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Interview With Anne McDonald & 5 other self-published authors

Meet Anne McDonald
Interview by Sandra Moore

1) Tell us a little about yourself -- age, married/single, children, how many books authored, etc.

Age: According to my calculations, I'm supposed to be 41; however inside I still feel like I'm in my early 20s, and some days still 17. I have been married nearly 10 and a half years to my sweetheart Ethan. We have a son, Jason, who makes every day an adventure.

I have one book published so far and five more in the works.

2) How did you become interested in writing?

I started writing in the third grade, and haven't stopped. I was blessed throughout school with teachers who recognized a gift in me, and enticed me to develop it. In high school, my English teachers conspired to get me in every advanced English class they had, including the school newspaper and creative writing magazine. That's probably why I ended up as a journalist and editor later on. I got my feet wet early.

3) Tell us a little about the plot and characters of your book.

In LOVE'S REFINING FIRE, a fortune in missing jewels means danger for a cop's widow. Jennifer Warner, has no idea the man she has befriended is actually her husband's murderer, until a series of events expose him. Forced into hiding, Jennifer flees to northern Maine with her three-year-old daughter. While the new beginning promises her the chance for happiness, emotional demons from the past keep her from trusting the local doctor who has offered his friendship and his love. Jennifer's discovery of the killer's true identity draws the flames of intrigue closer around her. When her daughter and surrogate mother disappear, Jennifer must battle a blizzard and her paralyzing fear of storms to find them. Will she arrive in time, and how will she free them?

4) You book is self-published. What made you decide to take this route?

I had pitched my romantic suspense before that genre was established. Frustrated with the brick wall I kept running into, I talked to an author friend. She said she felt my book was ready and suggested I try iUniverse. Since I don't mind blazing trails. I figured, at the very least, I would be a guinea pig that could report my success or failure to other authors. I was pleased that with POD I didn't have to worry about a major expense up front.

5) What are the pros and cons of self-publishing a book?


    a) Authors can publish their unadulterated work and choose their own covers. As writers, we'd like the option to have more of a say in how our books appear. POD gives a lot of freedom in these areas.

    b) With iUniverse, authors' books won't go out of print unless they want it to.

    c) There is a very low cost for first time published books ($99), and if you want to bring books back into print, it is also quite affordable ($299).

    d) A book can be published within two months as opposed to a year or more for traditional publishing.


    a) Authors can publish their unadulterated work. There are some books that I've seen published through iUniverse that really should have stayed on the editing table. Some have appeared to be first drafts. Sadly, they have also made a negative impression of POD.

    b) Authors have to do all the editing. Those authors wanting to use POD really need to ensure they have checked their manuscripts thoroughly for spelling, grammar and format errors. I highly recommend the CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE for authors choosing this route.

    c) Authors have to do all the proofreading. With traditional publishing you always have those extra sets of eyes on the look out for errors. In POD it is you, and perhaps some friends you have lined up.

    d) Proofed galleys do not ensure error-free books. You can go through your galleys with a fine-toothed comb and still end up with some nasty surprises. Typesetter-introduced errors are very possible; and then in many cases, the author has to pay to correct the errors or let the book sell as is.

    e) Authors have to do all the marketing. This is fine, if this is your background, or if you have the time and money to devote to it. For most of us folks, we don't have the resources necessary to make a big splash in the literary world.

6) Would you do it again?

I've learned a lot from my publishing experience with iUniverse. God used my experience to start CWWC, which has received phenomenal responses. I've also made some incredible friendships with other POD authors that I probably wouldn't have otherwise. Would I do it again? If God wanted me to get something out right away, yes, I would. However I think in the future I will mostly reserve POD for bringing books back into print.

7) In what genre do you most enjoy writing?

I'm into romantic suspense and mystery/suspense. I like stories with a twist.

8) Do you do a lot of freelancing?

At this point, I am concentrating on writing my books. I'm trying to get three done this year. I do edit and post articles, book reviews and chat transcripts for CWWC.

9) How much marketing do you have to do in order to make self-publishing profitable?

Authors would need to either hire a full-time marketing agent, or plan to spend quite a few hours each week marketing themselves. To be very successful, authors would have to get “inside” information on the Christian book marketing world.

10) What marketing techniques do you use?

I've used online marketing, websites, book reviewers, meeting with bookstore owners, speaking at various writers groups. Sadly, this past year I haven't had the physical energy, nor the funds to promote the book as much as I wanted to.

11) Have you ever tried POD, or do you use some other method?


12) How much upfront money is involved, and do the costs vary much from publisher to publisher?

For iUniverse, it is $99 for publishing a book. $299 to bring a previously published book back into print.

13) What's in it for the publisher?

With POD, there is no major overhead costs or warehousing expenses. They get a profit on each book sold. So, it's a win-win situation, provided that the author is able to get out there and promote the book.

14) Are there any strings attached that you didn't know about until it was too late?

No strings attached that I'm aware of. However, the frustrating thing for me was typesetter introduced errors after the galleys were proofed. I would have had to make a $150 outlay to get the book pulled and corrected.

Check out more about Anne's book at her Web site.

I asked some other self published authors about their experiences. Here's what BEVERLEY BITTNER had to say:

Her Web site.

After I retired from a career in newspaper and religious publishing, recently widowed and alone, I needed a challenge. Although I had written many short fiction stories I had never written a novel. Could I do it? Because I enjoy history and research, it would be a Historical Inspirational novel. I live about 30 miles from the site of the first drilled oil well, the Drake Well in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859. I decided to make that the background. I chose as a theme the truth that there is a kind of love and devotion that belongs only to God. To give that love to a pastor, a church, or anything else is wrong. Charlotte was the characted that learned that hard lesson.

When I finished "New Every Morning," (it was a short novel) I sent the manuscript to three major publishers. None gave it a nibble. I decided I could not wait for a publisher, and made 50 81/2 x 11 copies on my own copier. When friends told me they had loved the book, couldn't put it down, etc. I began a sequel.

I began to search for a printer who would give me a more professional looking paperback book at a price I could afford. Most had a minimum of 1,000 copies and other requirements I could not meet. Among the few who would print as few as 200 copies were Selah Books, and the one I chose: Morris Publishing in Kearney, Nebraska. It was a good choice for me. Here are some reasons I chose Morris. An 800 phone number brought me a packet that fully described their services and prices. It also described the writer's responsibilities: how to provide a camera ready mms, 1/3 of payment with the order, 1/3 when the proof was returned, and 1/3 when the books were ready to be delivered. They would furnish an attractive cover, and would advise the writer of any unexpected charges, as for art work, before continuing with the project. (My 200 books of approximately 130 pages cost about $5 a copy.) Very reasonable in my opinion. I now have three in the series, am working on Number 4, and Number 5 will be out next year. I sell them for $10 or 3 for $25.

My aim was not to make a lot of money, but to have something of worth to leave behind when God calls me home. I sell them locally at craft shows and fairs. They may be borrowed at local libraries, on sale at the Drake Well gift shop, and a local restaurant, and I have a table at Meadville, PA's historic Market House about twice a month. I plan a public reading of "New Every Morning" in June at our local Salvation Army Soup Kitchen. Many who come there don't read much or well, and cannot afford to buy books. I will advertise this and hope many from the public at large will attend. I also make use of my web site.

I am very pleased with my association with Morris Publishing. I will continue to use them as long as I am writing books. From what I hear of commercial publishers (90 % of mms. are rejected, they expect the writer to buy their own books, etc., they won't consider you unless they are sure they can sell 5,000 copies in a few months,) I am glad I found Morris. I would recommend them highly.

ROBERT PARRISH had this to say:

Find Without Spot or Wrinkle here

1) How much marketing do you have to do in order to make self-publishing profitable?

I'm only just beginning, but will have to do all marketing. My first order of books arrives early next week - some of these I'll give to family members, one or two to the church library, a friend wants to buy one rather than order from; the others will go to 2 local newspapers ("Local author publishes first novel" or something like that), a bookstore in the mall where I might get a book signing, 3 to local Christian radio stations. All accompanied by a sell sheet, author bio and cover letter.

On, there's a Marketing Essentials column with several articles about conducting book signings, getting radio/TV interviews, book reviews, etc. From the home page, click on Author Publishing at the very top, then click on Author Resource Center at the far left - the marketing tips are on the far right.

2) What marketing techniques do you use?

I plan to use all marketing techniques recommended by Also, the author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul," Mark Victor Hansen, has a website with great tips on marketing books. He's sold 60 million copies, so comes with experience. He's at

3) Have you ever tried POD, or do you use some other method?

Yes, Print On Demand is what I used with My experience was very pleasant and I found them responsive and meeting or exceeding their deadlines. Drawbacks were that there's no editor other than myself so I had lots of changes to my first draft. This cost me an extra $99, but was my bad for not double and triple proofing before submitting. Also, I didn't like their cover art - both their first and second attempts seemed less than professional, almost like a high school student - so I hired my own cover art completed at a bargain price of $200. I met with the artist, we discussed some options, and she provided 4 different variations in just 3 or 4 days. I'd be glad to recommend her, if you like.

4) How much upfront money is involved, and do the costs vary much from publisher to publisher?

My up-front cost to iUniverse was $99. I understand that is now $159. As I mentioned, I incurred a second $99 for additional edits and $200 for the cover design. I also paid for 3 roses used in the cover art and $20 to overnight a CD with the cover art to iUniverse. I found this solution much more cost effective than paying a vanity publisher to print 1000 or more copies. American Christian Writers Press ( charges $4.90 each for 1000 copies at 96 pages. Nice people, but not in my budget.

The mother of a friend paid a printer for 1000 or 2000 copies of a book she wrote, but was terribly disappointed with the product. So much so that she stuck them in her garage and reprinted the same amount with a second printer. Now she's asking Discover card to challenge the cost paid to the first printer based on very poor quality. Not sure what she paid, but it was in 4 figures.

5) What's in it for the publisher? pays authors a 20% royalty, less shipping costs. The author owns the copyright, but iUniverse owns the publishing rights. These are not exclusive, however, so if a major royalty publisher picks up you book, you can cancel iUniverse and go with them. iUniverse also assigns the ISBN number and lists your title in a catalog so that online booksellers will pick it up. My title, for instance, is now listed on, and without any marketing on my part.

6) Are there any strings attached that you didn't know about until it was too late?

No strings that I know about yet. Actually, I have fairly good confidence in the agreements. They're easily available on their website.

7) Would you do it again?

Yes, I'll definitely publish with again...unless a major publisher picks up my title. Book Two in the series is underway and my plan is to use them when it's ready.

ARLENE WARNER had this to say:

Her Web site is

1) How much marketing do you have to do in order to make self-publishing profitable?

My self-published manuscript is mostly used as a ministry tool. It is not strictly profitable as yet in a monetary sense. Of course, the more marketing you do, the more profit you make. I have sold enough copies to recoup the initial cost (I've sold approx. 500 copies of the published 1000). Still in the red as far as advertising, promotion, etc.

2) What marketing techniques do you use?

I have a website, the book is on Amazon, and I do quite a few booksignings at bookstores. The best marketer is my husband. He touts my book every where he goes. Word of mouth is wonderful.

3) Have you ever tried POD, or do you use some other method?

I have considered POD but honestly believe it works best with a mms that would be of interest to a few people--perhaps a family project.

4) How much upfront money is involved, and do the costs vary much from publisher to publisher?

Costs vary greatly and some publishers are far above my budget. I published with Essence Publishing in Canada. It's the most reasonable I've found and their work is high quality. It runs about $5 to $8 per book. (The more books, the cheaper per book.)

5) What's in it for the publisher?

Essence does a minimum amount of publishing. They have a web site and some of their titles are listed. I also get promo cards with my order. Essentially, the publisher gets nothing from the book. They are paid for their service.

6) Are there any strings attached that you didn't know about until it was too late?

No strings--the book is yours, is copyrighted, and has an ISBN #. The rest is up to you.

7) Would you do it again?

Have my second mms in process. It is a sequel, and I wanted it to be similar in style, etc. Also, many readers of the first book are clamoring for a second and I didn't want to spend years trying to find a publisher. It is based on a true story and does not fit into a genre niche.

Essence Publishing address, etc.

Essence Publishing
44 Moira Street West
Belleville, Ontario
Canada K8P 1S3
Phone: 800-238-6376

They will send you a free info packet upon request.

FAY LAMB had this to say:

1) How much marketing do you have to do in order to make self-publishing profitable?

Lots of marketing or you're not going to be successful. I learned very quickly I had to step out of my comfort zone. I gave speeches, I developed a workshop for children. I contacted bookstores, and I arranged book signings.

2) What marketing techniques do you use?

See above. My self-publisher offered post cards with my books cover printed on them and posters as well as book marks. They are an important tool for marketing as well.

3) Have you ever tried POD, or do you use some other method?

I used POD.

4) How much upfront money is involved, and do the costs vary much from publisher to publisher?

I believe they vary from as little as $300 to over $1,000. I published with First Publish out of Orlando, and they did offer a wonderful package and a great finished product, but....

5) What's in it for the publisher?

They get a percentage. The contract I signed was a very good one. I paid $5.12 for every book published, and I received a very good percentage (like a royalty) from the sale. But....

6) Are there any strings attached that you didn't know about until it was too late?

There is important information you need to know before you self-publish. For instance, you need to go with a publisher who can obtain an ISBN # for your book. Without that number, larger distributors like Baker & Taylor and Ingrams, will refuse to distribute your books, and those are the two major distributors that service the larger bookstores like Barnes & Noble, Books -A- Million, Borders, Waldenbooks, and if they can't order the books, you're dead in the water. Also, you need to realize that when these major distributors order your books through the publisher, they do it at a vast discount --- anywhere from 45% to 55%. Take that off the cost of your book, add the printing cost for your book (POD) and even a good royalty is very small pickings.

7) Would you do it again?

With First Publish --- No. I knew my book was selling, but I didn't get any money. An ex-employee told me that my book was one of the best sellers, and I just couldn't imagine what in the world was going on. I contacted another writer who's Celtic book was #1 on Amazon for Ireland. She had not received pay. She gave me the scoop on contacting Ingram's and when I did I found a number of books were purchased through them. The only books I received pay for were the ones the publisher knew I could trace (i.e. books ordered by book stores for signings, etc.) I started to fight the process, but realized that the importance in all of this was the lesson I learned and the fact that somewhere, someone was getting a book with a powerful message. Since then, the publisher arbitrarily changed their contract and the authors have to prepay for twenty books in advance. I cut all ties, and have one copy of my book left.

Now, would I do it with another self-publisher? Not right now. I don't feel the Lord leading me in that direction, but I know that publishing the book I did through First Publish was the right step to take at the time. I've had so many people tell me how the book spoke to them. My best friend read the book and came to me with tears in her eyes and talked about the wounds the Lord used the book to heal. I knew right then that if I made nothing in monetary gain, the Lord had blessed me abundantly in that one moment.

In fact, I have the sequel to the book, and I have people begging me for copies. I think I'll save money, and still reap the blessing by taking it to Kinkos.

TINA PINSON had this to say:

Find The Cross She Bears here

Find The Manor of the Ghost here

1) How much marketing do you have to do in order to make self-publishing profitable?

As far as I could tell, quite a bit. Most of the self-publishing places wanted you to lay out your book and edit it, then pay $6000 or more to run a few copies. And it takes a while to get your books out there.

2) What marketing techniques do you use?

I go through Bible bookstores, and talk to the managers. They read the books and decide if they fit. Remember, since you're doing this yourself, you don't get the good graces of a big name publisher and the smaller stores will look at your material much closer. I've sat out at yard sales, made postcards. I asked a radio station if they'd like to give my books away as a free gift. Basically, you just get to hound everyone, and it's rather humbling. I found I had a hard time trying to sell myself.

3) Have you ever tried POD, or do you use some other method?

I used POD through iuniverse.

4) How much upfront money is involved, and do the costs vary much from publisher to publisher?

The cost varies quite a bit, and the scale could run from a few hundred back up to a thousand. I used iUniverse because for a couple hundred dollars they would lay out your book and give you a decent cover. They don't do editing, I learned that the hard way, and they only give you 50 corrections. So a person has to edit really well. If you find you didn't, then you can pay another 150.00 and do it again. The books can be a little more expensive, depending on the size of them.

5) What's in it for the publisher?

They get a variable rate, depending on where and how the book sales, plus iUniverse does do some advertising. Like putting your book on several sites. My books can be found at Hastings and Barnes and Noble. The best way is to buy your own book and sell it, because you keep more of the profits and the company gives you a discount.

6) Are there any strings attached that you didn't know about until it was too late?

Those pesky editing things for one. But iUniverse was pretty open with what they expect. I've been to look at some other publishers that weren't quite that way. Iuniverse was chosen as a good site in the Writer's Digest and another magazine, whose name I don't remember, that's why I checked into iUniverse's program. I was tired of being told no you don't have a bankable name, and tired of the cost.

7) Would you do it again?

I probably would. If I found that the publishers wouldn't accept a book that I felt really strongly about, for sure I would. I've done two books through iUniverse. Right now I'm trying to get on through a major house, and I'm hoping the fact that my name is getting out there, somewhat, will help the process along.

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