Waits and Measures

It’s over a year since I kicked off my self-publishing project. Er, yes – even though it can take as little as a few hours to get a book onto a Print-On-Demand platform. Guess it’s safe to assume that ‘Swift’ isn’t my middle name …

So where’s the time gone? “Ha!” says one part of my brain … that’ll be working, finding new work, being a mum, living, breathing – and all squeezed in around a school day/calendar. That aside, in writing terms, over a year has been gobbled by consulting with an (awesome) editor, working on rewrites and doing another round of submitting to agents and … waiting. It’s hard work, that waiting business. Positively exhausting.

And once again, my waiting has come to nought. So here I stand – agentless and publisherless. [CURIOUSITY: my spell check doesn’t recognise the word ‘publisherless’, but is totally fine with ‘agentless’ … make of that what you will!]. Oddly, I’m not that disappointed. Probably because the decision to self-publish has remained firm, ‘if all else fails’, and although I’ve seen plenty of SCBWIs get agents and contracts around me, I know an equal number of talented writers who aren’t getting the breaks.

So here I am, just starting on final, final edits and hoping to get published in October some time. Freaky.

Inevitably, the final move to go-it-alone has lead to a fair dollop of navel-gazing along the lines of: ‘Why bother?’ ‘What’s the point?’ and ‘What am I trying to achieve?’ When the average self-published book sells around 100 copies, it can’t really be touted as a Business Decision. And I’ve moved on from my original “nothing to lose” point of view because even if you discount the money spent on professional editing, there is still an outlay for book cover design, printing a certain amount of copies to hand flog, ISBN registration, etc. As someone who is particularly brassic, the choice to front cash that I might never see again isn’t one taken lightly. Bringing me back to ‘WHY?’

Over the last months I’ve read many different answers to that question, all valid and as different as the author moving into the self-pub market. For me it’s mostly about closing the circle. I have a HUGE attachment to this particular story and simply don’t want to leave it languishing in a virtual drawer.

The other question is: what I am hoping to achieve, and how will I measure success? By book sales? If I sell 100 copies then I’ve done as well as the average. That would be OK. If I sell 300 copies that gets me Associate membership of the Society of Authors, which would be great – a tiny taste of peer recognition. 1,000 copies is a regular first print run for a traditionally published debut author … what is the magic number?

Thing is, my preconceptions aren’t terribly high in terms of book sales. But I do really want to end this experience knowing I gave it my best shot – whatever that amounts to. And I really, really would like to get out there, into schools, interacting with ‘middle grade kids’. Because it will help my writing, inform what I do next and, yes, complete the circle.

Thank you for reading! Self-publishing has got to be the lonely road in what is already the lonely business of writing (imaginary people don’t count, guys!). In lieu of an agent, publisher, editor, marketing people, etc. it’s just great to know that fellow SCBWIs are out there, listening and giving openhearted support.

Larisa x


4 thoughts on “Waits and Measures

  1. I have nothing but admiration for you, Larisa. I think you have to get the story out there in whatever way you can, agent or not. What does it matter really, if it is 100 or 1000 readers? It makes no practical difference: we’re none of us going to make any money at this game. Just plod on, plug it and write the next one, because that’s what you do, Or stop, if you can – because as Maya Angelou said, ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’ It’s a question of where the most joy is. Love and solidarity. Sue (writing as Cordelia Appleby)xxx

    • Thanks so much, Sue. As you know, you are one of the SCBWI folk who has been closest to this whole process – your support is enormously valued. And you’re absolutely right – debut authors barely make a cent, so there really is no difference practical difference between an average 100 and a sterling 1,000! Hmmm, write the next one – can’t wait! xx

  2. Keep going. It will be worthwhile when it goes live. You don’t have to pay for ISBNs. Amazon give you their own, you don’t need one either for Kobo, and you can get a free one from Smashwords, which is what I always do. Save cash where you can. I only pay for professional editing and cover design.

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