You’ve been working on some writing and are considering the possibility of self-publishing down the road, but it looks like a large, unmanageable jungle. You’re not sure where to even start and thus ask a question I often hear, “How did you start publishing?”
This is a story that goes back to when I started writing in junior high school as a way to express the feelings I didn’t have the courage to say aloud. I wrote pages to God to share all the angst in my heart and poems about the world and those I loved within it. It was a way to get things out and to process my thoughts. These habits of journaling and writing poetry stayed with me through high school and on into college. When I was particularly proud of a poem I wrote, I would share it with those around me.
After graduation, friends told me they wanted to read more of my poetry so I collected it all and made three copies to circulate around. It was not enough and I was looking for a solution when I met another poet at the Salem, Oregon Art Fair’s Author Table. We hit it off and she extended an invitation to visit her and find out more about self-publishing. At her house, she told me about ISBN numbers, editing, illustrators, copyright, and obtaining a Library of Congress Number. She told me where she had her books printed and showed me more of her own work.
Being poor, I didn’t have much money to pay for such a project so I asked the people who wanted me to publish if they would be willing to buy the book before it was printed. They were. I added some of my own money, hired an artist friend for the illustrations, and recruited another friend who designed a church newsletter to help me layout the pages. We spent hours and hours in a small room figuring out all the little and not so little problems of laying out a book and when we were finally done, I took the files to a copy shop to have the books printed.
It was a fantastic feeling to hold a book in my hands that I wrote and I am still immensely proud of my much younger self for opening up her writing to the world and for having the courage and determination to see the project through at a remarkably young age. People liked the book and with the extra copies I sold, I had enough money to reprint a second edition. With the money earned from that printing, I printed the second book and so on. Each time I print a new book, whether it’s one I wrote or someone else’s work, I learn something new. I would, of course, make some different choices if I went back to do it again, but I would never tell myself not to publish the book. Even as amateurish as that first book looked, I would still give myself the go ahead for it has meant something to the people who read it – far more than I would have ever thought possible when I first wrote it.