Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Westside Writers Schmooze Talks Self-Publishing: The Good, The Bad, and The Reality

Hi Everyone! We had a rollicking schmooze in February, when over 40 of us gathered to talk about the range of self-publishing and how the industry is changing. We hosted 4 self-published authors who shared their stories with us:

Marilyn Dalrymple and Joan Foor, who compiled and edited short stories from members of their schmooze and published the resulting anthology through tate publishing:

Author Eric Drachman, who started his own publishing company, Kidwick Books, and has published 5 of his own picturebooks, which to date have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Here are 3 of his titles:

(You can check out both visual and AUDIO samples of each of Eric's books--Bad Rats, A Frog Thing, Ellison the Elephant, It's Me!, and Leo the Lightning Bug--by clicking here)

Author James Otis Thach, who has had two books published through traditional publishers and is self-publishing his third through his own newly launched publishing company, an over 100 page full color illustrated chapter book in verse, “The Seal Pup”:

We also had a few members of the schmooze chime in and share their own self-publishing journeys:

Patricia Olson shared the story of self-publishing her picturebook, “Frumpy The Pumpkin Who Missed Halloween

Also at the schmooze was Sue Schmitt, who wrote and self-published “Even Superheroes Get Diabetes,” and is about to roll out “The Princess and the Peanut” for kids with peanut allergies. Sue shared with us her experience and successes with these more “niche” picture books.

And here are some more links, books, and resources mentioned during this night's discussion:

A reference book both Eric Drachman and James Otis Thach cited as helpful:
"The Self-Publishing Manual" by Dan Poynter:

(Plenty of free information as well as a free information kit are available at Dan's Web site. And yes, the guide is self-published!)

There's also the Independent Book Publishers Association Web site,

a resource which can provide guidance and help one sift through the potential vendors (printers, designers, etc.) out there.

Regarding the IBPA, Eric adds:
"Their "IBPA Publishing University" is coming up in May in New York City. For someone who really wants to get in the publishing game, I'd recommend checking out Book Expo America and attending IBPA Publishing University. Of course, that's quite a commitment..."

Technology is taking self-publishing in some fascinating directions, including these:

Lulu's Brew,

a picture book that author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba has chosen to put out as an iPhone application for $1.99

The Zen of Blogging,

a new e-book sold as a downloadable pdf file put out by Lee just this past January.

And the Espresso Book Machine, a sort of self-service book vending machine that can produce a library-quality book within minutes. Check out this video to see it in action!

As a followup to the discussion, Eric Drachman also provided us with the following links:

An interview with Terry Nathan, Executive Director of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), on WNZF's program "Cover to Cover", about the work his organization does and the changing state of independent publishing today. (Click to about one-fourth of the way through the program for the interview with Mr. Nathan.)

An update from Publisher's Weekly on a new partnership between Author Solutions--one of the nation's largest self-publishing operations (whose subsidiaries include iUniverse, Xlibris, and Trafford)--and print and digital wholesaler Baker & Taylor.

Throughout the evening, our many experts fielded questions and shared their experiences on the varying marketing gambles and decisions they have made, the ways in which those have paid off, their experiences working with and hiring their own editors, illustrators, and designers as well as working with those provided through some of their self-publisher services, and much more.

When 9PM came around, hands were still waving in the air with more comments, questions, and insights, and it was clear huge areas of this topic had only just been touched on. Everyone agreed that the night had been eye-opening, and that we could have talked about this subject for another five hours--or that a Schmooze could even meet once a month just to talk about this!

OUR Schmooze, alas, is not able to do that, because our next two topics--on March 10 and April 14--are two of the most popular nights every year for the Westside Writers Schmooze: Picture Book Manuscript Critique Night, and Middle Grade/YA Manuscript Critique Night!

That's Picture Book Manuscript Critique Night on March 10, 2010

and Middle Grade and Young Adult Manuscript Critique Night on April 14, 2010!

The "rules" for both are the same. You are invited to bring six (6) copies of up to four (4) typed, double-spaced pages (or, alternately, a recommended 1,000-word limit) max of your Picture Book manuscript on March 10th, and/or of your Middle Grade or Young Adult manuscript on April 14.

Manuscripts are NOT required to attend. Critiquing and hearing others critique are some of the best way to learn how stories come together; the more the merrier!

For both of these critique night Schmoozes, we request that you please RSVP to westsideschmooze@hotmail.com and mention whether you will be bringing a manuscript or not!

Many thanks, and cheers,

Rita and Lee


  1. Wish I could have been there for this one. The books your speakers published look just as professional as books by big houses. And the Espresso machine is amazing. It seems like each year this side of the industry makes great strides forward. I'll have to keep my eyes open for the next time you cover this topic.

  2. Everyone brought such beautiful examples, and really talked about the value of doing things right at every step. And they had our hearts in their hands when they talked about the passion they brought to the process, and that has brought them through it as well!

    There was such a wealth of information and anecdotes in the room! Congrats and thanks again to all our speakers and self-published authors!!

  3. I had the honor of having Sue Schmitt at my writers intensive table at the NYC Winter SCBWI Conference and she's really talented. I think "The Princess and the Peanut" will be a hit as well!

    You guys always have such great events. Thanks for always sharing the info with us!