article discussing why a self-publisher or independent publisher should take a year between books

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Small Publishers Association of North America

Issue 1/2007

"Do-It-Yourselfers" and a Year Between Books

I have eight completed novels, five of which are historicals set in Mississippi, and historicals set in Mississippi have become my first love. I wrote my first published book in 2001 and spent years trying to drum up interest in New York, to no avail. In between then and 2006, when I finally published The Devil’s Bastard on my own, I compensated myself by continuing to write and read—and I’ve watched, to my horror, the "Nazification" of the Old South and the political incorrectness of saying anything in defense of my fathers. I have found my Cause.

I find great satisfaction in being able to write what I want without having to please anyone but myself. But I write with the confidence that I will please a good number of readers, too. Designing my covers and page layout, as well as doing my own typesetting frees me from the monetary constraints inherent with paying someone else to do the work—my pockets are not deep.

One thing I cannot make for myself is time. When I decided on a January 2007 publication date for Wolf Dawson, I did so with the thought of producing three books in a twelve-month period. Apparently that is a magic number, which moves a self-published author into the ranks of small publisher in the eyes of distributors, buyers…? I’m really not sure who that number impresses. One thing I am sure of, no one is impressed by a publisher’s failure to meet a date, and that’s what I have allowed to happen.

As a promotion tool, I put Wolf Dawson’s planned publication date in a brief synopsis of the upcoming book at the end of The Devil’s Bastard. I didn’t come close to making that date, but I sure had it in black and white on a book that was on the shelves.

I hope to have copies of Wolf Dawson in hand in April, but I have learned from gift-shop owners carrying The Devil’s Bastard that readers are asking where is Wolf Dawson? I have to respond that it is at the digital printer where the Advanced Reader’s Copy is produced. I’m thrilled to have fans ready to buy, but am dismayed with myself for failing to produce. I can only trust that my fans will find the book worth waiting for.

There were a number of factors contributing to the delay of Wolf Dawson. First and foremost is myself. If you’ve read through my newsletters up to this point, you know I have a terrible “tweaking” problem when I read and re-read my stuff, but I was already behind before I even got to that final stage. What I didn’t properly judge when making my production schedule was the amount of time I would spend marketing The Devil’s Bastard. I was (still am) visiting independent bookstores, big chains (local/writing to national headquarters), gift stores, and mailing copies of the book to stores. The latter, I’ve concluded, is a waste of time—again, if you’ve read through my articles, you know I think the proper approach to independent bookstore buyers is to hand carry the book and place it right into the owner’s/buyer’s hands. I’ve still got a lot of that to do, by the way.

As a result, Wolf Dawson would not get the dedicated time it deserved and still make its publication date. I opted for time deserved.

Ultimately, I did not get the book to my copyeditor when I should have, and by the time I got it back from her, the holidays were interfering with the actual typesetting (along with my penchant for continuing revisions). I am happy with a quality product. I regret the delay in publication. If I’d given myself enough time, I would have had both.

At the end of Wolf Dawson I include a brief synopsis of The Devil’s Bastard for those who have not read it, and I include a synopsis of my third historical, Sweet Chicanery set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1890. I’m giving myself until February 2008 on that third book. I intend to pull the manuscript out shortly, but I want to concentrate a lot of this year marketing The Devil’s Bastard and Wolf Dawson, putting what I learned from my Search Engines course to work, create a “My Space,” and produce video snips, using You Tube. I’m also going to start a campaign, focused on Mississippi newspapers. There are still craft fairs and flea markets to attend, and I do hope to do my “book buyers” tour throughout the state of Mississippi—I want to be able to take Wolf Dawson with me when I go now.

So, if you’re following in my footsteps and trying to learn from my mistakes, my free advice is not to worry about some arbitrary ‘number of titles’ in a year to legitimize you as a small publisher. You are already outside the envelope—you’ve got a hard row to hoe, but you know, at least you can get to the row to hoe it—it’s your darn row on your darn land. You are a publisher. Your fans are what matter. If you tell them you’re going to have a book out there, for Saint Peter’s Sake get the *%$# book out there! Get enough fans reading and the bookstores and gift shops will carry you—and a distributor (even it’s a small one) will eventually pick you up. And in the end, it won’t matter how many titles you produce in a year.

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