Since my book, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C, has come out, I have been asked a plethora of times what the process was, how long it took, and how I did it. So, I decided to create a blog article to detail what made me decide to self publish, the steps I went through, the pitfalls, my struggles, cost, and of course, how long the entire publishing thing took.
Let’s go back to the beginning to really get this post kicked off properly… In 1986 I was diagnosed with HIV, due to a bad blood transfusion. My doctor told me that I had fewer than two years to live. After those two years passed, I decided to start keeping track of my life stories (which were often pretty scary) in sort of a diary fashion. I wanted this to be a legacy for my friends and family after I died. In circa 2005 I realized that I had amounted a pretty large cache of data. Sometime around then my wife, Kristine, looked at all of my notes, stories, and timelines and said, “You know… you’ve got a book here.” She was right.
Now, having a pile of notes and publishing a book are two totally different animals. But, I was on the right track, and did have a great start for an autobiography. With that in mind, I started turning my compiled notes into a book format. I had to create stories out of each journal entry, and this was hard work. I wrote the whole thing in the first person, and made it as if I was telling a story; which I was. Early into the project I also decided to be utterly frank and blunt. I was not going to hide my secrets (like the one I divulge in chapter twenty-five). I wanted my story to be brutally honest.
Once I had the book written, I started sending query letters to agents and publishers. For about a year or so, each one was politely returned with a cookie cutter postcard that essentially said, “no thank you.” Then, I got my first break. An agent actually sent me a personal note, and it talked about how unless I had slept with a celebrity or was a famous figure, that my chances of publishing an autobiography was close to nil. While this was disheartening, I did appreciate the sincerity. I was once again back at square one. Then, out of the blue, someone suggested that I look into self-publishing. The funny thing is that I didn’t even know what that meant. Before long, I realized that it was a good avenue to get my work printed, published, and distributed. So I researched out the wazoo (something that I’m fairly good at). I finally narrowed my search down to one self-publisher in particular: iUniverse.
On November 30th, 2009 I clicked a link to request more information about iUniverse and they responded that day. On December 2, 2009 I paid $1,400 to iUniverse for what they called the “Book Launch Premier Pro” package. Their website showed that the package listed for $4,200, so I was able to get a really good deal! And, this package was filled with tons of goodies including an email marketing campaign, all kinds of website setup (which I didn’t need, because I already had my own), Library of Congress and copyright setup, ISBN assignment, and 80 books (20 hardcover and 60 trade softcover). You can see iUniverse’s current packages here:
I instantly justified the cost of the package, because I would be getting a retail value of $1,800 worth of books along with all the goodies they provided.
The team at iUniverse was incredibly helpful and extremely prompt (no, I do not get kickbacks for praising them – I sincerely loved working with them). My assistants and helpers were a Godsend, considering I knew nothing about the publishing world. I was assigned an editor, who proofread my work and sent back suggestions. They also worked on taglines, biographical line, and additional marketing based things. Essentially, they did all of the legwork and tough stuff (besides writing the book) for me.
After edits, rewrites, little changes, and adjustments we were finally ready. I looked over my final proof and approved it. The finished product was officially published on September 29, 2010. So, the entire process took ten months. I think that was a reasonable amount of time considering the copious amounts of work and effort that went into the project after I had finished my rough draft.
I would strongly recommend utilizing the self-publish route if you are struggling to get published. I would also highly recommend iUniverse, although I suggest that anyone going this path do their own research and draw their own conclusions on what publisher to go with.
One final note is that I sometimes hear, “Yeah but your book wasn’t really published…” To that I would retort, “My book was published. It has an ISBN, is registered with the Library of Congress, was printed and bound in soft and hard cover, and is available on all major online book seller sites. On top of that, it has been created on all popular eBook formats and is even available in the Frederick County Library system.” How can anyone say it isn’t published??
If anyone ever asks you about the validity of self-publishing, you can always fall back on the list of other authors who have done it: Mark Twain, John Grisham, L. Ron Hubbard, Irma Rombauer, Walt Whitman, Richard Paul Evans, Jack Canfield and Mark Hensen, James Redfield, Beatrix Potter, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allan Poe, T.S. Elliot, Carl Sandberg, Gertrude Stein, Deepak Chopra, Upton Sinclair, D.H. Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw, E.E. Cummings, Henry David Thoreau, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Tom Clancy, and Stephen Crane. BOOM!
One additional piece of advice is that everything is negotiable. So, when talking to the self-publisher you decide on, make sure you barter on the package price and future prices for your books that you buy.
You can buy my book directly from my publisher, or through Amazon (among other online book sellers):
My publisher: bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000173056/Survivor.aspx
If you’ve been through this process, or have questions, or simply feel like chatting, please comment below using the simple form.
I sincerely hope that this article motivated or inspired someone out there, and helps you see that this process is doable!
Love to all,
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