Back in the late 1980s when I was in writer infancy, I massaged a plot for a mystery novel. I did the submission two-step, sending out query letters and sample chapters only
to discover literary agents weren’t sure what to make of what I was
writing. I combined genres which was a
no-no back then. “Write mystery or
science fiction, but don’t combine the two.”
I had read once to write what you like to read. I liked to read mysteries, but I always like
to read Stephen King and Dean Koontz.
Not to be discouraged, I kept trying to find that elusive agent who
would take a chance.
I did find a publisher in Canada but upon reading their contract realized they expected me to pay a share of the
cost. I then tried finding an agent who
wasn’t in New York,
thinking an agent in a western state would be more interested in a series with
some Native American characters. I found
an agent in New Mexico
only to lose her in three months when she decided to close up shop to take care
of an ailing husband.
After rewriting my first book four times in an attempt to appease agents who couldn’t agree on what I needed to work on (“the plot is great, but the characters are
cardboard” vs “the characters are great but your plot needs work”), I decided
to look into self-publishing. I read a
book, “Publish Your Own Novel” by Connie Shelton and started taking notes and
crunching numbers. I continued to send
out query letters but also researched publishing. I attended a one day seminar at Columbia College
in Chicago on
publishing. I joined Publishers
Marketing Association and Small Publishers Association of North America. PMA conducts four days of publishing seminars
every year prior to the Book Expo. I
attended various seminars on cover design, selecting a printer, creating a
marketing plan, submitting to wholesalers, getting reviews, etc. My husband and I toured a printing company in
After setting up a marketing plan and budget, I acquired a business license in 1998 for Full Moon Publishing LLC. Two main
points I had learned in the seminars were to identify my target audience and
set my goals. I knew I wanted to focus
on libraries. Many readers rely on their
local libraries to obtain books to read.
Libraries prefer hard covers, although they do carry paperbacks. I also knew I didn’t have the time or
inclination to travel a lot so targeting mainly libraries was perfect. This was another reason I decided against a
traditional publisher. Traditional
publishers like you to go on book tours, travel to signings. I had a day job and didn’t have the time nor
desire to travel outside my comfort zone.
When I looked at my budget I knew I could afford a 3,000 hardcover print run. I selected an order fulfillment house to handle orders and billing since I wouldn’t have the time to handle this on my
own. I had to leave time for my day job
and to write.
For point number two, my goals were to get reviewed by reputable reviewers and sell sub-rights. Most of my books have been
reviewed by Booklist, Library Journal
and Publishers Weekly. I have sold large print rights and audio book
rights. The only other right I am still
striving for is screenplay rights.
In 2006 I realized the costs to my fulfillment house were taking a huge chunk out of my profits so I started researching POD (print on demand). This seemed to fit my budget and marketing
plans best. I would no longer have to
pay order fulfillment charges, insurance, returns fulfillment, administrative
fees, etc. I just had to rent a small
humidity and temperature-controlled facility to house my books. And since I use Lightning Source as my POD
printer, they are owned by Ingram which is one of the major wholesalers to book
stores and libraries. With POD if
someone wants one copy, they print one copy.
The quality of a Lightning Source POD is equal to any traditional run
trade paperback and another advantage is that LSI handles the orders and
shipping. The hard covers are four-color
laminate with the option of a jacket cover.
I wanted to price my books wallet-friendly for the average
consumer. Since the cost to produce with
POD never changes whether I print one or one hundred books, pricing proved to
be a challenge. In order to achieve my
objective, I would only be able to give wholesalers a 50% discount instead of
the customary 55% discount and I would make the hard covers non-returnable.
Technology keeps changing. With the advent of eReaders, I now realized I had to take another step to reach more readers. Smashwords.com has what they call a “meat
grinder.” After massaging the text file
of my books according to their simple guidelines, I was able to upload each
book onto the Smashwords web site and they convert them into a number of
different eReader formats, whether for Amazon’s Kindle or the Sony Reader, the
Nook, pdf, and many others.
Smashwords also started a program last year for our military. Through Operation eBook Drop members of the military can download free eBooks from
participating authors. Details about the
program can be found at http://blog.smashwords.com/2009/09/ smashwords-supports-operation-ebbok.html.
eBooks have another advantage of reaching readers across the pond. Purchasing books oftentimes includes steep shipping fees, especially for those living in Europe,
New Zealand or Australia. But with eBooks, it’s a simple download to a
computer or eReader.
For those who still like the feel of a “live” book, through LSI my books are also available in the UK, EU and Canada. Lightning Source has print facilities in Europe. And if you
live in Australia
you just have to walk into participating book stores, select a book and wait
while it is printed and bound with the use of the latest technology -- Espresso
I will still continue to produce hard covers and trade paperbacks since not everyone owns an eReader nor wants to own an eReader.
But having my books produced in various formats allows me to keep up
with changing technology and reach more readers.
Sandra Tooley is the author of the Sam Casey series, the Chase Dagger series (written as Lee Driver), and the Remy and Roadkill series (for readers age 11 to 111). Web
site: www.sdtooley.com. Her eBooks can be found at
www.smashwords.com/profile/view/tooley and www.smashwords.com/profile/view/leedriver
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