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“The Encouragement to Try”: Award Winning Author Dorraine Darden on Self-Publishing Novels

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Texas author Dorraine Darden wrote a stunning novel, Jack Rabbit Moon.  She had put a lot of work into it, learning the craft, researching the setting and generally preparing to be a published writer.  When she could not interest an agent or a publisher in handling the manuscript, her thoughts turned to self-publishing.  The resulting product, as well as all aspects of the story, are impressive in the best ways possible.

Consequently, I decided to ask her about her self-publishing experience:

Do you expect your book to be a financial success, or did you self-publish primarily to establish yourself as a fiction writer?

Self-Published Author Dorraine DardenAlthough self-publishing is not usually a sure or quick route to a financial windfall, one can always, hope, wish and dream. Behind that comes plain hard work. There are many successful self-published authors who have led the way, which gave me the encouragement to try. I’m not sure how it will end up, but the ride has been extraordinary. I did have an established Texas market for Jack Rabbit Moon, which was set in West Texas’ Garner State Park. This has helped regarding sales.

It’s difficult to establish yourself as a fiction writer without having your leg through the door, so yes to both questions.

What are your criteria for considering the book a success?

For me, hearing from readers is the best indicator. When I’m told someone couldn’t put the book down and another missed the characters when they were finished, it is touching on a level beyond monetary success. Many have also inquired rather I’m planning on a series for the novel. Although, I am not, it is splendid knowing I have given them something authentic, well researched and emotionally satisfying. In my mind, that is success.

Did you attempt to interest agent and/or traditional publishing houses in the manuscript?

Yes, to both. And there was interest in the book, but ultimately in each case I was told there was no market for coming of age stories even though the writing was worthy. No market for coming of age stories? I just didn’t buy it. There is nothing new under the sun and that goes for writing. What makes a book entertaining and worth being read is the way the author tells his/her version of the story. The passion in which they relay it. I felt Jack Rabbit Moon delivered, and so I moved forward with it. Writer's Digest believed so too. The novel was an Honorable Mention winner in this year’s Mainstream Fiction category of The Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards.

Why did you choose to self-publish?

I have been writing for nine years and knew this particular book was ready. I’d taken classes on novel writing and had worked hard. This was actually my second novel. My goal was, and always will be, to share what I do. I’ve always hated the words no and can’t. They are dream killers.

Why did you choose the publisher you did, rather than the less expensive ones like Amazon services?

After much research, I chose my publisher because they turned out quality books. I’d asked for sample books from different self-publishers and in comparison their covers were striking. Covers do sell books. The fact that I had hands on with layout and cover design also appealed to me. All rights to the book were mine as well.

Will you go that route for your next book?

No, and here is why. Although the experience was mostly positive, and my book was well received, it has been costly. Both for publication and promotion. With writing retreats, workshops, classes etc…I’ve continued to perfect my craft, and hope to receive the backing of an agent and publisher. My subsequent novel, and a YA [young adult] series on the paranormal I’ll be working on soon will be making the rounds, hoping for that yes. Who doesn’t want to be paid for work infused with passion?

About Georganna Hancock

San Diego publisher, freelance editor and writer, blogged almost daily for eight years at A WRITERS EDGE. She helps writers on the path to writing success with critiques, edits and publishing advice. Find her author page on Amazon and her epublications in her Amazon Shop. Her business profile is on LinkedIn and her tweets on Twitter, where she's aka @GLHancock. Georganna's first writing appeared in print in the 1960s. She worked as a journalist for many years. She reviewed books for the FORT PIERCE NEWS TRIBUNE and THE LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL and wrote for THE MIAMI HERALD, regional publications, and many national magazines. She was a member of the National Book Critics Circle, the San Diego Professional Editors Network and the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild, for which she served as Web Manager. Books reviewed may have been received as gifts. All her writings are protected by U.S. copyright law.
  • Joanne Huspek

    Great interview and just the information I look for. I’m still waffling on the self-pub idea. There are pros to it as the salesmen for the companies will tell, as well as cons which they don’t mention. To hear a first person account is always welcome.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Georganna -

    Thanks you very much for your article – the agent I approached literally cut me off the moment I said there was anything about terrorism in my novel…and I shut myself down about it since then, about two years ago, with the novel 4/5ths done.

    Okay then. Back to the mill. It’s a shame I didn’t get it published two years ago because H1N1 played a central role in the novel (I posted an article about H1N1 on Blogcritics two weeks before the infections started hitting the news earlier this year)…and what are we seeing today?

    But I can at least honestly claim in the preface I began the novel long before the current outbreak.

    Again, Georganna, thanks. I’m confident that the novel is that good – now to see if I’ve got the guts to put my money where my typing fingers currently are.

  • Val MacEwan

    Interesting take on vanity presses… there are many avenues out there for publication. Many of my friends are quite pleased with Lulu. Marketing a self-published book is quite a task, very difficult. Good luck!

  • Dorraine

    Thanks for leaving your comments, and I hope the article helped regarding publishing decisions. Best of luck with your books!