Tahlequah Daily Press

November 20, 2013

Self-publishing: More work, but more control

By JEAN HAVENS
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — These days, just about anyone can publish a book, but getting people to buy it is another matter.

“Everybody wants to write a book, but it’s just not that easy,” said author Bill Wetterman. “You have to have passion in order to really be a novelist. But you can self-publish on a shoestring budget.”

Wetterman discussed the ins and outs of self-publishing, as well as writing advice, with the Tahlequah Writers group Saturday afternoon at the Cherokee Arts Center.

Mystery novelist Wetterman began writing after he retired. He has three books he’s published himself: “Room 1515,” “Madness” and “Busted.” His main characters are tough women protagonists.

Before going into the details of publishing, Wetterman talked about the writing process.

“Today, anyone can publish a book,” he said. “But what’s your motivation for writing? The first thing to publishing is write a good book.”

Wetterman advised aspiring writers to become a member of a critique group, which he believes is valuable input for any written work. He suggests finding a better writer as a critique partner.

Wetterman is a member of Tulsa Night Writers and its parent organization, Oklahoma Writers Federation.

“I don’t listen if one person doesn’t like something,” he said. “But if three people don’t like it, then I change it. Start to talk with and meet other authors. They can open doors for you. Be a part of the writing community.”

The first step, according to Wetterman, is to create an outline. The second step, is to write the book, from beginning to end. The third step is to edit it. Editing helps trim the book of unnecessary details that readers usually skip.

“Whatever a reader is going to page through, leave it out,” Wetterman said. “It’s usually in the middle of the book.”

Language use is another important factor in telling a good story.

“Go over and over and over it,” he said. “Rewrite passive verbs with strong active verbs.”

Because of the operation of today’s publishing market, Wetterman said if he sent his work through the traditional channels, it would take three to five years before it would come out. That’s why self-publishing is gaining popularity.

He advises writers beware of the many scams out there.

Paying an editor to edit your book is helpful, according to Wetterman. But professional editors are expensive.

“Even with an editor, you still have to go over that book, and over that book, and over that book yourself.”

Before publishing begins, Wetterman recommends copyrighting the book and paying for anything used, such as photographs pulled from the Internet.

Self-publishing takes time and work. Wetterman has learned how to set up his books, via computer and the Internet, into the correct format for printing. This includes the cover and spine.

Wetterman recommends paying a graphic artist to do the cover.

“There are certain things you can do yourself,” said Wetterman. “And certain things you depend on from someone else. You have to have a good graphic artist.”

Using Amazon, Wetterman also has options of international publication, which costs $35, for Kindle and even audiobooks. With the audiobooks, comes the task of finding the right narrator for your book.

Some regular costs include items such as writer group membership fees, copyright fees, graphic artist fees, as well as paying for printed copies you order. But Wetterman believes it’s worth it because of the control he has on his intellectual property, which he would not get if he were to go through the established publishing route.

“There are all kinds of great things going on today,” said Wetterman. “Financial pressures are changing how books are printed and sold. And that’s changing the publishing industry.”

For Wetterman, writing is something he’s passionate about. He loves the written word. “I believe you can change a life for the better,” he said. “You have a pencil in your hand and an idea in your head, and you can change a life.”