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working writer wending her way through the labyrinth that is self-publishing

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Interview with Dayna Hubenthal

1. Tell us about yourself. Full time writer? fiction? non-fiction? other?
Hi Nikki, I do write full time, but I run two businesses, too. So what does writing full time mean to me? I write for both of my businesses (non-fiction) and I try to squeeze in some fiction writing every week. As you can imagine, it adds up to more than 40 hours per week.

It’s hard to find time for my fiction writing because there are always urgent things that seem to get put ahead of it. But writing my own stories satisfies me like no other kind of writing. I try to honor that, which means getting up early before everyone else, or staying up after the household has gone to bed.

2. What type of work have you self-published? Did you try traditional methods first?
My husband and I started a publishing business because the time had come to blend business with my art. We had a number of business books nearing completion and my first novel was finally finished. It was time to learn how to get our books published. For about two years I tried the traditional agent/publisher route and didn’t get much traction. I came close a few times. Everyone was so busy, I felt like I was imposing or a supplicant. I really hated the submission process. And then, I found out if I was accepted, I would still need to do most of the marketing and my odds of a big payday were close to nil. Plus, all the articles I read about the state of the industry agitated me. Everyone was so worried about each new acquisition because the industry was bleeding money. I finally stopped and reconsidered the whole industry.

Since I am a professional innovator, I looked at ‘getting my book published’ in a whole new way. And this is what I decided:

What is the publishing industry about? It’s about people who need to tell a story interacting with people who need to experience stories. That’s it. That’s the foundation. So why were writers getting shut out of the equation? And why are audiences being presented with mainly cookie-cutter offerings? To me, this is where the industry as a whole was failing. Assuming I believed in my book (I did). It was time to put my money and time where my belief was. I would start a publishing business that was different. And our first book would be my novel, Persephone’s Seeds.    

3. Did you find the information you needed easily? What led you to the one you chose?
Yes, I found the information easily. But remember, I am an innovator for a living and one of my great skills is research and finding better ways to do things. I researched all of the main POD offerings out there. I compared price, retention of rights, ease of use, best distribution channels, quality of final products, shipping costs (this was an unpleasant surprise), and the ‘stink of self-published’ perceptions associated with vendors. I also compared the contracts. Some of the contracts were horrendous. And I do not use that word lightly. Basically, if you choose the wrong ‘partner’ terrible things could happen to your book – much worse than never making a cent and no help selling.

I chose Create Space and Lightning Source. I was on a wisp of a budget and I was kind-of overwhelmed by all I needed to do. Now, Create Space only produces paperbacks but it was easier to set up and less expensive for up front costs. Going forward, all our print on demand books are produced by Lightning Source.

Additionally, I joined some publishing associations and there I found a fantastic book wrangler to help with offset printing. We’ll use offset printing for some titles will sell well right away and that have a higher budget upfront. We are still researching e-book vendors and audio book vendors.   

4. What type of marketing have you engaged in to promote your work? Has this been successful?
Argh, marketing is still the weakest link in our chain. I have not marketed my book well and therefore, it has not reached its potential audience. I’ve been on television twice. I went to one book signing. I told a few friends and family members. I have a lot of work to do in this arena. One benefit of publishing some of our other author’s books is that they are better at marketing than we are and we are learning from them. Marketing is a mindset. Once we achieve the correct mindset, all of our books will take off. Of this, there is no doubt.

5. Are you satisfied with your decision?
YES! There is a lot to learn. And we have a long ways to go before we are making the kind of money we want. But we are learning every project and the satisfaction and fulfillment is tremendous. My book is out in the world. People may not know about Persephone’s Seeds, yet, but there is time enough for that. The thrill of opening my first box and seeing my own book staring back at me ... well, I cannot describe the deep rightness of it.

6. What advice would you give others struggling to get their work to the marketplace?
Adjust your expectations. Figure out what is most important to you and concentrate on doing that well.     Do you need to make money right away? Then you better have a built in audience, your work better be edited beautifully and of the highest quality, and you must have a budget and skill for marketing.
·       Do you only have this one story? Take your time, find the correct partner-vendors, read the contracts carefully, be ready to pay for services (editing, cover art, book layout, etc.), enjoy every step of the process.· Are you a writer? Are you going to be doing this again and again? Learn all you can. Get out and network. Writing is insular. Selling is not. Until you get a huge following and a sterling reputation, you must help sell. If you do not believe in your work, why should others believe in it? Get out in the world, listen to the feedback, figure out your process and honor that, constantly develop your craft.

This is a time like no other. It is possible to get your work out to the marketplace. You need not be dependent on traditional methods. However, most writers I speak with would rather write and let someone else do the publishing and agenting, if so, keep trying for that. Know what you want. Keep plugging away. Be realistic. Take feedback. Get better every week.

Thank you, Dayna, for this informative interview!

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