Monday, May 05, 2008

Each Step is Hard

I'm a writer. I'm a publisher. Since my highest priority titles right now are my own novels, then that makes me a self-publisher. No telling what I'll be publishing two years from now.

However, to publish a book is a massive effort. I wonder if it's any easier for the big New York publishers.

Now, taking your manuscript and getting Lulu or one the other on-line printing services to turn it into a book is actually the easiest part of the process. Yes, you have to format your text differently and to come up with cover art, but I know that it can be done in a week, and have a book in your hand as soon as it can be printed and shipped to you.

But once you have a source of printed books, at a price that people will spend, then what do you do? Nobody knows the book exists. So nobody will buy it.

Here is what I've been fighting for the past several months. I think it's called marketing. I've done a lot of things. Gotten newspaper interviews, sent out press releases, emailed family and friends, blogged about the books, given out free copies to librarians, contacted on-line book review sites, won a book award, and anything else I can think of.

One of the appealing ideas was to get librarians to buy the books for their shelves. My novels are ideal to sit on the shelf near Heinlein's juveniles and attract the same audience. However, it's not easy. The first librarian I talked with said she wouldn't buy any book without a "starred review". I didn't even know what that was. When I discovered that the Texas Library Association had lists of recommended books, I rushed to find out how to get my books considered.

It's complicated. For a book to be eligible for consideration, among other things, it has to have a positive review in a 'scholarly journal'. I emailed and ended up with a list of those. Right off the bat, half of them will not look at self-published works. End of discussion. Of the others, the odds don't look good. In seeking to be one of say a hundred books reviewed per issue, I'm competing with 60,000 books submitted annually. And they will look at self-published worked 'occasionally'. Another review outlet, Kirkus, won't review self-published books, but they will take a few hundred dollars for a paid review in their companion magazine that specializes in paid reviews. Since I have no idea whether the TLA would even consider those, I declined to give them my limited cash.

And today, I was trying to chip away at the barriers set up at another review magazine, which only reviews books from publishers listed in Literary Market Place. I checked. No Wire Rim Books wasn't on the list. I emailed them my info. Back came the answer. Self publishers aren't listed, but we will sell you a listing in our Small Publisher's list. I emailed back, "how much?"

So to sell to libraries, I need to get on a list and have a review from a 'scholarly journal' but those reviews are off limits to self-publishers, mostly.

I'm plugging away, but every step is hard.

4 comments:

Lazy Trainer said...

Hmmm, if you start publishing other writers does that still make you a "self-publisher" in all those venues?
Also have you checked out what Holly Lisle is doing with One More Word bBooks these days?

Benjie said...

I would suggest that you reference my blog review, but then they probably wouldn't consider that scholarly either. It's another case of "you gotta be known to get known."

Keep on plugging.

Henry Melton said...

I've wondered about the stickiness self-publisher tag myself. But I don't worry. The world is changing. There's a huge influx of self-publishers, with many more low quality ones the reviewers want to ignore, but also with many more high quality works that they can't ignore. Something will have to give.

benjie, I did mention your review site, when I was questioning the librarians, but they have their own list. I'd guess at the level of an individual librarian, it's up to personal preference, but at the level of the ALA or the TXLA, they stick to their policies until something big makes them change.

Liana Metal said...

Thanks for your latest book! I'll review it soon.
Liana