Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Self Publishing with Purpose

I wrote this a few years back for Anansesem a website for Children's book writers in the Caribbean and thought it might be relevant for people who want to write and feel they have the energy to go the self-publishing route. 

My story is probably a bit different from most who go the self publish route because my first book with accepted and published by a publisher. Problem was they took forever to get my book printed and insisted I use a designer to do the final prep for my book. Since I am an artist/graphic designer first, I knew what I wanted and how I wanted to present so I really did not need the help. My husband and I are both graphic designers so we can create and design the book exactly the way we want it. 

Also for my books, highly illustrated children's books about the Caribbean, we knew our market better than the publisher. So the decision to go the self-publishing route was easy. 
The hard part was finding a good printer, deciding how many books to print, figure out how to store them and ship them and finding outlets around the islands to sell them.

All of these are not easy problems to solve. 
Money is always an issue. How much can you afford to spend to get the right amount of books. If your costs are too high, you can not be competitive. If you don't own a warehouse where in the world are you going to put them and remember if you have to spend to store them, the cost of the books go up.

Printing the books was the easiest part. We found a printer in China and we use them every time. They are careful, considerate and want to do a good job. They also pack very well for shipping. But now I am considering a next book. OH NO! The printer is out of business, no return on email just vanished. This happens a lot in China. I am sure there is another one but damn, as my mother says, "it's always something".

Logistics is a word I have become very accustomed to in book sales. All well and good to get a bunch of books printed but when you live in the Caribbean you must get your books to where they will sell. Once again every time you spend money your books cost more.

See we are both smiling!
There are tons and tons of little gift shops around the islands but most can not afford to buy the kind of inventory you want to sell. Believe me trying to accommodate small shops when you have to ship the items is a nightmare and very expensive. 
I have been very fortunate to find good shops that sell books but it is never easy. You have to start with a good product with broad appeal and relevant to make sales.

As far as the fear factor, I live in constant fear, did I do it right, should I do another, what else can I do etc. etc. but if you are compelled to create you must overcome these fears and move on. Otherwise you will end of sitting around waiting for your big break that will never come. The only time you should sit down is when you are inspired to write.

Another thing about can never write and rewrite enough. I swear I checked every word, evey sentence (opps see I made an error there!) and had other people read and correct but you are the final word in proof reading and if you make mistakes only your readers will see them. And they do see them. 

Oh and if you are planning to write a book to become famous you might as well make a video about a Cat playing piano look how many views. FAMOUS! 
Writing is about telling a story that is inside and just has to come out. The reward is in the writing...if you get rich well that is just a nice little bonus.

Reading this little article over, probably for the tenth time I realize it may sound a tad negative, not my intention. It is just really important that you weigh the reasons for your decision to publish. If you have a crusade, use the internet, you can get your word out much faster and free. If you are writing a book that is more about words and less about pictures, make an e-book, no printing costs at all and you can focus on a group of people interested in your topic. If you are an illustrator/writer consider an app., kids like devices and once again no need to physically print. 
One more thing, once you go the self publish route, you are no longer just a writer. You are a writer, proof reader, shipper, sales person and a media person. Takes a lot of time and means you have to be tough and nice and friendly all the time. That can be difficult for a person that prefers the quiet and solitude it takes to write.

So after all those depressing facts, my best advice. Start small. Seek out those that are interested in your topic and make your book available to them. Create a website with freebies for your target audience. Submit your book to a publisher just to see what happens, it can't hurt, well it can but that is part of the process. 

Be generous with your books, offer them as a gift to organizations that are interested in your topic, they will then help you with sales. Go to your local newspaper and submit a press release about your book. Attend functions so you can talk about your book. Look on the internet for websites that promote authors. Facebook is a great way to promote yourself and your book. Twitter too.

There are a lot of ways to promote your book that don't cost you anything but time, do them all and enjoy it because if you are not having fun then doing your own thing is just no fun.

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