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Dalen Keys : Storytelling, Self-Publishing and Insanity

Storytelling, Self-Publishing and Insanity

By Dalen Keys

Here I sit, late into the night writing — after spending a full day at my job. Why, oh why, am I doing this? Maybe I'm doing this for the fame and fortune. I have to admit that I would turn down the fame in favor of some small portion of the fortune. But, as sad as it may seem, I'd be doing this without fame and fortune. In fact, I guess I am doing this without fame and fortune. They're overrated anyway.

I guess I am doing this because I really love stories and I really like sharing stories. I like it when an audience gets totally absorbed in my story. I guess I like to share my stories and I apparently I have enjoyed doing this for a long time. My daughter recently reminded me that when they were young I would tell stories at their birthday parties or in their Sunday school classes. As she mentioned this I recalled spending time outlining those stories and then practicing the exciting parts to get the delivery just right. I really love creating stories and then sharing them. As I get older, it's funny how many stories come from my life; but, I guess that's another article.

So, how do you go beyond simply telling a story at a party or at church to publishing a story in the form of a book? One of the publishing options is to self-publish. That is what I will focus on in the remainder of this article. I am pursuing the self-publishing option with my first book. I made this decision consciously and not just because those idiot publishers didn't see the beauty and brilliance in my manuscript — did I say that out loud? (Dear Publishers, the preceding sentence is not the expressed opinion of this writer. Any comments made in that sentence somehow slipped out of his feeble mind in a moment of weakness. Please do not punish me for the rest of my life for his ill-begotten writing). Actually, I decided to self-publish — for real. By deciding to self-publish, I have become a small business. I am putting my money on the line — not just my time. I am the CEO, CTO, CFO, manufacturing director, art director (but not the artist), marketing director and janitor for my little book venture.

So, why do you make that decision to self-publish? I see three primary reasons to pursue self-publishing.

  1. You are publishing a book with very limit market appeal. Examples could include a family genealogy or a story about your life to pass along to your family.

  2. You want to own all aspects of your book — including the creation process.

  3. You can leverage your own networks for the sale of your book.

The first reason is simply about the breadth of market appeal for the subject. You will likely not attract the attention of a publisher when the subject is very narrow and is a specialty subject. So, self-publishing might make the most sense. You need to determine the number of copies needed and the best printing options available to you. Color copying machines have gotten to be pretty good but they are not necessarily cost-effective if you need a larger number of printed copies.

The last two reasons are for the insane. Yes, self-publishing will give you more control but you will also own most all of the work and headaches. You can leverage your own networks to sell your books but remember — it takes work. Leveraging your networks does not just magically happen. Your nights and weekends can easily be consumed at the computer or on the phone — or both. Oh, sure, we all hear about "word of mouth" being the best sales tool for your book. But, "word of mouth" about your book starts with you putting the "words in their mouths." My point is that it takes work.

Being one of those insane individuals, I have found self-publishing extremely exciting. I'm learning what's important in a book and in publishing, what to look for in artwork, the types of files that are sent, what types of words do you need on the cover, the importance of editing and editing some more and building connections. I understand steps in the publication process that I might have missed if I had been published. But, I do spend most evenings working on some aspect of my book — re-writing, reviewing artwork, proofing, building a web site, maintaining the website and marketing, searching the web for opportunities, emailing for speaking opportunities, responding to email and so forth.

Just this past week the final proofs of my book, Just a Quilt?, were approved. Within the month, the books should be printed and shipped. Wow! This is really happening. But, the reality of my small venture is still all too real. I just spent most of my evening re-writing this article, working on my web site and following-up on a few marketing leads for my book. But now, I need to put on my janitor hat and trudge outside in the freezing rain to take out the garbage. This is all too appropriate since the garbage is filled with ideas, drafts and edits from my next manuscript. Maybe I can be the CEO again when I come back inside. (Note to self: get a corporate jet and hire my son as the janitor!) •

Copyright © by Dalen Keys 2009

Dalen KeysDalen Keys has a B.S. in chemistry from the University of North Alabama and a Ph.D in chemistry from Rice University. As a science nerd, Dalen has devoted himself to the creation of leading edge technologies and products in the fields of printing, electronics and displays. More »