Reaching Readers Beyond Family and Friends: PW Talks with Chris Cander
"The best decision I made was investing in a great cover. My illustrator, Greg Ruth, captured the essence of the story and emphasized the title’s double entendre with a dynamic visual that invites a second look."Chris Cander’s 11 Stories received a starred review from PW Select, with our reviewer saying: “Her conclusion provides grounds for belief in the possibility of redemption; her sensitivity ensures that this novel will appeal to anyone with a story to tell, a group that includes us all.” We chatted with Cander via e-mail about the self-publishing process and how she came to be an indie author.
Why did you decide to self-publish 11 Stories?
I wrote 11 Stories while my literary agent (Jane Gelfman of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents Inc.) was shopping another novel, and it was actually her idea to self-publish it. The publishing industry seems to be more risk-averse than ever, especially with unknown authors. She thought that if 11 Stories was successful, it might help convince a cautious editor to take a chance on my other book. And if it wasn’t successful? She told me there’s no shame in having tried.
Once you decided to self-publish, what was the process like?
I took a break from writing and focused my efforts on learning the business of self-publishing. I read everything I could and took copious notes. From those, I built a business and marketing plan with deadlines and milestones and checklists. Two of my script-writing partners and I had created an LLC named Rubber Tree Press two years ago when we toyed with the idea of self-publishing. We didn’t pursue it, but since we had the domain and a logo, I decided to publish 11 Stories under that imprint. I bought 10 ISBN numbers from Bowker. Once I assigned the paperback and electronic versions and set the price, I got the barcodes. I applied Rubber Tree Press for the Library of Congress’s EPCN program, and got a pre-assigned control number to use on the copyright page. I hired a freelance editor to do two rounds of editing and help me write the flap copy. I asked one of my best friends, also a writer, to do line edits. I hired a well-known illustrator to draw the cover. I reached out to some authors I greatly admired and asked for their endorsements to use on the cover. I bought a template for the interior layout and did that work myself, but then I hired a company to convert my print-ready manuscript to mobi, EPub, and Smashwords EPub versions. For the paperback, I used CreateSpace, and for the various electronic versions, I created accounts with Amazon, B&N’s Nook Press, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Smashwords. The total cost to publish was $3,283.72.
What have you done to publicize the book?
I launched a new Web site in the fall of 2011, and started blogging about once a week on topics that related to writing, reading, talking, and publishing. I established a Facebook author page, set up a Twitter account, and updated my information on LinkedIn. I built a Goodreads author profile and expanded my Amazon author page.
What has the reaction been to your book now that you have self-published?
I knew that my close friends and family were fans. When the book started traveling outside that inner ring to people who weren’t even friends of friends, I started getting this wonderful feedback on Amazon, Goodreads, and through my Web site, which has about 50 times the number of subscribers it did a month ago. I’ve also been asked to be a guest speaker for several book clubs, and have heard terrific things from readers in person.
What advice would you give to other writers considering self-publishing?
The best decision I made was investing in a great cover. My illustrator, Greg Ruth, captured the essence of the story and emphasized the title’s double entendre with a dynamic visual that invites a second look. I’ve had dozens of readers tell me it suggested a high-quality read and contributed to their decision to purchase, which proves why that familiar admonition was coined in the first place—people really do judge a book by its cover. Cover illustration and design was one third of my total publishing budget.