Book Publishing Reality Check (Part 2) - Writer's Hubris

 Book Publishing Reality Check    (Part 2) - Writer's Hubris

There it is!  My book for sale on Amazon!  I am so proud!  Wait a minute!  They are giving it away without asking my opinion!  It has 25 Five Star Ratings!  This does not look like the path to success as I envisioned it!

Getting one's book published is not all that it is cracked up to be.  The initial pride and excitement I felt was burst a short time after my book was published. That reality check was recounted in this blog back in November 2021.  Go ahead, look it up if you feel so moved!  If not, it discussed the surprising categories of how a book can actually be printed and the negative effects that has on distribution and/or acceptance by bookstores.  All of these challenges became apparent after-the-fact.  Not all book publishing is created equal, and depending on how it is printed, and thus distributed, determines whether the general public will have an opportunity to be aware of the book's existence.  Oops!  Did not know that, and it is too late to do anything about it!

So, what prompted this particular rant so far into the journey of a published author?  Continued frustration is certainly one primary factor.  In my naivete I thought my book would succeed or fail on its own merits.  Having the odds stacked against it as the result of my publisher's printing and distribution preference, and the bias on the part of distributors and bookstores was totally unexpected.

As an unknown author, who graciously welcomed the opportunity to be published by a small independent publisher, I knew that the majority of the book marketing would rest on my shoulders.  I accepted that.  Therefore, I sought out advice provided by on-line forums for independent authors.  Most of them suggested giving one's book away on Amazon - for free!  I did not jump on this recommendation.  The idea is to generate readers - not sales, and hopefully attract reviews and that ephemeral thing called buzz.

Later I noticed that Amazon decided to do this on their own.  Deeply discounting the physical books and giving the digital e-book away for free.  These deals occur at random, and may last only a few days, then everything goes back to the regular suggested retail price.  Amazon can do this because, well, they are Amazon.  Everybody wants to be available on Amazon - even me!  It is how lazy people (me included) get their stuff without leaving their comfortable bubble.

But the aggravation spiked when the sales and royalty statement came from my publisher, who gets the info from the distributor.  The latest one said there were no sales in the past year, including no KDP / Kindle e-book sales.  Amazon owns Kindle and KDP, which stands for Kindle Digital Publishing (or Kindle Direct Publishing).  I know physical copies have sold during the year because readers have posted pictures of my book on Facebook.  I also know Kindle versions have sold because Amazon recently published a review from a "Kindle customer" and people have notified me that they read and enjoyed my book on that platform.

There is a way to give feedback to Amazon - provided one likes to communicate via bots and artificial intelligence.  That is too frustrating to pursue, which is the outcome most businesses desire.  They already have your money.  Why make it easy to share or refund?

Is there any way for a writer, or any other creative artist, out of this situation?  Not really!  But that does not go down easily for folks like us!  We have other ways to hack out of the big business jungle!  A blog post is just one example.  The other is to continue our marketing efforts the best way we know how - in the hope someone with some clout and influence will eventually become aware of our work.

A meaningful avenue for writers to attempt to have the public become aware of their work is by submitting other pieces and projects to journals and magazines.  These may be either online or actually printed, or both.  Many colleges and universities publish journals for a variety of audiences.  Literary groups do as well.  As a matter of fact, one of my short stories was published in Woodcrest Review, a publication of Cabrini University.  Yeah, I never heard of them either!  But what tha' hell?  It is something.  So far, no stampede of publishing agents has tried to storm my door or flood my mailbox with entreaties to represent me.

Submitting works to journals and magazines has forced me to become a better writer.  This is a good thing, even if it is born on the wings of frustration and rejection!  It has also forced me to confront my own hubris.  Can such a wretched emotion exist in a starving artist?  Oh, yes!  Only too easily!  It is fed by my denial of the possibility that some of my efforts are not all that great.  GASP!  (Excuse me, while I go for the smelling salts!  I feel a case of the vapors coming on!)

A piece I have submitted to a number of journals is an excerpt from my book.  To me, it was a nice portrayal of life on the road.  Most recipients have not even bothered to send a rejection message, which is rather common, and one has to get used to that.  Others have found it interesting and felt moved to write a note of encouragement in the rejection message.  However, after a while, discouragement predominated.  I stopped submitting anything.  Worse yet, I almost stopped writing at all.

Then I got word of a journal seeking submissions.  My old favorite excerpt seemed like a good fit for their theme.  So, I pulled it out and read it again.  Oh, the sense of disappointment!  While the story itself was still engaging, it truly needed work!  Wait a minute!  This was extracted from my book!  My well-crafted opus!  My pride and joy!  And it needed work to flow better for the reader and be more coherent?  What did that say about the rest of my creation?  Writer's hubris!  Suck it up and start writing!

The book was as good as I could get it at the time. Following eight re-writes and edits, my objectivity got lost.  But I believe my writing has become a bit better writer since then.  So, I hacked away at my pride and joy!  It became a better story as the result.  It has been submitted.  Time will tell - or maybe it will not.  My life, and my happiness is not dependent upon its acceptance.

Will this change my frustration with the dynamics of the publishing world?  To put it succinctly - no!  What has happened has happened, and that is the reality.  But I do not want to give up on my ability to share my thoughts and experiences with others with words.  I like to write, and some folks seem to like my style.  So, I keep on writing - because I like to write!



Popular Posts