On August 29, three other Lake Writers and I will do a "Spotlight on Self-publishing" presentation at the Westlake Library. Publicity has already appeared in the media:
I have been involved in self-publishing since 2001, when—thanks to a partial grant from Smith Mountain Arts Council—I published my novel, Patches on the Same Quilt
. The book was printed at Commonwealth Printing in Radford, Virginia, on an offset press that was huge. It took me two years to sell my first press run of a thousand, but at the year of the first year, I'd made back my part of the investment back. Over the past decade, I've sold nearly eight hundred copies of the second press run. Not great sales, but better than nothing. Now Patches on the Same Quilt
is a Kindle e-book
. It cost me nothing to publish Patches
After Patches, I gave vanity publishing a try. (Unlike complete self-publishing where the author is in charge of everything—hiring the printer, getting ISBN, EAN and bar-code, picking the paper and font, etc.—in vanity publishing you pay a fee for a company to format and set up your book for print-on-demand publishing. The company makes a lot of decisions that a self-publishing author would otherwise make, and the company owns the ISBN.) I'd met a representative for Infinity Publishing at a writers conference and he gave me me a discount of the set-up fee for Peevish Advice, a collection of my "Peevish Advice" columns. I still had to buy copies of the book to resell, but at least I didn't have to store a thousand copies in the garage.
was followed by a collection of mostly winning short stories, The Girl Who Raced Mules
(2003); a collection of stories for children, Where There's A Will
(2005); and another collection of columns, More Peevish Advice
. My profits, however, were exceedingly modest. Infinity was a good company when it was family-owned. Now, it offers lots of products an author doesn't need and is always pushing pricey "specials" via e-mail. I won't use it again.
After deciding that I wouldn't pay to publish anymore, I queried commercial publishers. A small press, Cedar Creek Publishing
, published my last two books—Ferradiddledumday
(2010) and Stuck
(2011). While I didn't get an advance, I did get royalties and a big box of free books each time.
Again, my profits were modest, but better than the vanity route.
After I learned that e-publishing was easier than I thought, I e-published Patches
and recycled some of my stories into e-books. Rest in Peace
is a 99¢ collection of my three Sherwood Anderson Contest winners, and Over Coffee
is a 99¢ collection of five stories of awkward relationships. Two of the Rest in Peace
stories were originally in The Girl Who Raced Mules
, as were two stories in Over Coffee
Since I'd retained the e-rights to Stuck
when I contracted with Cedar Creek, I also published Stuck as a Kindle e-book
. Cedar Creek Publishing generously allowed me to use the print cover for the e-book.
Through the years, I've run into some folks who think that all they have to do is publish a book and they'll get rich. That's highly unlikely to happen. Self-publishing isn't a field of dreams—readers won't necessarily come. Without a big publisher's marketing department behind you, most readers won't even know your book exists. Most of your sales will be directly to the reader at personal appearances you make. Your marketing plan will be based on the books in the trunk of your car.
Before considering self-publishing, an author needs to have perfected his/her craft—and needs to have a good editor, critique group, or Beta readers. Writing "The End" on a manuscript isn't the end. It's the beginning of rewriting and revising and polishing. Then there's the whole promotion aspect.
I've posted some writing advice on this page
of my website. Some books about writing that I recommend are on this blog post.
I'll give more advice at the Westlake Library next Thursday. All of us will.
Labels: books, reading, writing