On this day 10 years ago I ‘launched’ my first print publication. To an audience of some 40 people at the Douglas Arms Hotel in Castle Douglas, I took my creative hopes in my hand and gave it to the assembled crowd.
With a professional training in acting, three years as a teacher standing in front of classes ‘performing’ every day of the week and over five years ‘pitching’ experience as a professional screenwriter, as well as the fact that I was half way through my writers residency, I was more nervous than I hoped I would be. Why so? Because it’s a big thing launching a novel. It’s a personal thing. To the writer.
For the reader, it’s a ten a penny sort of thing. Look at all the books in all the bookshops and all the libraries and on all the bookshelves in the world. Do we need another one? Of course not. And for the reader, this is just another book. It’ll take them between 2 and 6 hours to read and then they’ll move on to their next ‘reading experience.’ The most you can hope for is that your book will a) move them while they read it and b) have something that sticks in their mind for a long time when they’ve finished. But the investment from the writer is always going to outweigh the benefit or even enjoyment of the reader. It’s a mis-match. And writers need to realise that. Our creativity is not that important to anyone apart from ourselves.
When I started writing I hoped I would be able to ‘change the world’ by what I wrote. I learned that changing myself was probably the best I could hope for. But in that change, I have been able to engage with other people and sometimes, just sometimes, change our joint or several circumstances for the better. But this goal is something quite apart from the creativity of writing.
Now I just try to write the best I can, for my own pleasure and with the hope that I’ll be able to reach out and explain both my own individual experience of life and touch a universal connection which means something to some people at some time.
That still sounds a bit ‘precious’ to me as I write it, but hopefully not too ‘needy.’ The world certainly doesn’t need any more ‘needy’ writers. In case I’m coming across as too cynical here, let me confirm that I haven’t lost the passion for writing. I’ve lost the ‘need’ for writing though. And I’ve lost the ego driven part of it. I believe creativity is a basic human desire and need, but publishing as a means of completing that need, I’m no longer so sure.
Why we publish is a very complex issue. When I embarked upon this series of commemorative blog posts, I thought I would be re-publishing a second (corrected) print edition of The Threads of Time as the high point. As I worked through the ‘issues’ I became less convinced of this as a thing to do.
Yes, we now have Print on Demand which makes it cheaper to publish, but it’s not free. I’ve just done a set of complex sums (not my forte I’ll admit) working out the relative costs of publishing using Lightning Source, Print on Demand Worldwide and Createspace. There are set up costs in the first two and CS helpfully does all its calculations in dollars! A factor to be taken into account is also that when you publish you are obliged to send 7 copies to Legal Deposits, so you have to cover this cost before you even begin. With this taken into account, (and allowing for shipping costs) I estimate that it will cost between £40 and £80 to publish. Even if I don’t ever hold a copy of my own. (I have plenty ISBN’s which cuts out an additional potential cost). The ‘unit cost’ is between £4 and £5. I have to sell at £8.99 to get £1 ‘royalty’ on ongoing sales. To recoup my £40 I would need to sell 40 copies. I’m not confident I can do this. So I’ve just invented a new marketing strategy called publish on demand. Until and unless I get ‘demand’ for 40 print copies I won’t be POD’ing this title this year. The clue is in the word – demand. I’m going to see whether there’s any demand up front rather than risk the farm (so to speak) to the tune of £40-£80 at this point.
But so that I don’t seem tight, I’m giving away ebook versions of The Threads of Time TODAY. (Come to the virtual party or go to the HoAmPresst website to find out more) I think that ‘giving it away’ as an ebook for a day is a good enough thing to do. Beyond that, if people actually want a print copy they need to ‘demand’ it. So if you do, go to the HoAmPresst site and order your copy in advance.
Think of ‘publish on demand’ as a kind of subscription service (used by Robert Burns among others). You commit to buy and I commit to publish. Simple. I’m not, however, holding my breath. Like I said before, there are more than enough books in the world, and readers want the simplest way to read possible, not to have to jump through hoops to get hold of a copy of a paperback. This is more in the way of an experiment than anything else. Call it market research. Tell me what you think about it. Order the book, download the ebook, but most importantly, if you’re interested READ it. That’s what it’s all about in the long run. About me, connecting with you. Across the Threads of Time. I’ve written it. It’s your choice to read it or not and it’s your choice how you choose to read it, if at all.
Don’t forget. Tonight, between 7 and 9pm (BST) if you’re on Facebook, come over to my author page and we’ll be having a virtual party. Look forward to seeing you there.
And next week I'll continue on that long journey to publishing freedom!