Sunday, February 12, 2017

Self-Publishing Done The Right Way: A Workshop with Tracy Barrett

Tracy Barrett is the author of numerous books and magazine articles for young readers. She holds a Bachelor's Degree with honors in Classics-Archaeology from Brown University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval Italian Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. Her scholarly interests in the ancient and medieval worlds overlap in her fiction and nonfiction works. A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study medieval women writers led to the writing of her first novel, the award-winning Anna of Byzantium (Delacorte). Her most recent publications are The Song of Orpheus: The Greatest Greek Myths You Never Heard, a collection of little-known Greek myths; a retelling of Cinderella entitled The Stepsister's Tale; and the popular middle grade series The Sherlock Files. From 1999 to 2009, Tracy Barrett was the Regional Advisor for the Tennessee and Kentucky SCBWI regions. She is now SCBWI's Regional Advisor Coordinator.

Tracy shares about her own journey to self-publishing. She has twenty books that were traditionally published, and then wrote the middle grade book Song of Orpheus: The Greatest Greek Myths You've Never Heard. She worked with her agent to revise, and then they tried to get it acquired by a traditional publisher -- it came close, but didn't find a home.

But Tracy and her agent believed in the book, so they decided to do "agent-assisted self-publishing." 

Tracy cautions us that there's no one "right way" to self-publish, and explains that her session is less about mechanics and more about philosophy -- is your project a good one for self-publishing? And what elements to consider when making that decision.

She explains that among the criteria she used to decide to self-publish:

The book had appeal to a narrow interest group (kids who love Greek myths),

Could she make back her investment (maybe by doing school visits),

And was she able to pay professionals for what she couldn't -- or didn't -- want to do.

Tracy surveyed other self-published authors to put together her presentation, including Rajdeep Paulus, Dawn Rae Miller, Darcy Pattison, Chris Eboch, Sophie Davis, and JoAnn Early Macken.

She runs down the services self-publishing requires:

Formatting (print and ebook platforms require different formats)
Legal Matters
Production (printing, binding, etc.)
Financial Aspects

and tells us how she hired someone to help her with formatting, cover art, cover design, and copy editing.

"I was a copy editor but I didn't copy-edit my own book. That's like a surgeon taking out their own appendix."

With lists of common reasons to self-publish (including creative control and higher percentage of sale price) and major drawbacks (including most bookstores won't carry self-published books and it's hard to get reviews from major publications), Tracy's session is packed with information, resources, and tips.

Here's a great one:

Kirkus will, for a fee, review self-published books. Then they'll send you the honest review, and ask if you want them to publish that review. Interestingly, 90% of the authors who self-publish choose to not have their reviews published…

A great reminder that no matter how you publish, you have to aim to put out the best book possible.

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