Poets & Writers

The Savvy Self-Publisher

ELIZABETH Hutchison Bernard has been writing for most of her life, but after graduating from Northwestern University she pursued a career in music, working as a vocalist, flutist, and songwriter. She later became the communications director for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and subsequently served as the executive editor of Aesthetic Surgery Journal. Her knowledge of the plastic surgery industry inspired her first book, The Beauty Doctor, a historical novel she self-published in 2017. In December of last year Bernard self-published her second, Temptation Rag, a novel set in the early twentieth century that revolves around ragtime, vaudeville, and African American musical theater. Based on real-life people and events, the book features a character named Mike Bernard, inspired by Bernard’s husband’s grandfather, a famous ragtime musician. I spoke to the author about her experiences with self-publishing; for some perspective on publicity and marketing, I talked to Dawn Raffel, who is an independent editor, and Jane Wesman, the founder of Jane Wesman Public Relations.

The Author’s Approach

was actually my first book. I started it eight years ago at the Hudson Valley Writers Center and worked on it for several years, much of which was spent completing research. But when my husband and I moved to Arizona, I put the book on hold for a year. When I resumed working on it, I hired a developmental editor; she was very encouraging but pointed out a lot of things I needed to revise. At first I. It was an easier novel to write because I knew the subject matter. It took me about two years to complete, and I learned a lot about writing along the way. I hoped to have it published by a traditional publisher, and I sent out forty-eight queries to literary agents. Seven agents asked for the manuscript, but they all rejected it. Although I considered sending out more queries, I felt well equipped to publish independently because I had a strong editing background. I had also worked with graphic designers when I was in public relations. I hired a book publicity firm, which turned out to be disappointing. The company seemed to have a one-size-fits-all approach, and I felt the publicists didn’t take the time to understand my book’s niche. The staff was hard to reach and sent out press materials without my approval. After the contract ended I continued to promote on my own, and the book won several awards, including an honorable mention in the 2017 Arizona Literary Awards; it was also a fiction finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award.

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