Self-Publishing Journeys: Jo-Anne Mason

Publishing with Purpose

My story is probably a bit different from most who go the self-publishing route because my first book was accepted and published by a regular publisher. Problem is they took forever to get my book printed and insisted I use a designer to do the final prep work. Since I am an artist/graphic designer first, I knew how I wanted to present so I really did not need the help. When my contract was up I took my book back, changed the things I did not like and did much better with sales.
So the decision to go the self-publishing route was easy. The hard part was finding a good printer, deciding how many books to print, figuring out how to store them and ship them, and finding outlets around the islands to sell them. These are not easy problems to solve.

Money is always an issue. How much can you afford to spend to get the right amount of books? If your costs are too high, you cannot be competitive. If you don't own a warehouse where in the world are you going to put the books? And remember, if you have to spend to store them, the cost goes up and having piles of book boxes around the house can get quite annoying.

Printing the books was the easiest part. We went online, found a printer in China and we use them every time. They are careful, considerate and do a good job. They also pack very well for shipping.
Logistics is an important word in book sales. All well and good to get a bunch of books printed but when you live in the Caribbean you must get your books to where they will sell. That means a boat or a plane. Once again every time you spend money your books cost more.

There are tons and tons of little gift shops around the islands but most cannot afford to buy the kind of inventory you want to sell. Believe me, trying to accommodate small shops when you have to ship the items is a nightmare and very expensive. I have been very fortunate to find shops that sell books but it is never easy. You have to start with a good product that has broad appeal to make sales.

As far as the fear factor, I live in constant fear. Did I do it right? Can I justify doing another? What else can I do etc. etc. but if you are compelled to create you must overcome these fears and move on otherwise you will end up sitting around waiting for your big break that will never come. The only time you should sit down is when you are inspired to write.

Another thing about can never write and rewrite enough. I swear I checked every word, every sentence. Remember, you are the publisher, that is what they usually do. I have many other people read and correct but the author has the final word in proofreading and if the author makes mistakes only my readers will see them, and they do see them.

Oh and if you are planning to write a book to become famous you might as well make a video about a cat that plays the piano. Writing is about telling a story that is inside and just has to come out. The reward is in the writing. If you get rich, well, that is just a nice little bonus.

Reading this little article over, probably for the tenth time I realize it may sound a tad negative, but that is not my intention. It is just really important that you weigh the reasons for your decision to self-publish. If you have a crusade, use the Internet, you can get your word out much faster and for free. If you are writing a book that is more about words and less about pictures, make an ebook; there will be no printing costs at all and you can focus on a group of people interested in your topic. If you are an illustrator/writer, consider an app. Kids like devices and once again no need to physically print. One more thing, once you go the self-publishing route, you are no longer just a writer. You are a writer, proofreader, shipper, sales person and a media person. It takes a lot of time and means you have to be tough and nice and friendly all the time. That can be difficult for a person that prefers the quiet and solitude it takes to write.

So after all those depressing facts, my best advice? Start small. Seek out those that are interested in your topic and make your book available to them. Create a website with freebies for your target audience. Submit your book to a publisher just to see what happens, it can't hurt...well it can, but that is part of the process.

Be generous with your books. Offer them as a gift to organizations that are interested in your topic, they will then help you with sales. Go to your local newspaper and submit a press release about your book. Attend functions so you can talk about your book. Look on the Internet for websites that promote authors. There are a lot of ways to promote your book that don't cost you anything but time, so do them all and enjoy it. Because if you are not having fun, then doing your own thing is just no fun.

Jo-Anne Mason lives on the island of Anguilla and writes books for children. Her first book, Paddy The Goat that Saved Anguilla is about a goat who saves the island from a hurricane. Since then she has written Trixy the Monkey that Ate Nevis, about a tricky monkey who lives on the island of Nevis, and The Perfect Shell, the story of a hermit crab who lives in Sint Maarten/St. Martin. Her next book due to be released later this year is about a geeko that takes a strange trip. Jo-Anne loves creatures of all kinds, even bugs, so she uses them as the characters in her books. Her books try to capture the spirit of each island and the kindle ebooks contain an additional section about the island and creatures in the story to give the reader information about the Caribbean. Jo-Anne is a digital illustrator and uses a computer and a digital draw pad to create all of her illustrations.

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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