Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Self-Publishing Blues

A very good friend has started to talk about maybe trying to self-publish. I suddenly feel guilty. Have I painted too rosy a picture of this game in my strenuous efforts at positivity? So here, to counteract the sweet smell of perfume, are some thorns to give the other side of the tale.

The rule of 10s: Out of 300 online friends, 30 will tell you your writing’s not only wonderful but also publishable, and ask, please let us know when it comes out. Out of those 30, 3 will buy copies of the book.

The rule of 3s: Out of 30 real-world friends, 20 will tell you your writing’s wonderful, 10 will pre-order the book, and 9 will buy. But those 9 will buy more than you ever thought all 20 would. Unfortunately, that will still be less than you ordered…

…because you planned to sell more at Christmas fairs.

The rule of 2s: Out of every 2 people who stop at your stall, only 1 will smile at you. Out of every 2 people who smile at you, only 1 will look at your book. Out of every 2 people who look at your book, only 1 will talk to you. Out of every 2 people who talk to you, only 1 will say they’d like to buy it. And that one will promise to come back later, then studiously avoid your gaze as they wander the rest of the stalls and quietly leave. Two sales in a day is a big success, and profit a hopeless dream.

…But maybe you’ll sell at bookstores, except they don’t stock half the small publishers, so why would they look at you…

…or the little local stores, but no one’s buying books these days…

…or the gift stores and craft stores, but books aren’t gifts or crafts…

…and the library says there’s so many self-published out there they just don’t want to look…

Meanwhile, because you can’t make a profit, the IRS thinks your writing’s just a hobby. So you can’t claim expenses, not even the purchase price of the books that you sell.

So why do I do it?

The rule of 1s: From one little acorn, a giant oak tree might grow. One day. Maybe…

If my husband had known then what we know now, he’d never have let me start, but I’m still convinced there might be roses in these thorns.

6 comments:

Russ said...

Love it, Sheila. Mainly, I just wanted to get a book out in time for the holidays to see what might happen. I'm still hoping to get picked up by a publisher. I'll promote it as best I can but my eyes are wide open. I have had enough experience at selling to know your blog post is true.

Helen Ginger said...

Well, Sheila, you about had me crying. The truth sucks. And, yet, like you say, we keep doing it. I love writers.

Helen
Straight From Hel

bearmancartoons said...

We have a great LARGE bookstore in town that supports small published authors by giving them shelf space and speaking time.

Sun Singer said...

That's a very good description of the realities of self-published and small press books. Yet the acorn analogy expresses well why we write and why we hope that each promotional effort will be the one that turns the tide from disinterested virtual and real-life friends to satisfied book buyers.

Malcolm

Dale said...

I think you nailed it with this one, Sheila.

Lite On Words said...

Now I see said the blind man. Thank you so much for this blog Sheila, as another blogger stated, and I concur, "The truth sucks". Having said that I've determined to venture out and set sail on a new coures! Again, thank you for the blog, I loved it.