Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experiences

Joseph K BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Joseph G.  Krygier to talk with me today about his self-publishing experiences. Joseph is the Pastor of New Covenant Baptist Fellowship in Buffalo, New York. He has written about and been engaged in cross-cultural ministry for over thirty years. He has taught in Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Australia, Canada and the US. His current overseas ministry, since 2009, is TheosDoulos Church Planting Movement; training pastors, overseeing relief and education projects in the Philippines on the island of Mindanao.

Joseph has attended the Belfer Holocaust Educator’s Conferences in Washington D.C. the past two summers. He hopes to be a part of the International Conference for Ministers at Yad Vashem in April 2016. As a result of the book, he has been giving lectures on the Holocaust as well as the book and on Memorial Day 2014, was the guest speaker at the WWII Museum in Eldred, Pa. to celebrate the opening of their Holocaust Remembrance Room.

Before becoming ordained, eight years after his Christian conversion, he was an actor, dancer and lighting designer. He is currently writing a one-man play, Chagrined, based on this book. He plans to do author readings of the play while seeking theater companies that would be interested in producing it. He is glad to do these as fund-raisers for organizations. He is also in the process of laying out the book for an audio book production for the research libraries that have copies of the book, using a number of experienced and possibly some well-known actors. Joseph and classical guitarist, music copyist and composer Scott Ouellette are composing music for both the play and the audio book.

He has ideas for three other books at present and is helping a woman, through his company TOLIFE…Ink, to publish her memoirs.

He feels greatly blessed to be able to interact with so many different kinds of people in so many different situations.

He is married to Deborah, who works for the Buffalo Public Schools, is an accomplished Bible teacher and an actress and has recently been seen in plays in the Buffalo area. Their son, Aaron, is a technical writer for a web support company and is pursuing a career as a writer, director and an actor. An original play of his won a Best Drama Award at a theater festival in New York last spring. He is currently working on the first stages of a film project in Buffalo and has been seen on stage recently and will be again in the fall season.

Joseph, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?

That decision was made when I considered our subject matter and the time it might take for us to write Victor’s story. When we began meeting, first by phone in October of 2009, we were only discussing a play based on Victor’s life. After our first week together at his home in Florida in February of 2010, the decision to make it a book caused us to have a different strategy to get Victor’s story to an audience. He was 82 when we began.

As I began considering how long it might take us to write the book, and knowing from previous experience the difficulties of getting one published by traditional means, even when you have the head of a non-fiction department at a major publishing company pushing for your book to be published by the company … and it was not, after 9 months of holding the manuscript, I thought self-publishing would be the way to go.

A Rage to Live

What has your experience been like along the way?

It has been illuminating and beneficial. It was never frustrating but it was challenging.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

The first was to decide on which self-publishing company to use. I had decided from the beginning that we were going to do a print and an e-pub version. After that, there was the fact that we would be using numerous photographs in the book in a non-traditional way and that in the print copy we would have to go black and white but with the e-pub we could do it in color. That was all a budget consideration. The other initial decision was whether or not to form our own publishing company and purchase our own ISBN or let a self-publishing company provide one for us as part of a package.

What have you learned in this industry?

All self-publishing services are not the same. You must do you research and decide which one or combination of companies will best serve your ideas of how and where you want your book to find an audience. Since we began our project, I have seen major improvements in some of the more prominent companies.

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?

Do the research as I mentioned. Have a plan as to what you want your book to look like, read like and feel like. You may not be able to do what I did and write it, edit it—with the help of my wife Deborah—design the overall layout internally, choose all the photos and design the cover. I had also discovered D.K. Lubarsky, a Holocaust sculptress, who wanted to help our project when I asked her if we could use photographs of them in our book and for the cover. David Lubarsky reworked all the original negatives to optimize them for both black and white and color. So, this was a team effort. If I had not hesitated about finalizing the book, about 7 months earlier than I did, I never would have discovered the sculptor and the layout of the book would have been very different. You may or may not have some folks who will read portions as you go along to see if the “voice” of the book is what you want it to be. For example: I did not tell anyone that I wanted our memoir to read like a novel, but I was told by many that that is exactly the experience they had. Decide what help you need from all the above. Can you get that help from friends or do you need to get some of it from one of the self-publishing services. I did use a service for some sample chapters to get a critique of formatting and use of punctuation at the very beginning. From then on we were on our own and followed the suggested patterns of the service we used.

The total cost of this and purchasing our own ISBN and using two separate services for each type of publication and setting up distribution and printing through both was $700.00. Do not spend thousands of dollars. Do the hard the hard work. Connect with great forums like Layered Pages. Read the stories of others who have self-published. Work with a small self-publishing company that for a lot less in fees will help to guide you through the process and point you to the various routes you can take. We started TOLIFE…Ink to do that and are in the process right now of helping a lady publish her memoirs. She has done all of the writing, editing and so on and now needs to make the final choices of how to get it into print and in the market place. We can save her a lot of time. She came to us for help after reading our book and seeing that it was not a traditional approach to a memoir.

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?

Do not even consider publishing until you have a book that you are satisfied with. You do not need that pressure of pushing to that goal. We began Victor’s story as a project for just his family. Then it began to grow into something else. I had so much source material to choose from I knew we could publish something. Everyone does not have that advantage.

Do not be discouraged in the process. Take advantage of understanding all the mistakes that those of us who have gotten there have made along the way and run away from them. But, don’t be afraid to break some of the rules once you are clearly seeing the way you are going.

Our company philosophy can be summed up this way, “Write the book that you want to read.”

If writing is about hoping to make lots of money, reconsider. You might be the next Jonathan Livingston Seagull, or you may have a smaller audience but one that truly appreciates your hard work and the subject matter you have chosen.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?

I have done a giveaway on Goodreads; 411 people signed up for the 4 signed copies.

192 said they put it on their “to read” list. That has not translated into sales, but that is not all that important. It showed that the subject matter had an audience. We have a Facebook page and a good number of followers as well as a website. I have also done giveaways on Noise Trade Books. The topic of our book lends itself to reaching out to people for educational purposes and I do lectures about the Holocaust, not just the book, at various venues. I am currently in the process of contacting a number of privately owned bookstores within a 200-mile radius to see if they would be interested in scheduling a talk or lecture and a book signing. I would also suggest that you enter your book in a few book award contests that are not expensive. You may not win, but you may get a good critique/review like we did from the judge at Writer’s Digest Annual Book Writing Contest. And of course, there was the surprise of being selected by IndieBrag for an award and then the interview with Stephanie. I will also be doing an audio version of the book (I am in the process of a production schedule) and may be able to use some well-known Broadway and film actors to participate in the project. I also have the benefit of adapting the book into a one-man play. It is almost completed. That will give me the opportunity to do author readings of the play. I do have the experience as an actor.

I don’t spend a set amount of time on a weekly basis, but as I see opportunities, I pursue them with whatever time it takes.

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

I think it can only improve and if more really good authors and small businesses to help authors get involved in the process for the sake of helping writers, the opportunities will be endless. It would be interesting if the indie business so affected the traditional publishers that some of their unfriendly and only for profit ways could be changed.

If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

Getting the word out that it exists, that it is cost effective and that it can produce a book as good as any traditional publishers can do and possibly even better. Sometimes breaking a few of the rules is just what a book needs.

How long have you been an indie author?

I started in 2009. I have the beginning outlines for a novel, a Holocaust history related book and I am revisiting the book that never got published that I mentioned earlier.

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