Thursday, June 21, 2007

Decisions, decisions.

Spent the day yesterday writing a query letter for Marilyn's Story. I think it turned out pretty well. Wendy looked it over and thought it looked good too. Then she asked me if that was for publishers or agents and I didn't really know. A quick look in my three "how to get published" bibles informs me that you approach both in the exact same way. With query letters and proposals.

Wendy took a break very late afternoon and went to read "Time" in the bedroom while I tried to finish up the letter. I went in to see her a bit later and she showed me an article on self publishing I had read and meant to get back to but forgot.

Self publishing is something I have investigated but decided was not for me. A couple of my friends have done it, and it never turns out profitable. Of course, one thing to realize is, the rules have changed in this wondrous age.

In the past, you had one option - offset printing. You contract a house to print up 500-2000 books, they print them up, you sell them yourself. You do the shipping, the selling, the promotion, the storage. Everything. Any books left over you can use to start fires with or as one author did, make a desk and a chair out of them.

Things are quite a bit different in 2007.

1. Books can be published on demand. One at a time.

2. I can sell them from this website and someone else takes care of the shipping. You click on a little link and two weeks later you get one of my books. Every three months I get a check big enough for a cup of coffee AND a danish.

3. Some publishers will get you an ISBN number and you can sell your book through and Barnes and Noble. Sweetness.

There are many routes you can take, many of them horrible, some, maybe not so bad. We'll have to see. There's a lot of information out there that I am combing through to see how best to pursue this route.

One of the things that's important to note is that following this path, correctly, does not prohibit me from still trying to get an agent and/or a publisher.

I find it amusing some of the horror stories of Do It Yourself (DIY) publishing houses. Like senile senior citizens who think they've just won a million dollars if they just give some telemarketer there credit card number and a small deposit, these people get taken in by scams or just don't do the research on some of these sites.

Like who pretends to be a regular publisher but wants you to submit 100 names of friends and family they can contact when your book is ready. Then they jack up the price of your book to far more than its worth and try to sell it to those hundred names.

"Dear John Wakefield,

We are proud to announce that your brother Jamie has just published his new book. You can get it for the low low price of 39.95! Follow the link to buy it now! You want to support your brother don't you?"

Then I get money for coffee, they get 37.50 from each of my relatives, and my relatives all get a book worth $1.99. Some deal.

And if I promote the crap out of my book and it actually sells to people other than my relatives and garners some attention, they have me locked into a contract for SEVEN YEARS. That seems like a long time.

There are, of course, other options. Four color options even. I could get my book printed at and it will be stunning. I can put in full color photos of Mare. Mare's character in the different games we played, Mare in her Supergirl negligee... wait, scratch that one... Mare with the dogs. Mare with 7 tubes sticking out of her. And it would be all glossy and professional. Sadly, it would also cost people $29.99 and I was thinking more along the lines of $9.99.

And stories abound about people who go this route and fail. The work for 4 years on a novel, make it into a DIY book and sell 20 copies to family and friends and are crushed.

I have no illusions.

Despite the fact that my out of print book once sold for about a hundred dollars, and the fact that my web site once had over 40,000 hits, and despite the fact that one reader said "I would read a calculus textbook if you wrote it." My feet are still grounded in reality. Reading my writing on the web in your office at work is quite a bit different than actually shelling out cash for something you read in your leisure time.

If I want to make money on self published books, I'm going to have to promote the crap out of them. Google Ads. Updated web content. An easy ordering interface. Contacts with Ingram and Amazon. Pimping the book to book stores. Handing out free copies of chapter one on the streets of Madrid. Walking around naked with ads painted all over my body. That kind of thing.

Success stories are rare, but they do happen.

$11,000 in one year sounds pretty good. His profit margin was a lot higher than I expect to make though. I'd be happy to make a dollar or two on each book I sell, he's making almost seven dollars a copy.

Eragon was a self publishing success story. The kid pimped himself out at libraries until he hit it big with a contract.

But hey, it can happen. And one way to impress a publisher or an agent is to let them know "Hey, my self published book has sold 2000 copies this year, how about that?"

Exploring a lot this week.

1 comment:

  1. You should ask Brian Clevinger about his experiences in getting his book published and promoting it on the Internet.