TWO YEARS and FOUR BOOKS LATER: Podcast #5
TWO YEARS and FOUR BOOKS LATER
For those who prefer to read a screen to listening to this podcast where I reflect on self-publishing my books two years and four books later, the full transcript of the podcast is shown here. Comments and feedback are encouraged and welcomed.
Two years and four books later, I’m amazed at how much I have learned about self publishing. And I know the first thing that anyone who is contemplating doing the same will ask me is “Is it hard?” The second question will be “why didn’t you just go to a traditional publisher?” The third question will be “Isn’t it expensive?” And the fourth question will be “Is it worth the trouble?”
Let me answer those questions in reverse order.
Is it worth the trouble?
Well as far as I’m concerned, if you have a story you really want to share, and believe is important to share, you bet it is. I can honestly say that deciding to write and self-publish my first book “no tears for my father” is, apart from marrying my husband and having my children, the best and most rewarding thing that I have done in my life.
And before you ask do I feel the same way about the other three books that I self published, I would still say “yes”, but with some qualifiers that will become clear when I answer the other questions.
That third question was, “is it expensive?” Let’s just say it can be, if you don’t research everything very carefully beforehand. It’s way too easy to spend a lot of money self publishing, especially if you take up some of these hybrid publishing houses on their offers. What are hybrids? Those are publishing houses that look and sound very much like traditional publishers. They might tell you they absolutely love your book and are delighted to publish it for you. They will offer you a publishing agreement. It will sound pretty good: you only have to spring for half the printing costs. They might offer to edit and proofread the book for you at an additional charge. And they may even upload your book to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others for no extra charge. You’d be surprised how much of this you can do for yourself without it costing you anything! And check very carefully just how many books you are going to be given for the several thousand dollars that they will charge you.
The best advice I can give on this topic is that you purchase the very inexpensive book, CHOOSING A SELF-PUBLISHING SERVICE, available from the Alliance of Independent Authors. It will tell you everything you need to know including who to look out for, and who and what are your best options.
For myself, two years and four books later, I have decided that, apart from engaging the services of a good printing company, (and I would only do that if I can set up the book with proper formatting myself), CreateSpace is probably the best option if you want printed books at a reasonable price. With CreateSpace, you simply submit your word doc file in your chosen preset format. They will run spellcheck and all the necessary checks for you all at no charge. Submit your cover design if you have one, or you choose from one of theirs. They will send you an online or printed book proof to check everything is as you want it. When you sure you’re happy you tell him to print as few or as many as you want. I find this a wonderful solution for printed books. If I’m out of books but have an engagement coming up and need 10 or 20 books, I can order that small supply and don’t have to commit to 500 books at a time to get a reasonable price.
By the way, it was this topic of printed books that prompted this post. All of us who dream of writing a book have envisioned the joy of seeing our book in print. We’ve envisioned seeing it on bookshelves in stores and in libraries. And if that is your dream, then yes, you need to have printed books. You also need to have printed books if you plan to go out and do book talks and sell books at those talks. But before you rush off an order 500, 1000, 2000 books, ask yourself if you’re ready to start driving around doing book talks, week after week after week, mile after mile. Are you prepared to spend hours on the phone making contacts with bookstores and libraries, or setting up speaking engagements with organizations and book clubs? Are you energetic and healthy enough to follow through on all events that you arrange? If you can’t give a confident “yes” to all those questions, you might want to think twice about investing a lot of money in self-publishing printed versions of your books. I say this because if there’s one thing I’ve learned over two years and four books, it’s that the only way to sell printed books, if you don’t have a traditional publisher (and even if you do!) is to get out there and be seen and heard talking about your book. If you don’t, be prepared for the pain of seeing a lot of your precious books unsold.
Since I’ve mentioned traditional publishers here, I’ll answer that second question about why didn’t I go to a traditional publisher? My answer is quick and simple: at my age I’m too old to wait for months to get a reply, which might be a rejection from one publisher after another. And even if it’s a yes, if you study the industry, you will realize that from the time you sign a publishing agreement to the time your book finally gets onto the shelves, a couple of years might have gone by. Unless you’re a celebrity, a Stephen King, or have written a sizzler like 50 Shades of Gray that publishers know they are going to make a fortune on, your publishing date can get pushed back time and again. As I said at my age, I don’t have time to wait. I’m not interested in being published posthumously.
So now we’re back to beginning and that first question: is it hard to self publish? The actual act of self publishing is not all that hard. It’s all the rest that comes with it that is hard: The marketing; the promotion; The hours on the phone arranging engagements. Driving from spot to spot; loading and unloading your car. Standing for two days at book fairs while it’s raining. Being all pumped up for a talk at the library. Two people show up and both of those already have your book! Doing a talk for a book club who just loved your humorous book and are hoping you have more like that… Only to find out that your other memoirs are about child sexual abuse and they just couldn’t possibly read that. On and on it goes. And there you sit, looking at boxes of your second, third and fourth books and wondering how on earth you’re going to sell those, when everyone on Facebook is ignoring or not even seeing your posts saying you’re selling the books off at cost!
And then there’s that other thing that’s really hard: you spent money setting up an e-commerce website. Your books are available on it, in both print and e-book formats for all e-readers. You tell folks time and again to go to your website to buy your books. They go to your website, read up about you and your books, and head straight over to Amazon to get the Kindle version for their Kindle, or to iTunes to get the iBook version for their iPad. Or if they prefer printed books, they drive over to chapters to buy the printed book. And you want to scream as chapters takes 45% of your sales, and Amazon and the rest all take their commissions. That sort of thing hurts like a kick in the gut.
But that said, now two years and four books later, i’ve come to expect and accept that. As a matter of fact I have a very nice relationship with my local chapters store. They welcome me with huge smiles when I come in for a book signing and are keen to stock my new books as I publish them. As for Amazon and the rest, i’m getting a kick out of seeing regular royalty checks each month for the sale of those e-books. And I’m even selling printed books directly from create space. The good part of all that? It’s all costing me nothing right now. Two years and four books later each book is fueling the sales of the others. So from where I sit, self publishing my books has most certainly been worth it.
The Memoirabilia Podcast can be listened to on this site using the provided player above, or you can subscribe to the Memoirabilia podcast at any of the links below:
Viga Boland is also currently podcasting her latest book, “Voice from an Urn” in her VIGALAND Podcast, available from her personal website and also at iTunes, Stitcher and Podcasts.com