Student realizes dream, becomes self-published author

Most college students can’t even finish their readings for class, much less write and self-publish their own novel. Not Julie Gilbert.

Over the past year, Gilbert, senior biology major, began fleshing out the concept for a novel, writing primarily during winter and summer break, especially when bored at her job at Shop-Rite. The end result was “Heartfelt Cases,” a story within a story, where the main character begins reading a book to ease the increasing tension in her life.

Gilbert self-published because she wanted to be taken seriously at writing conferences and not just show a notebook full of scribbles.

She shopped the book around to literary agents and publishers but disliked the exclusivity of their arrangements. Most companies require you to sign a contract agreeing to work solely with them, meaning that even if they don’t like your book and don’t want to publish it, they still have control over where it goes and what happens to it, Gilbert said.

Gilbert then decided to self-publish her book through an online company called iUniverse, Inc.

“You have to be careful,” she said. “Half (of the companies) are frauds, half are genuine. But ultimately you have complete control over the process.”

According to Gilbert, the company takes your raw manuscript, either edits it or leaves it alone depending on the package you purchased, and designs the front and back cover to your specifications. They set a price on your book and print the number of copies you’ve ordered.

Barely two months and $724 later, the product of lunch breaks and long summer days spent inside was published. It totaled 320 pages.

So far, Gilbert has sold about 35 copies of her book. To break even, she must sell 40 more. On Feb. 6 and 13, she set up tables in Brower Student Center, where she sold copies for $25. Heartfelt Cases can also be purchased on or Gilbert’s Web site,

Gilbert, who is taking a creative writing class this semester, never envisioned herself as a writer. She plans to be a high school biology teacher, and while she takes her writing seriously, she does not see it as a career. “That’s part of why I want to teach,” she said. “I love biology at the high school level and I’ll have lots of breaks to be able to write.”

Gilbert got her literary start in college. “I began writing poems freshman year,” she said, “although I don’t even like poetry very much.”

She specializes in inspirational poetry and has a science fiction novel in the works.

Gilbert believes the key to good writing is characters and dialogue. “So many times I’m reading a book and say, ‘Don’t do that stupid!’ or ‘People don’t really act like that.'”

So she set out to create a realistic story, where people act and talk as they do in real life. “Characters are key,” she said. “They act on their own; if you know the person, you can then control them.”

Gilbert said that she would self-publish again, but she wants to wait before starting the process again.

“I’m waiting to recover from this,” she said. “I don’t want to rush this, that’s what I’ve learned from this experience.”