Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Self-Pub Boom: Asking the Vets

With the explosion of e-reading, self-publishing e-books is becoming a popular way for writers to get their stories into the hands of readers faster and more frequently than the Big Five publishers. But is it for you? I asked two talented kidlit authors who have self published books I love about their experiences. I gave them both the same questions: why did you decide to self-publish and what surprised you about the process?

First up, Lisa Tiffin, middle grade author. Lisa is a freelance writer and children’s author who lives in Upstate New York with her husband and twin sons. Her work has appeared in the Democrat & Chronicle, Chicken Soup for the Soul, TWINS, WOW! Women On Writing and other magazines. Theft of the Star Tracker is her first novel for young people. Her website is

Lisa says, "I always thought self publishing was a great option and had been thinking about putting one of my books out there to test the waters. Theft of the Star Tracker was actually under contract once upon a time with a small publisher (fortunately we parted ways as the recession forced them out of business!). I learned a lot from that experience, and I realized that I might just be able to do what they were doing on my own."

"It took a couple of years of reading about self publishing – everything from blog posts to magazine articles to books – for me to make the move, but I finally felt like self publishing could be a viable option for me. I think for me self publishing is a way to get my work into the hands of readers, rather than let it languish in a drawer or the in-box of another editor or agent. I’ve had good response and feedback on Theft of the Star Tracker, but because it includes sports as well as science and technology, lots of people weren’t sure where it fit in the market. I’m hoping that by self publishing it, the right readers will discover it and eventually enjoy the entire series."

So what was the surprise? "How fun it is to check sales, rankings and comments each day! Okay, seriously, the thing that surprised me the most about the process of self-publishing is how easy it really is. There are so many options and ways to publish that it really is a matter of choosing the best option for you and committing to it. Once I made the decision, asked for help and advice from people who had gone through the process, it was really a matter of hitting send!"

"Some people will warn you off self publishing because it is too much work or is so expensive, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are options that fit what you want. For example, I didn’t want to learn all the technical aspects of formatting an e-book, so I found someone to do the work for a reasonable rate. On the other hand, I enjoy marketing, so I work a little bit each day to find new avenues to get the word out about my book rather than pay a PR firm. That flexibility of choice and sense of control might just be the best part about self publishing."

Deena Lipomi ( grew up in western New York with an older sister, younger brother, and parents who encouraged the creation of fictional worlds. She has a BS in Creative Writing and Communications from SUNY Brockport, and a Masters in Library Science from the University at Buffalo. By day she works as a Young Adult Services Librarian in a busy public library, and by night she dives into her novels. Besides reading and writing, Deena is also a fan of traveling, Muppets, Project Runway, and baking gluten free recipes. She lives near her home town with her musician husband and a large number of guitars, computers and, of course, books.You can read her blog here, and read her book reviews here. She might friend you on FaceBook, and she tweets for her library @bmlkidsteens.

Deena says, "Four main things made me decide to self-publish:
1. The YA market is very crowded and hard to break into right now, even if you have a solid manuscript;
2. Blackout is a commercial YA novel with a soft sci-fi element and a sequel, which seems to do well in the current market as self-pubbed e-books;
3. After seven years of working toward publishing MG and YA novels, I wanted to get something Out There so I could move on to my other works and not keep tweaking the same manuscripts; and
4. I'm not getting any younger." (Ouch, she's totally young, don't listen to this point!)

"I still want to be a traditionally published author, but with self-epubbing offering so many opportunities to indy authors, and with readers embracing ebooks and ereaders now more than ever, the time was right for me to set BLACKOUT free into the world.
I'm glad this wasn't a viable option even five years ago because I may have published something that wasn't ready, but I think at this point my craft is strong, my story is tight, and my critique partners helped me get this novel in great shape. BLACKOUT is something I can be proud of and won't wince over in six months."

What surprised her about the process? "How my library colleagues, family, and friends not involved in the publishing industry are so excited to see my book on e-tailer websites and don't care at all that it is self-pubbed and not traditionally published. I don't think a lot of readers outside of the biz see that much difference as long as the cover and formatting of the book look professional. The support has been amazing and I am grateful to everyone who has read the book or told someone else about it."
"I also never thought I'd be excited to have a book trailer, but whether or not they increase sales, it is fun to be able to direct someone to a free 'experience' (viewing a book trailer with cool original music) courtesy of Deena Lipomi. And it is a way to inform people about my book that feels less like I am hocking my wares."

The Blackout trailer is on YouTube at 
Blackout is available at:

Thanks a lot, Lisa and Deena, for answering my questions. Although I don't currently have plans to self-publish, that may change in the future. So I keep asking questions. And I'm glad that people are enjoying both these stories. They're great stories and they deserve readers.

-- Kate


  1. Thanks for sharing your perspectives on the decision to self-publish! I don't have any immediate plans to try it, but I keep thinking about it as an option.

    I especially like the way you both were so careful about the reasons for your decision and taking care to make sure the quality of the book was right.

  2. Thanks, Andrea! I think self publishing can be a great choice, but you are right - making sure the quality is there is key! You have to keep the customer in mind as a writer; it helps them trust your work, and it helps establish you as a professional.

  3. Andrea, yup, quality matters! I tried to think about what I appreciate as a reader of self-epubbed books and put that into what I published myself.

  4. Thanks for the post. My 13 year old son and I self published our middle grade novel as well. It wasn't too difficult nor expensive. Our biggest hurdle, however, has been marketing. Our novel also blended many genres and thus was hard to fit. This difficult placement seems to make it hard to also market. It is an entertaining book though. It is a humorous boy adventure that sneaks in a hint a few educational facts, family values, and religion. Even though there is strong boy appeal to the story, girls will enjoy the book too.
    Our book, Mason Davis and the Rise of the Storm Makers, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles. Best of luck to other self published authors - it is a fun journey!


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