In June 2018, Denise Medany, in collaboration with graphic artist Gary Briggs, self-published her first book, One Heart Too Many, a work of nonfiction. Denise and Gary have graciously agreed to answer questions about how they did it.
Beth: After having your manuscript edited by me, you worked with friend and colleague, Gary Briggs, on the cover and layout. Both of you were actively involved in the project from the beginning. Would each of you say a little about your background and how you decided to collaborate on the creation of this book?
Denise: The subject matter of my book—being in a relationship with a widower—is something that I am familiar with from both sides of the situation. I also have a flair for attracting people looking for advice or someone to confide in. I have spent years studying and applying the philosophy of 12-Step programs, and I found that these principles work very well in all areas of life, particularly in difficult issues with relationships, personality conflicts, opposing points of view, for example. I applied what I’ve learned to my book, along with examples and perceptions from my own personal experiences.
My enthusiasm and motivation really took off after I discovered an area of relationship issues that is rarely recognized or addressed. Writing the book was the easy part, but I had absolutely no clue about how to take it from my computer to physical book form. After the writing, editing, and proofreading were finished, Gary took it the rest of the way to completion.
Gary: I’m a creative jack-of-all-trades, so to speak. I’ve been a writer for over 20 years. I also have over 20 years of experience as a web designer and graphic designer. I have a fascination with words and etymology, and I’m somewhat of a grammar snob. I am currently working on my own book about the relationship I had with my great-grandfather
Beth: When you agreed to work together to publish Denise’s book, why did you decide to self-publish?
Denise: I decided to self-publish because I didn’t want to go through the headaches and disappointments of having my manuscript rejected by traditional publishers. Also, I felt that my profits per book would be greater by self-publishing. I wanted more control over the book, even though it meant that I would have to market it myself. I am well aware that self-published books are on the rise; there are a lot of them out there so the competition may be tough, but I’d like to believe that I touched on a subject that hasn’t been given much exposure or respect, which will, hopefully, give me a bit of an edge.
Gary: For me, this comes down to simple pros and cons. A major publisher may give you more exposure, but you’re also on a roster with countless other writers and it’s likely the publisher will throw a bigger campaign behind whichever book promises the most return. Self-publishing allows you to control your own marketing and promotion, assuming you have the tenacity. Plus, you can oversee your own book from start to finish and tailor the final product to your goal.
Beth: Denise, you are the writer, and Gary, you are the designer of the book. What was it like to work together on creating it? What steps did you need to take to prepare it for publication?
Denise: Gary and I work very well together. I did all of the research and writing. Gary found me the editor to take the project to the next level. Once the writing part was completely finished, Gary did the rest: obtaining the copyright and ISBN, creating the CreateSpace account, formatting the manuscript, then uploading it for publication and printing. The basic idea for the cover design was mostly my idea, but Gary chose the background, the colors and created the entire design, including the spine and back cover. I took every one of Gary’s suggestions for the color and texture (matte rather than glossy) and cream-colored pages as opposed to white. Most significantly, Gary came up with the title: One Heart Too Many. The name I originally picked was too long and didn’t create the impression that I wanted the book to project.
Gary: I think it helps to work with someone who has a good understanding of the big picture. I was aware of Denise’s intentions for the book early on in the process; I was also aware of her target demographic. Knowing your audience is crucial to presenting the work effectively, all the way down to the book cover. You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but people do, the same way they may choose not to shop in a cluttered and messy store. Visuals count.
Beth: What publishing company did you choose? Is the book available in different formats, such as electronic e-book, paperback, or hardcover?
Denise: I used CreateSpace, owned by Amazon. The only format available to buyers so far is paperback. I didn’t offer hardcover, and although it’s not available in the Kindle version, that’s something I may or may not consider later.
Gary: We went with Amazon’s service, CreateSpace. For me, this was a simple choice because of Amazon’s seamless integration. There’s really no bigger marketplace in the world. Additionally, CreateSpace has a pretty fair royalty structure. The book is only available in paperback, but the option for a Kindle version is still on the table.
Beth: There are a number of different publishers that writers can work with to help them with the many steps involved in self-publishing. Another company that offers competitive prices and services is booksjustbooks.com, also known as selfpublishing.com. I suggest doing some comparison shopping.
Beth: How much does it cost to self-publish? It would be helpful if you could break down the costs of each part, such as: cover design, interior lay-out, final proofreading, uploading to publisher’s platform, buying ISBN number, and registering the copyright.
Denise: Editing and proofreading prices are based on the word count. The copyright was $55; the ISBN was $99. In my particular situation, there were no up-front costs for cover design and interior layout. Gary and I have been acquainted for years, and our pricing arrangement was something that we worked out between ourselves.
Gary: I would say your cost is determined by how professional you want to be. I’ve seen books that were obviously not edited or proofread before publication. I’ve even seen books released by major publishers with typos and grammatical blunders. So, cost is up to you. A good cover designer will charge you a few hundred dollars, at least. It’s the same for a layout specialist. Proofreading and editing usually cost over $1,000, and if someone quotes you $100 for editing, you have to wonder why. Registering for a copyright is around $55 and an ISBN is $99 (if you choose to buy your own). CreateSpace offers a free ISBN option, which many people may take to keep costs down, but it’s important to understand a free ISBN’s limitations. To me, it’s wiser to spend $99 and not have your book tied to CreateSpace for eternity.
Beth: Clearly, costs vary greatly for different services. My suggestion to writers is to seek recommendations from friends and colleagues in order to find high quality and affordability for publishing services. There are dozens of reference books on self-publishing to consult as well.
Beth: What are some of the main ways you plan to get the word out to prospective buyers and readers of One Heart Too Many?
Denise: I post links to my book in social media groups that revolve around the subject matter. I have also given free copies to relationship and family counselors. I offer a complimentary copy to those who have a lot of relevant connections in exchange for their help in spreading the word. I encourage people who like the book to post positive reviews. I am also relying on Amazon’s internal system of promoting products that are similar to customers’ search and shopping history. My feeling is that the initial marketing is the hardest part. Once I get the fire started, I’m hoping that it’ll take on a life of its own as it rises toward the top of search results.
Gary: Social media is always a great start. I believe in trying to market organically before spending money to run a Facebook or Google ad. We understand that this book’s audience is a bit more limited than other books, so it’s important to know where to market, not just how to market. It’s also a good idea to have a number of review copies on hand for blogs, magazines, etc. The hope is that this particular demographic will recommend the book to others within their circle. I would advise other authors to push for reviews on Amazon; that drives up the visibility in searches.
Beth: Marketing one’s book takes persistence, ingenuity, patience, and willingness to try new ideas. I think most authors would agree that it’s time well spent. Increasing your sales means that you are connecting with readers, which is tremendously gratifying. Thank you both for your insights.
BETH BRUNO is an Indie Book Awards judge and developmental editor of fiction and nonfiction books. She helps her clients with query letters, book proposals, and submissions to literary agents and publishers.