I want to welcome author, speaker and editor John Micklos, Jr. for our interview today. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us.
Q: What led you into self-publishing?
A: After having more than 20 books published through traditional, commercial publishing houses, I decided to take the self-publishing route with my newest project, a picture book titled The Sound in the Basement, about a young boy who tries to overcome his fear of going into the basement alone. I had three key reasons.
- Trouble finding a traditional outlet. Like many authors, I generated what I felt was a great manuscript that just couldn’t find a home with mainstream publishers. I have been tinkering with this manuscript for over a decade, and at various stages I submitted it to several traditional publishing houses without success. A couple of years back I did one final overhaul. I was really pleased with the final manuscript, but I didn’t want to go through the stress and uncertainty of the submission process again, so I decided to pursue self-publication. I recruited a talented illustrator (and longtime friend), Eric Hamilton, to help me bring the story to life.
- Maintaining my vision. I had a specific vision for how I wanted this story to be presented, and I knew I risked losing control of that vision with a traditional publisher. Together, Eric and I worked to create a book where the words and illustrations combined just the right mixture of fear and fun, and Stephanie Fotiadis did a wonderful job with the cover and page designs.
- A different financial model. Many of my books have been “work for hire” projects for which I received a flat fee. Most of the others have brought very modest advances and even more modest royalty payments. For this project, I decided to invest some of my own money up front to pay for a professional illustrator, designer, and printing, hoping the investment will pay off in the long run. Time will tell!
Q: How difficult was the self-publication process?
A: Self-publishing a picture book is more challenging than other types of projects because of the effort and cost involved in preparing the artwork and printing color pages, but thus far the process has gone smoothly. It’s taken longer than I expected, but that’s the case with almost any project (and it still took less time than if the manuscript had been accepted by a commercial publisher).
I formed my own publishing imprint, called First State Press, and I purchased a block of ISBNs (optimistic that this book will be successful enough to allow me to produce others). After a fair bit of research, I am having a company called Self Publishing, Inc. handle the printing.
Q: How did you finance the project?
A: One of the challenges with self-publishing is paying for printing (and, with picture books, for illustration and design). To help raise funds, I recently launched a Kickstarter campaign. For those unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it’s an online vehicle for crowdfunding creative projects. Feel free to visit my page at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/189912910/the-sound-in-the-basement. If you like what you see, I invite you to support the project or share news of it with your friends!
Q: What advice would you offer to other authors considering self-publishing?
A: First of all, I advise doing lots of reading and research. One great resource is Lois Hoffman’s book The Self-Publishing Roadmap. There are some risks involved in self-publishing, but the rewards of overseeing your book from manuscript to print and the potential profits from controlling your own sales outweigh them—at least for me.
Q: What’s next?
A: I intend to continue working with commercial publishers, but I also hope to expand my list of self-published titles to accommodate those special books that I want to develop in a specific way.
John Micklos, Jr. is the author of more than 20 books for children and young adults, including poetry, history, and biography titles. His forthcoming picture book, The Sound in the Basement, comes out in September. In addition to writing books, John does editing and copywriting, and he loves visiting schools to talk with students about the writing process. Learn more at www.JohnMicklosWriter.com.