Why Did You Choose to Self-Publish? Would You Do It Again?
When Angela was preparing an anthology of short stories, two requirements drove the decision to self-publish: speed and control.
Q: Why did you ask for help from Castle Priory Press?
A: I needed their specialist skills, and software. Plus, it was great to have somebody share the journey.
Q: How did the project come about?
A: In early 2023, studying for an MLitt with University of Glasgow, one of my assignments was to produce an editing and publishing project. I’d been a member of a writing group for several years, and through 2022 we’d run a short-story challenge with a writing prompt given at the start of each month. Several of us had taken part most months and I asked the group whether they’d be interested in publishing a selection of the stories; we could sell the book to raise funds for charity. A handful of my fellow authors were up for the project and ‘Why Would You Go Through There?’ - named after the writing prompt for March - was born.
My university assignment was to write a 5,000-word report on the project. The deadline for that was mid-April, so I had barely three months to collect the stories, edit them, design the book layout and cover, proof-read, publish, and market the book. Then I had to write about the process. With that timeline, knowing that traditional publishing can take years, not weeks, self-publishing was the only way.
Another disadvantage of traditional publishing is that it requires the author to give up substantially all control over decisions such as design, and I already had a strong idea of what I wanted the book to look like. The Write Club has published several anthologies in the past; I wanted mine to sit neatly beside its ancestors on the bookshelf: similar spine and font, the same size book.
Q: What did you bring to the project?
A: Some of my own skills made self-publishing easier. For example, I qualified as a project manager (years ago) so I’m pretty good at keeping to deadlines, multi-tasking and organising several streams of activity toward a goal. I’ve got strong completer-finisher tendencies that make me a bit of a perfectionist – I can’t help it, I’m a Virgo. Added to that, I’m pretty good at editing and proof-reading, though I don’t claim to be an expert. Working on this project, I discovered it’s much easier to proof-read somebody else’s work than my own, and my stories only accounted for one-fifth of the contents. So, if someone is thinking of self-publishing and they aren’t strong on project-management or proof-reading, they might consider getting help with those skills.
Q: What did you need?
A: I’d never published a book before, so I had zero knowledge about the process. Ruth and Jane kindly offered to give any help and advice I needed to complete the project, and they also suggested that they could publish it for me, if I chose.
At first, I decided to go it alone, joining the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) because they had a load of instructional videos on their site. I watched tutorials about how to publish an eBook, and how to format a book for printing. I learned about trim size, gutters, ISBNs, widows and orphans. I’d never thought about headers and footers, but I soon found there were layouts I preferred.
Although there are free templates on the internet, the results were less than ideal. So, I began researching specialist publisher software, but the cost was prohibitive, especially for a one-off project. That’s when I asked Ruth and Jane how much they’d charge to publish the book for me – and it worked out to be less than the cost of doing it myself.
Q: What did Castle Priory Press do for you?
A: I sent them the book as a word document and Ruth used that fancy software to arrange the layout for both paperback and kindle. They organised the ISBN, all the cover art and some marketing material too, as well as mailing me a proof copy to check everything before it went on sale.
I’d never designed a book cover before. I had a good idea of how I wanted it to look, but absolutely none of the technical skills to produce it. Jane had infinite patience and made several versions of the cover as she translated my amateur imaginings into a physical reality. She was just as determined as I to get it right.
Weekly emails kept me updated on progress, which was reassuring, and we even managed to get the book published with a few days to spare before the deadline.
Q: What’s your conclusion at the end of the project?
A: I think having professional help to self-publish is the best of both worlds. It made everything so much easier, and I got the book I wanted, without having to invest the time needed to learn a new set of skills. I’d definitely take this route again: it worked for me.