Who Me? Self-Published? / Shannon Brown

It seems there are many paths to publishing. Self-published author Shannon Brown shows how she became the parent of her “paperbound child” after much time and research. The information she shares is just as beneficial for the traditionally published as it is for the author who must wear many hats. Read and learn from her experience.

And until next time, read like someone is burning the books!

Clay Stafford

Clay Stafford,
Founder Killer Nashville,
Publisher Killer Nashville Magazine

SHANNON BROWNWho Me? Self-Published?

By Shannon Brown

When I decided to self-publish, I did it knowing my book would have to be the same quality as one from a major publisher in order for it to be well received by major reviewers, librarians, and me. Self-published books carry a stigma of low quality, and I didn’t want any part of that. Every step of the book from writing to editing to the cover to the interior was important. Each step had to be perfect before going to the next step.

Before I move on, I want to give a plug for editing. I hope everyone knows they need to hire an editor. I’ve written more than 600 articles and that taught me that everyone makes mistakes. I knew I needed a pro to help with my editing. One tip: pay a potential editor to do a few pages or a chapter before going forward to make sure their style is your style. Then you won’t get really frustrated and have to pay a second editor like I did.

Knowledge is Power

A cozy mystery has a different style of cover than a medical thriller or a middle grade mystery—ages 8-12—like my book. As a journalist I’m used to doing extensive research so I began there.

My favorite self-publishing design site is Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer. He has excellent articles about self-publishing and his monthly e-book cover Design Awards give details for why a cover worked and looked professional—or didn’t work and looked self-published.

I also went to bookstores and studied first the cover of the books, then on later visits, the interior. Research taught me that books have a specific format and when that’s ignored, it no longer looks professional. For example, a book begins with a half title page, then a full title page with the copyright information on the reverse (known as title verso). Not placing your copyright on the title verso announces it is self-published in flashing neon lights. (Yes, I’ve seen that done.)

Cover Charge

Covers for my genre are still usually hand illustrated with few exceptions. When I searched for a cover, I began with illustrators, but the cost chased me away. Instead, I did a photo shoot with two girls that looked like my characters, but didn’t like the resulting cover. Then I had an artist I know do some sketches, but the girls he drew looked like they wanted to kick some serious butt and that didn’t fit with my fun but suspenseful concept.

I ended going back to an illustrator I’d found months before and rejected because of the cost. The cover gets a positive response from everyone and helps open doors. (It isn’t about the money you spend on the cover though; I have a friend with stunning book covers who’s found someone to do it on the cheap.) I also wanted to have a line drawing at the beginning of each chapter. When I ended up with 27 chapters, that idea was nixed due to cost. I used a swirl that related to the cover instead.


 View on Amazon.com

Inside Job

Books for kids need to be in print and also available as an ebook. I wanted a book interior that could hold its own with the big boys. If you’re thinking that you don’t plan to do print so it doesn’t matter, go to the “look inside” feature on Amazon to see the difference in an ebook by a major publisher and one that isn’t. Some of the formatting carries over from the print book to the ebook. I also wanted that. (Yeah, I’m pretty high maintenance.)

I’d spent enough on the cover that I felt I couldn’t hire someone to do the interior. Since I have a fair amount of experience with computers including building some websites, but would in no way call myself an expert, I decided to try doing it myself. I knew I had to use a professional level program like InDesign or Quark and chose InDesign because it seemed to be the best for making an ePub file for my e-book later. InDesign had a huge learning curve. (I mean huge.) I went step-by-step using a Lynda video tutorial, and I can’t say enough good things about their videos. Would I recommend that everyone do their own interior? No. It’s doable but I’ll gladly pay someone to do it when I feel like I can.

I have a copy of my book sitting on my desk right now. I’m the proud parent looking at my paperbound child, and I’m happy with it. Of course, I discovered the real work begins upon publication.

Award-winning journalist Shannon Brown had the idea for a mystery for kids—a briefcase full of feathers—pop into her mind while driving on a busy freeway. “The Feather Chase“, the first book in the Crime-Solving Cousins Mystery series, was published in 2014. After writing more than 600 articles about almost every imaginable subject including opera, Daniel Boone, and her specialty of jewelry, Shannon switched her focus to marketing her book and writing the next book in the series. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now calls Nashville home. Visit her website at cousinsmystery.com

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