Self-publishing has taken on a new stigma. No longer is it looked upon with distaste but instead authors are embracing the publishing method with open arms. We interviewed Jill Muehrcke who self-published her own book, Waking Up Happy: A Handbook of Change with Memoirs of Recovery and Hope, to find out what steps she took to self-publish.
Thank you for this interview, Jill. You self-published your latest book, Waking Up Happy: A Handbook of Change with Memoirs of Recovery and Hope. Would you please tell us why you chose the self-publishing route?
Jill: Early on, I made the decision to donate half the proceeds from WAKING UP HAPPY to the Recovery Foundation (recoveryfoundation.org), which provides scholarships for people to get counseling if they can’t afford to pay for it themselves. Counseling is such a life-saver! The only way I could earn enough money to make a meaningful contribution to the Foundation was by self-publishing.
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?
Jill: I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to self-publish. I researched a number of online publishers and chose CreateSpace, because it provided the greatest array of services. I had already self-published the book MAP USE in 1973 and then seven editions since. As you can imagine, the self-publishing field has changed enormously in the intervening years! I do believe that if you passionately believe in your book, then self-publishing is the way to go.
What different online stores carry your book?
Jill: The best way for people to order WAKING UP HAPPY online is through our Web site WakingUpHappyBook.com. When they order from our site, they can be sure that the Recovery Foundation will be getting the biggest donation possible and that they are truly helping someone transform their life through their purchase of the book. Of course, it’s also available through the other online stores like Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, but those sites take a chunk of our profits for themselves.
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?
Jill: It’s much harder to get a foot in the media door with a self-published book. It took me many months to finally hook up with the right people and get a few good reviews, and from there it seems to be taking off.
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?
Jill: The bookstores in Madison and the surrounding towns have been very amenable to carrying WAKING UP HAPPY. Some of the gift shops have also been eager to carry it. But bookstores in other cities aren’t interested in even looking at it, much less reviewing or carrying it. That is sad, because I’d like to spread the world throughout the country and the world!
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?
Jill: I actually had an entirely different cover in mind - almost the opposite of what I ended up with. It was a fiery orangey sun with rays radiating out from it. I loved it, but when I saw the graphic designer’s other suggestion, it was too gorgeous and perfect to pass up. It almost looks like a silhouette of my daughter or granddaughter. It doesn’t have the bold intensity of the sun, but I realized the cool bluish colors captured a kind of tranquility that I want to convey to readers. So I applaud my graphic designer from CreateSpace!
Did you get someone to format it for you or did you do that?
Jill: I did the formatting, and CreateSpace helped me bring my vision into reality.
What was the hardest challenge for you to self-publish your book?
Jill: Marketing is the greatest challenge, but it is also turning out to be the most fun. Connecting with readers and talking about WAKING UP HAPPY and their experience of it is so fulfilling. Making that first contact and finding the right people to talk to is the hard part.
What steps are you taking to promote it?
Jill: I am doing readings at bookstores, talking on radio shows, attending book-group discussions about my book, and putting together workshops in which people can do the exercises in WAKING UP HAPPY together, discuss their results, and share their stories. It seems that word of mouth has been the key to promoting WAKING UP HAPPY. Most people who buy it then want their friends and family members to buy it, too, so they can discuss it with them. It is a very discussable book!
What has been the best marketing tool or method you have used that has resulted in the most sales?
Jill: Surprising, I sold the most books at a reading I did at my local library. Even though many people first discovered WAKING UP HAPPY through the library, they then realized they needed their own personal copies. It’s the kind of book you want to carry around with you, write and underline in, refer back to often, and keep by your side. So a library copy just won’t do for the long haul!
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with other self-published authors?
Jill: Go for it! Follow the advice in WAKING UP HAPPY to do just one small thing each day to take yourself nearer your goal, and eventually you will be amazed at how far you will travel and what a wonderful journey you will have!
Thank you for this interview, Jill. We wish you much success!