Fill­ing the void Four self-pub­lished au­thors

4 AU­THORS ON WHY SELF-PUB­LISH­ING WORKS FOR THEM

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Ev­ery­one has a story to tell. Con­sider th­ese four: A woman moves to Santa Fe in 2010. Over a pe­riod of 30 days, she re­ceives 25 com­mu­ni­ca­tions from Mary Mag­da­lene — mes­sages she feels charged to share with the world. As a hobby, a man starts record­ing scraps of North­ern New Mex­ico cul­ture, lore, and his­tory; 15 years later, he has col­lected enough en­tries to fill an en­cy­clo­pe­dia.

A tourism ex­pert of Na­tive Amer­i­can her­itage with four books un­der her belt switches to self-pub­lish­ing for her fifth be­cause it gives her full con­trol over her ma­te­rial and the op­por­tu­nity to be out­spo­ken.

Af­ter meet­ing Jane Goodall in 2005, a for­mer events plan­ner spends nearly 10 years com­pil­ing sto­ries from around the world about the ex­ploita­tion of cap­tive chim­panzees.

De­spite the great dis­sim­i­lar­i­ties among their sto­ries, th­ese lo­cally af­fil­i­ated au­thors — in or­der, Mercedes Kirkel, Mark Cross, Su­san Guyette, and De­bra Rosenman — have sev­eral things in com­mon. They all turned to self-pub­lish­ing to reach a very tar­geted au­di­ence. With the ex­cep­tion of Rosenman, whose book on chim­panzees has not yet been re­leased, all have ben­e­fited from their fi­nan­cial and per­sonal in­vest­ments in the self-pub­lish­ing process. And, as seen in the fol­low­ing ac­counts of the sto­ries be­hind the sto­ries, th­ese au­thors show much agree­ment when it comes to the ad­van­tages, dis­ad­van­tages, and chal­lenges of self-pub­lish­ing.

MERCEDES KIRKEL: Mary Mag­da­lene Beck­ons — Join the River of Love Mercedes Kirkel was living on the Is­land of Hawaii when she re­ceived a spir­i­tual mes­sage urg­ing her to re­turn to the main­land. Hav­ing stud­ied and fol­lowed dif­fer­ent spir­i­tual paths for many years, she lis­tened, ar­riv­ing in New Mex­ico in 2010. “As soon as I got to Santa Fe it was like all the signs were there — the light stream­ing down from the sky, the orches­tra swelling in the back­ground, the red car­pet rolling out.” Th­ese signs were only the be­gin­ning. “About three days af­ter I ar­rived was when Mary Mag­da­lene started com­ing to me and bring­ing me the mes­sages. Over the course of a month she came ev­ery sin­gle day, and very quickly I re­al­ized she was down­load­ing a book to me.”

Ac­knowl­edged as a saint in sev­eral Chris­tian tra­di­tions, Mag­da­lene has a rich and much-de­bated role in re­li­gious his­tory. Kirkel said the tele­pathic mes­sages trans­mit­ted cov­ered “Mary’s teach­ing on unit­ing the mas­cu­line and the fem­i­nine. In par­tic­u­lar she was talk­ing about our bod­ies, our sex­u­al­ity, and our emo­tions as pathways to lead us into union with God.”

Kirkel in­cor­po­rated her own com­men­tary with the tran­scribed teach­ings and, within a year or so, had a full-length book. “My orig­i­nal in­ten­tion was to find a pub­lisher,” she said. But af­ter at­tend­ing an eye­open­ing meet­ing held by the New Mex­ico Book As­so­ci­a­tion, she learned some of the dis­ad­van­tages of tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing. In par­tic­u­lar, she balked at the idea of hand­ing over con­trol of the con­tent it­self.

“I felt a huge sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity for keep­ing the in­tegrity of the ma­te­rial, keep­ing it true to ex­actly the way I re­ceived it.” So in­stead, Kirkel con­sulted with Ellen Kleiner, founder of Bless­ing­way, a com­pany that as­sists au­thors with the many steps of self-pub­lish­ing. By 2012, Mary Mag­da­lene Beck­ons ex­isted as a phys­i­cal book, one that was win­ning awards and chart­ing im­pres­sively on Ama­zon.

Kirkel at­trib­uted some of her suc­cess to a mar­ket­ing plat­form built on weekly news­let­ters sent to thosands of sub­scribers. From her new home in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area the au­thor also hosts on­line wor­shops and chan­neled read­ings. This mul­ti­pronged ap­proach to mar­ket­ing helps ex­plain why Mary Mag­da­lene Beck­ons and Kirkel’s sec­ond book ( Sub­lime Union: A Woman’s Sex­ual Odyssey Guided by Mary Mag­da­lene , re­leased last year) con­tinue sell­ing well to­day.

MARK H. CROSS: En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Santa Fe and North­ern New Mex­ico Mark H. Cross makes the task of col­lect­ing over a thou­sand pieces of in­for­ma­tion sound easy: “I moved to Santa Fe in 1996 and was very in­ter­ested in lo­cal cul­ture. I think I learned all the things we all do when we move here, and I just wrote them down. And af­ter 16 years I made a book.” By day an edi­tor and proof­reader at the New Mex­ico Leg­is­la­ture, Cross self-pub­lished his en­cy­clo­pe­dia in 2012. “It does very well. I’m in my third print­ing now.” Un­like Kirkel, who has found an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence through the in­ter­net, Cross’ mar­ket is pri­mar­ily lo­cal. His suc­cess bucks the trend of many self-pub­lished books be­cause he benefits more from close re­la­tion­ships with lo­cal book­sell­ers than from on­line sales. “It’s in all the book­stores in town. And it’s in Tat­tered Cover in Den­ver and Trea­sure House in Al­bu­querque. It’s in Las Ve­gas and in a lit­tle store in Chama. I’ve done the dis­tri­bu­tion my­self, so it’s all re­gional.”

This re­gional fo­cus is one rea­son sev­eral lo­cal book­sell­ers dis­play the book promi­nently on their front coun­ters. That it sells well and has gar­nered ac­claim from writ­ers like Va­lerie Plame Wil­son and Hamp­ton Sides doesn’t hurt ei­ther. But the his­to­rian at­trib­uted this place­ment in large part to his be­la­bored ef­forts to make the cover look pro­fes­sional. “It shows a bird fly­ing over the Chama River. I prob­a­bly had 12 it­er­a­tions of that im­age, the ti­tle of the book, and my name. My friend, who did the in­te­rior de­sign, and I, we both just strug­gled and strug­gled and strug­gled.” Fi­nally Cross de­cided to con­sult a pro­fes­sional cover designer in Al­bu­querque, at a cost of a few hun­dred dol­lars. “She nailed it, say­ing, ‘This is what you need to do.’ So I paid pro­fes­sion­als when I needed to.”

An­other in­vest­ment Cross was will­ing to make (three times now) was to fi­nance a phys­i­cal print run in ad­vance. Many self-pub­lish­ers em­ploy printon-de­mand ser­vices, like Ama­zon’s CreateS­pace. In ad­di­tion to ful­fill­ing on­line or­ders, th­ese ser­vices don’t re­quire an au­thor to spec­u­late fi­nan­cially on how many copies will sell, and it’s eas­ier for re­vi­sions to be made to an ex­ist­ing pub­li­ca­tion. How­ever, be­cause Cross’ plan was to fo­cus on dis­tribut­ing lo­cally and in per­son, he fol­lows an older model of self-pub­lish­ing: “I have them shipped to my house and put them in my garage. For­tu­nately, they’ve been mov­ing out.”

SU­SAN GUYETTE: Sus­tain­able Cul­tural Tourism — Small-Scale So­lu­tions “I give away a lot of books be­cause I work with a lot of Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes, and that’s part of our val­ues. I was able to buy the copies for much less when self­pub­lish­ing,” Su­san Guyette said. She of­fered an­other rea­son for mak­ing the switch with her fifth book. “I also wanted to be out­spo­ken, to say the things I needed to about cul­tural bias in the tourism in­dus­try.”

With decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in the field of cul­tural tourism, Guyette has de­vel­oped a mar­ket­ing plat­form for her book that is very spe­cific, if less re­gional, than Cross’. In her case, hav­ing a book that ad­dresses her field serves as a valu­able pro­fes­sional tool for book­ing and pro­mot­ing the work­shops and we­bi­nars she gives year-round. Lately, Guyette has also been giv­ing work­shops cov­er­ing the dif­fer­ent routes of pub­lish­ing — a re­sult of the learn­ing process that she her­self un­der­went to pub­lish her most re­cent book.

It­makes sense, then, that Guyette has much prac­ti­cal guid­ance for new au­thors weigh­ing their pub­li­ca­tion op­tions. “I see a lot of peo­ple self-pub­lish­ing, and they

are not sell­ing any copies be­cause they are not com­mit­ted to it as a busi­ness. So it’s best that they have eyes wide open about what it’s go­ing to take,” she said. “It’s like be­ing the con­trac­tor for build­ing your own house for the first time. You have to hire dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and it takes ex­pe­ri­ence know­ing which peo­ple have the right skills.”

Guyette called mar­ket­ing “the big chal­lenge.” The el­e­ments of mar­ket­ing are nu­mer­ous, from build­ing a plat­form to do­ing lo­cal and on­line out­reach, and even just set­tling on concise back-cover copy that sum­ma­rizes an en­tire book in a few sen­tences. Guyette pro­vided the of­fi­cial ver­sion of her 60-to-70-word copy as an ex­am­ple: “Writ­ten in a prac­ti­cal style, this text guides plan­ning and devel­op­ment ef­forts from within cul­tures — ad­dress­ing re­gional link­ages, the tourism plan, vis­i­tor sur­veys, mar­ket­ing, cul­tural cen­ters and mu­se­ums, job cre­ation, en­ter­prise devel­op­ment, and eval­u­a­tion of sus­tain­abil­ity. A value-based par­a­digm is dis­cussed, plan­ning pro­cesses il­lus­trate ways of in­te­grat­ing cul­ture, and case stud­ies at the end of each chap­ter iden­tify com­mu­nity-based suc­cess fac­tors.”

The au­thor’s at­ten­tion to de­tail has paid off. Her book won the 2014 New Mex­ico-Ari­zona Book Award in the an­thro­pol­ogy/ar­chae­ol­ogy cat­e­gory. She plans on con­tin­u­ing down the path of self-pub­lish­ing for all pending projects. “I started my own imprint, so it’s like my own pub­lish­ing line. It’s called Bearpath Press. What I’m work­ing on now is a se­ries called Re­silient Com­mu­ni­ties .” Sus­tain­able Cul­tural Tourism forms its first vol­ume — the sec­ond has the work­ing ti­tle Living Mu­se­ums: Adap­tive Plan­ning for a New Era .

DE­BRA ROSENMAN: The Chim­panzee Chron­i­cles —Sto­ries of Heart­break

and Hope From Be­hind the Bars In the early 1980s, De­bra Rosenman worked as an events plan­ner in New York. “I hired a baby chim­panzee at that time for clients — this lit­tle baby chim­panzee that came in on roller skates.” Years later, this baby chimp be­gan to haunt Rosenman’s dreams. “One par­tic­u­lar dream shifted my whole life,” she ex­plained. “In that dream I was told to be re­cep­tive to the beauty, grace, and deep won­der of the for­est, the an­i­mals, and our own hu­man na­ture. Shortly af­ter that I met Jane Goodall here in Santa Fe.” This meet­ing spurred Rosenman to begin work­ing on The Chim­panzee

Chron­i­cles . “I feel like the book chose me. It’s my pas­sion.” Like many self-pub­lished au­thors, Rosenman bal­ances the task of writ­ing with other call­ings, some of them of a lit­er­ary bent. In her case, she works part-time as a so­matic ther­a­pist and as a ghost­writer. She de­scribed her an­thol­ogy of 24 sto­ries as “a jour­ney into the veiled worlds of bio­med­i­cal lab re­search, the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, and the ex­otic pet trade. The sto­ries are amaz­ing. They are writ­ten by pri­ma­tol­o­gists and vet­eri­nar­i­ans and sanc­tu­ary di­rec­tors.” The con­trib­u­tors come from around the world, the youngest be­ing Al­bu­querque’s Micah Sparks. Sparks and his mother, An­gela, at­tended one of Rosenman’s lec­tures in El­do­rado — and both con­trib­uted es­says to the book. Rosenman said of the pri­ma­tol­o­gist-in-train­ing whose es­say closes the book, “He’s been work­ing on be­half of chim­panzees since he was two, and now he is nine. The book ends with a re­ally high note — that any­body can make a dif­fer­ence.”

Af­ter spend­ing close to eight years com­pil­ing the sto­ries, Rosenman be­gan to con­sider pub­lish­ing op­tions. In her case, fi­nanc­ing the project per­son­ally ac­tu­ally proved to be ad­van­ta­geous be­cause it of­fered greater fi­nan­cial con­trol over the book. “I wanted to do­nate — and I am [do­nat­ing] — a por­tion of the pro­ceeds to Project R&R: Re­lief and Resti­tu­tion for Chim­panzees,” she said. Self-pub­lish­ing al­lows her to de­ter­mine ex­actly what that por­tion will be.

To help her nav­i­gate the busi­ness of putting out the book, which she ex­pects to re­lease this sum­mer, Rosenman also en­listed the ser­vices of Bless­ing­way. “Mar­ket­ing should start the mo­ment you de­cide you’re go­ing to write a book,” she of­fered as one ex­am­ple of a les­son learned. Like all the au­thors in­ter­viewed, Rosenman stressed that the process of self-pub­lish­ing is re­ward­ing — but not for the faint of heart. “Let me tell you, this has been a her­culean task. I feel like I should be get­ting a Ph.D. at the end of this in self-pub­lish­ing.”

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