own first book, Recreating Eden. I loved being able to determine the aesthetics and the feel of the book and not to have my voice altered by over-zealous editing. Also, as a spiritual book, it was important to me that it carry the quality of energy I knew it had the potential to. And, indeed, a number of people have commented that just holding the book in their hands or having it in their space is uplifting.

    Imagine my surprise when I entered into a publishing contract with big-time publishing house, St. Martin’s Press, for my 2nd book, Choosing Easy World, and it turned out that I had virtually the same amount of control over all those factors! My editor, Jennifer Enderlin, made it very clear that it was MY book and she intended for me to have the final say on everything, from the cover to the interior design and could even override the copy editor! (No wonder she’s considered a literary goddess in the industry.)

    The REAL matter that I did not have control over when it came to entering the mainstream publishing world is a biggie: TIMING! From the moment I submitted my finished manuscript for Recreating Eden to the book designer to the time it was printed and in readers’ hands was just over 3 months. From the time I submitted my manuscript to Jen Enderlin and the team at St. Martin’s till the time it was printed and in readers’ hands was 20 months!

    Just another factor to consider. As for me, I shall be self-publishing my upcoming series of books, Easy World Magic Lessons!

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Absolutely, Julia. Timing is important in my situation as well. I probably didn’t make that clear enough in my post.

      I’ve been researching Chocolatour for 3 years now and everyone seems to be anxious for the book to come out. So I’ve split it into 3 digestible chunks and hope to have the 1st instalment out in Nov, in time for the Christmas buying season. I’ll then pace the other 2 editions as best suits me and fits with my research abilities. And if a big-name publisher wants to step in and offer to publish editions 2&3 (or the Super edition of all three combined) with my cooperation, I will definitely consider it if I can maintain creative control and if the financial gain would be worth my while.

      Thanks so much for sharing your insights and experience with us.

  5. Adeline says:

    I have been contemplating on self-publishing a book for quite some time now, especially after a lot of people have been encouraging me to do so. I hope you don’t mind I follow your progress here to learn a thing or two about your own journey to help me with mine. πŸ™‚

    PS. Looking forward to that Chocolate Tour book.
    Adeline recently posted…Casa Roces: A Celebration of Filipino Food and HeritageMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Adeline, and good luck with formulating the ideas for your own book.

      By all means, we’re all here to learn together, so I welcome your thoughts on each and every post. I’ve learned much my readers in the discussions that follow each post.

  6. Good to see you go the self publishing way Doreen. You look like you have a good team helping you and all the best with it.
    Susan Oakes recently posted…How Tough Is It To Stand Out In A Crowded Market?My Profile

  7. Good luck – this sounds like an awesome journey…


    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Cindy.

      Nice to see you’re following your passion in making wine. Maybe in the future, we can do a joint chocolate and wine tasting together!

  8. Catarina says:

    Doreen, your choice of team members is great advice for many of us. Wish you the best of luck with your book!
    Catarina recently posted…Be yourself – instead of – parrotingMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks very much, Catarina. I really feel privileged to be working with amazing people who are supporting and inspiring me. That’s why I love the term “independently publishing” as opposed to “self publishing.” I certainly couldn’t be doing this book project on my own. Nor, would I want to.

  9. Josh says:

    I haven’t ever self published a book but I have been thinking about doing so. It seems like a worthwhile option to consider. I am relatively early in the process so I just started to explore it and do a bit of research.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      I’m glad you found my blog, Josh, and that you’ve found it to be helpful. I hope you’ll drop by again soon, as we really do have engaging conversations here and we’re always learning from another. You’re smart to start your research early. Good luck with it all.

  10. WizardOfWords says:

    I’m posting the link to an excellent post I’ve come across that talks about some resources that may be helpful to other independently published authors. Please take a look at this post that talks about resources such as “Kindle Boards” and Beta Readers.” Hope you’ll find it as interesting as I did.

  11. Suzanne Lieurance says:

    Hi, Doreen,

    How interesting to read about your journey to self-publishing your book about chocolate. Sounds like you gave this a LOT of thought before you made the decision to self-publish. Now…I just can’t wait to read the book! It sounds yummy!
    Suzanne Lieurance recently posted…How Have You Spent the Work Week?My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Suzanne. Yes, I did put a lot of thought into this. Three years ago when I embarked on this project. I really thought I needed an agent and a big publisher to get this book out to a lot of people. I thought self-publishing was only for people who couldn’t get a traditional publishing deal.

      But then the economy fell apart and the publishing industry fell on its face. Everything is so different today than it was 3 years ago. I’ve learned much through this journey and realize that in order to get the kind of book I want out of this chocolate adventure I’ve been having, I need to do it myself so that I can make the key decisions myself and produce the kind of quality book chocolate lovers will embrace. I’m glad you’re one of them! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for your encouragement.

  12. Doreen, Sounds like a great project. I’ve self-published and will do so again through CreateSpace. Just have to find the time. πŸ™‚

    Good Luck!
    Karen Cioffi recently posted…Review of Walking Through WallsMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Karen and for the good wishes. Yes, CreateSpace seems like an interesting idea.

      As my book will be filled with colour photos, I have chosen to use a traditional printer to ensure the pics look good and the paper has a nice feel to it. They will also produce various formats for the e-book and I guess it will be up to me to get it onto Amazon, etc.

      I haven’t quite got all my bases covered yet. But I’m working on it. First, I’ve got to get the book finished. Stay tuned!

  13. Bindhurani says:

    Great post Doreen. You are doing a lot of hard work…
    Bindhurani recently posted…Look What I made!!!My Profile

  14. Ricki says:

    Wow–you are SO organized and approaching this in all the right ways! I really knew very little when I self-published my second book. I loved that I had total control (ha ha) over everything–well, within my budget, anyway! I did hire someone to do the formatting/layout and had someone do the graphic design as I could never have done that myself. The book still didn’t come out as I dreamed it since I didn’t have a very big budget, but I’m thrilled that it’s done as well as it has and I’m ready to move on. One thing I could never have anticipated was how much work marketing would be–I’m looking forward to having a publisher do the next one for that reason alone. πŸ™‚
    Good luck with it–I’ll be watching for it!
    Ricki recently posted…Wellness Weekend July 26-30, 2012 (and Question for YOU!)My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Ricki, and thanks for joining us here on the blog.

      I have been watching your progression over the years and admire the way you achieved publicity for your book targeted at vegans. Well done!

      We all learn from one another. I hope you’ll visit us here again soon. And good luck with your next book.

  15. Lori Henry says:

    Sounds like you have a solid plan, Doreen, and a well thought out team to work with!

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Lori. I think it’s all going to work out well. Excited about seeing the drafts of the cover illustrations!

      The only thing that will be the stickler are the printing costs, but I’m hoping the Kickstarter project will help with that. Stay tuned for news on that!

  16. This is a wonderful “road map” to self publishing Doreen. I’m sure this will help many of us.
    Sherryl Perry recently posted…5 Tips to Develop a Successful Email Marketing CampaignMy Profile

  17. Adrienne says:

    Wow Doreen,

    This is your fourth book! I’m so very impressed young lady.

    I met a guy a few years ago on MySpace who teaches people how to self-publish a book so I had a great conversation with him on the phone and then attended some of his trainings because although I’ve never written a book I would love to some day and I wanted to know what was involved.

    I had no idea what kind of control you lose when you have it published, if you can even get it published. I think this is a smart move on your part now that I know how this all works so I have a feeling this one will be just how you want it.

    Who doesn’t love chocolate! I have a feeling it will be a great read.

    Adrienne recently posted…How To Take Blog Commenting To The Next LevelMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks so much, Adrienne, and thanks for dropping by the blog. I am indeed very excited about this project and hope that the world’s love of fine chocolate will help guide my sales to the top!

  18. Geek Girl says:

    I am finding these self-publishing posts very informative and a great learning experience! When I get that far I will know where to go for all the details required for the project. Thank you for sharing these posts. πŸ™‚
    Geek Girl recently posted…‘Play’ Free Amazon App TodayMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Cheryl. I’m glad you’re finding the posts interesting and helpful. You’re right! All you have to do is subscribe to the blog feed and you’ll have the URL handy for future reference when you want to refer back to the self-publishing posts. (There are now 4 of them as Yvonne Perry also did one for me last year.)

  19. Susan Cooper says:

    You are on your way. I am impressed with your organization and how you are building your team. I have thought about publishing my stories but had little to no idea how to go about it. Now I do. I will learning from you. Thanks for that, πŸ™
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Trip To France: Sightseeing & Adventures – Week 1My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Susan. But you’re scaring me with the perplexed look in your “smileycon” (what are those images called?)

      I think having a great team in place is integral to the success of virtually any large project, and publishing a book is certainly one of those.

  20. Harry Hobbs says:

    Way to go Doreen

    You have summed up well good reasons for the route you have chosen and hit the nail on the head when you mention being able to keep total artistic control of your work.
    My publishing route is similar to yours working through a very small publishing house that contracts the publishing with the writer and gives me total control of everything, They contract out printing to whom I suggest and help me with marketing and cover design as well as arrange readings and promotion in major booksellers. I’m happy with this and wouldn’t chose to go any other way!

  21. Love the post, Doreen. Is your designer doing the layout and typeface of the book, since you also mention cover designers? I’ve started exploring the world of ebooks. Do you plan to publish an ebook edition of Chocolatour?
    Susan Portelance recently posted…Implementing Stupid Management DecisionsMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Susan: Yes, there definitely will be various formats of an e-book available. It’s all part of the plan!

      You’re confusing a book designer who will do page layout vs an illustrator, who will do the cover design (artwork). We have plans to carry the cover illustration throughout the book, but modify to specific chapter content. I’m really hoping it will be a visually enticing book. Afterall … chocolate appeals to our senses, so a book about chocolate will have to have that same appeal.

  22. Jeri says:

    Best of luck! It will be fascinating to see how everything works out for you. I for one will be in line for your book. Your passion for chocolate reminds me of a book titled Salt that I’ve been meaning to read for some time now.
    Jeri recently posted…The Indie Writer’s Guide: Facebook Status ImagesMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Jeri! Yes, I think I’ve heard of that book called “Salt.” I’m sure it was one of the books recommended in the post I wrote in which I asked readers to share the names of books that have most impacted their lives. I invite you to check that out at as it was by far the most popular post I have written in 3 years of blogging!

  23. Phoenix says:

    Hi Doreen,

    It is very exciting to hear of your progress on the Chocolateur project! Thanks for the update and keep us posted. I’m cheering for you! πŸ™‚
    Phoenix recently posted…About Esther HarrisonMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks so much, Esther! I’m cheering for you, too, as I know that you also have a self-published book coming out this year. Wishing you the best of luck as well.

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