Let me share my first publishing story
My first book, What Became of Them, was a collection of short stories. I had written these stories over a number of years, and then in 1988, I decided it was time to send them out. I sent them to several publishers and waited. I totally understood how a book has to fit into a publisher’s catalog and it must promise to earn the company some income (preferably a large one) from its audience.
My goal was not to be approved by someone, to have my writing found to be worthy. I know many writers want to have a “real book,” and by this they probably mean they want their book to be canonized by someone.
Approval was not important to me. I was looking for a way to reach an audience and to earn some income from my writing.
A losing proposition
As my manuscript was making the rounds in 1987 and 1988, I happened to read an article that revealed how an average collection of short stories published by a New York publisher (the canonical angels) sells about 2,000 copies. (Remember this was in 1988. I have no idea what the figure is today.) It did not take me long to multiply the probable selling price (at that time about $10/copy) by 10% which is the usual author royalty and multiply that by 2,000 copies for a grand total of $2,000.
My conclusion was this was a losing proposition financially.
My mind went into gear.
If I could sell 2,000 copies at $10, I would reap $20,000. Of course, I did not have a PHD in economics, but just the same, it sees to me that going the traditional publisher route would not support me well financially. So, I did the unheard of thing in 1988 and I went for independent publication.
As it turned out, my print run was 2,200 (the printer uses a quantity of paper and the writer is committed to buying any excess of a high run—as s/he is to accepting the numbers of any low run—without complaint.)
I sold the 2,200 copies—a large percentage at full price. Some I gave away as review copies and others I sold via distributors to whom I had to give a discount. Even so, you can see that I did much better financially as an independent publisher than I would have had I gone the traditional route.
My Turning Memories Into Memoirs was also published independently and has since sold over 35,000 copies.
Hard copy is not the only promise anymore.
For most writers as for me, the published hard-copy version of a book has been the promise fulfilled. We writers have wanted to hold our book in hand and flip through its pages and feel the bulk of our tome and think, “I’ve done it.” When I held What Became of Them and Turning Memories Into Memoirs in hand, I can tell you that it was a thrill. Traditional or independent publishing did not make a difference for me. “Book in hand” did. There were no ebooks then. But…
Publishing a book as an e-book is now viable.
Ebooks are on the ascendancy. Every year, their share of the book-reading audience grows. Granted you can’t experience the ebook as a satisfying weight in your hand (unless it’s the e-reader you are feeling) nor can you feel the page turning, but…
The ebook has become nonetheless a good choice at many levels:
- its low cost makes it affordable.
- it is easily transported.
- it can complement a hard copy text.
- it can serve as a trial text to gauge public reaction.