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The A-B-Cs of why I self-publish!

When I published Exit 14 in 2021, I’m betting there were at least a few people who thought to themselves, “Just who the heck does this guy think he is?” Listen, I get it. Writing and publishing a book is kind of a big deal!

I mean, if you’re wondering if I think I’m John Steinbeck or Ernest Hemingway, believe me when I say, I know I’m not. I’ve read just about everything those two guys wrote, and I am eminently aware I am not in their league! But think of it this way: those two guys were at it a lot longer than I have been. But, don’t worry, I’ll catch up with them. . .if I live to be 120! I have at least one thing in common with Steinbeck and Hemingway, though. Like them, I have stories to tell.

Let me get to it and explain how I became a published author. On the eve of the Covid pandemic, my dearly beloved brother and only sibling died after battling Leukemia for two years. He was 71 years old. I think of him and miss him daily!

Being shut away due to the pandemic, I decided to do something I had wanted to do my entire life. I started writing a novel, loosely based on our days -- my brother’s and mine -- working at Duchess in Ansonia. In only a matter of months, 110,000 words poured out of me. (Note: If you have 110,000 words ready to pour out of you, I encourage you to write a book!)

In the process of writing, I researched the publishing industry and learned that a writer today can do one of two things: 1) go the traditional route (i.e., find an agent who submits his manuscript to publishers, and hope for the best), or 2) a writer can self-publish. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but Amazon has created a “do-it-yourself” publishing world where an author can upload his book to their site, format the interior of the book, and create a cover -- all at no cost. Millions of “would be” authors are doing so every day. Of course, on the back end, when the book goes on sale, trust me when I say Amazon takes their fair share.

If I had tried to self-publish years ago, pre-Amazon, I would have had to find a local printer, order an inventory (at a cost to me), and hope I could sell them somehow.

Amazon changed that because besides giving a writer the tools to self-publish and a platform to sell books, Amazon (and now other vendors) utilize a program called “print on demand,” meaning that, once my book is available, books are made to order. If only one book gets ordered this month, Amazon prints and ships only one book. That means I never have to have an inventory unless I want to. And the “print on demand” program is available globally. I have a friend from Germany who bought my first book. One copy was printed in Holland and sent (by Amazon) to my friend. Pretty neat, right?

“Why not publish traditionally -- not good enough?” you ask. Maybe I am and maybe I ain't -- so there! Probably, I’ll never know. At the time of writing Exit 14, several published author friends encouraged me to seek out a publisher, but I decided against it. In my research about traditional publishing, I learned that it takes time to connect with a literary agent, time to find a publisher interested in my book, and then time before the publisher schedules it to print. It could take five or more years for a writer to see his book on the market for sale...or maybe longer...or maybe never!

Well, guess what I don’t have. Time! Remember, my first novel was inspired by my brother, who died at 71. Guess how old I am as I write this blog. If I was a young man, it might be different, but in case you haven't noticed, I am not a young man!

So, I decided to control my own destiny as a writer and have things happen on my timeline. No publisher is going to decide if and when my work will go to print, no publisher is going to tell me when the first draft of my manuscript must be ready, and no publisher is going to choose what my cover design will be. With the assistance of “Team Scarpa,” I decide all of those things and more. Think of it this way: instead of applying for a job as a manager of McDonald’s, I have opened my own fast food restaurant. Essentially, we Scarpas have started our own publishing company, strictly dedicated to my books.

Is there a cost to me? Indeed there is. Being in business costs money. I have hired a professional cover designer, and I have purchased software to make the interior of our book look as professional as possible. Oh, and I sought out the best editor I could find. Her name is Mia Scarpa and she cares about my books as much as I do. But the good news is: Mia gives me a “family discount” for her professional services!

As we Scarpas did in the world of theater, we pay close attention to detail, and we never have a “good enough” attitude. Ultimately, we want our book to look as good as if Simon & Schuster had published it. You be the judge!

Am I making money? Not so far...but that’s okay, I’ve got time. I’m only 71! Besides, a) the majority of fiction writers (even traditionally published ones) don’t make a living at it, and b) money is not my primary goal. I am a creator, and since retiring from the world of theater, one thing is clear to me. I have a lot of creative juice left in the old tank. As I had a penchant for creating theater, so do I also have a penchant for writing books. It’s a wonderful way for me to spend my time in retirement in a positive and healthy way.

So, just who the heck do I think I am? Just a person who believes in himself. Just a lover of literature. Just someone with a burning desire to create. Just a guy with stories to tell and the time and wherewithal to tell them!

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