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Sour Grapes on a bad day
9/4/2009 9:36:24 AM
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Some britching on a bad day when nothing seems to be going right and I haven't sold a book in a month.
I shall not go gently into that good night
I shall not go gently into that good night, but like Dylan Thomas, I shall shriek against the dying of the light. It has been five months since I published the book I worked on for five years, designed, and self –published. It has sold a whopping 140 copies. I am now ranked over 1,000,000 an Amazon’s book list. They team my book with Terri Cheney’s Manic, a best-seller, which is ranked 15,000 on Amazon. You know the hype that says: FREQUENTLY BOUGHT TOGETHER – customers buy this book with Manic: a Memoir by Terri Cheney and they show Terri Cheney’s Manic. This is a good deal for me, but not the deal I originally paid for.
I paid to be teamed with Amazon’s big best sellers in my category – memoirs/mental illness: The Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison and Darkness Visible by William Styron. My contract was returned to me as un-fulfillable. Something about I had to select the books I wanted in the first 60 days of my contract with Book Surge, the self-publishing arm of Amazon. This “Buy X get Y” program was supposed to leverage the unknown author sales position by association with these famous books. I readily went for the program, which wasn’t cheap, and it was one of the reasons I selected Book Surge as my publishing company to begin with -- because of its connection with Amazon. They say now I didn’t select within the allotted time period, but I can’t find that on my contract. Now I conclude going with Book Surge was not worth much as an investment.
Going the self-publishing route is pretty much like masturbating in public. Most people don’t pay any attention. A few do and may give you a good review. I have received good reviews. I have even won an award. I was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards. But the big press, the big TV is such a long shot as to be almost impossible. That is why even mediocre authors with a publishing house behind them can sell a thousand books, and ones with a publishing house really pushing them can become best sellers.
Terri Cheney’s book, Manic, is in a second edition, and written over the front of it says “New York Times Best Seller.” This is a good book. It is well written and done in an interesting and engaging fashion, which doesn’t follow a timeline. Rather the chapters are episodic and meant to grab the reader following Terri, first from her suicide rape , through a decline to arrest and gradual recovery. We don’t know if the timeline follows the story line, but it doesn’t matter. The quality of the narrative takes over and briskly leads from place to place; swift sentence to swift telling sentence.
This is not a great book. It not lyric like Styron’s, nor analytic like the best of Jamison, but it is a good book. It deserved representation by Harpers. What I question is why I could not find the same kind of help. I tried to the point of hopeless rejection, to conclusion if I wanted to see the work in print I had to self-publish. I said I would be satisfied if I sold one copy. I was wrong. I wanted more than that. I wanted my story to get out into the world. I thought it well spoken. Four reviews have said so.
I honestly think my own work is not less than Terri Cheney’s. Has Amazon not compared it? What then is the difference? Could it be Terri contacts? She was after all an entertainment lawyer in the town of entertainment law. I sense an unfair advantage. The publishing house can get you a review in the Boston Globe, the Providence Journal, and the New York Times. Harpers can get you on TV. I can’t get the attention of any local media -- not the LA Times – I tried to interest Steve Lopez to no avail -- not even the Pasadena Star News or the Pasadena Weekly, my local papers. It is mean-spirited of me to think such thoughts, but unfortunately I do, as would anyone envious of the success of the represented author.
I am not ready to give up yet, but I am not hopeful. I shall soldier forward. The mountain of marketing for the lone self-published work -- especially one that is a memoir about mental illness, is not an easy one to climb. I pick my way forward, mindful that I lose ground everyday that I do not sell a book on the great Amazon list of books. My perspective has changed. No longer do I think in terms of thousands, I think in terms of ones and twos. If I can just sell one, one more person might see and recommend a great story to someone else.
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Sour Grapes on a bad day - Friday, September 04, 2009
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