Guest blog with Lana Castle

Lana Castle is an editor, publishing consultant and teacher with more than 30 years’ experience in communications and publishing. She runs Castle Communications, an Austin-based editorial service, where she not only edits books but also provides production support for individual authors and publishers. She has authored four trade books of her own as well, the most recent being Get That Book Published! A Roadmap for Today’s Writer. She holds an M.A. in Instructional Design from The University of Texas at Austin.

WLT is excited to annouce that Lana will teach one of our Fall Workshops, ‘How to Pick Your Publishing Pathway.’  The day workshop will help navigate you through potential pitfalls of publishing, and give insight into the pathways of the publishing world!  WLT asked Lana to blog about her experience in the publishing world, and her latest book Get That Book Published.  You can sign up for her class HERE!  (Don’t forget to sign in for member discount.)

The Road to Publication

Publishing is a complex and often confusing business, no matter how you go about it. And with the new developments in recent years, it’s even harder to sort out. After repeatedly explaining today’s options to clients and the students taking my workshops, it finally occurred to me to write another book. I’d been concentrating so much on my editing that I almost forgot I’m also a writer! It’s embarrassing to admit I’ve been sharing most of the material contained in Get That Book Published! for, um, seven years.

I published my first book, Style Meister: The Quick-Reference Custom Style Guide, in 1998. I self-published it the old-fashioned — and expensive — way, ordering 1,000 copies from an offset printer and selling books from Amazon, through bookstores on consignment and in person when I spoke somewhere.

I knew a fair amount about publishing before diving in, but one glitch I encountered was the cost of shipping copies to customers. At the time, I knew you could send a book by priority mail for a reasonable price if it weighed no more than two pounds — the exact weight of my book. But the weight of the shipping envelope added an extra ounce and nearly doubled the cost! Since I’d advertised the book with the lower shipping price, I didn’t feel right passing the cost on to the customer, so I ate it.

Still, sales were going pretty well. I decided to seek a distributor to get my books into stores across the country. The distributor immediately asked for another 1,000 books. Although I used a cheaper printer and a slightly thinner text stock to keep costs down, I charged the entire run on my Visa card. Not the best business plan! Although the distributor got books into Barnes & Nobles all over the country (just one per store), I wasn’t ready to promote to such a vast market.

For my next two books, I found a good agent and worked with a mid-sized New York publisher. The first book, Bipolar Disorder Demystified, sold very well and was picked up by a Brazilian publisher and a Japanese publisher. It’s been out nine years, and I’m still receiving royalties. The second book — which was actually about using your creativity — became Finding Your Bipolar Muse because the marketing department insisted everything I write have bipolar inthe title. (I think they would have jumped at the chance to publish The Bipolar Cookbook, had I offered that.)

I decided to print Get That Book Published! A Roadmap for Today’s Writer through CreateSpace, Amazon’s print on demand service, and to use Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords for ebooks. Print on demand (POD) and ebooks are very good choices for self-publishing these days, provided you work with a reputable company. You save yourself the time of finding an agent and/or publisher. You retain control of the final product. You don’t need an expensive print run. And, because readers can order and pay for books online, you don’t have to get a distributor or ship books yourself. You can use your Visa card for something else!

Print on demand and ebooks may not be the answer for every writer, but they’re great options for many of us. Much depends upon your timeline, budget, business experience, quality expectations and needs for prestige and creative control. Good arguments can be made for nearly any publishing pathway you chose. In my workshops and my book, I help you understand, choose among and navigate today’s publishing pathways — while avoiding potential pitfalls. Catch my workshop on October 6, buy my book and/or see my website for more information: www.castlecommunications.com

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