Is Self-Publishing for You?

519M0ZDLWtLMentors for Rent clients often ask us if self-publishing is a good idea. The truth is, the answer depends on many different factors. We can provide lots of advice about this step, but whether it’s a “good idea” for you is something you must weigh and measure for yourself.

So for today’s blog, we invited Mary Ellen Schulz to share her personal experience with self-publishing her picture book. We hope that hearing her first-hand account will give you some insights into whether this is a step you want to explore!

Here’s her story:

After a few years of submissions, then waiting months for responses to each, I took the plunge and self-published my picture book manuscript. It was a glorious decision! The price tag was high, but the company I chose gave me a sizable discount of approximately 40% off the top-of-the-line package, with the final price coming out at roughly $5,000 (at that time). Because I opted for more illustrations than the package offered, that cost quite a bit more.

Within two days the several-page contract arrived to download, decipher, and deliver back as soon as possible to begin the process. It really did require a lawyer to understand in its entirety, but we were fairly sure it would be okay. Signed, sent back, and dreaming, I waited for the next step.

One of the pluses of this publisher was that I was assigned to a concierge along with being put in touch with a new expert for each step along the way. Very soon after signing on, my concierge phoned with congratulations and details as to what would be the next step.

Although I had revised it one hundred times before the initial submission to my concierge, it seemed that daily I found yet another necessary revision to my manuscript. It surprised me that at this point I was still correcting or eliminating words.

The absolute most fun part of the entire process was working with the art team and my illustrator. They chose the artist for my book. All details were up to me, as to where each page cut would occur, and to where each illustration would be best (top or bottom of page or lone page). In paragraph form I explained what I envisioned in minute detail.

I waited in gleeful anticipation for the sketches. From the first pencil drawing, I knew there was no better artist for the task. He seemed to “get me” from the beginning. There were three chances to check his drawings, to add or subtract from them to get them just right.

After the drawings were perfected, the choice of colors was mine, including all details such as hair/eye color, furniture, background, foreground, clothing and skin color. There was a design team to help with title size, font, and placement on the cover.

It was so exciting the day the sample copy arrived in the mail! I poured over every page several times, and gawked at my name on the cover. It was the thrill of my lifetime and a dream come true. The signing of the contract was early July. The book became “live” at the end of March, eight months from beginning to end.

A huge plus included in the contract was that my book was now available in E-book format, soft and hard cover, and listed on Amazon, catalogues and available for distribution to other sources. Retailers and wholesalers could find the book at Ingram and others.

The marketing is an expensive venture. For a fee, a website can be developed with their marketing personnel. Many “extras” were made available to me but the cost was high. They do claim that to be taken seriously, I need a website (requiring the set-up fee and a maintenance fee). However, I decided to try selling on my own for a while. I feel I have had some success. In the works are four planned book signings, tentative library-read-to plans and elementary schools to be scheduled. Musky Fest in Hayward in front of Book World was my first signing in June. The next signing will be July 9, in Lake Geneva, WI, at the Beachside Author Fest. Coming up July 12 is a Barnes & Noble read-to in Milwaukee followed by a September Soup & Sign for AAUW at Agricultural Hall, Lake Geneva.

The main goal in publishing this book was my childhood dream to do so. Also, it has served as an example to my daughter to pursue her dreams. It would be wonderful to clear the bank, but if I don’t, it’s still okay. A sequel is in the works, however, if I’m very lucky.

Though my experience held positives, there are two negatives I will mention. The first is the price of the book to bookstores. Even at a hefty discount via warehouses, retailers find it too costly to place on their shelves. This has been the greatest disappointment so far. The publisher claims that print-on-demand is costly to produce. Though authors get a discount and can sell on consignment to individual bookstores, it has been my experience to be denied by two retailers who wanted my book. (One of these has 44 bookstores across 5 states.) They each said the profit would be too small to merit purchasing books. However, there IS a company proposal to produce SUPER many books at MY expense to get a generous discount. At this time I won’t invest until finding what the book does locally through the promotions already planned.

As in any business dealing, communication is paramount. There was only one assigned personnel where I felt we were not well matched. There were frustrating moments for both of us. Through mutual respect, we pressed onward together to a satisfying end.

You can find Mary Ellen Schulz’s book There’s a Mouse in My Mashed Potatoes at the Archway Publishing website:



About Lisa Bullard

children's book writer, book promoter, writing teacher, writer in the schools, mentor, author of Get Started in Writing for Children
This entry was posted in Getting Published, Writing Advice and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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