Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Publishing Timeline: Golden Girl

Looking back at 2008, I felt that I had published too many books too quickly. Counting the second printing of Emperor Dad, I had pushed out four novels, and if the artwork for an anthology hadn't fallen through, there would have been five new titles. In retrospect, it was a bad move. With my parents health declining and their subsequent deaths, a couple of those novels were indeed published, but pretty much abandoned to the fate of books that are hidden in obscurity. I did a loop through New Mexico to talk to book store owners when Roswell or Bust came out, but Extreme Makeover left the people in far northern California with not a clue about the locally set novel, and much the same happened with Lighter Than Air and the people of Upper Peninsula Michigan.

So this year, I had intended to spread it all out and publish three books with more careful attention to building the buzz and all that marketing stuff. Falling Bakward came out on schedule and I spent more time making contact with the people near Chamberlain, SD where that story was placed. I still don't have the sales skill set, but I'm getting better.

But then, Lighter Than Air got a Golden Duck Award. I had to add a Worldcon appearance to my schedule so I can attend the ceremony. Suddenly, it became very desirable to have a new book just coming out at the beginning of August.

While the technology allows me to get a book through the publishing loop and out the door in two or three weeks, that's crazy from a marketing perspective. I deeply desire to get my books on library recommended lists so students can discover my adventures on the school library shelves just as I discovered Heinlein and Asimov. Libraries have tight budgets and political issues that make many librarians conservative about ordering books. To play it safe, you can't even get on the library lists without a 'starred review' from one of a handful of review magazines, like Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The top review organizations are flooded with books, because every publisher wants their titles reviewed, and their guidelines are strict. They want copies months in advance. Three or four months in advance of publication.

Today is May 19. Worldcon starts August 6. In the best of all possible worlds I can't make that window, but what I can do is set a September publication date and have a few early copies on hand at Worldcon. So now the rush is to get those review copies off. How rapidly can I generate a handful of advance reader copies?

Well, for one thing, I only sent the artwork request to the artists a few days ago. I can cross my fingers and hope that the art comes in promptly so I can meet the publication date, but the artwork isn't necessary for advance reader copies. The text has to be relatively solid and easy to read so the reviewers can appreciate it. Just a couple of hours ago, I completed a good first pass at the layout of Golden Girl. I've got to print out a proofreadable paper copy and be satisfied by sometime tonight. I'll have a PDF uploaded to Lulu by tomorrow and order my ARC's delivered promptly. Then Fedex them off to the review organizations.

Why Lulu, when I use LightningSource to print my real copies? It's economics. Lulu has no set-up charges, but costs much more per unit. LightningSource has a setup charge, even for revisions, so the cheaper unit cost only makes sense once I start ordering the books by the hundreds. The Lulu ARC's won't be available to the public, just me. From a publishing perspective any printer would do.

So, time for me to get back to proofreading. I hate deadlines.

No comments: