Friday, October 23, 2015

Adventures with Self-Publishing by Gerry Walker

Morgan says: I am proud to say that Gerry Walker is my best friend. In fact, we've been best buds since the fourth grade! I witnessed his self-pub journey first hand from the sidelines. So when I asked him to share his story and his most recent adventures with launching his second book, he was kind enough to oblige. This post is the first part of a two part series on Gerry's self-publishing journey from creation to launch. Love you G!
Gerry Walker says:

On February 1st, 2011, I self-published my first novel - Pretty People Are Highly Flammable. It was one of the happiest days of my life, filled with gratitude and wild memories of the year leading up to it, transforming it from a screenplay to a novel, writing, editing, more editing –all while working a very demanding full-time job. It was time to celebrate, and I did.

Recently, my second self-published novel, OOGA BOOGA, was released. In the years since Pretty People Are Highly Flammable came out, I’ve learned a few things: how to write more efficiently, how to amplify my voice to take advantage of my storytelling uniqueness, and most importantly, how to be fearless. Aside from the creative, however, I also learned some things about self-publishing.

My first time out the gate, CreateSpace had recently changed its name from BookSurge and after extensive research, I decided that they were the route for me to take. I was a new writer and therefore knew next to nothing when it came to getting my stuff out to the public on my own. The salespeople and customer service staff at CreateSpace were always ready and willing to take my call, hold my hand and walk me through the entire process, from creating cover art, to obtaining an ISBN, to editing, and beyond. They knew stuff I didn’t. I felt safer.

Back then, they also offered what I now consider to be a good self-publishing package. The package that I chose no longer exists. It included two full-color cover art concepts (to which I could contribute), full interior design (with 3 or 4 basic font choices) and 3 rounds of edits. I chose to purchase my own ISBN elsewhere because I preferred to have my own company as the official “publisher” of the book, rather than CreateSpace. I also forwent paying for one of their editor-proofreaders (their option would have cost about $500) in favor of two of my own free-of-charge, grad school English majors. At the time, the ISBN cost me $100 and the package cost around $750. When all was done, after numerous send-backs and updates which were mostly my own fault, the total cost of self-publishing the present edition of PPAHF was $1,100.

Of course there have been – and will continue to be – CreateSpace debates regarding whether it is worth letting Amazon gulp up so much of your books’ profits. And in 2011, those debates were just becoming really hot. I was, however, a completely unknown author with very little book publishing business sense, no following, a huge publisher (that shall remain nameless – but that was nonetheless very cool to me) advising me to re-write half of my book in order to make it formulaic enough to sell, an even huger ego screaming back “Hell, no, it’s good enough!” and absolutely no desire to utilize social media (the devil, amen? LOL) to promote my stuff. So in my opinion, Amazon could have the money. I just needed to self-publish, and learn from that experience. Well, I did learn.

When the time came to publish OOGA BOOGA this summer, I called CreateSpace back up. But this time, I did a few things differently and ended up with a far superior product and a much higher level of satisfaction with the final result. Much of this admittedly had to do with the aforementioned growth that I had experienced as a novelist. For another example, when working on this title, I joined a writer’s circle. They showed/taught me so much invaluable information. I was very fortunate to find a group of fellow artists who weren’t showing up to hate or cast dark clouds, but rather to help make each other’s writing the best that it could possibly be. Much of their advice I took. Some, I didn’t. But henceforth, I will always join a circle as part of my process.

So back to what I did differently on the actual publishing end: this time around, I paid Createspace nothing. Don’t get me wrong: now that the book is selling, they’re getting their money. But I gave them nothing up front. And I am so happy that I didn’t.

While randomly surfing the interwebs for writing sites one afternoon, I came across, a company known for their amazing book cover art. I liked what I saw, and decided to pay them to create mine. While researching them, I learned that they also have a package (well, a few of them) that includes interior book design and cover art for both the electronic and paperback version of your book. It did not include any subsequent edits, which are $1 each. The package was about $800, paid half in the beginning and half upon the author’s approval of the final product.

I filled out an online questionnaire requesting a book synopsis, and asking how I wanted my cover to look. They suggested that I also mention the artwork of titles whose style I liked. I did. A week later, they emailed me three ideas. I was impressed by how well they had listened. After one more email to them, asking them to “mash up” a couple of their presented options, OOGA BOOGA’s cover was born. I love that cover, I won’t lie.

The interior was kinda a different story. It took longer because it really didn’t seem like my rep was listening to me at times. She did not read my full instructions, and I ended up paying a little extra for mistakes that she did not pick up on when I’d requested them fixed during our previous correspondence. Add to this the fact that sometimes I did not receive their emails to me – which delayed progress by as much as a week – and you’ll understand my frustration.

Bottom line though: Damonza does good work. It can’t be denied that their craftsmanship totally trumps that of the CreateSpace people of yore.

For this novel, I went all-out (“!”) and paid for a professional editor. Since I already had a writer’s circle that I trusted, I chose her proofreading (by-the-word) package, which cost $410. So all in all, OOGA BOOGA cost about $100 more to produce than Pretty People Are Highly Flammable. Keep in mind as well that the former is about 50 pages shorter than the latter, so perhaps it might’ve cost even more had they been equally-sized. I would gladly have paid it.

In another four years, there will be even more self-publishing options out there for us all to debate, and that’s exciting. There’s no doubt that, like the music world before it, the literary community is quickly becoming savvy to the power of the self-ing, if only because of the sheer desire of the public for more. More, more, more content. They’re a voracious bunch, those readers. With the quality of writing now on par with that of the big houses, the sky is the limit for all authors who do the research – and the work.

Gerry Walker is a Harlem writer. Catch him on Twitter @gerrywalker, Instagram: gerrywalker, Facebook:, and

Friday, October 9, 2015


FieldReport: Bookstore Display at Houston (IAH) Airport

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hey y'all!  It's Morgan reporting from super rainy and humid Nashville, TN.  If you follow my personal blog (Morgan's Mix Tape), then you know that my marketing day job requires a significant amount of business travel.  Yesterday, while traveling from Portland, OR (PDX) to Nashville, TN (BNA), I connected through Houston, TX (IAH).

Of course the bookstore on my landing terminal caught my eye.  Yup - I'm a sucker for a bookstore!  Show me a writer who doesn't love bookstores and I'll show you a freak of nature.  Ha!

Airport bookstores are strange beasts.  Their core audience is the male, business traveler.  Their secondary audience is the female, business traveler.  A third audience is the traveling family.  For this reason, they tend to have a large nonfiction section focused on business best practices and self help.  Their fiction selections lean towards best sellers with a focus on thrillers, literary fiction, romance, and some adventure / science fiction.  There are also loads of books with military themes and a small kids section.

So, imagine my surprise to see so much of the in-store marketing real estate dedicated to the 50 Shades series.  Note: This display was one of only two large table layouts in the store.  More 50 Shades books were on the shelves. [SEE MORE HERE]

FieldReport: Ride the Wave - PULL Marketing

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In May, we published two Finer Points Friday 're-posts' on Intentional Marketing (see our Notable Posts tab for direct links):
Morgan says: In my many travels across the country and around the world, I am always on the look out for examples of marketing at work....yes, I'm a marketing geek, I know.  Last Wednesday I featured pictures from a bookstore at IAH airport in Houston, TX.  In that same bookstore, I found an excellent example of intentional marketing at work.  

Notice in the picture below how 
Sylvia Day's Bared to You is shelved next to E. L. James 50 Shades Series.  Ms. Day's book was originally self-published with a different cover,  however when the Penguin Group acquired and reissued Bared to You, they changed the cover art.  Since Bared to You's story line is similar to the 50 Shades Series, why not 'ride the wave' and produce a similar cover?   This tactic is one form of 'suggestive selling.'  Pictured below is the in-store version of the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any number of other websites.

In this instance, it is the store's merchandising team grouping similar products together in the hopes of boosting overall sales.   Having a similar cover subliminally validates (correctly or incorrectly) at first glance that the reader is purchasing more of what they already like, but from a different author.  The 'different author' part is expressed through the use of a warm color palette choice (dove gray + gold & black accents), instead of the cool colors (steel gray + midnight blue & white accents) used by the 50 Shades Series covers. [SEE MORE HERE!]

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

So, you've been told by any number of folks: "You gotta have a website."  But no one has bothered to tell you what your website should contain.  In today's workshop we will provide some pointers on basic web content for both pre-published and published authors.  (Note: We are providing recommendations.  It's your website.  You can add or delete content at your discretion.)

With regards to web content, we looked at several author websites and paid special attention to their navigation tabs (actual content pages).

Basic Web Content for PRE-Published Authors:
1.                  Home Page - This page is your landing page and home base for your website.  While the other pages can be more static, your home page should always contain the most up-to-date information.
2.                  Author Bio / About Me Page: Here is where you provide some background information about your author PERSONA.  Content can include: why you write a specific genre, what inspires you, quirky facts, etc.  Whatever you put on this page should provide some peek at your voice / writing style.
3.                  Contact: Either as a separate web page / tab on your navigation bar or prominently displayed on your home page, give interested parties a means to contact you.  Here is where you put your links to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. in addition to your email address.
4.                  Something About Your Books: Give your future readers a peek at what you are writing, BUT don't give away your plot - don't give unscrupulous writers a jump on your potential best seller idea!  We also recommend that you do NOT post mock covers of your books....readers always seem to miss the fact that the book isn't published.  They will head to the store only to be frustrated when they can't buy your books.
Here are some examples of how pre-published authors have structured their websites: