Saturday, February 20, 2010

Self-Published and Self-Sufficient: An Interview With Margie Wirth

The weak economy has brought about a few undeniable realities for authors. Budget cutbacks in publishing mean authors have to promote themselves. Platforms, web presences, self-funded book tours, and blog tours are de rigeur. Bottom line: even if you’re with a big house, you have to get out there and hawk your own wares.

Interestingly, these cutbacks have led to a renaissance in self-publishing. Whereas self-publishing used to carry an undesirable stigma, the current economy finds writers choosing to self-publish for financial profit. I’ve heard writers say that since they’re going to have to do the promotional legwork, they might as well self-publish and keep all the profit. I’ve also heard of writers choosing to self-publish to attract the attention of a big publishing house. And I’ve heard inspiring self-publishing success stories.

Clearly, publishing is changing.

I recently had chance to discuss self-publishing with a college pal, Margie Wirth. Margie is a librarian and yoga instructor living in NYC who just released her first self-published children’s book.

BF: The Carrot Monster was inspired by Margie’s real-life canine companion, Bettyford, a veggie-loving Westie/Poodle mix. In the book, Bettyford’s fictional counterpart grows a garden and lives a gluten-free lifestyle. The book was a collaboration with Margie’s sister, Julie Sherfinski, who created the illustrations. Margie and Julie chose to publish with Lulu.

Margie was gracious enough to answer my questions about her writing and the self-publishing process. I thought I’d share her answers with you.

GI: Describe your process in creating BF: The Carrot Monster. How long did the project take from inception to final copy?

MW: I thought of it. Then I wrote down the scenes that I wanted. I sent the scenes idea to my sister. For example, I said rooftop garden. She just did everything from there. I allowed her to use her artistic, creative mind. It took Julie about six months to draw and color 15 drawings. She did it all free hand.

GI: Why did you choose to self-publish? What benefits have you found in it? Any drawbacks?

MW: It is sort of expensive. You put up the money and there are no guarantees of success or ever earning back what you spent. The profit per book is quite low. I guess we could have peddled the idea to publishing houses, but I thought self-publishing would be the easiest route. If it does become a hit, then maybe some big house will offer us a deal.

GI: Why did you decide to publish with Lulu?

MW: My husband had a friend go through Lulu with good results.

GI: Was Lulu easy to work with?

MW: Yes, my contact was very good.

GI: How long was the turnaround time from your initial contact with Lulu to having books in your hands?

MW: Pretty fast, depends on how many edits you have. I believe you are allowed three free edits once submitting the work. I had some typos in first draft that we did not catch right away.

GI: What were your impressions of the finished product?

MW: I like it. but they [Lulu] really do not do much at all. They did the layout for the cover, but that is it. Everything we submitted was “as is” in the book. They just did the production using saddle stitch binding. They really do not do a lot.

GI: What support does Lulu offer to help you market your book?

MW: Not a lot. It will be on Amazon and Baker and Taylor. You select the package.

GI: What kinds of things are you doing on your own to market the book?

MW: Veggies and gardening with kids is very popular today thanks in part to Michelle Obama. We are sending one to the White House, to Oprah, Katie Couric, Elisabeth Hasselback (In the book, the dog is gluten free; I am gluten-free and so is Elisabeth Hasselback.) I am sending one to the Betty Ford Foundation. I am giving one to Mt. Mary [College], to a librarian I know at Milwaukee Public Library and probably a few [to other public and school libraries].

GI: What was the most satisfying part of the process for you?

MW: I would say either holding the first copy or, better yet, actually making some sales.

GI: What have you learned from the process? What would you do differently next time?

MW: I am not sure yet if I would do anything differently. I will have a better answer in six months.

GI: Speaking of next time, do you plan to write more books in the future?

MW: That all depends on the success of the first book.

GI: Last but not least, how does Bettyford like being a celebrity?

MW: She has always believed that she is a former first lady.

Anyone interested in purchasing a copy of BF: The Carrot Monster can order online from Lulu at:


... Paige said...

nice interview, thanks so much for the insight

Linda said...

Nice interview! Thanks for sharing your process Margie. Self-pubbing is definitely one venue for publishing, but I think it means the author will need to spend even more time in promotion to get her/his book to rise from the tremendous number of books published this way. Peace, Linda

J.C. Towler said...

Thanks for sharing the interview, Greta. Good luck with your book, Margie. Hope one of those gals you sent it to drops your name in a national conversation. Could make all the difference.


Stephen said...

Thank you both for the interview and the insight into the self-publishing world. As already mentioned, it takes a lot work and a ton of faith. Around here, I noticed the local Barnes & Noble carries books by local artists. I wonder if your local bookstore will allow you a small amount of space, along with a slot for a public reading. Whatever else you do, I wish you the best,

Margie said...

Thank you everyone. I will definitely check Barnes and Noble.