Friday, April 1, 2011

Why I Won't Self-Publish (yet)

Several people have asked why I don’t just self-publish through LuLu, createspace, etc. or some such thing.  That’s the same as a P.O.D., so if I did that not only would I be 100% responsible for all marketing of the book (very difficult since I have a full time job and a full time family), there could never be any book signings, readings, or reviews, and it would NEVER get into a library or a bookstore.  The only people who would ever read it are the people who know me or are directed to it by people who know me.  Sure I know a lot of people, but publishers can get to people I don't know, and that's important.

I did publish The Heart’s Content (a poetry compilation that was a fundraiser for Hypoplastic Right Hearts) on LuLu, and that was fine because it was for a nonprofit.  We sold about 350 copies of the book.  Quite frankly, for a poetry book, that’s actually very good.  The Heart’s Content turned a very small profit, but we did it primarily as an awareness tool, and it raised awareness for February/Heart Month.  In all it was a success, but it was SERIOUS WORK to sell even 350 copies of The Heart’s Content.

I want to sell more than 350 copies of Half Heart, Whole Life.  I want it to be bigger than that, not because of the money but because of the message.  I want people to read the book, and to do that they have to be able to find it.  I also want it in bookstores because I even wrote in the book itself about how dejected I felt when I went to our enormous bookstore the week Liam was diagnosed and I couldn't find one single book on CHD in the entire store.  I want people who need this book to find it easily, because when they go looking for it they won't know who I am or even where they are with such horrible news.

I also want readers who aren't heart parents to find the book.  This book is about living through crap and coming out still loving life and loving it even more.  To quote myself, "Life is a shit buffet, and everyone gets a turn through line, it's just that some of us get bigger plates."  Anyone who reads Half Heart, Whole Life can relate to how devastating it is to have your expectations shattered and to be afraid.  No one gets through life without taking on some pain, and the book is about how we cope and learn.  You don't have to be a heart parent to get that.   By limiting myself to self-publishing, I won't get too far past that market segment. It's my best and most important market segment, but it's not the only one.

Very few self-publishers are successful and those who are make it a full time job.  I can’t do that.  You can’t really blame bookstores for not carrying books that sell so low and don’t have a real marketing campaign behind them. Even Target's pharmacy keeps low-selling items local residents request behind the counter instead of on the shelves where the big companies give huge discounts to get their items stocked.  I don’t blame the booksellers for their hesitation to sell self-published or print-on-demand works.  Publishers and distributors (who work for publishers) network hard and pay a premium to get their books noticed.  If I self- publish I’ll be buried at the bottom with all other self-published books and won't be able to compete.

Then there is the issue of legitimacy.  Sales aside, there is a prejudice out there against the quality of self-published books both from libraries and bookstores and even Amazon and the ibookstore.   The prejudice is based on a huge kernel of truth.  ANYONE and I mean anyone, including crazy KKK people and those who would like to teach your teenage son how to make a pipe bomb, can self-publish a book.  Some (not all) people who self-publish believe they can just write it and print it without doing the very hard and necessary work of editing.  A person who edits his own work without any help from others is kind of  like a doctor who treats himself.  You can’t realistically be objective from inside out.  

Yes, I worked extremely hard on my editing, and some other people who self publish have done the same.  I’ve recruited several writers and heart parents to help me edit and have enlisted many active readers and applied their feedback that helped the book.  I did that, and I do believe in the quality of Half Heart, Whole Life. I think it's good enough to be a "real book," no offense to the few very good self-published works out there.  They do exist, but they're like the Big Foot - very hard to find. 

However, when thrown in with a bunch of really bad crap, good self-published books get dirty by association.  It’s not at all fair, but it’s reality.  The reader has to be very careful when looking at self-published books, and it’s easier for them to go with the mainstream than to seek out self-published works.  Yes, absolutely and undeniably, there ARE  good self-published books out there, but there is far more crap, and I don’t want Half Heart, Whole Life lost in the mire.

Would I ever self-publish?  Maybe. I'm a never say never sort of girl, but I’m going to give myself at least one good year before I seriously consider that route.  I’ve only been querying agents for three months at this point.  Honestly, it's only two real months  because after the last batch of interest I did nothing since February 12th.  

That means that in less than two months eight agents wanted to see my work, so even though I don’t have a legitimate deal yet, I owe it to the book, the story, and the people who might read but don’t  already know me to do my best to make it successful.   It’s frustrating and hard to wait, but I must keep the faith that this book deserves a good home and a broad audience and that it's worth it to do the work to get it published just like I did the work to write it well and edit it effectively.

I believe in Half Heart, Whole Life, do you believe in it?  Tell your friends to follow the blog and strengthen the argument to publish it.  Get us to 150 followers and get a peek at Chapter 3.  If a year from now I have 1000 followers and still no contract, we'll talk about self-publishing again. 

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