If you choose to self-publish either through an independent publisher or a publish-on-demand basis, it can be challenging. For my last thirteen books, I chose to go this route mainly because the competition is so steep and there were stories I wanted out there, but I was not sure how they would be accepted. I do plan to seek out mainstream channels, of course, but I will get into that later.
I chose Lulu
because my budget was very slim. It is, for the most part, free. Aside
from dishing out a bit of change on the proof copies, it is very
affordable. In 2010, I compiled a group of short stories and poems, and
decided I would try to publish them. It was actually more like a chapbook,
and it happened to be a collection that I had turned in for a writing
project in college. Of course, I fine-tuned the works, added some extra
details here and there, but for the most part, it was the same
I called it Express Café and Other Ramblings.
I had done my research on self-publishing, especially publishing on
demand, and Lulu seemed to be the best option. Because I was so gun-shy
with the application, I used the first book as a test run. I had trouble
formatting it correctly and had to keep adjusting the page size. Lulu
suggests that you make
an official copyright page, and they provide you an ISBN so that was
nice. When I finally got everything right, I chose a pretty standard
cover for the book. And then I paid for the proof copy, all the while
hoping that I wasn’t being sucked into some kind of scam.
When I received it, I was in awe. I had never before seen my name
in print or a collection of my work look so professional. It was so
exciting! I thought, “Now, this is why I wanted to be a writer.” Not for
the glory. Not for the money. But, for the feeling of accomplishment.
Don’t we all want to feel proud of ourselves for something? But, let’s
not get ahead of ourselves. Editing came next.
I proofed the copy, made the corrections to the document, and
resubmitted it. Of course, Lulu demanded I buy another proof copy to
make final revisions. So, I did, and I tallied that investment in my
ahead and hoped it was worth it. Believe me, I’m not naïve, but I was
willing to take this chance. Wouldn’t you if you wanted to get
A few days later, I received the next copy. The surprise at
seeing my own work was reinforced, and I poured over it, making sure it
was perfect. Of course, it wasn’t. Do we ever catch our own mistakes on
the first run? So, I made those changes. I resubmitted. I paid for
another proof copy. By now, you’re probably wondering if this lady is so
gullible it’s ridiculous. Well, I’m not. I received that final copy,
and I was satisfied. I was ready to move forward. I went onto my account on Lulu, pressed the ‘approve or deny’ button and wavered over my options.
I waited. I sat there at my computer, staring at the screen. Oh
my God. Was I ready for all of this? Being in print? Being published? I
pressed the ‘approve’ button, wincing at the same time. And then the
screen came back, saying it would be published. I had to purchase
distribution, of course, but I chose the one that was free. As
aforementioned, my budget was limited. Then the screen said my book
would be available on Amazon in four to six weeks. My heart was pounding
with elation this time. What had I just done?
For the next week, I couldn’t think of anything else. Was I being
taken in a scam? Or would I really be published? Even though I had done
my research, and a lot of people seemed to recommend Lulu, I had my
doubts. I checked Lulu the next day, and I was surprised to see my book
already available on their site. Wow, anyone could purchase my book
there? They didn’t have to wait to get it on Amazon? I was amazed, and I felt a whole lot better.
It was about six weeks later when I had practically forgotten to
check that I was shopping casually on Amazon. For kicks and giggles, I
decided to search my name. Lo and behold, there it was. My title was
listed under my name. I clicked on it, and my book was available. I
wanted to shout! I wanted to jump up and down! I wanted everyone to know
my book was on Amazon. I mean, how many people can say they are on
Amazon? And not as a seller, an author. I was finally an author. An
author. How many years since I was nine years old had I been telling
people, “Hey, I’m going to be an author when I grow up!” An author. A
Suddenly, I had a voracious appetite for writing, as if I didn’t
already have one before. But, I just felt more focused, more into it for
some reason. I was motivated to finish my works in progress.
Of course, life can get in the way for writers. For anyone
really. I did keep writing though. Then, about a year later, I decided I
was ready to try again. I compiled another group of stories and poems,
and I intended this book to be sort of like a second volume to the
first. So, I gave it a related title, Ramblings, Musings and Other Things. I
went for Lulu again. I chose a pretty standard cover, a different
color, of course, and I went through the steps to get published. I
formatted the document and submitted it. I included a short description
and set a price for the book. I paid for the proof copy.
I received the book, I was excited again. But, this time, I started to
think critically. What did an audience want to see? Well, with novels,
we usually see some nice illustration, possibly a good font. I made my
changes, but when I was in the process of revising on the site, I played
around with it some. I decided to use my own image for the cover, which
is a nice option Lulu gives us. The trick with using your own image is
that it might come out grainy in the printing process so you have to
keep an eye out for that. But, I believe I chose well for the second
book because when I finally received the copy, I was amazed at how well
the image came out. It really was the perfect picture for the cover.
Inspiring with a sunset and trees. A nice picture for my second book.
But, I digress.
By the time I went through the revisions, I was very satisfied
with the book. I pressed the approval button with less hesitance this
time. And right on time, about six weeks later, it was available on
Amazon. A little over six months later, I published a third volume, Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things,
which not only had a group of short stories and poems, but each one had
a bit of a paranormal element to it. I chose a fitting, mystical but
romantic cover for that volume as well. The book took two revisions, but
I was satisfied with it.
Shortly after that, I published another book, a full novel, but I put it under a pen name. I titled it Hard to Get,
pretty apt because the villain in the story is just that. This document
was longer, and so revisions were more detailed. I found the cover a
bit of challenge because I wanted to convey the fact that it was a
detective story with some violence. So, images are always a bit of a
problem. I struggled with this choice. When I received the proof copy, I
found out the image I’d chosen was too grainy so I ditched that and
found a different image, actually pretty bloody if you ask me. But,
apropos for the book.
I got nuts with publishing for awhile, finishing a book every two
or three weeks so that when they came out, they were staggered. Some of
them I definitely found challenging, but I think I found the right
covers. I published them subsequently as follows: Without You, A Hint of Scandal, Memories, Strange Heat, Terror in the Night, Haunted, and Pursuit. All of these were under the same pen name. Some of them took more revisions than others, but that’s part of writing.
I felt a bit of accomplishment in all of this, of course. I kept a
copy of each of my books for display, and did what I could to advertise
my work using social network avenues. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. I
even had an account on Goodreads.
Then, a couple of months later, I decided to release a book under
a new pen name, a pen name that I would reserve for only paranormal
stories. I titled it A Misplaced Life. The
revisions were many, mainly because I decided at the last minute to
change the point of view from first person to third so that was
challenging. And the cover was very difficult to decide on. Not only did
I struggle to find an image that so perfectly fit my book, there just
wasn’t much to choose from. Finally, I found the right image, and
settled on that. When it was published, I felt the excitement again. Not
only did I have too many pen names to handle, I knew I had published 12
books. Twelve. A complete dozen. It was baffling. How in the world had
I reflected on it. What in the world had made me take this step,
other than flat out rejections from too many literary agents? But, I was
published. I could add this to my resume if I wanted. This woman has published 12 books under various pen names. Whoa.
Anyway, shortly after that, I reviewed one of my works in
progress, about a writer who goes to Kenya to research her book. I
suddenly knew I had to publish it, had to get it out there. I even had a
funny idea it would make a good movie, but that’s neither here nor
there. There were so many gaps to fill though. It wasn’t anywhere near
ready. It lacked research.
So, I did something crazy. I went ahead and did a proof copy,
knowing that I didn’t have to actually publish it. Nothing is ever final
until you approve on Lulu so there is that fallback. I had the instinct
that if I did this, it would suddenly motivate me to do what I hadn’t
done thus far. I received the book not long after that, titled Perfect Game.
I wasn’t crazy about the cover, but I didn’t worry so much about that. I
focused on the spaces I needed to fill, the things I didn’t know yet
about the story or the setting. I wrote like a maniac. I did the
research. Suddenly, I had written 100 pages more than I had. And it all
just fit like a glove. I couldn’t believe how motivating it had been to
receive the book, and see how unfinished it was.
I went through several revisions, and finally found a good cover
for it. I published it, and at this present time, though it is available
on Lulu, it will be on Amazon in a few short weeks. And that, my friends, makes the last book I published. Well, so far.
But, I suppose I’m digressing from the topic.
If you are raring to self-publish, Lulu is not a bad option. Like
clockwork, Lulu was very good with publishing my books and making them
available for purchase on Amazon. Lulu also does e-books, which is the
way the industry is moving these days.
I would say the most challenging thing is that the royalties are
higher if a customer purchases on Lulu than they are through Amazon. You
can, however, purchase a global distribution package if you want your
book available through Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores can
carry it. You can also purchase your own book and resell it. This extra
distribution package runs around $75, which is a bit higher than I
wanted to spend, but I’m considering it for a major book I do sometime
in the future.
All in all, Lulu is a great option for self-publishing or publishing on demand. I have been very satisfied with the website. They even have a forum for questions that might cross your mind.
I am not limiting myself to self-publishing, folks. This is just
an option, and I fully intend to keep pursuing mainstream publishing. I
have submitted query letters and my present manuscript to literary
agents and publishers. And yes, if you’re wondering, I’ll have one under
Marie Lavender soon.
has been writing for over twenty years. She always wanted to be an
author and has dedicated most of her life trying to achieve that dream.
As of today, she has had fourteen books
published under various pen names and two short stories published in a
private university publication. Her focus is romance. To contact Marie Lavender, feel free to visit her website and her blog at http://marielavender.blogspot.com/. A list of her books and pen names follows:
Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other Rambling; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things
Erica Sutherhome: Hard to Get; Memories; Without You; Strange Heat; Terror in the Night; Haunted; Pursuit; Perfect Game; A Hint of Scandal
Kathryn Layne: A Misplaced Life