GREENFIELD — That there are editors and there are predators is a lesson self-published author Tom Graham learned early in his quest to publish his novel “Steal It Sam.”
“Steal It Sam,” Graham’s novel about baseball, is a coming-of-age story set in small-town Indiana in the early ‘60s. Sam, the young protagonist, is being raised by a single mother. With the help of his grandfather and the speed he inherited from his father, he earns fame for stealing bases and learns to deal with life through baseball.
After two years and 10 rewrites, Graham finally felt it was ready to go to a publisher.
As a novice in the world of publishing, he followed a friend’s advice to select a few publishers from a list in “Writer’s Digest.” He sent off a sample of his book to 50 publishers and sat back to wait.
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He didn’t wait long. His first response came a few hours later in a phone call from an editor. Graham was suspicious of the quick turnaround time, but he listened when she said she liked Graham’s story and wanted to publish it. The only problem was that she wanted $6,000 to proofread and edit it, design a cover and market it.
“When you write something, you’re just tickled to death if somebody likes it,” Graham said. “You want to believe it’s good.”
predatorsAnother writer friend told Graham about a website called “Editors and Predators” (pred-ed.com). He checked it out and found the publisher he’d heard from so quickly was on the list of predator book publishers.Time went by, and Graham eventually learned it is difficult to get published if you don’t have an agent to sell your book to a publisher, so he turned to self-publishing. He selected Dog Ear Publishing, based on another writer’s recommendation, but it still cost him some money.
Dog-Ear Publishing offers different packages that include different services. Graham opted for a $1,600 package that included editing, a cover design, help with the dedication, six copies of his book, an option for ordering more books and tips on how to improve, all things Graham said he knew he couldn’t have done himself.
“Everybody has a word they use too much,” Graham said. “They told me mine was ‘just.’ I use the word ‘just’ too much in my writing.”
Since the publication of his book two years ago, Graham has sold about 300 copies. He has signed copies of his book at Walgreens, baseball games, author fairs and a small bookstore on the east side of Indianapolis. He has thought about starting a sequel but has been discouraged by the lack of sales.
“People who have read it tell me it’s good,” Graham said, “but it’s disheartening when you can’t sell it.”
Graham has had some success in getting short stories published in literary magazines. For now, he’s happy with that.
Self-published author Ira Hughes, Greenfield, has had much the same experience as Graham with traditional publishing. She spent two years trying to publish her novel “The Christmas Bell” about a young woman who follows the clues in a broken Christmas ornament to discover the truth about her adoption as a baby.“People have told me it should be a Hallmark movie,” Hughes said, “but they (publishers) won’t look at you unless you’re already famous.”Hughes wouldn’t give up. She took “The Christmas Bell” to a local printing company and had copies of the book printed out for about $4 each. Her cover design was from a photo she took herself. She applied online for an ISBN and bought a package of stick-on barcodes so her book could be sold in stores.
Writing for children
Kathy Lindsey, of Greenfield, a retired teacher and newspaper reporter, is another self-published author. Her holiday children’s book “I Don’t Want to Be a Christmas Tree!” focuses on a talking fir tree that tells the family who picked it that it does not want to be a Christmas tree. The family takes the tree home anyway, and the tree proceeds to create mischief for the household throughout the holiday season.A children’s book needs illustrations, so Lindsey worked with AuthorHouse in Bloomington to find Shawn Windburn, who worked closely with Lindsey to create the kind of illustrations needed for “I Don’t Want to Be A Christmas Tree!”
Lindsey described in great detail every aspect she wanted included in the pictures of the story, from the condition of the house to the kinds of clothes her characters would wear.
She selected all the colors for the illustrations, the font the book should be printed in and how much space should be between each printed line.
Lindsey estimates that her expenditure for her self-published book came to around $10,000. Three thousand of that was for printing, and the additional $7,000 went to AuthorHouse to market the book, which included promoting it on the GoodReads website, submitting it to literary catalogs, assigning it a Library of Congress number, 25 copies of the book to give away, and online advertising.
Lindsey chose self-publishing, but she did so with the intent of writing a second book. Advice she got was to pay to publish her first book and then send it out to traditional publishers in hopes that they will pick her up as a client for a second book.
“One of the first questions that publishers ask is, ‘What else have you written?’” Lindsey said. “And I’ll be able to show them my book.”