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Detail from the cover of 'In the Shadow of the Sparrow' by Gloria Hillard ()

Taking the Plunge into Book Self-Publishing

by Gloria Hillard
Jun 13, 2005 (Morning Edition)

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Cover for 'There Are No Soulmates!' by M.W. Cover for Sharon Boorstin's 'Cookin' for Love' Cover for 'In the Shadow of the Sparrow' by Gloria Hillard

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So you've written the "great American novel" but can't get the attention of publishers? It's a familiar story. Each year, traditional publishing houses reject tens of thousands of manuscripts.

But today, many of those books are finding their way into print, through self-publishing. Gloria Hillard recently took the self-publishing plunge, and found it to be an empowering experience.

She also attended the recent Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, where book lovers and sellers gather by the thousands. Hillard met some self-published authors hawking their tomes with unique marketing ideas.

Self-published author M.W. gave away pink plastic pens to promote her book There Are No Soulmates! Author Sharon Boorstin handed out plastic-wrapped cookies to promote her novel, Cookin' For Love, at the booth for iUniverse, a Nebraska-based publisher.

Self-publishing companies like iUniverse, Authorhouse, Xlibris and Booksurge are presenting themselves as a viable option to the increasingly exclusive New York City publishing houses. "What we do is offer the opportunity for supported self-publishing, where the author is in control," says Carol Ash, marketing director for iUniverse. "Eventually, what happens is the readers decide."

Most self-publishing authors order just a few books printed to give to family and friends, then market their books on the Web. For an average of about $500, leading self-publishing companies will convert a manuscript to a book format, design a cover and make it available to online retailers.

But that's the easy part — getting the book sold is a little tougher. Most book stores won't stock them, and critics generally don't review them. One thing that many hopeful authors at the L.A. Festival of Books agree on: In today's competitive publishing world, it's all about the marketing.

"As for my book... well, I don't have any of the items I saw being offered up at the book fair. No pens, bookmarks or T-shirts," says Hillard. "Just what any writer hopes they have: A good story."

Read an excerpt from Hillard's In the Shadow of the Sparrow:

The nightmare came again.

First, there is only the light and rapid sound of a child's foot steps on hard earth. And then the sound of wheezing breath. It is her breathing, her feet on the ground. A percussion of fear: breath, feet, breath, feet. Her legs can't move her fast enough away from them. She looks repeatedly over her shoulder to see if they are closer. The leaden mist folds in as the path in front of her and the surrounding forest falls away. She clenches her small hands. They're close. She feels them in her stomach. Her legs keep moving. She knows the gray fog has cloaked them; it is their magic: feet, breath, feet and then their mocking laughter.

Robyn awakened with her heart pounding, her hands still clenched as she looked around the room, certain to see something there. She took several deep breaths, bringing her heart back to a steady rhythm. She threw back the covers and swung her legs over onto the floor and gripped her knees. Her legs were aching again. Ignoring the dull pain, she traced the hardwood floor with one foot, searching for blue chenille slippers. Garbo, a medium-size dog with soft black curls, an exploding white star on her chest and the tail of a fox, gazed up at Robyn, then moved hesitantly from her foam bed, stretched and sat down at her mistress' feet. Her ears went from their butterfly position to coyote. Cocking her head sideways, she made soft sweeping sounds with her tail over the varnished wood floor.

"Yeah, I know, what am I doing up so early?" Robyn padded to the kitchen silently swearing off margaritas. She opened the refrigerator door, stared vacantly, not recognizing any of its contents, sighed and grabbed a bag of organic coffee beans and a small container of half-and-half. She squeezed open the top of the container, smelled its contents and kicked the door shut.

Copyright 2005 Gloria Hillard. All rights reserved.

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