I promised my annual New Year posting and have been tardy—okay, lazy—about getting it together. I guess I’ve been beaten down a bit by the past year so it’s hard to get motivated for the new one. Especially since I know what it is going to take. I need to be more aggressive.
That’s not a characteristic that anyone who knows me well would apply to me. I am not an aggressive man. I’m not even sure I’m even an active player most of the time.
Not to say that I don’t do anything. I published two books in 2011 and wrote two more. I had half a dozen book design clients and posted over 1000 Tweets, 100 blog posts, and who knows how many “updates.” For the most part, I kept my pledge made in January last year to write every day. Sometimes I wrote in my blog and sometimes in my books. I have two books headed for publication this year with a possible third waiting for me to resolve my final schedule.
I’m just not aggressive about getting the word out. Funny. I wrote about that last January 1, saying “This year I will be aggressively marketing Gutenberg's Other Book and The Volunteer.” I changed my tactics somewhat early in the year and chose to become an independent publisher. I published Steven George & The Dragon in March and the retitled The Gutenberg Rubric in July. I did market a heck of a lot of stuff and the sales on these two titles also dragged For Blood or Money forward in sales. But I think I’ve been too wrapped up in my own confusion and To Do List to effectively sell my three titles. The aggressive part just didn’t quite materialize.
My publishing plan this year includes a July release of a non-fiction documenting the trials and tribulations of becoming an independent publisher. It is tentatively titled, “Wrote a Book—Please Help.” The second release on my schedule is a prequel to my first published novel tentatively titled “For Toil and Trouble.” In this volume, beloved detective Dag Hamar is just starting his career in computer forensics. It’s slated for release in September. I may toss a third book into the mix this year. It will either be in March or December and is the sequel to my YA Fantasy tentatively titled “Steven George & The Terror.”
What Happened This Past Year?
I was still trying to find a full time job and to pursue traditional publishing channels during the first part of 2011. I’ve been stonewalled on so many jobs this year that I’ve lost hope of ever earning a salary again. That piles the financial burdens on pretty heavily for a fledgling publisher. I took a couple of book design projects on and then decided that I really needed to get my books in the market now and not in two or three years. I was (am still) writing quarterly articles for Line Zero magazine under the heading “Publish or Perish” about independent publishing. I decided to put my money where my mouth is.
In March, I release Steven George. 65 people attended my release party and I sold 42 copies. What surprised me though was that I also sold 20 copies of For Blood or Money and 10 copies of a charity cookbook that I released in 2010. Things started to click in my mind that new books sell old ones.
I also started getting some reviews after giving away several paper and ebook copies during BEA. Most of the reviews were positive.
In July, I released The Gutenberg Rubric and discovered that once again my sales were predominantly the new book, but there continued to be about a 2:1 ratio between it and my previous titles. Later in the year I would discover that the ratio was closer to 3:2 as older titles kept selling with new reviews coming in.
In September, after getting my daughter safely launched into her college education, I started a 7,500 mile author tour that covered 21 states and 12 blogs. I sold enough copies of my book in the course of the month to justify the trip as a business expense. But my routing for the trip was carefully chosen to let me visit friends and family I have not seen in years. First stop, Minneapolis for two events and good sales of all three books. I lived there for a lot of years and it was great to see friends and family.
Second stop, Plymouth Indiana where I met up with several high school classmates, did a book signing, and had dinner with folks I haven’t seen in ten years. Third, Indianapolis for two events, one at my college alma mater, the University of Indianapolis for writing students and faculty. The second was with a bookstore in a hippie section of town and a strong audience of people involved in the book arts. From Indianapolis, I went to Columbus, OH to visit my oldest sister and those members of her family who could get with us. It was great to see my sister since I had not seen her since my mother died ten years ago. I had a signing event at a local inner city bookstore that was poorly attended, but sold a few books. I headed out that afternoon for Baltimore.
In Reisterstown, MD I spent an afternoon with a great little bookshop, but only one person showed up for the signing. We were a little disappointed, but I had a great chat. Then in Washington DC, I spent three days with my sister-in-law and her family, getting to see both nephews and both my great nieces. I had a private party presentation and sold a good number of books there. I moved on to Virginia to spend a couple of days with my next oldest sister and got to see all her kids (though no where near all the grandkids). A family reading and signing also resulted in more one-event sales than any other on the trip. I had a small signing in Fredericksburg VA and another in Staunton VA before heading west. I’d been writing blog posts for book bloggers through the month on a virtual tour at the same time and got to visit one of the bloggers in St. Louis before I headed Southwest into Texas to visit the third of my older sisters and do a small signing in Lubbock.
From there I cut north into Colorado visiting a friend in Boulder and then going to Steamboat Springs to visit my best college friend and do a signing in that ski resort. They served me a birthday breakfast and then I was on the road to Salt Lake City where I had a signing at one of the largest independent bookstores in the West. They’d done a great job of promoting the reading, but everyone was disappointed when only one person (not from Salt Lake) attended. Surprisingly, Bookscan reported that over the next three weeks I’d sold more books in SLC than anywhere but Seattle. Hmmm.
I headed northwest and visited friends and had a signing in Walla Walla WA for a good group. It was my last night on the road and on September 30 I rolled back into Bellevue WA and home. That didn’t mean the trip was over, though. The next two days, October 1&2, I had a tent booth at the Northwest Bookfest in Kirkland. That included dinner with my youngest sister, meaning that I’d seen all four of my sisters in a month and three of them for the first time since 1999.
In November, I wrote another book during NaNoWriMo and attempted to keep up with marketing the previous ones. I read at a private party with good sales and video-taped my presentation. Unfortunately, that tape has not yet appeared on YouTube where it is destined to show up.
Sounds busy, right? But the important discovery of the year was that any day that I am not aggressively marketing and selling my books, they don’t sell. I went from over a hundred copies sold in September to 12 in October to 3 in November. So 2012 must become a year of aggression.
I can’t tell you how much that pains me. Normally I can write an email response to someone without too much problem, though I seldom send email to someone that is not a response. I hardly ever send anything written through the mail system, including my ballot, which I drop off at the ballot box. Really, my vote is the last thing I’m going to trust to the U.S. Postal service after having three packages with half a dozen books destroyed by them this year. As for making phone calls? It is physically painful for me to dial a telephone. Not in my fingers, but in my stomach. I have to overcome these problems in 2012 or my books will not sell going forward.
There you have it. In 2011 I moved from being a writer to being an author. In 2012, in need to become—in every sense of the word—a publisher.
That’s it for this year! New works coming soon!