Talking Purple Unicorns: Why I’m Calling It Self-Printing


Previously on Self-Printing: One Writer’s Journey Type-Thingy Through Self-Publication, I wrote a book about the eighteen months I spent living in Florida, working in Disney World and trying desperately to straighten my hair but despite great feedback from professional literary-types, Mousetrapped couldn’t find a home. I didn’t want to self-publish because it was always something I’d looked down on with such disdain that I feared the world would come off its axis with the shock should I ever change my mind.

But what was the alternative?

My options, as I saw it, were these:

(a) Never mention Mousetrapped again despite having told every single person I ever met that I was writing it

(b) Recycle the 400 sheets of paper it was printed on (double-spaced 12pt Courier, of course) and forget about it

(c) Have it bound in leather, leave it on the coffee table and tell guests – whether they asked about it or not – that it was my travel memoir, saying it in a French accent so it sounded all posh, i.e. mem-wah.

(d) Use a Print on Demand (POD) service to – yes, you’ve guessed it – print a few copies on demand so that I could sell it to the small group of people I knew for sure to be at least mildly interested in buying it, i.e. my parents, my relatives, my friends who were in it, my friends who’d wonder why they weren’t in it, a handful of Disney fans, a handful of NASA fans and the 30 or so people I’d squeeze into the Acknowledgements.

I couldn’t face having to tell everyone that a summer locked in my bedroom and a credit card melted by a new computer had come to nothing, I didn’t particularly care about the planet and my French accent isn’t great, so that just left me with one option: putting my SPS (Self-Publishing Snobbery) aside and using a POD service to print and (try to) sell copies of MT.

(I don’t refer to it as MT. I just thought that sentence would be nicely rounded out by a third acronym.)

But I would be unfailingly, unforgivingly, brutally realistic. I would acknowledge that none of the following things were going to happen to me as a result of self-publishing: getting rich, getting famous, getting ‘properly’ published, getting skinny, getting a condo with pool access somewhere near the town of Celebration, Florida where I would live out my days drinking mojitos and reading astronaut biographies on my iPad.

Celebration, Florida

Me in Celebration, FL, AKA the town in which the money I make self-publishing is not going to be enough for a condo

(Oooh, topical!)

If anything this endeavour was going to cost me money, not make it.

Being realistic made me, it seemed, a rare creature in the dark and cavernous world of POD publishing, as I quickly discovered when I set about investigating my options by trawling through the information on Lulu and Createspace, two of the most popular POD services.

I ventured into the sites’ forums.

My first tip about self-publishing using a POD service: don’t venture into the sites’ forums.

The decorative scheme is five shades of Crazy, the distinct scent of eau de delusional hangs in the air and everyone seems to be complaining. One guy was particularly upset because his 35,000 word novel about the adventures of Rafellius the Great – a talking purple unicorn who lives between this world and the next and has a penchant for Bird’s Eye fish fingers – had only sold one copy despite him doing nothing except clicking the ‘Publish’ button on Oh, and he had yet to receive the $2.87 that was rightly his.

Then there was this:

“Thank you for your advice and information. I am very apprehensive. I am frightened. I wrote my first children’s book 9 years ago and I still haven’t figured out how to publish it. I hope this works. I don’t have illustrations. My book is one of the best books I have ever read. I have read over 2,000 children’s books. I wish you all the success in the world.”*

There was one or two seemingly sane people helpfully dispensing advice to the crazies, but other than that I felt quite alone. I was embarrassed – almost apologetic – about self-publishing my book. How did I fit in with these people who thought that the one thing the world was waiting for was a bound copy of their copyright-breaching Emmerdale fan fiction complete with a cover that could make your eyes bleed?

Answer: I didn’t.

I knew that the only thing clicking the ‘Publish’ button would do for me is bound a copy of the PDF document I’d submitted to the POD service, slap the cover I’d designed – mistakes and all – on it, list the book in the darkest corner of and deduct €14.49 from my credit card. I thought my book was certainly a better read than the back of a cereal box but didn’t expect to sell more copies than people I could ply with chocolate. And it was about me, Disneyworld, Florida, NASA, the Space Shuttle, Bruce Willis and the Ebola virus – there wasn’t a purple talking unicorn in sight.

So I decided that no, I wasn’t self-publishing.

What I was about to do was self-printing.

*Okay, so I made up Raffellius the Great but I copied and pasted that comment directly from Yes, really.

Read all my self-printing posts or read about the book I self-printed.

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10 thoughts on “Talking Purple Unicorns: Why I’m Calling It Self-Printing

  1. movienewsfirst says:

    I think self-publishing or “self-printing” is gaining more and more recognition. The winner of the Irish Book Awards (children’s category) for 2009 was a self-publisher, so I live in hope!

  2. BeccaBrown says:

    Your next step is obviously to write a book about being self-published! Very realistic and humorous look at the process for someone like me who has yet to start writing their masterpiece, thank you.

    Although Raffellius the Great has got me thinking…

  3. catherineryanhoward says:

    Olive: I hope so! I think you just really have to make the effort to do it as professionally as possible which is a bit of a mountain to climb when you’re using a POD service. I’ll try my best, though!

    Rebecca: You’re most welcome. And if you write a book about Rafellius, I better be in the Acknowledgements… 😉

  4. David volpe says:

    So am I to understand you will let us know when we can purchase the said book? And, may we ask if we are in it first? I’ve always wanted to see my name in printed type 😉

  5. catherineryanhoward says:

    Don’t worry David – you will all be sick of my countless reminders, hints, demands, etc. to buy the book (as well as details about how) when the time comes in about 6-8 weeks. As for being in it, it’s not really about the people as such, it’s more about me and the places, etc, and only Eva and Andrea are referred to by their real names. (So as to avoid lawsuits!) However a lot of you will appear – real names – in the Acknowledgements so does that count as seeing your name in printed type? 🙂

  6. Becky says:

    Nice to see someone a bit sane in this world – and to acknowledge the sanity! I really appreciate you writing frankly about it.

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