The Self-Publishing Report: Interview with Political Author Michael Charney
Today is our second edition of The Self-Publishing Report where we talk to authors who have gone the self-publishing route and want to talk about it. Today’s guest is political author Michael Charney. He talks about his latest book, Chasing Glenn Beck, and why he decided to self-publish it.
Thank you for this interview, Michael. You self-published your latest book, Chasing Glenn Beck: A Personal Experiment in Reclaiming Our Hijacked Political Conversation. Would you please tell us why you chose the self-publishing route?
There were two reasons for self-publishing Chasing Glenn Beck. The principal reason had to do with timing: given that the book is heavily focused on politics and, in particular, the current political season, I thought it was important to capitalize on the calendar. I wanted the book out in time for the New Hampshire primary and traditional publishing routes would have taken too long.
The second reason had to do with the marketing effort: as a reasonably new writer, I would have been expected to do most of my own marketing. I figured that if I had to do it anyway, I might as well do it for myself and retain full control over all the decisions.
Take us through the process. You had an idea for your book, you wrote it, then you decided to find a publisher. What were your experiences with that? Or did you decide to self-publish without looking any further?
I started by following the more conventional route. I developed a comprehensive book proposal and marketing plan, developed a list of agents and small-press outlets that I wanted to query, then polished and polished before sending anything out. I received interest from a few agents and from one small press publisher, but—as I said—the timing and control that I wanted just wasn’t there. At the recommendation of a good friend I began to look at self-publishing options.
Interestingly, self-publishing has now turned into just “publishing.” Riddle Brook, the company I founded, has just reached an agreement with another New Hampshire writer, a brilliant women with a unique family story; her book will be out under the Riddle Brook imprint toward the end of this year.
What different online stores carry your book?
Virtually all of them—pun intended. Amazon and Barnes & Noble, of course, but also Indiebound, which can connect you just about every online independent book store . The book is also available through buy.com, and I just recently found out that it’s available on Amazon’s UK site as well.
Do you think that having your book self-published makes any difference to the media? Are they open to interviewing self-published authors or reviewing their books?
It does make a difference; there’s still a bit of stigma around self-publishing, and it would be naïve to pretend otherwise. As a result, it takes extra work to publicize your book effectively. You’ll not find a review of Chasing Glenn Beck in the New York Times, for example, nor the Wall Street Journal. I have been reviewed by the Midwest Book Review, however. They’re the leading reviewer of small press publications. They called the book “a fascinating discussion on today’s political climate” and gave it a “highly recommended” rating. I’m very proud of that.
Authors who go the traditional route have an edge over self-published authors in regards to distribution to bookstores. How did you handle that as a self-published author?
Bookstore sales are possible, but you have to plan for it early and it takes a bit of work. I’m not as yet sure that the effort is worth it. While it’s great to see your work on a shelf, the simple fact is that a small press book rarely ends up on an end-cap or display table. More likely there will be a copy or two buried in the book’s appropriate section. And let’s not forget that e-books are actually outselling print books these days.
The exception is the independent local bookstore; they are often eager to display local writers from small press publishers. I encourage any writer to pursue that path.
By the way, it’s not true that you can’t get a self-published book through a bookstore. If you’ve published with all the right information and have a distribution mechanism through, say, Ingram, then bookstores can order your book. But the deal isn’t attractive enough for them to pre-purchase copies; they’ll only order on request.
On the other hand, self-published authors have the edge over traditional books in the regards that the author has all the control. I’d like to begin with your cover. Did you make it or did you have someone else design it? If you had someone else, can you tell us who it is?
I came up with a couple of concepts and some sample art, and then presented it to the designers at Amazon. As this was my first foray—and since I don’t have much skill in that area—I decided to stick with the experts in order to insure that sizing, colors, etc. were all done right. They were great to work with—very helpful. They listen well, provide a number of options, and go through several iterations.
Did you get someone to format it for you or did you do that?
I did the interior myself; it does take some effort, but I’ve developed proficiency over the years. I studied several design books, and reviewed dozens of samples of books similar to mine before deciding on size, font, layout, fleurons, etc. I actually had quite a lot of fun doing it.
What was the hardest challenge for you to self-publish your book?
Patience. You get to the point where you’re 99% finished and you just want it done! My wife was critical during this phase: she kept reminding me that once it’s out there, it’s out there, and that I needed to take the time and get it right. The last couple of rounds—proofreading again, sizing the spine logo, spacing some of the lineage—took almost two months all by itself.
What steps are you taking to promote it?
First, it’s important to recognize that promotion and marketing are marathons, not sprints. So you need a plan and you need to work it. Social media is the crux of my strategy, and I’m on it for at least a couple of hours every day, alternating between general conversation (about 80% of what I do) and promotion. I’ve also joined several excellent groups on LinkedIn, as well as aligning myself with online groups like The World Literary Café. I’m also currently in the middle of a Virtual Book Tour, which is an excellent way to gain massive promotion in a condensed time frame. And, lastly—and many overlook this—I’ve hunted out dozens and dozens of blogs with themes similar to those in my book, and I read them and comment on them. Then there’s my own blog, of course, which gets some sort of an update three or four times a week.
What has been the best marketing tool or method you have used that has resulted in the most sales?
Getting quality reviews has been number one. I’ve searched out several Amazon Top Reviewers, have successfully gained a review from the Midwest (as I mentioned), and have asked, wept, moaned and begged my readers to post reviews themselves. Postive begets positive, as it turns out.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with other self-published authors?
This may sound strange since one would think it goes without saying, but—first and foremost—write a good book. Draft, rewrite, polish, redraft and rewrite… again and again and again. Find truly objective people to provide you with honest—sometimes brutal—feedback. Take your time and market smart, but—above all—have a good product. That includes not just the story, but the cover, the back matter—everything. That’s the best way to increase the odds that your book will succeed.
Thank you for this interview, Michael. We wish you much success!
And thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.
Visit Michael’s website at www.chasingglennbeck.com.
If you are a self-published author and would like to inquire about an interview for our The Self-Publishing Report feature here at Literarily Speaking or would like to submit a guest post talking about your own self-publishing experience, email Dorothy at thewriterslife(at)gmail.com.