Writing Your Book Part 5 - Forget Mainline Presses. I Just Want to Publish my Book!
Self-publishing outlets, formerly known as Vanity Presses were in the past viewed as career killers for authors. For writers trying to break into the market, it may now be a reasonably good second choice. Even some successful authors have turned to self-publishing in order to keep a larger piece of the revenue pie. Small print, e-book, and print-on-demand can make the do-it-yourself route a viable option. But be warned. The two dragons to slay are marketing and distribution, both issues that will be critical to your success. The e-book side is relatively easy—and affordable. All you need are accounts with the big distributers, and you’re away. Amazon is of course the three-hundred pound tyrant hogging the remote control. Most authors are convinced that having a book on their site is necessary for success, but increasing numbers of authors are dumping that sales platform, a trend that may continue. Amazon carries in the neighborhood of three-million books. If your book is on page eighty-six in their catalog you’re not going to sell anything. Amazon will force you to be a keyword wizard, and some would say a competent scam artist if you’re going to move from the invisible to selling a few copies a week. So . . . what else is out there?
There are a growing number of other practical sites to sell e-books. The following are sales venues offered through
Draft2Digital, which I’ve found to be one of the better e-publishing options.
Barnes & Noble
Baker & Taylor
and the hulking giant—AMAZON.
If you’re like most of us, you’ve looked forward to the day when you would hold that initial paperback copy of the book you dreamed about, agonized over, and finally birthed. Your goal was to see family and friends read it, love it, and place signed copies on their shelves. You’re not alone. However, print books carry significant and different challenges for self-publishers than e-Books. You are the sole marketer and distributor, which means your nail-biting investment is at least as large as the garage space taken up by boxes of your book. Your spouse is supportive, but budget meetings have become tense. Now, you lay awake at night wondering how to sell a few more copies.
Often, independent book stores will give shelf-space to self-published authors, especially if they have local or regional interest. The big chains can be a little tougher to crack. So, do you hit the road in your high-mileage Toyota? Your decision, but keep in mind that you’ll be limited to the stores you can reach, and re-stock. Are you willing to service stores that may be a few hundred miles from your home? Most of the time, your travel costs will outweigh the dollar or two of profit per book sold. You’re squeezed like a lemon. The creative side of your personality yearns to write another of the stories that bubble to the surface of your brain, but every time you broach the subject, your spouse may make the odd uncomfortable comment about an unpaid credit card bill, or the boxes of books in your garage from your last publishing venture.
So . . . let’s sit back and take a hard look at what you’ve accomplished. You’ve written the book, a huge milestone, then jumped through every hoop imaginable to attract an agent and publisher to take your manuscript. That didn’t happen, so you leapt into the lion’s den of self-publishing. What are your chances of joining the ranks of John Grisham, Danielle Steel, and J. K. Rowling? Anything’s possible, but the odds are not ones you’d be advised to bet on at the Kentucky Derby. But maybe that’s not what this is about. Initially, your book may not sell more than a few hundred copies. Get over the disappointment and start that second novel. Grind out those agonizing proposal letters and boring synopsis. Both are harder to compose than a complete novel, but you have to do it. A writer with a large backlist of written material is more marketable to publishers than a budding neophyte with only a dream and an outline.
Where do you go from here? Savor the thrill of accomplishment. There will be more than enough days ahead where you will be discouraged, frustrated, and even angry at a system that seems to bar you from the gates of writer success. Nobody said your chosen path would be easy. This may be the toughest time in history to break into the ranks of published authors. Thousands have the same dream. Work harder than they do. Learn the craft better. But most of all, every day enjoy the gift you have to tell stories.