18 December 2010

More About My Self-Publishing Saga

by Carrie Bailey

First, consider that the actual definition of "small press" that circulates on the internet is a publisher that grosses less than 50 million USD. Is that somehow a negative reflection on small presses? When was the last time you had 49 million USD in your hand and said, "What do you take me for...a small press?"

Yeah, spit on that money, and walk away...

Or don't. As of last night, I became a self-published author, or more accurately, a self-published editor of an anthology entitled, "The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society." It was easy. I uploaded a PDF, I uploaded a cover jpeg image, and I hit the little "publish" on my lulu.com account. Yes, I spent the last few months developing a concept which grew out of friendships with other, better, authors on twitter (for a list of them click here). And yes, I used my artistic talent to make the anthology not just an book, but an experience.

Copyrights and Legalities

I have been most fortunate to solicit writers who knew as much or more about what I am doing than I do. I knew I had to have a contract with each of the other contributors in order to sell the publication, but I had excellent writers helping me iron out the kinks in this process.

  • Because I've produced an anthology, I may benefit from incorporating my business for both legal and tax purposes. After I pay the state business filing fee, which for the state of Oregon is $100 USD, I have exclusive rights to my name "Peevish Penman Press" and I can pay writers from the business rather than personally.
  • The writers have their contracts, which have been modeled after other similar legal forms for anthologies I found online. I will need to issue 1099 Misc forms when the time comes. I set the payment date for every September, which is the anniversary of my site.
Can you believe my own family discourages creativity? Viva la resistance!
It was my experience that finding information about starting a small press online was a muddled experience and chatting with individuals who had already achieved the endeavor was more useful.

Business Plan

I admit I don't know precisely what goes into a business plan, but I do know that I need one, right? Here's what I have so far for the first edition of The Handbook of the Writer-Secret-Society:
  • I will offer the book as a PDF through Lulu.com as well as directly from my site at Peevish Penman for $11.99 (discounts applied for various promotions).
  • For the second edition for 2012, I will include 200% more contributions from new writers and offer an Epub edition for sale on Amazon, the istore, Barnes and Noble as well as other retailers. The second edition will also be available for print on demand hardcover and paperback copies in the Crown Quarto size.
  • Peevish Penman Press will endeavor to add more titles at a rate of five per year.
    The beauty of operating a small press online is that I do not require any business expenses to start, but the downside is that what I lack in capital, investment, and all else otherwise known as money, I have to make up for in marketing, which is another area I could use a little help with.


    There are clear guidelines for what should and shouldn't be done when trying to sell a book. At this point in time, my goal for The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society is not to generate profit, but to establish business relationships and develop an online presence.

    I'm a realist and I'm aware that starting a press is a business and that most businesses fail within five years, but I remember my Aesop...slow and steady...which is why what most call marketing, I call having a good time with people whose company I truly enjoy.

    • Twitter: still the best way for a writer to share information about their publications. Over the next few months I'll be sending out discounts, drawings, and giveaways.
    • Youtube: I've got a book trailer which is still in production (the narration will be added this week) and I will promote it through a Peevish Penman Channel yet to be created :).

    • StumbleUpon: Seriously, this method of connecting with readers online is becoming more important to my site since Dogboi stumbled my article "The Nine Parts of Speech and the F-word." Like it or not, it's the most popular post here to date with twice as many visits as the next most popular articles.
    • Craigslist: Yes. I'm serious. Owing to the fact that the second edition will require at least twenty more contributors, Craigslist ads will not only be a method of soliciting new writers, but a means of establishing ongoing relationships with writers as it has been in the past.
    • Press Release: I've had experience with this. I will be offering free copies for the media to review regardless of the size of the publication. I will also provide an article with excerpts for the writers, society members, and individuals interested in promoting the work.
    • Free Business Cards for Freelance Writers: Yes. Serious again. Sometime during the following year, I will be offering free business cards for freelance writers with a discreet secret society symbol and our website address faintly on the back. Personally, I believe they will be awesome. 
    • Widgets and whatnot: There will also be widgets for websites. Yes, there will be widgets.
    • Guest posts and interviews: I've actually not made the rounds on other people's sites except for one interview and a single guest post so I'll be looking to strengthen my connections with other writers and writer sites this way, too.

    Clearly, I have a lot to learn and I get nowhere without the assistance of others, which is why I will continue to support aspiring writers in every manner possible. Reciprocity is what I enjoy the most. 

    And as for being a small press, while it may not mean oodles of cash and a gold ATM in your the office of your swanky business complex, but it doesn't mean failure either. Realistically, a new business is successful if it is self-sustaining.

    I'm seeing it this way: last year I had just finished my first and only adventure in Nanowrimo, I had never been published anywhere, neither by myself or anyone else, never been paid to write, and never dreamed of starting my own press. Twelve months later, I have. That's pretty awesome and even if the authors and I generate $49 million USD or just $49 USD, Peevish Penman Press will still be a small press. And I'm okay with that.


    1. Cool trailer! Really makes one sit and up and think.

      Great Job!

    2. :) you are the greatest. And I'm not just saying that since you let me contribute. LOL

      I will do everything in my power to help promote this. Even brave Facebook again. lol

      Also, I am willing to help you with some of the business stuff. *looks around, makes sure no one else is listening*

      Seriously, I'd swore never again. But, in this case, I will make an exception. It is worth it!

    3. That's...awesome. I don't get a heck of a lot of readership but I'll put up an ad on my site for free if you email me at andrew@andrewjackwriting.com and I'll do what I can to help you promote this to the world.

    4. Andrew, you're awesome and John, and Leona...

      You guys make me tear up. I'm just going to have to fix my mascara and do my very best to keep supporting you wonderful people (so worth it--I love what I do).

    5. I am LOVING seeing your journey to publishing success!! I am on my way to buy a book right now. =) This is really great info for people (possibly me soon) who are interested in self-publishing.

      Self-publishing has had such a negative stigma against it for so long, and I hope that it goes away soon. I believe a self-publisher can be just as popular as any book sold by a "big" organization.

      Kudos!! Congrats and good luck!! =)

      P.S. Can I get a signed copy? ;)

    6. P.S.S. Yes I know it's just for download...the whole "signed" thing was sort of a joke. =P

    7. Thanks Morgan, you've really been there since the beginning and kept me inspired when things go slow. When the second edition comes out (which I hope you'll contribute to *hint, hint* I'll send many signed copies).

    8. coolnes looking foward to your youtube vid.


    9. Easton Barkwide12/22/2010 12:54 AM

      I'm adding it to my list of books to read... looks great! Nice trailer.