Attorney Susan J. Russell, who usually writes poetry and children’s books, sings and plays the harmonica, turned her love of words and love of animals into a full color coffee table book, “A Ruff Road Home: The Court Case Dogs of Chicago,” to benefit Safe Humane Chicago, which directs the Court Case Dog Program at Chicago Animal Care and Control.
In the process, she learned a lot about DIY (Do It Yourself) publishing.
DIY publishing is the most “selfie” of the many “self-publishing” options available to authors seeking an alternative to traditional publishing. In DIY or self-publishing, the author bears all the costs of producing a book but collects all the revenue — and profits. (There are hybrids presses which claim to discount up-front production costs in exchange for a percentage of the author’s sales, but indie authors should examine these offers carefully.)
Typically self-publishing companies such as Lulu, CreateSpace, Author House, Outskirts Press and iUniverse offer packages of production and distribution services. There are so many decisions the author must make and execute within the parameters of the self-publishing house’s templates — for covers, inside layouts, typefaces and the like — that the author feels like she is, in fact, doing it herself.
In true DIY publishing, the author has an even greater number of tasks and choices: She must source independently all the needed services, from illustrating to warehousing, e.g., the author will have a direct relationship with the printer rather than with the self-publishing company that arranges printing and distribution.
Russell, an associate with Kaplan, Massamillo & Andrews LLC, has practiced civil litigation defense for nearly 10 years. In her spare time, she serves on Safe Humane’s attorney committee and volunteers with several animal shelters.
Safe Humane directs the Court Case Dog Program, which assists animals that have been impounded as part of a legal proceeding, including animals that have been confiscated as a result of abuse investigations or as a prisoner’s property.
If evaluated as appropriate candidates for Safe Humane’s program, staff and volunteers socialize, exercise and train the dogs and provide much-needed love and enrichment. Safe Humane then works with its partner rescue groups to place the dogs in private homes.
As a volunteer, Russell said she found the dogs’ resilience in the face of adversity “amazing” and she wanted to tell their stories as well as the stories of the all the heroes who helped them along the way.
Recently, we wrote about attorney Ruth Kaufman’s successful DIY publication of her historical romances, “At His Command and Follow Your Heart.”
Kaufman compared DIY publishing to running a publishing company. She hired experts for all aspects of the production, but she had to make all the final decisions herself. Because of the nature of her project, Russell’s experience was more of a team effort. She calls it, “DIT — do it together.”
All of the expert help Russell needed was donated pro bono. She partnered closely with Safe Humane’s executive director, Cynthia Bathurst, for all aspects of the book.
Russell researched and wrote all of the stories in the book and engaged Josh Feeney, a well-known shelter dog photographer to supply the photo artwork.
Bathurst engaged Cook County Circuit Judge E. Kenneth Wright Jr. to write the book’s foreword.
Russell’s friend, Christian Henry, a designer from her former marketing-communications days, designed the 10- by 14-inch book and shepherded it through the printing process.
Susan Palmer Marshall, another good friend of Russell’s from New York, edited, proofed and even got TV meteorologist Al Roker to give a marketing blurb for the cover on “Today.”
Palmer Marshall also helped secure additional quotes from other celebrities and found a printer who could produce 2,500 hardcover books with dust jackets for about $20,000. And the group raised $20,000 by marketing this project to sponsors, including a writing group she belongs, “Lawyers Who Write.” The group kicked in for a half-page ad to help put her over the top.
As a result of the sponsorships, all the proceeds from the book will benefit Safe Humane Chicago.
After almost three years of work from the day she had the idea, the book is due in Russell’s hands next month.
“For those who love dogs and people and enjoy stories of resilience, forgiveness and compassion, this beautiful coffee table book will make a thoughtful gift,” Russell said. It is available for preordering on safehumanechicago.org.