Leaving BookBaby was the best decision she could ever make.


Shannon McLay was a BookBaby author. Not anymore. She’s gone, outta here, an ex-customer. Adios, au revoir, see you later. And get this: leaving BookBaby has made all the difference for Shannon’s writing career. Personally I’m glad to see her go.

Not exactly what you expected to read on the BookBaby blog, eh? Well, get used to it – I hope! If I had my druthers, I’d be blogging about people like Shannon all day long. In fact, dear reader, I hope you’re next.

Thoroughly confused now? OK, I’ve got some explaining to do. Shannon did indeed launch her writing career with BookBaby over a year ago. She’s a financial planner who left a big name financial services firm to start her own company, NextGen Financial, because, as she put it to me: “I was much more interested in helping people who were in the wealth generation time of their financial lives rather than wealth management.”

Her company focuses on people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt.

To help promote her company she launched her blog — Financially-Blonde.com — and then considered doing an eBook. “I came up with the idea for my book as a marketing tool for my business,” she said.  “I thought having a book would give me more authority as a financial expert. So I just started writing and writing, and before I knew it I thought I had a real book!”

Shannon searched online for self publishing companies and found BookBaby. “I was just going to do an eBook, and probably just through Amazon. But BookBaby was so appealing because I could also do printed books plus all of the outlets my eBook would be sold.”

Her book Train Your Way To Financial Fitness came out in late 2013, and that – frankly – was the beginning of the end for Shannon and BookBaby. She saw an ad on the newsletter HARO (Help A Reporter Out) from a publisher that was seeking new authors. She sent her already self-published book to them. Long story short, Shannon was soon signed to a traditional publishing book deal. Goodbye BookBaby.

Her first book was reformatted by the new publisher and released in September, 2014. How are sales going? “It’s really doing great,” she says. “The new book is more appealing to a wider audience than my first edition. I’ve gotten a bunch of reviews and my blog and business have grown. I’m anxious to see what’s going to happen next!”

Shannon is just one of many BookBaby authors who have used their self publishing experiences as a strategy to gain the attention of traditional publishers. “Self publishing is great; it’s much more commonplace these days and very accepted. But for me and my career, being with a publisher has given my brand much more creditability.”

An aside: When I contacted Shannon last week to discuss her BookBaby experience she wrote me back: “I am not sure if you would want to use my story since I ended up going with a publisher and re-branding my book, so I am no longer a BookBaby customer. I do think the company is great, though, and I have recommended you all to others.”

When I heard her good news, I was even more interested in talking with her and learning the secrets to success. I know there are 1000s of BookBaby authors who are trying to follow in her footsteps!

As to the achievement of her publishing deal, she gives credit where it’s due. “I wouldn’t have gotten (traditionally) published if I didn’t self publish first,” says Shannon. “I remember talking to my business manager at the publishing firm. He said they would much rather see an actual book from a prospective author than an outline and a bunch of bullet points. He said it really gave us an idea of what you are capable of and it’s really one of the reasons they chose me.”

You’re going to hear a lot more about the concept of the “Hybrid” author from me in the coming weeks and months. This is the term used to describe writers who are involved in both traditional and self publishing somewhere in their literary career. During her very short writing career Shannon has moved from one sphere to the other entirely. Most other “hybrids” find themselves in both channels at the same time. For her part, Shannon doesn’t rule out a return to self publishing in her future.

“I would consider self publishing again, for a lot of reasons. I learned a lot of lessons with both,” she says.

For Shannon, publishing through BookBaby was also a way to prove to herself that she was indeed an author! “The best decision I made about this book was to release it publicly,” Shannon says. “Probably like most people I started writing it for myself. I think every writer probably has insecurities about their writing. I sent the manuscript out to friends for feedback and they thought it was pretty good. But I still remember to the very end, that feeling of ‘don’t hit send’ when i was uploading it to BookBaby. I still had the idea i should keep it to myself. That moment when you decide to publish it is scary because you’re really exposing yourself in a different way.”

Shannon’s glad she did ‘hit send’ as she reaps the rewards of being discovered by a traditional publisher. Although BookBaby lost a customer in Shannon, it’s really a win for all involved. BookBaby has helped Shannon work towards achieving her goals, and she’s happy for us to use her case study as an example and inspiration to other authors aiming for the same goal.

“Self publishing is a way to prove yourself to a publisher,” says Shannon. “If you can show them you’ve gotten a following and you’ve proved your work ethic by actually producing a book, they’re not taking as much of a risk.”

How To Guide for Authors

Steven Spatz
Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self publishing services company. Spatz’s professional writing career began at age 13, paid by the word to bang out little league baseball game stories on an ancient manual typewriter for southern Oregon weekly newspapers. His journalism career continued after graduation from the University of Oregon at several daily newspapers in Oregon. When his family took over a direct marketing food business, Spatz redirected his writing and design skills into producing catalogs. The Pinnacle Orchards catalog was named "Best Food Catalog," received dozens of other national awards, and the business grew into one of the nation’s largest gourmet fruit gift businesses. After the company was sold, Spatz continued his direct marketing career with Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hasbro. He joined AVL Digital in 2004 to lead the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. After serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Spatz was tapped to lead the company’s new publishing division in late 2014. In 2019, the AVL Digital Management team purchased the New Jersey brands, including BookBaby. The company is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ (just outside Philadelphia, PA) and meets the printed book and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Spatz lives in Glenside, PA with his two children, a demented cat, and some well-used bicycles. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to steven@bookbaby.com.


  1. Does that mean if a traditional publisher wish to publish a book listed on Book Baby, you have no qualms about releasing the rights. No, no one has offered that. I’m just curious.

    I hope Shannon McLay is totally successful.

    • Correct. We’re happy to see authors that publish and distribute through us go on and get book deals with big publishers (as long as it makes sense for the author, of course). And we’re not releasing any rights, really, because we never claim any (besides the right to distribute the book on behalf of the author). The authors are always in charge.



    • HI Bob,

      We publish all kinds of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, instructional books, etc. Pretty much everything. As for reaching certain audiences, we provide authors with plenty of promotional tools and tips, but ultimately the marketing, networking, and platform building is up to the author.


  2. Dang, my experience with self publishing — you don’t get the necessary editing or marketing. I’m holding out for a real publisher but it’s sooo hard to even get an agent, let alone a publisher. Author of On Rainbow’s Edge and The Women in White. Trying to get Desination: Unknown picked up.

  3. I’ve published two novels with Outskirts. I’m considering publishing a book of short stories with another publisher. I had no problems with Outskirts, but I may go elsewhere. I am not easy to work with because I am computer illiterate; I barely get by with anything other than writing.
    Richard Ilnicki


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