My first novel, Ava, will be coming out in print in a matter of days. While I'm excited to finally have this option for readers who do not use e-readers, it has taken more time than I had originally anticipated to make a paperback version of the book available.
On this blog, I’ve been candid about the highs and lows of my journey from occasional writer to self-published author. Even as I write this post, a certain part of me still hopes that a literary agent, one skilled in navigating the release and promotion of print books, will discover my novel and insist on representing it, and me.
There is real value in having an educated, experienced guide when traveling to new areas of business, and personal growth.
I can't help but wonder if making the choice to move forward on my own will remove the possibility of agent representation, permanently. Time will answer that question, I suppose. For now, as my dad would say, Onward!
Through research, I determined that my best two options for self-publishing a print novel were CreateSpace and Lightning Source. I spent several weeks reading up on the two, and comparing procedures, pricing packages, distribution logistics, and ease of use.Happily, there is a lot of useful information, and a wide variety of opinions as to which company offers the best possibility of making a printed book accessible to the widest range of shoppers.
I decided to consult on the matter with three self-published authors that I know and admire. Two of the authors used CreateSpace and were happy with the results, and one, though she had started with CreateSpace, had moved over to Lightning Source.
Once I had their input, I went back and reviewed the websites for both companies. CreateSpace came across as faster, easier to work with in terms of preparing the manuscript, and had the obvious advantage of getting a newly-published paperback version of my novel onto Amazon.com in a matter of days.
Lightning Source, on the other hand, seemed more complicated to me, considering this was my first time prepping a book for print. I could have dealt with the complications if it weren’t for the fact that Lightning Source has no immediate path to availability. Amazon will carry books printed by Lightening Source, but making that happen would add in more steps – and more time – to achieve what was essentially the same outcome: the availability of my paperback on Amazon.com
The key advantage Lightning Source offers, it seems to me, is the potential to have my novel reach the shelves of brick-and-mortar book stores. However, I would have to do all the marketing myself, on a store-by-store basis. With one reasonably new novel and no readership history to my name, I determined that marketing my books to the stores would take far more time than I would be able to give, or justify.
Imagine making this call hundreds of times in a row: “Hi, I’m a self-published author! I’d like to let you know my novel is now available in print and is ready to be stocked at your store. Who is the right person to speak with about this process?”
I can’t count the number of blind marketing calls I’ve made over the course of my career. With my first business, I made a thousand — maybe more — in the first few months alone. Once those calls started connecting with right buyers, at the right time, the volume of daily marketing calls I needed to make declined, but I still had to make time for that activity every afternoon.
Of course, that was a service-based business not a product-based business, and it was an entirely different marketplace from this one.
Still, if I went forward and dedicated the time to make those marketing calls, would I have success? Some, yes. But I have no idea how many calls it would take, how many books would be ordered by a store, and how many of those books would ultimately sell. I also don’t know how much time, in terms of paperwork and channel management, is required once a book is added to the stock of an individual book store.
And what about the opportunity cost of spending huge chunks of my time on marketing the paperback version of Ava?
There is always a chance that a large distributor, or well-connected book buyer, would choose my novel, thus opening many doors with one connection, but, for the same reasons stated above, I had to face the fact that this was an unlikely outcome.
My decision made, I opened an account with CreateSpace and moved forward into the next phase of self-publishing.
I already had a professional cover, one for the e-book version of Ava, but had forgotten that I’d made arrangements with the designer to wait on producing the print version of that cover until I had completed the book description. The time had come; I had to buckle down and write a 3-paragraph description of Ava.
As you know, authors, writing a first novel is a very personal undertaking. When it came to boiling down my plot to a handful of paragraphs, I had never been able to see the forest for the trees. Finally, the words came to me. It was if they were waiting for me to reach a point in my development where I could step back far enough to see the big picture.
The next part, understanding the mechanics of properly formatting my manuscript, took me longer than I had anticipated. I made a mess of it several times before the logic behind the process began to make sense to me. But, on the upside, it gave me a chance to review my entire novel once more, looking for any small changes that needed to be made.
(Starting now, I plan to use a print format for any manuscript I’m working on. Once I’d tweaked the margins and set up the proper spacing, I could see six pages at a time on my computer screen. I found that this view made a real difference, from an editing perspective, with the flow of the story.)
Within a week, my print cover had come back from the designer, and the formatting of my manuscript had been approved by CreateSpace. Now, I was ready to set the price of my print novel. The task gave me pause, as it always seems to do. After much internal debate – and an informal study of the pricing choices made by dozens of other self-published authors – I settled on $9.99 as the right price point.
My share of that price is less than a dollar, but that doesn’t worry me so much. It’s too early, as I learned from my e-book pricing challenges, to focus on royalties over distribution.
It’s too early, as I learned from my e-book pricing challenges, to focus on royalties over distribution.
I’m an unknown author (I’d prefer to say undiscovered author!), with one novel in publication, who is working to establish a readership. I felt an $11.99 price point, which I was seriously considering, would be too much of a deterrent to readers who might be willing to gamble a certain sum on a writer’s first book.
Plus, with the e-book version of Ava currently priced at $.99, I felt there was too much disparity between the two amounts if I chose the higher price for the print version.
This afternoon I completed the last step in the CreateSpace process. My novel will be available in print format, on Amazon.com, sometime in the next five days.
I can hardly believe it. I think I feel a little dizzy with excitement!
So much work, so much time, so much sacrifice to arrive at this place. I want to savor the feeling of accomplishment and celebrate the knowledge I’ve gained. And I will, right up to tomorrow morning, when I open my eyes and a new day begins.
And what does tomorrow hold in store for me? I don’t know.
But I’m ready to find out.