So, this whole self-publishing thing has its ups and downs. For each big plus, there’s usually a negative (especially for someone with 20/20 hindsight like me).
It’s exhilarating to be able to supply books directly to readers, and to receive posts and emails and reviews from them. At the same time, it’s a drag not to have stronger relationships with the bookstores and the people who own them, at least for the projects in my foreseeable future. There’s no better place in the world than a good bookstore, and no nicer people you will ever meet. I hope this is not a permanent estrangement.
It’s also a drag not to have a stronger connection with the NY publishing houses now, though frankly, I’ve never had a good long-term relationship with any of them. There is nothing quite like having a trip to NY underwritten by someone else, when all you have to do is be pleasant and eloquent and funny. But that only lasts, of course, as long as they are making money off your writing. It’s been a long time since they’ve bought what I was selling, so it’s a godsend that e-publishing has developed at this time.
One of the aspects of self-publishing that is both a joy and a drag is that all the decisions have to funnel through one wishy-washy bozo: me. Making decisions will excite the entrepreneurial side of me, but sometimes that side is having an off day, and the creative side of me will start to whine, “Aw geez, I just had to write three pages of copy — I’m tired!” Decision-making is a muscle strengthened through use, but sometimes I easily sprain it.
One such decision involves publishing Politically Correct Bedtime Stories in the UK. While it’s been out of print in America since, maybe, 1998, it’s been in print in Britain for more than 15 years. The reason is that my publisher there, Ernest Hecht of Souvenir Press, is a one-man dynamo, raconteur, and all-around savvy character. His firm’s publishing list is interesting and varied, and he keeps my sales up with subtle but steady promotion and mentions in the press. He’s what every publisher should be. He says his only obligation to his writers is to stay in business. I like that directness. It’s worked so far.
So we talked a couple months ago about the UK rights for the e-book edition of PCBS. We didn’t agree on who really owned them, but long story short, I decided to grant Ernest the rights for two years, with a 50% royalty. My negotiation skills, like my decision-making skills, come and go with the tides, but we were both happy with this arrangement.
Ernest is also planning to release a 15th anniversary edition of PCBS, for which I wrote a new story: The real, honest-to-Jah version of “The Duckling That Was Judged On Its Personal Merits and Not On Its Physical Appearance.” (You can find it in the US e-book right now.) I’m looking forward to seeing how it does, and I’m grateful for his faith in me and my book.
But the hardest decision came just a couple weeks ago. I’ve been selling the e-book worldwide (Hi Turks and Caicos!!) through Amazon since mid-November. All that time, Amazon UK sold three times as many (and sometimes four times as many) copies of PCBS as Amazon elsewhere! It was shocking, but the only explanation could be that there’s still a hard copy in the stores. One is driving sales of the other. This made me further realize that a deal with Ernest was a worthwhile venture (at least it will be if he keeps the e-book price down).
Our agreement forced me to do something that went against my nature. A couple of weeks ago, I had to pull the plug on my version for sale in the UK. I had been putting off doing it because of the sales, but I had signed the contract long before that and said I was going to take it down. Pulled the plug on a moneymaker. Ugh. I still think the deal was the best for the long run (or at least a two-year run), but it wasn’t pleasant to do.
Now you know why I didn’t become a brain surgeon or a spy: my decision-making capabilities are sometimes limited to answering the question, “Should this character be holding a sandwich or a banana when he enters the scene?”
Oops. Now I’ll spend the rest of the morning sorting THAT out!