Self-publication an option for many aspiring writers

By Frances Wychorski
Citizen Chronicle Writer

WEST BROOKFIELD — There is nothing as satisfying as a good read. Whether it is lounging at seaside with a paperback or curled up on the couch with a kindle, having the time for leisure reading is one of life’s pleasures. Characters in novels share with us the complexity of human relations. They invite us along as armchair travelers to new environments on or beyond this world. A skillful writer creates a story that only exists in their and our imagination, but is as alive as you and I.

Tracey Ryan greeted a small audience at Merriam-Gilbert Public Library in West Brookfield, promoting her first book published in May 2017. “Wicked Game of the Hunter” is part one of a mystery trilogy set in Hardwick and the seaport district of Boston. By day, Ryan is a Director of Client Communications at Fidelity Investments. The death of her father six years ago prompted Ryan to write this novel now. Ryan said losing him, “made me sit down and reevaluate what is important in life. Who knows what life can bring tomorrow. I wanted to do this.”

Book publication is a complicated business. The traditional route has been for writers to collaborate with someone in the industry that can help with the technical aspects of publication. A partnership with a literary agent can be one-step along the path. A publisher provides in house services with the goal of producing a book to be sold at a brick and mortar store. The logistics may include proofreading, line editing, content editing, cover design, formatting, printing and marketing. Upon publication, the author often agrees to help promote sales on a book tour.

However, the digital age has given authors a more direct route to sales with self-publication of e-books and print on demand books. According to Writer’s Digest, a popular magazine, website and support network for writers in all genres, self-publishing has a long tradition and includes notable writers such as Mark Twain, D.H. Lawrence, Walt Whitman, Jack Canfield, Stephen King and Margaret Atwood.

Today’s self-publication options offer writers the tools of a publishing house. The writer bears the upfront costs for manufacturing, production and marketing. However, they keep all income derived from the book sales. It is DIY for writers.

Phil Sexton, vice president and group publisher at Writer’s Digest recommended the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) as a place to find quality editors for hire. The website has an extensive member directory and job listing available at no charge. EFA webpage advertises that they can “put you in touch with more than 2,400 editorial professionals with a broad array of skills and training—the people you need for self-publishing projects; fiction and nonfiction trade books; website copy; magazine articles; advertising, public relations, and training and education materials; corporate communications; and more.”

Writer’s Digest has a May 1, 2018 deadline for submissions to its 26th Self-Published Book and e-book Awards. The grand prize of $8,000 includes a feature article, a press release to major publishing review houses and a trip to the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City.  They offer Blue Ash Publishing as a DIY product.  Software exclusively for the self-publishing market include Microsoft Publisher, Serif PagePlus and Scribus. Other DIY self-publishers include Book Life by Publishers Weekly and Bookbaby.

Authors with interest in DIY may benefit by joining the Alliance of Independent Authors, a nonprofit organization which will guide ambition and help ground Indie authors in the reality of publishing. The website provides a wide range of services and demonstrates the legwork involved in self-publishing. The writer needs to educate themselves to the possibilities and pitfalls of publishing. Sexton also recommended the Writer Beware Blog as the watchdog group that says it is “shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls.” The blog offers a Thumbs Down list of agencies and publishers to avoid. It is time, talent and money at stake.

Ryan selected Amazon’s Create Space for her mystery novel. The second installment of the trilogy is at the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington D.C. Ryan advocated authors obtain a copyright before handing over the work to a publisher to protect their artistic work. Her background in marketing and communication has given her knowledge of how to manage this area of book sales.

The most important aspect of writing is storytelling. Writing is a craft that is developed with effort and practice. The ability to convey thoughts into words that an audience can connect to is an art. Writers put bits of themselves into the story. Ryan said, “my dad is part of the book. It’s dedicated to his memory and how I can honor him for supporting me. The 2nd book has a large event that happens and I put yellow roses on each of the tables at the event because he sent yellow roses to me at the start of every semester at college.” Books are emotional repositories. In fact, Ryan is so deep into her characters and story, that she said they have taken on a life of their own. She said, “I don’t know who the ultimate murder is yet. I let the story take me on the ride.”

Tracey Ryan may be reached at Traceylryan.com.

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