A few years ago Carole Roman took the essential writers’ advice—write what you know—to heart. An imaginary game she played with her grandson formed the basis for her debut children’s book for the preschool and early elementary set, Captain No Beard. At the time, her son, author Michael Phillip Cash, had published a horror book as an Indie author and was enjoying watching it climb the Amazon bestseller list. Roman, too, decided Indie was the way to go and hasn’t looked back since. Captain No Beard received a Kirkus star and was named to the magazine’s Best Books of 2012, forming the basis for a pirate series. A retired social studies teacher, Roman has also written a nonfiction series, If You Were Me and Lived In..., a set of books celebrating cultures and customs around the world. While still very much a part of her family’s luxury transportation business, Roman has found Indie publishing to be a perfect outlet for her creativity. She shares here how she makes it work.
Why did you decide to self-publish rather than publish traditionally?
You have to be "discovered" to land a publisher. That means getting through many levels before the chance to be chosen. Self-publishing has opened doors for many. I also like the total control it affords me. I have a team of publicists and associates that have networked with us on my terms.
What’s been the most pleasing or revelatory aspect of self-publishing for you?
The fact that I control everything and make probably more than if I had a publishing house. When you publish with a big house, they will push your book as long as they want to, and if it doesn't take, it dies on the vine. My cut is larger and is based on what I sell. I think children's authors make a nominal fee, unless they are huge bestsellers, and most wonderful books never get out of the gate. I can think of five terrific books that have not been publicized enough and several that have gotten more notice than they deserve.
What has been the most difficult aspect of self-publishing?
The initial cost was expensive. I am constantly putting our names out there, and it is time-consuming and a lot of money. However, I approached this as any business. The problem with Indie authors is they think they can just put a book out there and it will take off. It needs exposure, exposure, and more exposure, and that takes time, funds, and dedication.
What is your advice to other writers considering self-publishing?
Do it with the notion that you can't quit your day job, and enjoy the great ride of learning about yourself.
Once your book is published, what steps have you taken to promote and sell it?
Build a network to get word of your book out there. Enter it in as many contests as you can. Get reviews—it doesn't matter if they are negative. Your work will not please everybody. If they are all five-star reviews, it looks like you pulled all your relatives in to write reviews. Do giveaways; while they are expensive, nothing promotes you more than a giveaway. Don't advertise your book on the wrong blog; if you are writing romance, don't put it on a science-fiction blog. Get into forums on Goodreads and make sure you pose questions for interesting discussions. Look for holidays as an excuse to promote your book. Lastly, when I send my book out to readers, I include a small gift with the book’s logo—a bookmark, keychain—to remind them of the story.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance editor and writer with a passion for books. Learn more at wordcumulus.wordpress.com.