I had worked on this novel, Song of the Earth, for about fifteen years, so it was like my own baby that I was trying to give birth to, but at the age of 68 I didn’t feel I had the time, nor the stamina to do the exhausting search for an agent and/or a traditional publisher. I just wanted to get this out, and then start in on all the other unfinished writing projects.
Just before I decided to go with Branch Hill Publications, a small publisher in Vermont who would use Amazon and Create Space as their vehicle to publication, I read the long piece in the “New Yorker” about publishing with Amazon, and how all the traditional publishers were not happy with the way Amazon was changing the status quo of the publishing world. I then attended AWP’s Conference in Seattle, with the article fresh in my mind.
At the Conference, I sat down at the Amazon table and talked to two young men who blew me away with their knowledge of Create Space and Amazon and how all of it worked. They showed me how easy it all was. So, why did I go with a publisher, you may ask, if it was so easy? I went to Vermont College for my undergraduate degree and that is where I met Genie Rayner. She went on to get her MA at Vermont College and I went to Antioch University Los Angeles for my MFA, with a dual concentration (fiction and creative non-fiction.) She and her partner, Jim Vires, are Branch Hill Publication. Genie is one of the most gifted editors I have ever met. I had sent the novel to her for editing, and after she read it, she and Jim both asked me if they could publish it. So I held on to that option, and soon decided this was the best way for me to do it. I needed to see how others navigated through the process, and I have to say, they have made it an amazing journey for me so far.
But, like with anything, if we believe in our work, our passion, we need to market it to the world. I didn’t want my baby just to sit out there, not being held and comforted on its journey, so the marketing has begun. With this blog posting I am bringing everyone up to date as to what I have done, how I have gotten the word out, and what is next. I will continue updating this blog so that all of you who are self publishing or going with a small publisher will have guidelines to go by. I had no idea what to expect, and knowing I am not the first to go down this path, I am hoping the readers will expand on what I have started. If any of you have any questions that I have not answered, feel free to ask. I must say, although my mother passed last November, I am still caring for my elderly father, so if you wonder why I am already not on a road trip, that is probably why.
- We went through several last minute editing rounds. I never knew I was such a perfectionist until it came time to push the button and let this novel fly. I have read so many books with errors it makes me cringe, even traditionally published ones. Jim and Genie ordered my galley proof for me, so I could go through it one more time. I made a lot of changes. We went back and forth for a week or two, then I asked Jim to submit it again, and get me another copy ordered, but he said no, that he and Genie had talked about this and it would delay the launch one more time for several weeks. They convinced me it was time to go live. I almost cried as I ran down the stairs to tell my dad what they were going to do. What if there was a mistake? Oh my God!
- One of the problems with self publishing, is I didn’t have a copy of the cover until the first proof came to the house. Then I could take pictures of it, and start sending it around, but the book was out before I even really got started with this process. So I really didn’t have a pre-publication launch, so to speak. It should have also been up on Amazon for pre-sale. I will be sure that happens on the next book.
- I read the book Launched and although I already knew how important an email list can be, this book just imprinted it on my forehead. I signed up for Constant Contact, an email program that works quite well for this type of project. The cost was $35 per month, and you can suspend your account when you need to if you aren’t going to use it for awhile. This program loads all of your email contacts into it, and you can put pictures into the content and make it look quite nice. It tells you how many emails went out, how many bounced, how many and who have opted out, how many were open and how many click throughs. This is helpful. I had about 800 email contacts in my system, and about a hundred of them were outdated.
- Along with the picture of the book, I made my first launch. And then about three weeks later, I did an updated email again. I am now getting ready for a third email.
- In the meantime, I have contacted several independent bookstores around the country. Since Song of the Earth is about the borderlands and immigration, I have been targeting the bookstores in the southwest, although I am receiving so many remarks about my readers who are immigrants, not just from Mexico, but from all over the world. This surprises me how they relate to this book. What I have discovered is this.
When we publish our books through Create Space, if the bookstores try to order from the booksellers like Ingram and Baker and Taylor they are given different terms than with a traditional publisher. For instance. Traditionally published books are sold to the bookstores at a 40% discount and are returnable. But, with Amazon and Create Space, they only get 25% discount and they are non-returnable. This makes sense, since Create Space is a ‘print on demand’ program. (I do need to say the books look fabulous.) So no returns, but the other way out of this is to sell them yourself on consignment to the independent bookstores.
These independent bookstores are generally happy to carry books by local authors or about certain areas if they are done very professionally. They usually want a 60-40 split, the 60% being yours. They sell the book at the price you set on publication, mine is $16.50. I cover the shipping, and they pay the sales tax. Each bookstore so far has asked for no more than five books to start. One or two has asked for three to begin with.
Some of the bookstores have asked for my publicity packet, which I am just having done now as I write this. I have a designer working on a hardback display to go behind the books in the store, as well as business cards and bookmarks, and also a well-designed flyer of all the great remarks this book has stimulated so far.
I did find while contacting the Tattered Cover in Denver that they cannot carry my book on consignment because I am not a Colorado author, living within the state, and their company policy doesn’t allow them to order from their booksellers because they need the 40% discount. But, Changing Hands in the Phoenix/Tempe area is interested, as are the bookstores in Boise, Id, Columbia, MO, Albuquerque, NM, and several others. I have the books at Antigone’s in Tucson down on 4th Avenue, as well as Sleepy Time Girls, here in Joplin, MO.
What do I expect to receive from these? I have a spreadsheet that I enter each of these bookstores, the day I ship, the day they order, etc. It looks like I will average about $3 per book. This is about what I average when the book sells on Amazon. If I were to have done it alone, it would have been double that. Amazon takes 40% off the top of each sale.
Next week, we will discuss the ‘comp’ books I have sent out across the country and what I expect to get in return, advertising, what I got for free, and how much the other ads cost me, and then the following week we will talk about how to build the email list. Wishing all a peaceful world, thanks for listening, Susan