Success is not a destination, it’s a learning process. And the best teacher is often failure. Thomas Alva Edison once said, “I have not failed 700 times. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work.” As a self-published writer, it’s important to understand, learn from, and not be discouraged by one’s unsuccessful attempts, whether it be how to handle character point-of-view, how to craft a believable setting, or even how to publish your own book. Sometimes, there are warning signs along the way to help us learn. Angel M, author of The Maze Series, is here today with one of those warning signs, sharing with us what she learned from self-publishing her first book. Thanks, Angel.
I should probably begin with a little background information. I knew nothing. I was unfamiliar with the internet, only used my new smart phone to make and receive calls, was barely on Facebook, had no clue what Twitter was and knew no one who knew anything about self-publishing. After sending out 86 queries and getting back 61 rejections that insisted I keep looking for an agent that fit, I decided to self-publish. Decision made, I floundered around the internet and narrowed my choices down to two different self-publishers.
So, I went with a company I thought would provide me with a beautiful book and all that other stuff I didn’t know anything about. I purchased a mid-level expense package because I wanted the promotional items, more free copies of both hardcover and softcover books and some other things that came with it. This first book was to be the one that made people want to buy my next book or drive them away.
I enjoyed the creation process. Each step had its own team that needed my approval and signature before continuing onto the next step. Everything was done via email, which was new to me, but a learning experience I needed. I may have actually talked with a person, over the phone, three times from start to finish.
From the start, I knew how I wanted the cover to look. This, of course, came at an additional cost due to requiring custom work. I had to be very specific when it came to front cover because I was not allowed to talk directly with the artist and was only given three revisions of the initial sketch and two revisions after the color was added. Any more and there would have been another, additional charge. I pulled photos off the internet regarding: sky colors, maze design, shadowed figures and the way they were standing, clothes, style and color of moss, flowers, sun position, and every other detail I had imagined. There was a problem when they first added color and everything came out orange, grey and dark. It got fixed, but made me wonder what the third party was actually sending to the artist. Especially when I had sent pictures of yellow, pink, blue, and purple sunsets.
Then the book was in my hands. I felt excitement for this accomplishment and fear of what was to come next. Now for the bad news. I knew going in that I would end up spending more than that initial package cost. However, I never imagined I would invest four times that amount by the time all was said and done.
Here’s what this total project included:
The package to create my book
- Everything after this was at an extra cost purchased either from the publisher, Vista Print, or other sources
- Custom cover
Additional editing which deleted the commas that had run amuck and corrected how a pizza box was described
- This service cost more than the publishing package
One-half of a marketing package which did absolutely nothing for my book
- I discovered two years later, that they sent my press release to farming magazines (I wrote an adventure/fantasy novel) and quite a few newspapers that had been out of business for years
3 posters and custom frames
- That I thought I needed and didn’t
- That I thought would be fun and wasn’t
- From Vista Print which were much cheaper than from the publisher
50 softcover books that I bought at the author discount to resell at book signings
- Discount was about $16.00 per book (I had a problem with the retail costs being $22.99 softcover, $39.99 hardcover)
10 hardcover books I bought from Amazon because they were cheaper than buying from the publisher
- I paid $28.00 each, ouch
Printer ink and paper
- For signs, fliers and more bookmarks
- That I thought I needed and didn’t
- A nice table cloth works just as well because people don’t read the banner
- Folding table and chair for arts, crafts & author events
Space rental and a free book donation for auction at arts & crafts shows
- Only a few shows turned out to be profitable
- Other stuff that I’ve since blocked out of my mind
And yet they continued to contact me for more offers. My credit card felt the pain. It took me 2 years to pay off that debt and I had saved, what I thought, was a lot of money prior to this endeavor.
Did I do it differently for my next book? DAH! I’ve learned so much from Indie Authors since then and have discovered less expensive ways of letting people know that I’m a writer and that there will be more books to come. The good news: I wouldn’t have gotten this far if I hadn’t published that first book. Indie authors are very giving with their knowledge and experience. I would still be piling up debt if it hadn’t been for an Indie author who showed me a better, less costly way. And then there is the Author Professional Co-op. Authors who continue to be a wealth of information for anyone serious about publishing.
Since I began my writing journey in February 2008, I have published The Keeper Book 1 and Underwater City Book 2 of The Maze Series, and plan to release Pawper to Pedigree (a dog comedy) by August 2016. I’ve also written Gold Dust (a dark comedy) and am working on The Larpers Book 3 of The Maze Series. My credit card is still paid off.
My Tip: Just because you want it, doesn’t mean you need it, or that it will help you in the long run. Getting in over your head on your first book will only delay publishing your next book. Boy, did I learn that the hard way.
Thank you, Michael Dellert, for this opportunity to share My Financial Failure.
Thank you, Angel, for being willing to share your story with us. Sadly, there are many “self-publishers” who claim that they will help aspiring authors to become bestsellers and are more than happy to part them from their money with a bill of goods they don’t need. Never forget that the “self” in “self-publisher” means YOU. Anyone else calling themselves a “self-publisher” who is not “you” and who plans to “help” you for “money” is not a self-publisher. At best, they are publishing services providers. At worst, they are con-artists. Do your research and understand exactly what you’re getting for your money, and understand what the return on your investment will be. Thanks again, Angel, and best of luck with the new books and your ongoing career!
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