Tag Archive | publishing

How I Did It (For those who ask “How’d you do it?”)

(This is MY blog. I get to gaze at my own navel every now and then. And yes, I can see it when I want to. Without a mirror)

So, the paperback version of These Foolish Things  (trying to remember proper grammar and punctuation. If I remember rightly, you’re supposed to underline book titles) is now available through Amazon.

This is after 12 years of rejection by publishers and literary agents (“We don’t know how to market it” ).  I’m attaching a link to a CNN.com story about an author who re-typed a National Book Award winner, submitted it to 14 publishers (including the one who published it and the literary agent who represented it)…and they all rejected it. (This was in response to “The Cuckoo’s Call” author being unveiled as J.K. Rowling)

Bob Greene, Better Story than JK Rowling.

For most of that time, an author had one of two choices: submit something through the tradition publishing houses and hope it was accepted or pay for self-publishing through a vanity press.

Once upon a time, there were a lot of book publishers.They would compete with each other for titles, hoping investing in an author would pay off with handsome sales. The investment would include professional editing, layout and printing, jacket design and marketing/distribution. If they thought the author had hits in him/her, they would pay advances (and the Stephen King/Tom Clancy/Mary Higgins Clark kind of authors would get multi-million dollar ones). It was possible for a great novel such as Ordinary People  to be pulled from the “slush pile” (unsolicited manuscripts) and published.

However, the great herd of publishing houses was thinned by mergers. And they became more cautious about who was let through the gates into Publishing Paradise. At first, they wanted only manuscripts from literary agents (who also became cautious), then only certain literary agents, then only authors with proven track records.

They still exists, but it’s like the wild buffalo of the United States: gone from a herd of millions down to the ones living in Yellowstone and those guys are in danger of getting shot if they wander into Montana. And their output is substantially reduced.

The other “Old Timey” means of getting a story from your ink-stained fingers (well, with the advent of computers, more like Doritos and Red Bull. My thing is coffee) was to go to a vanity press where YOU paid for all the services (instead of the publisher) and it was up to YOU to get the things sold. For every “Christmas Box” (the first self-published book to reach #1 on the New York Times bestseller list)  there are thousands of people with boxes of unsold books stashed in garages, basements and attics.

This is the quick and dirty version of the story:

Richard Paul Evans Wikipedia

And for every story of his, there is the vast army of Roger Sterlings (“Mad Men”) whose gamble on self-publication goes nowhere. A recent episode showed Roger pulling copies out of his briefcase and tossing them. He couldn’t even give them away.

Self-publishing was an expensive option and up until the early part of the 21st century, the “most affordable” packages were still pretty expensive and included all the services provided by a full-service house, but the author paid the costs. This is a link to Xlibris, a Print On Demand house still in business. See the cost of the top package? $15,249. I don’t have that kind of dough. Most people who have to go through self-publishing don’t have that kind of dough.

Xlibris publishing packages

However, technology doesn’t stand still.

Now, through services such as Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords and Bookbaby, an author can publish his magnum opus (NOT Tom Selleck crossed with a penguin) without it costing an arm and a leg.

magnum pi opus

Get it? Magnum Opus?

Through Amazon’s Create Space, you can publish a paperback for free (of course, like a nail salon, they try to upsell you at every turn (I opted for $25 for additional distribution channels, did not go in for the cover design, etc. BUT COVER ART IS VERY IMPORTANT! I HAD MINE DESIGNED BY PROS!  The barter system is alive and well).

I have my first paperback order and I find this very exciting. I’m sitting here, 12 years down the road from something that started as disjointed chapters written in a grade school composition book …

2013-07-13 17.23.22-1

(Seriously: I write in these things. No worries about battery life)

…to an actual “hold it in your hands, dog-ear the pages and spill wine on it” book. I am expecting great things of it (I have the mindset of a 6 year old in that “this will be the greatest ____ ever.”) . But my main point in telling this story is to show that it is possible to to get published despite the barriers.

That’s how I did it.