Sunday, 31 May 2009

Self-Publishing: By authors who have tried it. #7



'Loppylugs and the Dam,’ is an illustrated book aimed at the 4-8years group.

Loppylugs was self published after several year’s frustration trying to get a major publisher.
The story had been tried out on eight Cheshire schools, with me reading the whole story (2000 words) and in two schools, the reading done by teachers.
In all schools, the feedback was very positive, with over 100 pictures and comments from the children, and the teachers saying the story ought to be published.

Having decided to self-publish, after numerous rejections from mainstream publishers, I was aware of many firms offering their services, and it was hard to separate the vanity press from the rest: prices were a good indication.

I had to make the decision as to whether the venture would be either profitable or not, and was that the motive. My decision was easy as I merely wanted to get the name ‘Brian Lux’ noticed as a children’s author. In any case, having pictures is bound to increase costs substantially.

Knowing the length of the book, I found a superb illustrator via advertising in the writing magazines, and got a publisher from the magazine of the Society of Authors. As that proved a disastrous decision, the name shall remain anonymous.

The use of an illustrator is expensive, but I think the agreement I reached was the most cost effective, despite doubts from the Society of Authors. They suggest a fixed fee or a price per picture. We agreed an hourly rate, and her reasoning was sound: many pictures would not be used, eg sketches of scenes, and she was correct, as we must have ditched at least 50.

The publisher would provide editorial services, obtain an ISBN, put it all together, using a graphic designer, and proof copies sent. Meetings were arranged with myself and the artist to agree which pics to use, and where they would be placed so that the words flowed round. This was something that had never occurred to me.

A price range was suggested, and I took the proof pages to our local Waterstones and the Manager suggested a realistic price, which would mean that each copy would be sold at a loss, as I had not reckoned on Gardners (wholesalers) wanting a 40% discount, and even independent bookshops want at least 30%.

Print runs were discussed, and I agreed 1000 copies. POD is difficult where pictures are involved, and the unit cost is high. Also, being new to the game, I had no idea how many copies were needed for publicity- and the amount is staggering if you want exposure.

When the books were delivered, both my artist and I found errors in presentation, and even the inside covers were not the pictures she had sent. This book could not go out in our name, and after rows with the editor/owner, who worked with his wife (she had my book, not him, I later found out), he agreed to re -jig the whole set-up at no cost!

The actual production had been done by Cambrian Printers in Aberystwyth, and the quality of print, colour, paper cannot be faulted. Going to Court was not an option (I had paid up the three stages), as legal advice suggested costs would be far higher than money already spent.
So, Cambrian Printers produced a new batch of 1000, and destroyed the previous stock.

The front cover, designed by my artist, is fantastic and stands out on the shelves of bookshops, which is why it is in a number of Waterstones, Borders and other smaller bookshops.It is available on Amazon and can be also bought from WH Smith online.

Promotion is up to the author: you have to be pushy, confident, and prepared to talk and put in an amazing amount of time: even those published by mainstream cannot sit back (I have found this with ‘Court of Foxes).

So I had interviews in the local press, BBC Radio Wales, and have done numerous workshops in schools. That is an area the children’s author has to engage with as, without a doubt, it is the most lucrative area for sales.

Agents are not interested in self-published books, though there are exceptions like Shadowmancer.

I have sold over 700 copies and am content as I still get the odd order from Gardners and Bertrams (another wholesaler), and there are still school visits.

I set up my own publishing company, Toothlight Press, and have a PO Box number-recommend it highly.
In fact it was the Society of Authors who suggested my own company, saying you have complete control of your work, and they also advocated a PO Box number.
Probably the usual novel with just a cover design is easier to produce and has the potential for profit: picture books have low selling prices, and have to sell in multiple thousands to make a profit, which is why most are produced in China.

For me, the objective was reached: being noticed and accepted as a children’s author. I undertook the venture knowing I would not make a profit, and also having no idea as to an illustrator’s costs.

I would self-publish again, but not a picture book. I can advocate self-publishing but you must know full costs; is ISBN your responsibility, editorial service and proof copies for editing? Is there any help with promotion and getting into book stores like Gardners? Will they ensure it is with Gardners and Bertrams? Will they get it on the online lists of major bookstores?


Anonymous said...

I've read Loppylugs and can recommend it! I like the way it shows that you can still affect people's lives in a positive way, even if you're not beautiful.

maria said...

Excellent site!

London :-)

Tracy said...

Thanks Maria :)

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