In my other writing life I produce a weekly column called Bookends. As a result I see a lot of books, an increasing number of which are self-published.
The results so far have been rather uneven. There have been some that really needed an editorial hand, others where the copy-editing was enough to make you cry. Some have had covers that do nothing to invite the reader, typefaces that could have come off a Gestetner and page layouts that scream “amateur”.
When Whitehorse resident Roy Ness’s first book, Rutting Season, came my way I did not immediately spot it as a self-published book.
Its 360 pages are neatly bound; there’s an attractive photo on the cover; there are only a few typos that caught my eye; the overall production was very good.
The book itself only tells you that it was made in Charleston, SC, so I called up Ness to ask him about it.
He used Amazon’s CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Having been suitably impressed with Rutting Season, I wondered why he didn’t submit it to a regular publisher.
“I didn’t have much luck doing that,” says Ness. “I was just about at the point where I was going to try to find an agent.”
He was moved to try the indie (as they call it) route after listening to a presenter at one of those periodic writers’ conferences in Whitehorse.
“She was very convincing about it,” he remembers. “Talking about all the changes that were happening in the publishing industry, how everything was in flux.”
Ness had already worked to make the details of the story accurate. He’s hunted, and hauled horses in a trailer. He and his daughter, Clare, did a river trip on the Macmillan River just to get the geography as accurate as possible.
He has taken the book through several drafts. Including a massive restructuring of the presentation of events on the advice of author Stephen Galloway (The Cellist of Sarajevo) after a residency at the Sage Hill Writing Experience in Saskatchewan.
He’d reached the point where he wanted to get it out of his hands and into the world. CreateSpace provided a relatively inexpensive way to move on in that direction.
Amazon seemed to have the widest possible reach for this approach. The publish-on-demand feature meant he wasn’t going to end up with inventory and yet the book would be available in hard copy or e-book format just about anywhere.
As it happened, it is available through Amazon (paper or Kindle), or Barnes and Noble (paper but not Nook), and several other online booksellers, as well as local bookstores.
The website offers both free tools to do-it-yourself and the option to have them do it for you. Ness chose the latter option. Even so, he was pleased with his own participation and the price.
“You are involved in every step of the way. The cover design, the fonts and so on — everything was down to my approval.”
The downside of going the indie route is that there’s no one out there pushing your book for you.
“The word has to get out about the book and that’s basically up to me, to get the word out,” says Ness. “That’s the hard part for me — figuring out a marketing plan.”
Still the book is selling and the Kirkus Reviews Agency recently gave it a starred review in its indie category, calling it “An uplifting read that informs, enlightens and satisfies.” So it seems the word is getting out.
Rutting Season is now available at local bookstores for approximately $20, depending on where it’s purchased.
After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.