Monday, September 07, 2009

Self Publishing: Round Three

Preface to the following blog entry:

I am using this entry for a blog contest on the website which is a self-published authors collective, the first of its kind, I believe.  In an effort to support their site and perhaps makes some nice connections, I add their link to this blog entry. Please check them out.

The following entry was originally posted on September 7th, 2009.  

Commitment to Blog 

Previously, I blogged when the fancy struck me. However, I have decided to take my self as a writer and author SERIOUSLY...Well, in terms of the craft, at least.  The publishing world, that's another story. I think, in order to survive as an author, you need to NOT take it too seriously.

In light of trying to blog religiously, as I have realized with my MFA program, I think choosing a focus will help.  That way the task of the weekly blog will not overwhelm me. I want to focus on something that I need/want to work my shit out about. Since I have a new book and since being a self published author has brought up so much ANGST in me, I think focusing on the journey of my newest book, FEAR OF FALLING, will be both useful and therapeutic.

Hollywood Ain’t Calling

I have gone into this book without any rosy notion that it will change my life. I do not have fantasies of Hollywood calling. I also know how much time and money it really takes to do justice to a self-published book and that you can do everything “right” and still not sell as many as you thought you would. In fact, I have no expectation of numbers. I published this book for the several thousand readers who read the previous books and for me. This book and its foray out into the world is about my desire to connect with each individual who chooses to pick the book up and open it, and more importantly, continue to read it after the first page.

I know the realities of going at it alone. So, with this in mind, I need to market this book with my head and not my heart. I need to really get it in my head (and out of my heart, which can easily break over such things) that I may show up to a book signing and not sell a single book. I need to accept that I have to do all the legwork of getting reviewers to review the book. I have to not-cry-for-me Argentina that I will have to purchase probably 150 books on my own to use for marketing (online reviewers and contest give-aways) and consigning to bookstores. I have to not feel guilty when friends, students, and clients ask to purchase a book from me. Or, rather, I will not allow the guilt feelings to make me hand over the books for free. Additionally, because it’s just me marketing the book, I have to accept the limitations of my life.  I have children, my work, and school, right now.  Marketing is going to have to be accessible, and my goal cannot be on the number sold.  Rather the goal must be, getting the books to readers, one reader at a time.

I used to say that these books are like my children–I made them, I raised them, and now it’s my responsibility to make sure they go out into the world, properly. However, I have been a mother for almost six years, and now I have another child.  With the first two books, Chelsea, my oldest was very young and I had a lot less on my plate. My books are not my children. In a way, they are like my pets. I will feed, groom, and care for them always. But they probably don’t get cuddled and snuggled as much as they should.

More on the Reality of Self Publishing

If any of you keep up with this blog, you know that FEAR OF FALLING  went "live" to the web for purchase this week.  This means that you can purchase it from online bookstores, like Amazon. It means that if you go to your local bookstore, they can order it for you.  It also means that I can go to the local bookstores and implore them to order my book from the publisher or distributor.  It also means that my publisher will be sending me my free 40 copies. Some of those will get consigned to independent bookstores. Why am I sharing all this with you?  Because here’s the first of many hurdles I will have to traverse with this book. Hurdles I already know about because this is my third time around. That hurdle is…How do I get this book to my readers? You might say, “Well, through bookstores. Right?”

In theory, yes.  The book is available–I know I keep reminding you of this.  This is all part of my scary and efficient marketing plan. : ) So, yes the book is easily available at your online bookstores. So, what’s the problem?  Well, it’s not the purchasing of the book online. It’s the other, old fashion way of purchasing your books–which many people still do. Going to a “live” bookstore! And this is where I have a possible problem.

Typically, if you are a self-published author, you are totally on your own and that means NO ONE helps you with the way your book reaches the hands of the readers. Now-a-days being self published can mean that you are totally alone, but it can also mean that you purchase the service of publishing from a company, as I have from iUniverse. So, I am not totally on my own. The publisher and I are partners in the publication of the book.  My publisher, for a relatively small fee and after a lot of editorial evaluation (this means they don’t just agree to publish any thing), agrees to do some of the marketing and most of the distribution of the book.  This is a GREAT thing for the self-published author.

But, here comes the glitch. Without getting too technical, iUniverse is a print-on-demand self-publisher. With POD books, the publisher prints them one at a time, or as the demand is made. When a bookstore owner calls into the publisher or distributor and asks to order my book, they can easily do so, but they are not allowed to return the books, should they not sell.  This is not good motivation for a bookstore owner to agree to stock my book. Now, my publisher says for a pretty fair fee, they can make it such that my book is deemed returnable.  That’s great, but I have already spent quite a bit on this book, so right now I can't add that item to the growing list of things to buy for this book's possible success. Mainly because the way my previous book sold was through the web, through me, and through my consignment with local bookstores. So hurdle one is traversing the non-returnable issue with local bookstores.  How? To agree to sell the book on consignment. Great except…take note of hurdle number two in the next paragraph.

Hurdles and More Hurdles

Upon perusal of the author copy that arrived early last week, I noticed a minor error on the back cover.  Something that I have corrected in the numerous proofing rounds with the publisher. This isn’t the first publisher error I have encountered with iUniverse this time around. Errors that were immediately corrected, not to mention that they kindly gave me little additional marketing services at no cost.  However, it is still frustrating and time consuming to call them to correct the error.

They are going to take care of this error.  But this now delays me from being able to get those forty copies of the book­ to the local bookstores for consignment, so I can set up some of my first signings. I also wanted to run some contests to give away a few of the books, plus send some to reviewers, so I can post some reviews of the book online.

All of that now has to be put off until the error is corrected and books are sent to me.  So while the book is “live” on Amazon, I am stalled in really launching it.

The Rock Up The Mountain

I hope that I haven’t bored you all with this, but it’s the parts of being self published that frustrate me. I feel like if I had a regular book deal, this isn’t what I would be worried about. I would be able to spend this last hour as I have on this blog on my writing. When these things happen, things that remind me of being on my own in this huge task of marketing my book, I get a little depressed. It feels like I am pushing a huge rock up a very bumpy mountain.

And, yet, I am doing this again, for the third time! : )

But like parenting, the task of self publishing is hard, yet worth it more than I can express in words.

Tune in next week to see what happens next with FEAR OF FALLING!!!! 

1 comment:

Margaret said...

Hannah, I am feeling the same frustration. I took a slightly different route to independent publishing which has it advantages and disadvantages. The big one is getting into bookstores without being listed with Ingram. What the business world says is Not of My making is well written but they can't sell it. It is too personal. Too intense. That leaves me to wondering if I rewrote it in the third person would they say the same thing? But I press on. Tomorrow I will be at a craft and vendor fair at All Saints Anglican in Attleboro. I have worked hard. I beaded some rosaries and chaplets to sell with my books. But it is an outdoor event and guess what? It is going to rain tomorrow. Total frustration. But still I press on. I got my raincoat and I am praying for the rain to move out to sea quickly. Wish me luck.