Author Highlight: Self-Published Poet and Painter Violet Mitchell

Author Violet Mitchell discusses the ups and downs of working with Amazon and the joy of having complete artistic control as a self-published author.

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Denver-based poet and painter Violet Mitchell is no stranger to forging her own path.

Whether she’s sewing and stapling her own poetry chapbooks or exploring cosmic landscapes with her paintbrush and writing pen, she doesn’t shy away from beautifully articulating what may lie beyond our line of sight — both in the celestial realm and within ourselves.

In continuity with her industrious spirit, Mitchell recently self-published her debut poetry book, Of All Stars The Most Beautiful, on Amazon.

We sat down with Mitchell to discuss her self-publishing journey, including how she chose her cover design, the ups and downs of working with Amazon, and the joy of having complete artistic control as a self-published author.

1. Why did you choose to self-publish your book instead of going the traditional route?

A friend of mine teaches high school literature, and he asked if he could purchase some of my work to teach his students. I briefly considered printing and sewing my own chapbooks (which I have done many times before), but I wanted something that felt more professional to give to his students.

I do freelance eBook formatting work, so I already knew a little about publishing books digitally and thought I would give it a try. Self-publishing meant that I could design every aspect of the book, and it would be available much faster than submitting to presses. 

I chose Amazon in the first place because I knew it didn't charge anything to self-publish, and I was already familiar with Kindle, so it was a pretty quick decision for me. 

When Amazon had an option to publish in paperback too, I was thrilled! I was very excited at the idea of my friends and family being able to purchase as many copies as they wanted without me having to personally create each book.

2. How did you choose the cover design for your book? 

The cover is a painting I did a few years ago. I've always loved the colors and the idea of a body being half complete as the rest slowly dissipates. To me, the symbolism and the image itself embodied my work well, especially with many poems dealing with ideas of climate change and its inevitable destruction. 

I felt that the physical shape of the hand also worked well around the title Of All Stars The Most Beautiful, which I broke into several lines. 

The title came from a fragment from Sappho and in collaboration with the image, the two worked together to show the mysteries of the cosmos and what role dissolving has in existence.

I used the Kindle book cover designer and was surprised that this step was actually the easiest step of the entire process. Originally, I was most worried that the cover was going to be pixelated and poor quality, but it turned out much better than I was expecting.

3. What were a few challenges you encountered during the self-publishing or publishing process?

One of my friends who ordered my book mentioned that there seemed to be a mistake with his copy. I asked around to a few other people who had ordered it, and found out that each copy had some sort of printing defect!

I found that only odd-numbered pages were being printed, which cut off or excluded many of my poems. My author proofs weren't scheduled to arrive for another few weeks, so I felt stuck waiting until they arrived before I could reach out to Amazon's customer service.

Once I was able to contact Amazon, I had to upload a new version of my book and start over from scratch. It was very frustrating to see the first batch of books so severed and incomplete, and to have to then reformat yet another version of the text when I had already done everything right the first time.

This experience overtook so much of the process that it was honestly hard to feel excited about the book and people buying it. But once the printing errors had been corrected and I had some time away from it all, it was incredibly rewarding to be holding a book that I had made from start to finish and was now alive in the world.

4. What are your main methods for marketing your book?

I mainly marketed the book to my family and friends and other groups I knew would be interested, like my MFA program. I wasn't too concerned with making a huge profit, so I didn't invest too much of my time into trying to get the word out to the general public. 

I promoted it over my Twitter, personal Instagram, as well as my artist Instagram, so I may have gotten a few other sales through those platforms. I was honestly happy just to know my work existed in a professional capacity, and was readily available to anyone.

5. What advice do you have for self-published authors?

Choose your printer wisely. Amazon was a quick and easy printer, but all the work fell on me, even solving their printing error. 

Even before the error, I looked through the sample proof countless times finding small errors, correcting them, and uploading them all again. 

The FAQ page for Kindle Direct Publishing was often not very helpful, so I was left to my own intuition in learning their software and systems.

6. What book should everyone read right now and why?

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker. Not only is it one of the best titles ever for a book of poetry, each piece continues to surprise and punch its readers with power (in the best way possible). She is an author I highly recommend, especially if you're looking for bombs of truth and beauty while reading polished and moving prose.

 

Violet Mitchell is pursuing her MFA in poetry from Regis University. She was the recipient of Robert A. O’Sullivan, S.J. Memorial Award for Excellence in Writing in 2019. Buy her self-published poetry book Of All Stars The Most Beautiful here >

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

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When I was looking for a printer for my first book I put the project on a nationwide search site. The very first applicant was Steuben Press. Their estimate remained competitive as more than thirty others flooded in. Since then, through two more books and multiple printings, Steuben Press has proved themselves efficient, timely, responsive, and when I call, it's like in "Cheers," a place they know your name. I recommend them without reservation.

– John McReynolds, California

Press Box Productions, [email protected]