Sunday, November 18, 2007

Publishing poetry book with iUniverse

Today we welcome poet Janet Grace Riehl to our writing blog where she is discussing her book of poetry titled Sightlines: A Poet's Diary. Find out more about this down-home family love story that endures beyond death as it is told in accessible story poems and archival photos.

You may also want to listen to my podcast interview with Janet.

YVONNE: Is this the first book you have written?

YVONNE: How long did it take to write this book?
JANET: Nine months

YVONNE: How did you publish your book?
JANET: iUniverse--I actively art-directed it.

YVONNE: Was this a good experience for you? What do you mean by actively art-directed?
JANET: Publishing with iUniverse (which describes itself as "assisted
self-publishing") was a good experience for me, and yes I'd recommend them. iUniverse has a variety of publishing packages. I chose a mid-line version and was very satisfied with the service and the result. I could not have published it as cheaply on my own.

I believe it's important to have a vision for your book and not to just turn it over to someone to do it for you. I'd been a professional writer and editor for decades, so I felt confident in staying in charge and asking for what I wanted. I supplied the photo, concept, and copy for the cover front and back. I shaped Sightlines into five sections and illustrated it with 25 archival photos. I set-up a schema for presenting these photos as snapshots in a family album and gave them details specs on how to do that in terms of double frames and the spacing, for instance. I cared how the book looked, and wouldn't step down and sign off until it got there.

YVONNE: Where is your book(s) available?
JANET: The book is widely available in on-line bookstores. My Web site & blog is "Creating connections through the arts, across cultures and generations." Readers can browse sample poems, talks, and background information on the sidebar. Visit my blog "Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century" at for connections through the arts, across cultures and generations.

YVONNE: As far as marketing, do you do more online publicity or print/radio/TV promotion?
JANET: It's been mostly on-line.

YVONNE: Have you hired a publicist to help promote this book?
JANET: Yes, I did work with a publicist.

YVONNE: What did the publicist do for you that you could not have on your own? Do you think it is worth the money to hire a publicist?
JANET: I've been extremely active in promoting "Sightlines: A Poet's Diary" in every conceivable format. Reader Views has very cost effective packages and I did find what they did for me helpful in terms of their Internet press release and the interview. There is no charge for a regular review. They charged one tenth of what I paid another company.

I felt I didn't know enough of the book business and PR business to rely solely on my own efforts. I wanted to offer the best for my book. I'd bought Dan Poynter's packet on how to send out for book reviews and felt overwhelmed. I'd been getting a marketing newsletter from a company that was chock full of good tips and gave me good confidence in their capability and credibility. I borrowed what amounted to one third of my income at the time to hire this company to send Sightlines out for review and send it on a virtual tour.

Probably my expectations were too high. I had hoped they could hook me up to places I couldn't get to on my of my dreams was to see if Garrison Keeler would be a champion for "Sightlines" for instance. That was my version of the more popular wish to appear on "Oprah," I guess. I thought they'd set up a book blog tour for me.

It's not that I think they didn't do a good job...I just don't even know what kind of results I should have/might have gotten that are realistic. It didn't lead to book sales, but I have come to think that's maybe not the's about something else and something that we really cannot measure.

I'm not sure what long-term results were gained. A number of leads were generated, and I think that's all they remain...unless I take the trouble to follow-up. The reviews were oriented on-line and not for print, but we did receive reviews of Sightlines on TCM Reviews and Muse It Up (as well as an interview there). Another good result for me was an ongoing contact after the tour with the reviewer for TCM...who published some more print interviews with me, and I helped him promote his work as well.

I'm glad I hired the publicist, because now I'll never have any unanswered questions of what might have been. It was disappointing, but perhaps it was something I needed to do at the time. And, perhaps I learned something from the doing of it. What my father calls "part of my education."

One of the good things that came out of my marketing experience was an ongoing relationship with Writers in the Sky. When I found your site, I shared it with others. So, in that way, my publicity tour has opened the door to be helpful to many other clients and readers and listeners of the Writers in the Sky podcast.

During the Gold Rush, very few miners hit a vein of gold they could mine or a rich claim. The big money in the Gold Rush was made from the support services (eating, sleeping and so
on) of taking care of the people who came out West to strike it rich. Some of that is going on now with the explosion of the publish-your-own-book-boom. You could spend endless amounts of money and time promoting your book, all to no avail. That's why the Frugal Book Promoter is so good. That's why it's so important to have a plan and clear benchmarks of what you want to achieve.

YVONNE: So, you have also read Carolyn Howard-Johnson's book? She is one who truly wants to help authors avoid some of the pitfalls of book marketing. I recommend THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: How to do What Your Publisher Won't to every author I know. I interviewed Carolyn on my podcast. You may listen to the interview here.

Any other comments or things you would like for us to know?
JANET: It's important for us to make our wit and wisdom available however we can. With the explosion of options on the internet for assisted self-publishing, there are many pathways to do that.

"Sightlines" recently won honorable mention for the DIY (Do It Yourself) festival out of Los Angeles. I've just finished proofing an article that will appear in a Northern California print publication this fall. I've hosted several blog tours on I think in the future I could set up a blog tour for myself now that I've been networking in the blogsophere for the past year.

YVONNE: Thank you for sharing your publishing and marketing experience with us. I've read your book and it is a great collection of very meaningful poems.

1 comment:

Janet Grace Riehl said...

Thanks, Yvonne, for publishing this interview with me. But, more, for having the conversation with me. It takes time. I don't know when you ever sleep.