Self-Publish or Not? Advice From Joy Wooderson

Thursday, January 07, 2010
Many writers have this goal on their 2010 list: "Find an agent or publisher for my novel." Joy had this same goal one year after working on her memoir for eight years. As you'll hear in her own words, she'll tell you why she decided to self-publish: Finding Joy: One Woman's Journey Back to Faith. And let me tell you, this is a well-written, excellent book--full of ideas, situations, and questions that will make you think about your own life. Here's a brief synopsis:

Finding Joy: One Woman’s Journey Back to Faith is an
irational book offering a strategy to lead the reader toward building an authentic, living relationship with the invisible God. Drilled in rigid religious beliefs from childhood, Joy Wooderson found herself trapped in a state of confusion, held hostage to the expectations of others. Sitting atop awe-inspiring Mount Sinai on a vacation trip, she wondered what it might be like to have an unhindered, one-on-one connection with God. Finding Joy tracks the quest triggered by a desperate desire to break out of her mental and emotional prison. The book explores the Biblical design for balanced living and offers pointers for the spiritual journey. Joy discovers that God’s desire is that we experience a life of joy and security in relationship with Him.

Margo: Hi, Joy. Thanks for talking to The Muffin readers about self-publishing. Why did you decide to self-publish Finding Joy?

Joy: I went the usual route of contacting publishers and agents who might be interested in an inspirational book. In most cases, the editors said I had a fascinating story, and my writing was good—but I was a “nobody.” I had no speaking or media platform, and the competition was too fierce (think Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert). No agent expressed interest in battling this level of competition. I realized I had hit a brick wall. But I could not bring myself to give up after eight years of thinking, learning, planning, writing, and editing. I had a worthwhile book that I wanted to get “out there.” I had also become increasingly wary of some young editor getting hold of my story and tearing it apart.

At the urging of my cousin in Spain, I began exploring the idea of electronic publishing, specifically getting the book on Amazon’s Kindle. I researched several publishing options, and determined that Amazon’s Print-On-Demand division, BookSurge (now part of CreateSpace), offered what I wanted.

Margo: I think it's great that you went for it, and you have a beautiful book now! What did you look at when you were deciding who to self-publish with?

Joy: I liked the fact that BookSurge expected me to take an active role in the publication process. Several things were nonnegotiable: total control over the manuscript, input on the cover design, flexibility of custom interior design, including page header layout, sub-headings, and font variations. Cost was an important consideration, and BookSurge offered a cafeteria menu of services and a range of prices. Since I am very computer literate, I was able to do much of the manuscript and file preparation myself. This made the cost of the BookSurge package I chose affordable. I also wanted technical support and advice from the company with whom I worked, and BookSurge provided this throughout the process. Further, they handled the transfer of the files to Amazon and sent me a converted file which I uploaded to Kindle. I particularly liked their royalty rate of 35% on Amazon sales.

Margo: Sounds great, and of course, you made very smart business decisions. It is so important to know your nonnegotiable points, too! Who did you use as an editor and why?

Joy: I had been fortunate to meet Amy Harke-Moore of The Write Helper at Saturday Writers in O’Fallon, MO several years ago. She not only provided excellent editing, but also gave invaluable guidance through the development process. A crucial element in working with Amy was her ability to edit, offer suggestions, keep the pace moving, and still allow my “South African voice” to remain intact. BookSurge required that manuscripts be professionally edited, either by one of their editors or an outside service, so I was ahead of the game in having utilized Amy’s expertise.

Margo: Amy is a great editor, and it shows in your book. And like you said, your South African voice comes through! Explain to us how you got such a wonderful cover.

Joy: Coming up with a cover design was daunting as I am not artistically creative. One day, as I reflected on the story and my life experiences, the concept of an awakening came to mind—perhaps a lovely flower emerging out of snow or ice. I spent hours looking at pictures on the Internet and trying to visualize what the cover could look like.

When I forwarded my suggestion to the design folks at BookSurge, they pointed out that snow and ice would never show up as an online cover. However, they captured and modified my concept, and the daisy emerging from parched ground was the result. I had the cover I wanted—one that “speaks.”

Margo: Thanks, Joy, for sharing your self-publishing journey with us. If you have any questions for Joy about self-publishing, feel free to leave them here.

Interview by Margo Dill


Donna Volkenannt said...

Hi Joy,

I don't have a question, just a comment.

A couple months ago I had the privilege of reading your memoir and posting a review of it on my A Book A Week blog

Your memoir is lovely--inside and out. You are courageous for writing it and for having the determination not to give up on it.

And, for Margo. Thanks for another great interview.

Kudos to you both!

Donna Volkenannt

Flory said...

Thank you for this wonderful interview. It provided me with useful information regarding the self-publishing route. I was not familiar with BookSurge.

I am in the process of editing and revising my memoir. At what point should I use the services of an editor, and how do I find one that is cost effective, but knowledgeable?


Joy Wooderson said...

Hello Flory,

I'm so pleased I was able to offer you insight into self-publishing. Part II of my interview will focus on the marketing aspect.

My recommendation is to secure an editor before you submit the manuscript for publication. Whether you choose to get an editor's input ahead of time depends upon your confidence in your writing, knowledge of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, story flow, etc.

Two of my good writer friends offer editing services and I can vouch for their expertise: Margo Dill at and Amy Harke-Moore at Either one will give you value for money.

Good luck with your memoir.

Joy Wooderson

Flory said...

Thank you for your recommendations Joy.

I look forward to Part Two of the interview!

A Woman's Life Stages

Manny said...

I want to become a writer but my grammar is terrible. I need help in my structure. Do you have any helpful tips?

Joy Wooderson said...

Hello Rob,

Becoming a successful writer involves lots of baby steps. My first suggestion is that you find a writer's group/critique group in your area. This will be invaluable. Second, there are many books in libraries and book stores to aid you. Two are: "English Grammar Simplified" by James G. Fernald and of course, THE reference book, The Gregg Reference Manual by William A. Sabin - an invaluable resource for the serious writer.

Good luck, and hope this helps you on your way.


Manny said...

I live in Indianapolis. Do you know of anyone in this area?

Joy Wooderson said...

Rob, I found my group by searching on the internet for "writer's group" and the location. Keep your eyes and ears open for a writers' conference. That is a great way to link up with other writers.


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