Word to the Wise: Advice on Self-Publishing from a Fellow Author

Robert Mottley is more experienced than most writers. At 71, he spent decades as a reporter, columnist and Prayers of God by Robert Mottleyeditor for various publications in Virginia and New York, as well as a freelancer and lecturer in later years. Prayers of God, a Christian-themed fiction novel he self-published with Outskirts Press, is his first foray into book publishing.

This debut began, in a way, on Sept. 11, 2001, when Robert was nearly killed by falling concrete at the American Shipper office in New York’s World Trade Center. The life-altering event is described in the book, which he began writing in earnest after his retirement in 2006. Now that he’s successfully negotiated the publishing process, Robert has a better perspective on what to expect, and how to survive what can be a bit of a scary new journey with sanity intact.

“We’ll have to see what happens now to Prayers of God,” he says. “Meantime, I do have some recommendations for other writers who might be contemplating using Outskirts, as well as two suggestions that pertain only to your company.”

  • Set realistic expectations. You won’t be disappointed. “I received a level of support that truly surprised me – as well as a fine-looking paperback in the end.”
  • While the company extends the same respect and diligence to all of its authors, those with publishing experience truly appreciate the level of service from Outskirts Press, which meets or exceeds that of traditional publishers.
  • Know what is realistic for self-publishing. You should never feel pressured to buy products or services you don’t need. “[Keep] your focus on the book you want to be published: Its content, internal format, outside cover. Once you’ve decided what you want done from the options available, Outskirts will not try to nudge you toward an upgrade.”
  • Be prepared to be your own best advocate. “If you are genuinely uncertain about what you want, your Outskirts representative will offer counsel, but not as a personal trainer. Don’t expect vanity stroking. Also, Outskirts does not employ psychiatrists.”
  • Respect the process. “Initially, you’ll want phone contact. After that, email works faster for everyone, although my phone calls were always returned within 24 hours. Two notable points: The company’s online proof-correcting procedures are writer-friendly, not daunting to use. Also, an author’s account history can be easily accessed and printed for off-site files, which can be very helpful for tax-preparing purposes.”
  • Send the final version of your manuscript in one file, in as clean a condition as possible. “You’ll get a reasonable number of free line and word edits at first, but any substantial shifts of text, or moving content around, will incur delays and extra expense,” the case with any publisher.
  • Be realistic about a publisher’s ability to cater to your needs. All publishers will have multiple clients to serve, and Outskirts Press is no exception. “Patience and a willingness to be flexible are also learning tools. Whatever your ego, or your belief in your book, you will have to work with other people to achieve the best final product. Yes, you are paying Outskirts to print your book, but publishing in any venue is not an instant gratification business.”
  • Be prepared to be invested in the marketing of your book. “Outskirts offers a number of outreach and marketing options that will give your book a kick-start if you use them, but there’s no guarantee of success. There never is. If you care enough about your book to pay to have it published, then I think that in today’s world you are better positioned to maximize its chances.”

In short, says Robert, be realistic in your expectations. Robert worked closely with design, editing and marketing professionals at Outskirts Press to get precisely the product he wanted, and nothing he didn’t. It took some elbow grease on his part, too, but he went into it with an open mind and a willingness to be flexible and invested in his own success.

“My satisfaction comes entirely from knowing that the first edition of what others say could become a world classic has been handled so well,” he says.

Robert Mottley began his writing career as a reporter and columnist for his hometown newspaper in Roanoke, Va. He later moved to New York City where he worked as a staff editor for a maritime union publication for eight years; then for 12 years at Colonial Homes, a Hearst home shelter magazine; and at American Shipper, an international shipping and logistics magazine, for 11 years. Mottley also edited a journal for the American Montessori Society for 16 years in addition to regular freelancing. Mottley taught writing workshops for New York University’s School of Continuing Education and lectured about logistics for both military and civilian college classes. He edited an anthology of essays by Marya Mannes, a pioneering media commentator, and published by a former Doubleday editor under his own imprint.

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3 thoughts on “Word to the Wise: Advice on Self-Publishing from a Fellow Author

  1. This was good and helpful advice. I would only add that if you want your book to appear in bookstores, you will need way more help than I received from Outskirts to make that happen. You’ll want to talk to some target book stores before deciding on what price you want to sell your book for and you’ll need to find out about their return policy requirements. Best of luck to all writers out there! As hard and frustrating as writing and publishing may be, it’s worth it when you have your book in your hands and the hands of other readers.

  2. I would like to make contact with the author, Robert Mottley (Prayers of God). We used to work in the same field for many years, but lost contact. Thank you.

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