How I Got Discovered: Interview with Self-Published Author Al Arnold

As a self-published author, getting your work into the hands of a big publisher can mean a lot for your baby (er, for your book). 

Sp 010howigotdiscoveredinterviewwithself publishedauthoralarnold

You can look forward to broader distribution, a team of marketers, book tours, and — ideally — better sales and more fans reading your book.

And with hard work, dedication, and a lot of luck, you just might find yourself with a book deal. 

That’s what happened to Steuben Press’ own Al Arnold, author of Robert E. Lee’s Orderly: A Modern Black Man’s Confederate Journey.

A descendant of a slave, Arnold’s first self-published book tells his own journey of embracing his Confederate heritage. This year, that book won the attention of a publisher.

We asked Arnold to give his best advice about what it took to transform from a hard-working self-published author to a hard-working author with a publishing deal. 

From how to deal with rejections to the importance of networking, here’s a successful self-published author’s journey to discovery, and advice on how to get discovered.

How did it feel to get your first book deal? 

To be honest, I was completely surprised by my first publishing deal. 

Leading up to the book and during the writing process, I spent several hours a day reading about the struggles, success stories, failures and thoughts of self-published authors.

Reading authors, bloggers, online articles and the many do's and don'ts of the self-publishing world from a variety of circles.

In my early research, I read the key to finding a publisher is to find an agent or publisher that loves your work even more than you do (if that’s possible!)

I met my current publisher, Inknbeans Press, at an event in Memphis a year before my second book. 

My display table was next to the publishers table, and representatives from Inknbeans Press were those people who loved my story. 

My first book was picked up by Inknbeans just 2 years after I self-published it. 

How did you get your publisher’s attention?

I met my publisher at a book event about a year before I approached them for consideration of my new book.

I communicated with the company's representative after the book affair just to say it was great to be their neighbor. Perhaps it helped that I was seen first-hand by the publisher, promoting and selling my book at the event.

I was really hoping to have the experience of a publisher for my second book.  I knew I could sell my book just as I had the first one.

I dropped an email to their representative and ask if they were interested. I sent the manuscript and got a call in a few days with a dear lady telling me she was "Crying after I picked up the book and got half way through it."   

Well, that met my determination that she loved this work at least as much as I did.

Al Arnold’s Advice for Self-Published Authors

Don’t let rejections deter you

It's necessary to prepare for rejections and to expect them. Rejections offer a measuring rod to keep you encouraged because very few people will love what you have written as much as yourself.  

You must love what you’ve written, or the discouragement will keep you from asking for consideration.

Don’t take publisher rejections personally, because you want a publisher that will love your work even more than you do.

Whenever I received a rejection letter from a publisher or agent, I flipped the scenario around and decided that I was the best agent for my story. And until I decided I had that person who loved by book more than I did, it didn't matter if I got rejected.

I wasn't looking for acceptance but a love affair, and that's what I found with my first publisher.

Stay Social

My Facebook page was launched 3 months prior to the publication of book. 

I think having an active social media platform is important for the marketing success of your book. 

Yet, you must be dedicated to updating the platform for it to be fruitful. 

Pick up the Phone 

Make every effort to work with people who are easily accessible via phone. 

And if you have any self-publishing connections who are open to rendering advice, all the better (after all, I had no idea what I was doing). 

These kind of people will make it easy for you, if you trust them. Through these connections I found Steuben Press in Colorado, my book distributer CD Technical in Iowa, my Audiobook Producer Raven Audiobooks in Arizona, and my Audiobook Voice Actor, Sule Greg Wilson, in Los Angeles.

Though I’ve only had the privilege of meeting my cover designer, everyone on my team are very talented and dedicated to what they do. 

Moreover, they gave excellent advice about much more than their specific service, which proved to always be fruitful.

I trusted my team to help me, and they delivered. I would use any of my team members again for help, without hesitation. 


Get in front of people who would be interested in your book. 

Somewhere I read that the average book signing sells only 8 books. Paired with the fact that no one knew me as a new author, I avoided signings at first. 

Now, I like events. Events are where you can meet people. And people are more interested in you than in your book. Once I caught onto this, I leveraged my passion for my book’s topic to sell more books.

Only you can sell your own book. Get out there and do it.

Believe in your story because if you don't, no one else will

After all your hard work, dedication and countless mistakes, you start to realize that the joy of sharing your story with people and how it can impact lives is worth the long journey of self-publishing.

Discover more advice on how successful writers stay inspired >

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.

Flight cover

After a disappointing proof of my labor-intensive and much loved manuscript from another printer, I decided to try Steuben Press. Based on recommendations from many of my publishing team who are all members of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), I submitted my book to Adam and his staff.

Their proof was perfect! The illustrations were crisp, the print clear, and the construction high quality. But the cover! Absolutely beautiful and softly glossed, Steuben's production added depth to the colors and popped the fine design by my cover artist. My book shimmers on the shelf!

Now I sell only Steuben's copies by hand and feel confident that my readers are receiving the best product reflecting my years of effort and passion for my subject.

– Sunny Weber, Denver, CO