Monday, November 21, 2011

Self-Publishing My Story: One Year Later, Part 2

One of the best moments in my self-publishing experience was receiving the package that contained the first copy of my printed book. That copy represented so much hard work come to fruition.
However, for me –as for any self-published author – it also represents much hard work yet to come. Last time, we started to take a candid look at self-publishing, and I’d like to offer some additional thoughts from personal experience.
Megaphone Marketing
If you’re not an assertive person by nature, marketing your self-published book is going to be the hardest part of the process.
Even if you are an assertive person, finding the time to market your book – unless you have the luxury of not working a full-time job – will be a challenge.
In all honesty, writing your book and getting it published is a breeze compared to marketing. Make the most of free tools like Amazon’s Author Center. Write your own press releases and publish them on services like Find out if your alma mater will consider carrying your book in their campus store.
In short, get creative.
The Journey is What Matters
You may have heard the saying by Ursula K. LeGuin, “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
That quote aptly describes how I view my self-publishing story. Do I want my book to be successful? Of course. Am I writing book two? Absolutely.
But self-publishing isn’t a walk in the park. You sometimes have to lay aside your “great expectations” and set realistic goals. You have to understand that you will be doing all the heavy lifting involved and that you are a marketing department of one.
Yet despite the challenges, self-publishing is rewarding. It is a journey. It is a chance to share creativity and meaning with others.
So would I do it again? I smile and say, “Yes.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Self-Publishing My Story: One Year Later, Part 1

This November – the 30th to be exact – marks the one-year anniversary of self-publishing book one in my Wings of the Dawn planned series. As I look back over my self-publishing adventure, I want to offer an honest perspective on self-publishing and answer the question perhaps you are wondering, “Would you do it again?”
Remove the Rose-Colored Glasses
All writers – self-published or not – dream of seeing their books lining the shelves of bookstores and topping the New York Times’ Best-Seller list.
There is a time to dream, but there is a time to set realistic expectations as well. If you are considering self-publishing, now is that time.
First, understand that you will have some stiff competition. According to Publisher’s Weekly, 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers.
Also, there is no guarantee that you will see ROI on the cost of self-publishing. In his article Self-publishing a book: 25 things you need to know, David Carnoy offers this statistic, “The average self-published book sells about 100-150 copies--or 2/3 to 3/4 of your friends and family combined (and don't count on all your Facebook acquaintances buying).”
You need to ask yourself the question, “Why do I want to self-publish?”  If the answer is, “To make a lot of money,” self-publishing may not be the solution for you.
I view self-publishing as an investment. Of course, it is a financial investment – averaging between $1000 and $5000, according to another article from Publisher’s Weekly. Beyond that, it is an investment of time, creativity and passion.
If you just look at numbers, you may not see the return you want. If you look at self-publishing as the achievement of a personal goal – as the chance to put your story in someone’s hands and help make a difference in someone’s life – then you might find in self-publishing a large reward. And if your story just happens to start flying off the shelves, consider that icing on the cake.
You Are Going to Get Dirty
Roll up your sleeves, and be prepared to get dirty if you’re thinking about self-publishing. No one is going to do the work for you.
Yes, you can find a self-publishing company that does the type setting, designs a cover and gets your finished book available online. And yes, you will pay a fee for all of those services.
However, these companies don’t generally edit or proofread your work. Thanks to my background in English and the patience of my kind father, I didn’t have to hire an editor. But for many authors, getting professional editing is essential.
Besides the editing, you must take ownership for every aspect of the process. For example, my initial cover design failed my expectations. I spent hours researching the type of “girl” I wanted on my cover and making calls to my project manager at Xulon Press, the Christian self-publishing company I used.
I love my cover, and I think Xulon Press did an excellent job designing it. Just realize that if you’re self-publishing, you need to know exactly what you want and be creative in communicating your vision effectively. (For the record, I would recommend Xulon Press if you are shopping around for a Christian self-publisher. They offer several packages to fit your budget and work with you each step of the way.)
So would I do it again? Come back next week for more “hindsight” advice and my honest answer to that question.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Christian Fiction and Communicating Truth

Do you have to be a Christian writer to communicate truth in fiction? Last time, I asked that question, and today, I want to offer an answer and implications for Christian fiction writers.
To begin, let’s clarify that by truth, I’m not talking about facts such as historical accounts or scientific realities like gravity. Obviously, the encyclopedia and dictionary contain accounts and definitions which we generally accept as accurate – regardless who penned the words.
By truth, I am referring to a worldview that accurately pictures the eternal God in his relationship to mankind – He, the Creator and Redeemer; we, the created, fallen and redeemed – and yes, I would argue that the Christian writer has the best chance of portraying the correct relationship people have to each other and to God.
Let me clarify what I mean by worldview. Your worldview is the lens through which you see and experience life. I like the definition Francis A. Shaeffer, well-known author, philosopher and theologian, offered in his book How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. He used the term presuppositions, meaning “the basic way an individual looks at life, his world view, the grid through which he sees the world.”
The question that naturally follows is this: How does the Christian writer present truth in storytelling without being didactic? Must Christian fiction writers always pen stories with a Christian message central to the plot?
I have two thoughts to share from the wisdom of two different college professors. One professor frequently reminded my class that our writing should not be “preachy.” And I agree. After all, no one likes someone "shouting at" or "lecturing" them.
The flip side is that we can do too thorough a job of being objective that we leave our readers without a trace of an underlying Biblical perspective. That brings me to my second professor. On one of my papers, she left this comment, which I will never forget.  She wrote, “The essay could have been written by an unbeliever. Should not everything we write identify that which defines who we are?”
The Christian fiction writer has a responsibility not only to remain true to the characters and plot but also to himself. After all, should not everything we write point to the One who redeemed us, who gave us a story to tell?
I used the word “worldview” earlier, and I am going to use it again, because the Christian worldview is at the heart of the matter. It influences everything I write – nonfiction or fiction. Undoubtedly, it should show in my writing.
Perhaps a story will not end with a clearly defined message of salvation. However, maybe it will present the theme of finding strength in Christ in our weakness and develop a dynamic character who grows through adversity. Or, perhaps the conflict will stem from mankind’s fallen human condition – pride or rejection of absolute truth and values – propelling the characters through a natural sequence of consequences.
In short, though a Christian thread may appear in the story, Christian truth itself may not always take the stage front and center.  C.S. Lewis seemed to be of that opinion when he said, “The first job of a story is to be a good story; and if God wants the story to carry a Christian message, that will come in of its own accord.”
There is clearly a balance, and every Christian writer, depending on his audience and genre, needs to find it for himself.  However, I would leave you with this challenge: Don’t be afraid to let your writing reveal that which defines who you are.