Continued from “Looking for an Out”
This part of the story picks up after my 30 min talk with Mark Levine and walking out the door with my stuff for Neiko’s Five Land Adventure and Escape from Ancient Egypt, but at this present point and time I can only publish Neiko’s Five Land Adventure. I will talk about my raw experience here too.
My Mill City Press Publishing Experience
I have my necessary materials to submit to Mill City Press. I go to the “Contact Us” tab to find out who to contact and I talk to Michelle Brown the Director of Sales who also takes the submissions. I tell her what I have and how do I submit and who I should speak to. She tells me that I can do everything from the website, and I don’t have to contact anyone. If I had any trouble, I could speak to her if I needed to.
I go to the “Publish Now” tab and buy my editing, basic package, and a few other services. I plan to buy the Expanded program later, just as long as it was purchased before the book went to layout. I asked ahead of time so I didn’t mess up anything.
The system is set up to show me where I am in the process and I am contacted when I need to do something. They give you a timeline on how long each step should take and what I needed to do at each step. Here is where I upload everything and go through the process pretty much on my own, kind of like a dashboard. I was pointed to the person I need to speak with if I had trouble, which was Danielle Adelman the Author Coordinator most of the time. I had to talk to her a few times due to a couple issues, but she was a big help and knocked out the problem in no time. I had to get my high resolution cover files about this time from Xlibris or scan my cover. I had low resolution files and that would not help in recreating my cover. I get the files for both books to be done with it so I didn’t have to do it later. I didn’t have to chase people down or wonder about anything at Mill City Press. I don’t send an email and wonder who would answer back and try to remember who I was supposed to talk to for what purpose. Also questions were answered in a reasonable amount of time. I didn’t have to set deadlines for them and remember to get back with them if I didn’t hear back from them. My first stop was editing.
This editing experience was much different that my prior edit. When I got my first round of edits back, I could see a BIG difference. The editing level I picked allowed me to speak to my editor with questions. My editor’s name was Ken Kane—I could pronounce his name and remember it unlike last time. When I had my call with him, I could ask him for editorial advice to make sure the things I was trying to do were done in the right way, and how my changes looked. He gave me good advice and helped me smooth the rough edges I had tussled with since I was a teen. After this, my second round is done. Editing is the longest and the most important step of the process.
Sometime after this I purchase my Expanded Distribution, and I submit it for the assessment to point me to which imprint that I would publish with. After this assessment I add a glossary and do a few other changes and submit it to the layout stage.
After the editing and assessment, the rest of the process is very swift, even swifter than at Xlibris. It was pretty smooth but some of the ways Xlibris did things or something that was missing would cause a glitch, but I was given advice to handle it effectively, or they would give honest solutions. I know what to do when I redo Escape from Ancient Egypt later. All my following books will be even smoother than that since I don’t have to clean up Xlibris’s mess.
Questionnaires for several of the stages were really detailed, and some questions weren’t even asked at Xlibris. Everything just seemed much more polished and great and not so rough around the edges from what I saw from the proofs. I can’t wait to see my final physical product.
It doesn’t take them very long to release my book, and I knew when my release date was because it was posted during the process. Xlibris was swift on publishing but then took forever for them to release my book; I was wondering what they were waiting on. It floated in Wonderland until late November (for like 2 or 3 months) and I didn’t know what was happening. I was also able to calculate my first book order cost which I get at wholesale as compared to a fat markup. That was great.
I then get my 10 free copies. I crack one open and I look at the difference. Now this book was a work of art. I wished I could show Mark how crappy my other book looked compared to MCP’s work (he probably already had a guess). I showed other family members, and they could see the difference. I hold this book up compared to my old edition and the difference is amazing. The colors were more vivid on my new book cover, the illustrations were sharper, and my book had drop caps! My other book didn’t have those! That had an artistic touch I didn’t anticipate, and I loved that. This book was more massive than the other and the text had a bigger font so no one had to have a magnifying glass to read it. In my old edition, the letters were also very close together that made my eyes hurt. In the Xlibris edition, the maps of Qari and Hawote were just slapped on the page. At MCP they added an artistic border on the maps and gave them a more artistic touch. Sophie Chi, my interior designer, went the extra mile on making it look like a fantasy book and adding the artistic stuff I never thought of. That pleased this artist! The cover was also much more durable and a whole lot shinier. It almost seemed to me that Xlibris made the letters small and put as much text as they could on a page by going from the gutter to a quarter inch (or less) to the edge of the page so that they could make it as short as possible so they could give me the biggest markup. Overall, it was just better. Xlibris also seemed to give me the crappiest paper and the lousiest cover. They use Lightning Source, but other books, publishers, and indie authors who use Lightning Source don’t have such bad quality books. How do I know? When I was exploring distribution options, I had kicked Lightning Source’s tires and they sent me sample books. The samples were better than my books! By the way Mill City formatted it, the book was about fifty pages longer, but remember I also added some content between editions which would have added a few more to the tally. They made the book reader friendly. No one’s eyes would be watering when reading my new book!
In summary, my Xlibris book was an overpriced piece of crap and my new book was fairly priced work of art!
The marketing stage was a complete one eighty from Xlibris. Nobody harassed me or treated me like I was incompetent. I have hardly spoken to anyone on the phone since I have been here. I mostly email people when I need something and they get back to me pretty quickly. People give me honest and competent answers without putting me down. There are no bill collectors or used car salesmen here. They give tons of free advice on their website and sister sites in how to market my book on and off the Internet.
The marketing services also work for a long period of time–a year at the minimum before renewal or as long as my book is available. They are not something that reminds me of dumping powered sugar in your hands and blowing on it and that’s it; that’s what Xlibris services are like and then they ask to do another and another while they don’t sell books—and they cost a lot too. The prices are also much fairer. Everything in general at Xlibris is inflated, not just their printing costs.
Since I have published at Mill City, I have had much more success. I have been able to enjoy book signings, and when people pick up my book, they want to buy it and not turn their nose up at it. I have also been able to sell a few books through my other channels, but my author career has only really started. I am not selling truckloads; I’m just selling books. My numbers are not zip. I was happy when I was mailed my first royalty check. It was nothing fabulous, but it was my first one when I didn’t get a single one at Xlibris, and still haven’t for that matter (and never will).
I don’t count the prior year as far as my marketing prowess, I only talk about it for purposes like this. I didn’t learn anything about marketing from Xlibris. They didn’t teach me squat other than what doesn’t work. All they taught me was what bad customer service looks like and what a bad quality book looks like. They wasted my money and a year of my life, but since then I have been in the silver lining. Otherwise I would not have found Mark Levine or Mill City Press. All things happen for a reason, but I would have liked to have found him and his company under better and less painful circumstances. I guess I may have not learned as much as I have otherwise.
After Mill City Press
This part of my author career is still being written. I have had a lot of good things happen to me since I have left Xlibris. My career is catapulting forward and I am not hitting a brick wall at every turn now. I found out there are ways you can market your book without spending a fortune because I didn’t have it to begin with, and I can do it on my own, and I have people there to ask if I have questions. They don’t harass me. I am also on the fastrack of learning now. I have learned so much in a year that I’m dizzy. My network and connections have grown as well and are still growing.
I have had the unique opportunity to write a small ebook about what I had found, tried, or invented in thin budget marketing which will be released later this year. Mark wanted to work with me in a project with it since he saw a market for it after telling me to write it and seeing it. He told me to compile my information because I kept him updated on my progress and marketing my book on a tiny budget after republishing. He invites all other authors he talks with to keep in touch, and he would like to work with others too. As a result of that, this blog came into being since the publishing industry is changing as much as the weather right now. I find new stuff all the time to share and blog about.
You never know, Mark could surprise you with an email to work with you on some project—that’s the way it was for me. I never had any idea or saw it coming. They always have something going on there. Believe me, I was surprised, and I have enjoyed working with him. Also, Go Publish Yourself.com is undergoing renovation and being improved. I have been invited to write articles and content for a new section of the site presently under construction at the time of this writing. GPY.com is accessible, but not complete. It was a really cool opportunity and was grateful for the offer and the career opportunity to do what I do best: write. I have been able to meet a some of the staff of Mill City, its sister Publish Green, and its parent company Hillcrest Media. Everyone is friendly and professional and great to work with. Nobody is rude or uncouth.
My one year anniversary at Mill City came on September 1, 2011. As I mentioned, this part of my publishing experience is still being written. Any anniversary at a good publisher (no matter who it is) is sweet success and sweeter after you have been in the dark side of the publishing industry. MCP is not for everyone, and there are quite a few other great publishers out there. I can say that MCP is not for the do-it-yourselfer; they tell you that they aren’t for everyone up front. They are for the author who needs assistance in POD publishing, or the author who wants to have access to the traditional side of the industry without the risks, hurdles, puny royalties, and politics of traditional publishing. Most (75+%) of the authors who publish here (myself included) for access to the traditional channels. I didn’t go the DIY route since my book publishing needs were more extensive than what I could do (and do right) on my own. I didn’t want to flood my basement and worse (figuratively speaking) after hiring a bad contractor and trying fixing it on my own when I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought it was best to hire a professional, especially since I was interested in more traditional channels. That is NOT a DIY project; POD publishing can be for the tech savvy with connections (more about that later). I’ve done most of my marketing DIY style though.
Also, the Mill City Press website that I had been to no longer exists. They updated and rolled out a new and improved website. The “Progressive Price Chart” is still on the site, but it is also found in their publishing brochure. Their cousin websites Go Publish Yourself and Published.com have information and tools available for the do-it-yourselfers to find their needed tools and contractors. Some of the tools I have found in addition to those found on GPY.com and Published can be found on this blog on the resources and tools pages. These pages are updated periodically.
I have learned a lot since I’ve gotten through this rough patch and by getting out and exploring things about publishing and marketing. I am not an expert, and I am still learning more all the time. I have also learned I am not the only person in the world that this has happened to. Thousands of others have similar stories, and they are posted in cyberspace. You can take the necessary steps just like I did and still get in trouble because publishers can lie to you on the phone, website, and in their publishing material. If you are not an expert or know where to look, how can you know? That’s why Mark wrote his book. He also wrote a blog post about a misleading line in an advertisement by Xlibris. Even HE had to dig around to find answers. That’s how slick they are! After leaving Xlibris, I found other disturbing facts about them and their associates that I will write about later.
I was curious one day and I wanted to ask Mark how many people come to him with cases like mine. I was surprised to know that I was a rare case. Most of the time, he talks to people about the book matter or answers questions that people have about self publishing in general. I was certainly glad he could help. He is no magician; he simply gave me the information and advice, and I acted on it. I wanted to listen since I couldn’t afford another mess-up. Not everyone listens to him which I could have done too–easily.
Where Do I Find Mark?
You can find him on his website or his blog. You can find his book there too. If you do contact him, I would recommend reading his book or blog or keeping the subject on self publishing or help with self publishing. Don’t email him about the weather or pitch your book at him. You can mention that you’ve been by this blog and mention my name. He will refer to the book or ask questions straight from the book or blog post since that is the point of his 30 minute chat, unless you are being screwed by a publisher and need help (like I was), but it’s still a good idea to read the book. I will warn you though; he doesn’t sugar-coat anything and tells you like it is. If that’s something you don’t like, you may want stay out of the kitchen or be ready and don’t get offended. He does this for your best interest and to help you, not hurt you. It’s a little hard to swallow at first, but I know from personal experience and by getting to know him that he has your best interest at heart. Also, since he is this way I know for a fact that he means what he says, and I don’t have any doubts if he really meant that. He really does want to help other authors.
That’s a wrap for this series. I will post about something else before sharing the other bad news about Xlibris and their compatriots of doom.