I’m 6 weeks into an 8 week hiatus from my novel, Hallelujah, and have been working through a list of to-do items prepping me to get my book published. The last couple of weeks have completely flummoxed me. I went into this wanting to publish traditionally. I wanted to have Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins or Penguin Random House on the spine. (Uh, Penguin and Random House merged? I had no idea.) A couple of conversations with some friends of friends has made me wonder what my next step really is.
Conversation #1 – Founder of a self-publishing firm
A dear friend of mine suggested I spend my Sunday morning walking with Polly Letofsky. Thankfully that’s an organized event anyone can join every Sunday, so it wasn’t a weird idea. My friend knew that Polly had written a book about her experience walking around the world and she thought Polly might have some ideas about how to get my book published. What she didn’t know was that Polly had moved on to starting a self-publishing project management and consulting firm, My Word! Publishing.
Polly had all kinds of information about what she does and how her company works. She encouraged me to self-publish. She threw around a lot of words I didn’t understand about publishing and the process and encouraged me to contact her for a free evaluation. Basically her company puts together a publishing team for you: editors, marketing people, writing coaches, and whatever else you need. Polly told me my first step was to start my own company, which I would later use to publish my book. This was all fascinating and overwhelming. Here’s what I took out of my conversation with her:
- If you want to make money on your book, you make much less per book with a traditional publication (like $1/book) versus self publishing ($12/book).
- An average book sells 2,500 copies. An average self published book sells 250.
- You need to understand your own goals for publishing.
The first two bullets are a math problem. Jojo sells 2500 copies of her first book and makes $1/book. Anna sells 250 copies of her book for $12/book. Who made the most money publishing her book? If you play the averages, self-publishing wins, but by only $500. However, this is where bullet number 3 comes in.
Once I had time to think I realized that my goal is not to make lots of money. My goal is to get lots of people to read my book. In my dreamy dream world I want to publish a book that people want to read, which is measured by them buying lots of books.
In my limited knowledge of how all this works, I didn’t even consider self-publishing because I do not believe that I could write a book lots of people want to read by myself. People are not interested in a book with grammar errors, writing issues, and juvenile construction. I know I need a whole team of people around me to publish a quality book and that meant traditional publishing. Polly opened my eyes to the fact that the consolidation of the publishing houses means that there are lots of publishing people out there waiting to support self-publishers. Once I read my book and determine if I want to go forward with it I’ll meet with her and see how her process works. More on that here when the meeting happens
Conversation #2 – A self-published author
Jamie Ferguson is a friend of a friend and she published With Perfect Clarity in 2013. I read her book and we’ve had a couple of e-mail conversations back and forth. Hopefully we can meet in person and chat about her process in detail, but what I found out from her was that she also self-published through her company, Blackbird Publishing.
When I found all this out I did a double take. This idea of starting your own company to publish a book seemed crazy when Polly mentioned it to me, and here I already had a data point telling me that was what people really did. Jamie had editors tell her that the book was good, but would be hard to publish traditionally and an agent who was interested, but wanted her to make big changes, so she self published.
Both these conversations were interesting, and at least opened my eyes to what self-publishing means. I’m not as against that direction as I was, but I’m a little overwhelmed by the thought that I have to write a book and then find a team, and then pay the team to edit, market and publish my book. (If the averages work out I have $500 I could use to pay all those people and end up cost neutral.) The flip side is to continue to try the traditional route. I’m torn, but I don’t know enough yet. My next steps are to learn more by meeting with Polly and Jamie.
I’ve got two weeks left until the big read, and I’m pretty comfortable where everything stands on my list. I’ve got some work to do on a CV, and I have two more personal connections to exercise. (I may wait on both of those until after the first reading, because they are connections I don’t want to use unless I’m really going to publish this thing.) The only other item on my list is an elevator pitch, and that’s got to wait until I read, because I’m starting to forget the details of my book. That was the whole idea of this little break.
I’m getting excited and nervous for two weeks from now.