Just over a year ago I started the DRAWER NO MORE! series on this blog to record my journey on the path of self-publishing (SP). That jaunt led to the creation of two books—an achievement both thrilling and frustrating—usually, in that order. At the time, like so many contemporary writers, I had struggled for over a decade to get a foot in the door of traditional publishing, honing my craft, perfecting query letters, researching markets, and pitching my work to agent after agent. All to no avail.
So even though SP was not my first choice, I embraced the option and gave it my all. Of course, the “vertical learning curve” presented a challenge. Like all independent authors, I grappled with the ins and outs of ISBNs, e-book formats and conversion, design, POD, marketing and distribution—enough new concepts to fill a dictionary.
My head was spinning for months with no comfort zone in sight. But in the immortal words of Édith Piaf, “I regret nothing!”
True, my SP journey brought disappointments. In the beginning, I was planning to launch three books with more to follow. Instead, I’ve called a halt after the first two. That’s because an unforeseen development has now occurred along the publishing path—a very exciting development, but one that entails its own new concepts and challenges.
I’m back at square one, but this time, it’s a whole new world.
My old dream has come true at last: I have a publisher! Two of my books have been accepted, and one is already in production.
Isn’t there a proverb about wishes coming true when you finally give up striving? That’s more or less how it happened. Within weeks of saying, “No publisher? No more self-pubs? So be it. Back to the drawer…” I received an acceptance from Booktrope Publishing of Seattle. No, the news didn’t fly out of a clear blue sky; I had submitted work and gotten a recommendation from one of their long-time authors. But I had trained myself to harbor so little hope for good things that the acceptance knocked me over with the proverbial feather.
I’ve featured discussions of Booktrope here on the blog before, but—truth be told—I didn’t understand how it worked until I signed my contract and found myself admitted to the online inner sanctum of Teamtrope, where authors recruit managers, editors, and designers to help bring their books to fruition. This process is complex and can be confusing. I have yet to master all of the details, but already I can energetically dismiss the most common misperceptions—
BOOKTROPE IS NOT A VANITY PRESS. REPEAT: NOT A VANITY PRESS.
In other words—
Booktrope does NOT keep an unduly large share of net revenues. In fact, at 30%, they keep far less than traditional publishers.
Booktrope does NOT allow poorly edited books to go to press. Nor do they accept every manuscript that comes over the transom from writers unprepared for the publishing process.
Some of my fellow self-publishers may ask, “But why give away almost one third of the proceeds when you could run the show yourself and keep it all?”
The answer, of course, is that I get something valuable in return: an imprint, a reputation, a well-informed and readily available staff, an advertising budget, and access to media opportunities I could never dream of on my own. Does this mean I’ll sell exponentially more books than I did as a self-publisher? I have to admit the answer is, “Hopefully, yes…but not necessarily.”
Now, however, I’ve got my team all invested with me and ready to navigate the rough seas of marketing. None of us will make a penny unless we all make sure the book finds readers. Even more important, I’m no longer alone on the daunting journey of self-expression. Experienced professionals have considered my work and said, “Absolutely! We want to bring this to the world.”
No guarantees, but no regrets. I’m still at Square One with Booktrope, head spinning as I adjust to new procedures. No one knows how the venture may unfold. Even so, as the Russian saying goes, I like the “feel of a shoulder” beside me. I’m not alone, and that feels like a whole new world.