In defense of traditional publishers–it’s complicated. I have read lots of very sobering statistics lately. Book sales have dropped every year since 2007 and at the same time, a higher number of books are published each year. Meaning there is a market glut. The average book sells 250 copies–no matter if it’s traditionally published or self-published. That takes eBooks into account; the threat that they would take over the market never materialized. No wonder publishers are conservative. Selling 250 books isn’t enough to break even and people are losing serious money. And when you take Stephen King’s cut out, it’s even worse.
Some of you have suggested self-publishing. I’ve been researching that enough to know there are lots of scams out there. Some commercial self-publishers are called vanity presses because the authors are fine with spending money on a lark and sales don’t matter. The hairy ones who live in my barn like to keep an eye on what I’m doing with the hay money.
Still, early on I had the opportunity to speak with a retired publisher and her advice, surprisingly, was to self-publish. She said I had about the same chance of being picked up by a publisher that way as the submission process. And my story would be being read in the process, which turns out to be harder to accomplish than you’d think.
Self-publishing means there is virtually no chance it would ever be in a bookstore and all the marketing and promotional work would be up to me. They tell you to consider the market. Will you sell enough books to recover the investment? Most people don’t. Self-publishing is an option–all it takes is money and time. And the confidence that your book will find an audience larger than your circle of friends.
Other options: I could attend writer’s conferences and hope to meet someone who knows someone. Some agents advise authors to submit chapters to contests, as short stories meant to spark interest. Memoir isn’t in the top five popular book genres, so re-writing memoirs into fiction is a frequent suggestion. I wonder how many people who manage to get the manuscript written, a gargantuan task in itself, end up blocked by this wall?
Week 16 and not a peep from publishers. I have two other books in the editing process, and three other books outlined. And I’ll be 61 this year. Do the math.
Nadja left this comment last week, “And it’s funny somehow because around horses the first thing one does (at least if one is appealed by horsemanship) is to claim one’s space. I have trouble doing that outside the barn though.”
Me, too, Nadja. And it doesn’t get easier as time passes. There’s a family story that the first sentence I learned to say was, “I’ll do it myself.” It wasn’t relayed as amusing or clever of me; it was brought up as proof that I had always been bull-headed–not a compliment. Even on a farm, it wasn’t a desired quality in a little girl. I’m not sure the world is ready for bull-headed little girls yet.
I had hoped a traditional publisher would stand up for me and my book. I haven’t had much of that kind of support in my life and it would be nice. But if this book thing is like any other herd, then I have to carve a space for myself. Or maybe at this age, I’m just tired of asking permission. I do know this for sure: life is short, I’m still bull-headed, and I’ve got a charge card.
And so, with a drum roll that sounds a little like a tense trot, I announce that Stable Relation will be published by Prairie Moon Press. Me.
But of course, by “me,” I mean us.
I’d be grateful for your continued help. I promise to make plenty of room.