It’s just a matter of timing, I suppose, but several of us in our writing group are ready to publish. We have gone through the lengthy process of writing several drafts of our work, editing it several times by several people, and workshopping it in the group. Some of us have passed it by professional writers for advice, and we have all gone through the process of putting it aside for a while to let it simmer. But now the urge for publication is upon us
I began writing my manuscript two years ago. There were several times when I thought I was ready to take the leap to publication. But there was always that feeling that there was something more to be done before “putting it out there.” I was right.
But, like anything else, there comes a time when you just have to take the leap. I studied oil painting for a couple of years and my instructor said to me, “When you know that your painting is done, put the brushes away. That next thing that you do to ‘improve’ the painting will probably ruin it. You’ll know when you’re ready.” She was right on target. I’m ready to publish.
At another point in history it would have been clear what the next step was. Traditional publication calls for the author to search for an agent, who then puts your work out there for publishers, hoping that one of them will pick it up. That was when there were a limited number of authors out there. Today there are hundreds of thousands of writers around, all of whom want their work to be published. It means that there is great competition even to get an agent. Step #1: put your ego aside and prepare to receive numerous rejections. I have gone through this once before, and having been rejected by agent after agent, gave up and published the piece myself.*
That meant going to a self-publishing company of which there were dozens just waiting to get their hands on my work…and my money. Some of them are unscrupulous…more than a few of them, in fact. It’s a crap game as to whether you end up in a good place or deeply in debt to a shyster. All you can do is depend upon the experience of others.
Self-publishers will sell you a package which may include some degree of editing (not quite the same as I needed), cover design, illustrations (if you want them), and various manifestations of printing your book (either in hardcover, paperback, or online.) It all costs you something which you are paying in advance without having seen a copy of your book. For an additional amount of money the company will provide you with “canned” marketing products and lists of places where they will send information about your book for sales purposes. Having mine in a Catholic Book Store in Sante Fe, New Mexico, didn’t turn out to be worth anything to me! It was on one of the lists I purchased.
There are some advantages to self-publishing. It is speedy, and before you know it you have your precious book in your hand, ready to hand out to family and friends, and…hopefully…to sell to the public. That all depends upon you. Unless you pay enormous amounts to the company for special promotions, it is up to you to sell your book. That means going to bookstores in your area or paying a lot of money to go to vendors at a distance. For the most part it is selling two or three books at a time. It takes a long time to get to the point where you have made enough money (at maybe $2.60 cents a book) to pay off your costs to the company. I never did. The company made money off me. I lost money on the enterprise. But…my book was published and I could see it out there, wherever that was. I have a whole box of them in my garage…which I bought at a reduced price from the company. I see them every time I take the trash out.
In these days there is another marketing phenomenon known as E-publishing. It involves making your manuscript available to internet publishers (like Amazon) who will publish your book and include it in the huge, massive list of books on their site. You can sell incredible numbers of your book, including internationally. There is a huge market for American books overseas. Books only sell for about $1.99 or $2.99, but when sold in large numbers, the profit adds up. If you are just interested in making money on your book, it’s probably the way to go.
There are Independent Publishers who are prepared to assist you in getting your book ready for E-publishing, including designing the all-important cover. Embarrassing as it is to say out loud, many people buy a book because they like the cover. The Independent Publisher will cost you…again in advance…but the income from E-publishing will probably cover it.
Now is the time to ask myself what I’m trying to accomplish. Is my story something I want to make money on, or is it something I want to promote because it is worth reading…and owning? Obviously, there is a combination of these factors. I feel strongly about the quality of a printed book. I have a Kindle and read on it. But there is something missing for me. But let’s face it…the current generation of kids (it’s a kid book) are probably more familiar with a Kindle than a published book.
So that’s where I am. And where several people in my writing group are. Not as easy as I would like it.
[If anyone has a good suggestion for an agent, let me know.]
*It was a terrible little book which I don’t even reference these days.