• Tracey Barnes Priestley
  • [SWP: BEHIND THE BOOK] Writer to Writer: Understanding Yourself, to Better Understand Your...
[SWP: BEHIND THE BOOK] Writer to Writer: Understanding Yourself, to Better Understand Your Publishing Options

The publishing world has exploded, making it a truly exciting time for today's authors.

The challenge? Deciding on exactly which publishing option will work best for you.

I faced this conundrum when it was time to publish my novel, Duck Pond Epiphany. Though I had experience with traditional publishing, I was intrigued by what self-publishing seemed to offer: greater creative freedom, and certainly a greater control of my work. The potential profit margins hit a certain sweet spot as well! Since I’d been managing my own professional career for a lifetime, naturally this kind of landscape appealed to me.

However, with so many different self-publishing plans available, how would I decide what approach was the right fit for me?

With a rough idea of what I my budget would be (a crucial first step for anyone contemplating self-publishing and a topic worthy of an entirely separate post), I jumped headfirst into doing the research. Eventually, I made two critically important discoveries: 1) Most self publishing companies did a very good job of explaining their services, what they did, and what they charged; and 2) Most self publishing companies did a rather poor job of explaining the exact nature of what is required for a writer to be successful as a self- ublished author.

I read over one company’s basic “Do It Yourself” package, counting up all of the jobs I would have to do for my novel to succeed. In addition to writing the manuscript, I would also need to be: an editor, a copy editor, a formatter (print and e-book), a graphic designer, a cover artist, a print manager, a legal services manager, a distribution manager, a bookkeeper, a delivery person, a salesperson, a public relations manager, a web designer, and a blogger.

The list proved to be a harsh reality check. I felt a little dizzy, and yes, I also felt more than a little discouraged. After all, I just wanted to write, not become a one-woman publishing house!

Then, Life Coach that I am, I considered all of this from a different perspective: what would each of these jobs require of me on a very personal level? I moved methodically through the list, forcing myself to consider how well I matched each job description. Did I have the understanding of computer formatting? No. Did I even want to learn that somewhat complicated job? Hardly! Could I design a cover that would grab my readers’ attention? Maybe, but I had just enough personal experience with art to know that a professional cover was crucial. Was I willing to add on even more bookkeeping responsibilities to my already full plate as a self-employed professional woman? Yuck--I don’t like the numbers I currently have to manage, why in the world would I voluntarily increase this task ten-fold?

This exhausting exercise led me to another layer of introspection. What characteristics did a self-published author need to be successful? Here are just a few that came to mind: tenacity, resourcefulness, creativity, a solid sense of self, flexibility, patience, an ability to cope with uncertainty, resilience, and patience.

With this, I finally hit the wall, weary of reality--there’s only so much a girl can take!

Eventually, I headed back to my trusty journal for some problem-solving time. I was determined to take a thorough and brutally honest inventory of my strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. I wrote about what I wanted, for myself and for my novel. I lost myself in exquisite daydreams of unparalleled publishing success! I slogged through dark, worst-case scenarios, channeling Dickens and his Hard Times. (Oh, what we writers do in the privacy of our own little minds.) I contemplated exactly how much work I was willing to do and what I was willing and/or excited to learn. Equally important? I gave myself permission to fully respect my likes and dislikes.

Let me be clear. This process wasn’t about rolling around in a bunch of psychological mumbo-jumbo. No, I simply embraced the old adage ... know thyself!

While not terribly easy, and at times about as much fun as a root canal, this inventory and self-reflection proved to be as beneficial as every draft I’d done of my manuscript. I was poised to make an educated decision about self-publishing services, now fully understanding how they would have to match my individual publishing needs.

Given my approach, you can imagine my reaction when my agent introduced me to She Writes Press. I felt like my manuscript and I had found a home. SWP  had key elements for my success in place. They: 1) Vetted their submissions, which reflected a publishing standard I required; 2) Offered experienced and highly skilled professionals, while allowing me an active role in design and production decisions, and: 3) Carefully monitored all aspects of distribution, which gave me the freedom to return to what I felt I did best, write and coach.

Perhaps best of all? In the end, I knew that my honest and introspective approach to the publishing process validated my core belief: when we writers take care of ourselves, we are ultimately taking care of our craft. To me, this is true success.


Tracey Barnes Priestley, M.A.

Life Coach/Author

Duck Pond Epiphany - She Writes Press, 2013


[email protected]


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  • Hi Sylvia,

    I appreciate your approach. (Yes, the waiting is sort of miserable but how great that you had your full manuscript requested!) How smart to have a Plan B; you may ot need it al all but if you do, you'll be ready! I'd love to hear how things go for you. Keep me posted! Tracey

  • Hi Cheryl,
    I was thrilled to land with an agent,feeling my work had been validated! However, after reviewing my options, SWP was absolutely the best fit for me. Having been traditionally published before, I knew that route. This time around, I wanted to be allowed to have a strong voice in the production of my book, as well as make the creative decisions. Both of these aspects had great appeal. I have also been self-employed for my entire career, so this model fit my style. Finally, it also had to do w/ profit margins - preferring perhaps up to a 70% return on my investment rather than 8-10%, which is what I could have expected from a traditional house. It is a financial investment, and yes, it is also a risk, but I believed in my manuscript and the reading public. Again, this came from knowing myself, my potential readership, and what I am comfortable doing beyond writing, which ALL writers need to consider these days, no matter how they publish. (I'm happy to say, with regards to reader reactions, so far, so good on that front!) SWP offers different levels of packages, so I'd recommend you contact them directly to see where you fit. Best of luck with your manuscript and please, feel free to ask me anything as you navigate the publishing process. Regards, Tracey www.thesecondhalfonline.com

  • Sylvia Sarno

    I meant story, not stort!

  • Sylvia Sarno

    Thanks for sharing your helpful thoughts. I had just assumed that I would go straight to Amazon and publish my debut novel, Sufficient Ransom, via CreateSpace and as a Kindle ebook. But then a friend convinced to send my manuscript to agents and independent publishers. I did and ended up getting very little feedback from agents. But one publisher liked the first 50 pages I had sent them enough to want to read the rest of the stort. Their turn around time is 3 months. So now I'm just waiting to see if they will make an offer. It sure feels good knowing I have a plan if I get rejected.

  • Cheryl J. Fish

    I am curious why you didn't have your agent first try to sell the book for you. Also, how did you get your agent? That's the stage I am at now with my first novel, trying to get an agent and following the protocol of querying and waiting. Also, how much did the She Writes press charge? Money is an issue for many writers. thanks for sharing your story.