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Monday, May 2, 2011

Hocus-Pocus, Mental Focus, and Research


My task of late has been to research publishers who may be interested in buying the second rights to Write In Style. The book is officially out of print, since my publisher took it off the market last year, but I was able to buy the few remaining boxes. I've been selling those books through my website, http://www.zebraeditor.com/, as well as in person, wherever I speak, but my inventory is low. It's time to decide whether to self-publish the next edition or find a publisher.

Here's my thinking: I don't want to spend my time packing up and mailing books; I'd much rather a distributor handle the physical labor. I'm not in the retail business; I'm an editor. I don't want to have to maintain records of sales and such. I don't have the contacts to get my books in bookstores, and I'm not interested in learning all I'd have to learn to be my own publishing house. I want another publisher to pick up the slack, reprint the book, and add an index, which was missing from the first edition. I want the publisher to handle the printing and distribution and send me a royalty check now and then. Sure, I'll still sell a few copies wherever I speak, but I don't want to be the only person selling them. For all those reasons, I intend to do everything I can to find a publisher, before I fall back on self-publishing as a last resort.

Yes, I know I'd make more money per book if I self-published. I've long known the vast profit difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing. I also, however, know the vast difference in sales, when it comes to traditional publishing versus self-publishing. I've sold a couple hundred books in the past year, but my former publisher sold a thousand in the first few months after the initial release in 2004. I'd much rather get a small percentage of a couple thousand sales than a large percentage of a couple hundred sales, especially if I don't have to be the person to fulfill all those orders.

Having done my homework and made my decision, then, it is time to get down to researching the markets for my reference/writing book. Ugh! Clerical work. I find nothing creative about this process, but I add a little something to the mix to make it more interesting and rewarding. I search online and find some potential markets, but my best bet, and what worked when I sold it the first time, is to go to a real live brick-and-mortar bookstore, find the section in which my book belongs, and see what other publishers are releasing books that reach the same market as mine. That's my next step: on to a bookstore.

Oh, what's that you say? Where have all the bookstores gone? Right. That's a problem, too. Even though critics say that the Barnes & Noble business model has edged out many independent bookstores, where do I go to see what's being published and sold to my market? Barnes & Noble, of course. The one independent bookstore that comes to mind would have too small a section on reference/writing. I want to go to the store that has the biggest section in my category.

I'll give you a little inside secret. Once I see the exact section where my book belongs, I visualize my book on the shelf, in the correct alphabetical order. I spent time visualizing Write In Style in a bookstore in 2000, and by 2004, I walked into that same store and saw my book on the shelf right where I had visualized it.

Hocus-pocus and mental focus aside, now I have to research, and although it's no fun, it's one of the many steps serious writers must take, if we want to see our books in print.