Are You Peeking Through the Publishing Window?

Poster of a Sparrow Perched on a Window , asking Why peek in the window when the door is wide open?High-flying indie authors make news practically daily. Industry gurus exhort writers, practically hourly, to invest major effort and money into launching our own books into the stratosphere of publishing success, whether by independent or traditional methods. We must conduct our writing activity in a serious manner. Be professional. Businesslike. Goal and results oriented.

Shrewd advice. But …

On Saturday, September 14, I’m setting aside my aspirations to soar with the eagles. Instead, I’m heading to W. B. Ogden Free Library in Walton, New York, to flock with a few of my favorite sparrows.

The Ogden Writers Group grew out of a memoir-writing workshop led by Columbia University professor Leslie Sharpe, so it’s not surprising that quite a few members are older individuals who write memoirs and fictional stories about bygone days, primarily for the benefit of family, friends, and others interested in the times and places they describe.

Do these writers expect to land fat royalty publishing contracts, or want the obligations a contract would entail? Not really. Do they have the means or desire to set themselves up as self-publishing moguls, managing teams of editors, designers, and marketers to turn their books into indie sensations? I doubt it. Do they have big bucks to shovel into the coffers of vanity publishers? Not that I know of.

No, they’re what many in the industry refer to (with disdainful sniffs) as “amateurs” and “hobby writers.” The sparrows of the writing world, I call them. True, some write more polished prose than others. But they all have stories to tell. Poignant stories. Funny stories. Historically, socially, and spiritually significant stories. Should those manuscripts lie in a drawer forever because they weren’t written by people who fit the “professional” mold?

My presentation to the group will encourage those sparrows who are perched on the windowsill—not on the outside looking in, but trapped on the inside looking out wistfully at the eagles, and woodpeckers, and hummingbirds with their published books. I’m going to suggest that they (you?) can get out there and fly, too. The publishing door has been opened wide by self-publishing services like Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon’s ebook publishing division) and CreateSpace (Amazon’s print-on-demand division). Maybe my sparrow friends’ books will never reach the highest heights. But a sparrow-sized flight is still a flight to be proud of.

Are you a sparrow on the windowsill? Stay tuned. I plan to record my talk and post it for those who can’t attend the meeting. (Update: Recording and script are now posted on my Resources page!)

Meanwhile, here are several sparrow flights I’ve helped launch. Please click on the covers and give them a look. <3

Cover of My Cup of Tea by Phyllis Neff Lake

A Novel of Conversation, Friendship, and Love
by Phyllis Neff Lake


Kindle cover of Rivington Street by Frank Di Giovanni

A Drama in Three Acts
by Frank Di Giovanni


Cover of Songs for the Lord by Linda Bonney Olin

by Linda Bonney Olin


Photo of paperback book cover of The Sacrifice Support Group:Lenten Drama and Discussion by Linda Bonney Olin

Lenten Drama & Discussion
by Linda Bonney Olin



The Sacrifice Support Group Goes Paperback

Photo of paperback book cover of The Sacrifice Support Group:Lenten Drama and Discussion by Linda Bonney Olin

12/2/2013: Please note that some publication information in this article is obsolete. See the post dated December 1, 2013, for current titles, contents, and links. – Linda

Home at last! After a six-week sojourn in a house without high-speed Internet service, I finally can post the latest news.

Today The Sacrifice Support Group: Lenten Drama and Discussion made its début in an 8”x10” paperback edition. This large format makes reproducing pages easy and economical. A church or small group can buy a single book and give photocopies of the dramatic comedy script to the cast and photocopies of the handouts to the discussion participants. A bargain, right?

A month after Easter may seem like an odd time to launch a Lent-themed book, but I wanted to experience print-on-demand (POD) publishing firsthand before teaching a couple of related workshops at Montrose Christian Writers Conference in July. I had published the Kindle edition of The Sacrifice Support Group in February, so that material was a handy choice for my first POD venture.

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of gal, so I designed the book cover and interior pages myself and uploaded the files to CreateSpace, Amazon’s POD division. The only up-front expenses were ten dollars for an ISBN (a book’s unique identifying number) registered in my own name as publisher and about seven dollars to have a proof copy of the finished book mailed to me.

Of course, the do-it-yourself method costs time, if not money. I had to adapt the ebook cover to the print edition’s dimensions and add a back cover displaying the requisite back cover stuff. CreateSpace furnished a Microsoft Word template for the interior layout, which needed a lot of customization for this project. Luckily, I found online resources that explained display and text fonts, page numbers, running heads, and other print book elements that I hadn’t had to contend with when formatting ebooks. The most helpful site was Joel Friedlander’s, a mother lode of book design instruction and all sorts of advice for indie authors.

This afternoon I clicked the final button. Voilà! The Sacrifice Support Group instantly went on sale in the CreateSpace online store. Individual books will be printed when they are purchased—in other words, printed on demand. Within a few days and other online book retailers should list it, too.

In spite of the time spent and the steep learning curve, I had fun building a POD paperback. I hope that the finished product reflects my desire to place helpful content into a polished, functional, affordable book.


Designing a New E-Book Cover

Book cover - Songs for the Lord by Linda Bonney OlinSongs for the Lord marked its first anniversary as an e-book last month. A whole year! Hard to believe, right? I celebrated by giving the book this new cover image.

Let’s face it. People do judge a book by its cover. The cost of hiring a professional book designer is money well spent. But what about ministry-minded (or just plain broke) writers like me who self-publish on a small budget (a zero budget, in my case)? We, too, want our book covers to look attractive and communicate information about the book’s style and contents. After all, a cover that fails to grab the attention of its target audience or makes a negative impression on them doesn’t help put the book into their hands.

Aside from my investment in a digital point-and-shoot camera (several years ago) and modest photo-editing software, this cover fit perfectly into the budget I mentioned. Want to know how I did it?

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