Ever wonder if self-publishing is the route we need to take when thinking about publishing our book? Joining us today is self-published author James Diehl who went through a mainstream publisher for his first book and then turned around and self-published his second. His second book, World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware, will be available for purchase on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11 ’09.
Thank you for this interview, James. You self-published your latest book, World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware. Would you please tell us why you chose the self-publishing route?
James: In the spring of 2009, I published my first book through a mainstream publishing house and was quite content with the process. However, with Heroes, I wanted to maintain greater control over how the material was presented. I became very attached to the men and women profiled in the book over the two years I was putting it together. Their stories are very special to me and I wanted to have the final say in how the final product was designed and presented to the public.
Take us through the process. You have an idea, you write the book, then you decide self-publishing is the route you want to take. How did this happen for you?
James: World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware actually began as a year-long series for a local newspaper. The idea to turn the series into a book didn’t come until later, and it was a result of a unique series of events. First, the early profiles in the series were named a first place winner in the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association’s 2007 editorial awards competition. Later, after receiving quite a bit of encouragement from friends and colleagues, I began putting ideas on paper in regards to publishing a book. What really put me over the top was the success of my first book, Remembering Sussex County. When I saw how well received that book was by the public, I stepped up my efforts to publish Heroes. But I felt, with this particular book, that I would be better served by self publishing it through the freelance writing company that I own. It’s allowed me greater control over the entire process, and I’m glad I made the decision to go that route.
Do you think that having your book self-published makes any difference to the media? How do you get over the "self-published" stigma?
James: I think it does, which is unfortunate. There are some very good books out there that have been self published, but people are often afraid to give them a chance. It’s the same line of thinking that comes into play when a third-party candidate makes a push in a national election campaign. There are often many people who would like to vote for that person, but the stigma is that doing so would mean throwing your vote away. Getting past that stigma is not easy and, to be quite honest, I’m not sure it can entirely be done, either in politics or in publishing. The self publishing stigma is always going to be there, but as the method continues to grow in popularity that will hopefully be offset to a certain extent.
Authors who go the traditional route have an edge over self-published authors in regards to distribution. How did you handle that as a self-published author?
James: That’s the most difficult part, to be honest. I have a very well-designed and functional Web site and have been able to take many orders through www.ww2-heroes.com. I also make personal appearances throughout the region, for talks, for book signings and at community festivals. I also sell my books at historical associations, museums and at independent book stores. The biggest problem for me, in terms of distribution, is in regards to chain bookstores. They typically require you to operate through a wholesaler. This not only adds another level to the process, but it also creates one more person who needs a piece of the pie, which can create problems with financial models.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with other self-published authors?
James: Self publishing a book can be a wonderful choice, but you need to do your homework first. If you’re looking to gain a national audience, consider establishing as much of an online presence as possible. You can do this by means of a well-designed Web site or through virtual book tours and other such media campaigns. Also, search around for the best option in terms of printing services. I had to change printers at the 11th hour because the one I chose wanted me to sacrifice certain components of my book that I wasn’t prepared to give up. It wreaked havoc with my cost analysis – I had to pay $2 more per copy to get my book printed – but I was able to publish a book I was happy with. That’s the best aspect of self publishing – you have the final say in situations like that. I would recommend the self publishing route, but not without doing your homework first.
Thank you for this interview, James. Can you tell us how we can find out more about you and your new book, World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware?
James: Certainly. You can learn all about the book and read excerpts, testimonials, a backgrounder and other information on my Web site, www.ww2-heroes.com. You can also follow me on my blog at www.worldwar2heroes.blogspot.com.
James Diehl is an award-winning journalist who has covered Sussex County, Delaware for various media outlets since 1998. Since 2007, he has owned and operated a freelance writing company based in Seaford, Delaware and is also a partner in a Lewes, Delaware-based public relations and marketing firm. He is the author of one other work of non-fiction, Remembering Sussex County, from Zwaanendael to King Chicken, published in 2009 by The History Press.