My Take on Self-Publishing

We are honoured to have with us today Author, Giftus R John who shares his thoughts on self-publishing. Savvy BestSellers (Savvy Book Marketing) is the second stop on Giftus’ six-day Virtual Book Tour.

My Take on Self-publishing

Guest Blogger – Giftus R John, Author

My writing career had its beginnings at high school at the St. Mary’s Academy in Roseau, Dominica. I began writing poetry to express my own emotional feelings about a number of situations, but then I also found that I had a penchant for writing short stories. At the time I was torn between whether I should concentrate on poetry or short stories and I found myself being involved in programmes on the local radio station, doing both.

 In 1975 I won the first place in the National Day Poetry competition and the National Day Short Story competition with “Converted” (short story) and “For I am A Dominican” (poetry.) This cemented my belief that I could straddle both genres.

Since winning that competition my writing career has not been the same. There have been the highs and lows, the times of inactivity and of high activity. I began to embrace the art forms when I studied literature at the Sixth Form College.  Although most of the works we studied were by British authors – Shakespeare, Keats, Jane Austen and others, I became passionate about writing, and here I am today.

I have self-published five books—three books of poetry, one short story, and I am not sure how to call my last publication — a novel, a collection of stories, or general fiction. Those published in Dominica were basically booklets, but they helped create a path and build my confidence.

It was after coming to the United States that I decided to take a plunge into the real world of self-publishing and all its trials and tribulations, if I can use the cliché. The experiences have been mixed from the time I published “The Island Man Sings His Song” to the publication of “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends.” My hopes and dreams have not been fully realized, yet the pride of being able to share my work with the readers who purchased the books has been gratifying.

As a self-publisher, all the responsibility of making the project a success lies upon your shoulders. You are your own publisher, editor, promoter, agent, salesman—whatever you can think of. At times, it has been gratifying but at times there have been bumps along the way, some of which I would prefer not to mention.

My toughest test, though, has been trying to get my work distributed and promoted in my own island. The push-back from some booksellers and educational institutions has made it frustrating. Yet I cannot allow that to deter me.

The publication of “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends,” has been the highlight of my writing career thus far. I was able to produce the book with a team of “strangers” and friends who all pitched in with editing and providing feedback about the book and the story-line. Then again this was just the beginning.

Promoting and selling are the main hurdles to surmount.  I have been somewhat satisfied thus far, but I know there’s more that I could have done and possibly achieved. The emergence of the Internet makes it easier for many writers who want to be their own self-publishers: Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter, Blogs, your own websites and the like…books sold online via websites, e-books—Nooks and Kindles—make it appealing to us as writers. That could be a costly endeavor.  Therefore, you would need to set aside money for that purpose or you may just be creating troubling financial situations for yourself.

I had hoped to get “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends,” published in the Caribbean because I really wanted to make this a Caribbean book, but the publisher that I contacted has yet to respond. I did not allow that to bother me and sought other avenues. This is just one of the examples of the frustration, as writers, that we have to deal with. But do you just give in?  No, you get up, dust yourself off and move on. And thus “Ma William,” moves on. I hope she does for a long time, too.

It is great to see yourself in print but greater yet when people love and appreciate what you have written.  If what you write does not strike a chord with the reader what sense is it then? It is more like a useless exercise if that happens. Remember you are writing for people whom you may never see or meet, but they will appreciate your work, if it is up to standard.

My advice to anyone who is determined to self-publish his or her work is to be prepared to face the challenges. Don’t give up on your dreams of attaining what you have worked hard for all those years. Writing is a skill, but getting your story across to the reader takes a lot out of you and requires greater skills sets, especially if you’re in the “battle” alone…and I don’t recommend that…get a team!

Get people with whom you are confident and whom you trust to work with; promote your work as much as you can and never forget what your target market is. You are not writing for yourself. You are writing for the public, so no matter how much you like what you have written, if it does not touch the audience, it will all be in vain. That is not what you want…Is it?

Good luck and best wishes in all your endeavors and all your attempts at attaining the level you have set for yourself. Write for fun, but also write because you have a story to share. Believe in your ability and creativity! Believe!

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