Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Joys of Publishing

Yes, yes, the joys of publishing your fourth book - they don't hold a candle to the thrill, the excitement, the unbridled fear that you experience the first time you step out and decide to go that last step and PAY someone to publish your book because NO ONE seems to be interested in publishing it...sadly, I know that feeling well. The really cool thing about being a self-published author is the control - not that you actually have any, but you can lie to your friends, community, people on the street - anyone willing to listen really, and you can tell them all about the control you have. You can tell them that the publishing company has to wait on YOU to be ready to go the next step, that you have the last say, that you proofread, and that you edit, and that you are the master of your own destiny - not one bit of it is truth, but if they're not into paying someone to produce a book they won't know.

The first time I threw in the towel on trying to find a real house to publish my books was in 2005. I realized that sending out manuscripts to agents or potential agents just wasn't cutting it. I didn't even get the descent courtesy from most of them to even write me back a nasty little letter saying no thanks. All I got was dead-air, white space, nothing, time just wasting away - finally I had stopped the waiting game. I took my forehead off the wall, found myself looking up self-publishers on the internet and settled on Xlibris because I didn't like the names of the other publishers. I didn't like Author House for instance - too boring. I didn't like First Books - that said to the world that I was a new author. At least with Xlibris I had the chance to break the ice with someone who questioned the pronunciation of the name! I could spell it out for them, take the second or two to get their attention, maybe start a conversation about how they, the bookstore, could be willing to purchase or order a few of my books to put on their shelves. At least I had that.

So, Xlibris it was. Little did I know that Xlibris, for all it's fancy-schmancy name would be hard to work with - hard to manage at times, and certainly not willing to cooperate with ME the AUTHOR of the book I PAID them to publish. The first experience was a roller coaster to put it bluntly. I learned so much that first time around that the 2nd and 3rd times I went in fully armored, and with an attitude of the Grand Bitch just so I could get through the first few layers of watchdogs they put on the phone who are paid to not let you through to the people who actually do the work on the books themselves - or the finance people. Trying to get answers about the amount of books actually printed was a nightmare.

My first book "With a Little Faith" came back with so many errors after I had sent it off nearly error free (English professor, I do actually proofread my work) that I was compelled to not only complain, but threatened to fly to the Philippines where it is worked out to rip off a few heads. The distance notwithstanding, was not the issue. The issue was that my book, my baby, was being subjected to a rewrite or at least a once-over that included changing words. It was explained to me that several passages of the original had been lost in a "glitch" and that the editors had repaired my book. I asked for it to be changed, but it was not. The book was printed, and 37 typographical and/or grammatical errors later - I was livid. Not to mention the book was not the size I had asked for. It was the size I had marked down, but not the size I had subsequently spoken to the leader of the project about - after I saw the prototype. Oh, and speaking of the prototype, it took six extra weeks from the time I was told it would be in my hands. That made my 2nd editing go a bit faster. I was unable to go through the book entirely due to the fact that I was going on the Montel Show to showcase it in less than a month.

Well, needless to say - I did cry when it came out. Both because it was out, and because it was out with errors. Sort of like seeing your child for the first time and realizing its has a bigger nose than you thought possible, you cry - you're excited, but you're thinking "Where did that come from, is it going to go down?" There it was - in it's glory - yes, I got the e-mails for months. "I thought you were an English professor" and "I found a mistake in your book, you may wish to contact your editor." Thanks. Nothing like being reminded 300 times a week that you were the ultimate one in charge, you were responsible, it was up to you, after all didn't you say you SELF published?

Well, this time, the fourth time - I'll have a bit more say. I had a little more say after we were on Oprah, Montel, Maury, and a few other shows. After the 50th book signing at military stations, and after about 20,000 books were printed - and only 12,000 paid for - that's the other thing about self published books, you really DO NOT KNOW, and you can't know, how many books are actually printed. You'll never know how many of your books are really sold - you can't. How can you know? You can't stop them from printing and if they simply don't report to you - you won't know. The fourth time, this time - a little different. I'm going into it knowing the ISBN will be picked up by someone down the road if only because the others were - it works that way. Having the book out there, ready, on the shelves and in the system makes it easier for an agent, a producer, a film maker, anyone to pull it off the computer, buy it from Amazon, and make a decision about it - that goes for real publishing houses too. They can track the sales from Amazon, anyway - because THEY report correctly.

This fourth book? What will it be about? Oh, you're reading it. My blogs! Sort of like a modern day Erma Bombeck. She was my hero - always will be. What a gal - what would she say about the way self publishers treat their clients? Probably something funny, probably something profound, but she'd smile a bit too, because it wasn't available when she was writing - the pain of waiting and the game of kissing tail was a monopoly of a collective few - we've come a little way - soon, we, the self published authors may be the norm. But, will any writer REALLY be considered NORMAL? Gosh, I hope not.

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