“Everyone has a story,” someone once said. And many of us believe that story to be worthy of becoming a book. We want to see our story in print, hold it in our hands, admire the cover, flip through its pages. In days of yore, there was essentially but one way for that story, once it had been committed to paper, to become a published book. You mailed your precious manuscript to the publishers and agents of the business, bucked up your resolve as the rejection notices stacked up, then rejoiced when the day came that it was accepted to be published.
But today is not “yore.” Times have changed, and publishing has changed along with it. There is now but a handful of large publishing houses, and the costs of business force them to concentrate on proven authors and proven genre. Though not impossible, it has become virtually so for a beginner, a first-time, unknown writer, to get published by mainstream publishing houses. The percentage of submittals from unknown writers to literary agencies—most publishers now refuse to accept manuscripts or proposals directly from the author—that are accepted for publishing has approached the vanishing point.
For those who have experienced the ever-growing stack of rejections from disinterested agents, and finally despaired and given up, that fact eventually becomes painfully inescapable. We heave a sigh, and heave our beloved manuscript into a drawer, leaving it there to gather dust along with our dreams of being a writer.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that those “changin’ times” have now made it possible to pull that manuscript out of the drawer and do it yourself—join the self-publishing crowd. That is my story. After receiving the usual rejections from my attempts to get a publisher for The Old Man, I decided to go the way of the so-called vanity press. At the time, I was more interested in seeing my little tale in book form than I was concerned about “becoming an author.” It’s difficult to express the feeling of opening that cardboard box, and pulling out a book with my name on the cover. The fact that a number of friends bought copies, and were most complimentary of my story, added to the pleasure. But it also whetted my interest in doing more.
The next two or three years were spent evolving a couple of ideas I had for another novel into one I titled Ad Astra. But my work on that one got interrupted by a fiftieth wedding anniversary, which brought with it the realization that the rewards my wife and I experienced from a life-time marriage are being largely lost in today’s culture. I began writing of our experiences, and that evolved into Happily Ever After.
And that is where my interest in self-publishing came to result in Del Hayes Press. I quickly came to realize two—actually, three—significant realities about publishing. First, I was very quickly reminded that finding an agency to support you as a first-time writer is excruciatingly difficult and time consuming.
Second, through some of the coded phrases used in the rejections slips I received, it became apparent that whether I had a publisher, or published the book myself, it would be up to me to do all the promoting of the book. The agencies’ primary question in their instructions for queries and proposals was to tell them how you planned to do all the marketing for them. I came to the conclusion that if I was going to have to do all the work anyway, I might better use my time publishing and marketing my books as to waste it trying to find an agency.
The third thing I learned was that POD—print on demand—is the new wave of publishing. Digital printer technology is now so advanced that it is possible to get professional books printed at reasonable cost in small quantities, all from digital files uploaded through the Internet. Once so published, your book would be available to the world on Amazon.com.
So—I studied all I could find on the topic (Dan Poynter’s book on self-publishing being the Bible on the topic), filed the requisite legal forms to create my company, and went to work. My first self-published book was Happily Ever After. I then served as publisher for a small book written by a friend, Taking Restorative Justice to School, by Jeannette Holtham. That was followed about a year later with the book I am most proud of, Grace Will Lead Me Home: Albert Cheng’s Story. This true story of the unimaginable evil suffered by our friend, Albert Cheng, at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, and his miraculous escape and conversion to Christianity, is one I am privileged to get to bring to the public.
My decision to self-publish was, I suppose, largely selfish. Or perhaps I should say self-serving. After the usual attempts to go the traditional route, I concluded that self-publishing, while perhaps not as ego-boosting, would get books published that would otherwise never see the light of day. Whether that choice is the right one for someone else, I am not prepared to say. I will say that it involves far more hard work, attention to detail, and competency in both writing and technology than one might imagine. In several respects, it is not for the faint-hearted.
Although I created Del Hayes Press (note: it was originally started as Homestead Press, but I changed the name for a variety of reasons) primarily to publish my own books, I am open to doing so for others. The results of that can be seen in this website. I do not actively solicit such projects, but if you have a project you would like to see put into print but feel unable to do so yourself, I would consider publishing it for you.
Also, if you are involved in self-publishing, or thinking of doing so, and want to share thoughts and questions, I’m glad to share whatever I have learned, and am always looking to learn from others.
In either case, please don’t hesitate to contact me.