I recently wrote and self-published a charming children’s picture book titled Jasper’s Neighborhood. Through this article, I am offering a short “prep course” for other writers considering self-publishing. Here is a sampling of my efforts as a publisher.
I take a day off from my “regular,” rent-paying job to do some marketing of my book. I thought I’d start the day enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee while reading the morning paper. I plug in the coffeemaker. My phone rings.
A New York distributor wants to order books. I refer him to a local distributor who has been contracted to fill orders. If the NY distributor had actually read the letter attached to my promotional packet, he would have known the right number to call.
I pour myself some coffee, but skip reading the paper. Maybe I’ll read it with lunch. I call a local book review editor who I had sent a promo packet to the previous week. She’s “overwhelmed” with books. “I’ll call you back next week,” she tells me. “You can count on it.”
I call the local distributor to follow up on the New York distributor’s order. He can’t locate it. The local distributor is confused by the information in his computer. “I’ll e-mail you later this afternoon,” he says.
I follow up with another book review editor. I’m told that he’s on some type of leave of absence. I wonder if perhaps the editor has taken my book and is currently making a $$$$$$ killing in some foreign market. The kind voice of his replacement tells me it is their policy not to review self-published books. (Don’t get me started on that topic!) I describe to her how extraordinary my book is. Eventually she agrees to look at it.
I pack up my book and take it to the postal counter at a neighborhood drugstore. I pose the same question I asked yesterday. “Will a book mailed first class from St. Paul be
delivered the next day in Minneapolis?” Yesterday the answer was “Yes.” Today the kid behind the counter with the blue hair tells me it will take “about a week.” I plunk down $3.95 for Priority Mail. I wait. He glares at me. “Please put on the priority sticker,” I request. He rolls his eyes. I’m really not trusting anyone’s competency these days.
I make a follow-up stop at a local clothing boutique where they carry children’s books. She agrees to take some more books on consignment. There goes my profit margin again! While I’m waiting for her to return with my invoice, I salivate at the beautiful fashions on display. I check my purse. No credit card. Oh, I forgot. I maxed out my card publishing the book!
MAJOR VICTORY! I convince a woman at the local children’s bookstore to take my book out of the alphabet section and put it on special display with some others. It does share the theme of the display in a subtle way. This victory has taken several visits to achieve. Note: It generally takes an average of about five or six follow-up contacts to get anything accomplished. Are phone calls returned? Good luck.
I decide to take a lunch break. On the way home, I buy some good homemade bread. Back in my kitchen, I open the refrigerator. There’s nothing to put on the bread. Not even peanut butter!
My phone rings. The local distributor wants two boxes of books. “I’ll e-mail you this afternoon on the New York matter,” he assures me.
I call my brother-in-law. Note: It’s a good idea to be on friendly terms with someone muscular willing to help schlep books. We deliver the two boxes to my local distributor.
Next, I take a copy of the cover of my book to a print shop. My goal is obtain a second quote on producing a promotional flyer. “You’ll need to sign a copyright release,” the woman behind the counter states. “Fine,” I respond. “Are you Marc?” she asks, pointing to the names on the cover—Author: Ursula Krawczyk; Illustrator: Marc Johnson. Now I know menopause can do weird things to women. I do not dignify her absurd question with a response. The second quote is higher than the first. I leave the print shop fixated on the question: How deep is my voice?
Now I head for the bank to check on funds should I decide to make up the promo flyer. Just as a stoplight changes, a horn blares. Checking the rearview mirror, I hear the horn blast again. I let the girl pass, but pull adjacent to her at the next light. I decide to refrain
from any type of hand gestures or verbal outbursts, as I am a children’s book author after all!
Arriving at the bank, I drive through a jammed, parking lot. No empty spaces. I decide to park about a mile away and walk. Along the way, I take some deep, cleansing breaths. OOOOOOPPPPPPPSSS! I almost slip on the ice in the bank’s parking lot. Note to myself: Need shoes with bigger treads. This is Minnesota.
There’s a long line in the bank. I try not to listen to the young man in front of me describe the personality traits of his “babe” to someone on the other end of his cell phone. I must admit that I am a little fascinated as to how he can talk on and on with that big wad of gum in his mouth.
Finally, I reach a bank teller. She inquires about my account information. “It’s all on the papers in front of you,” I point out. She copies it twice onto the same paper. I do not question her methods, but instead look forward to getting home and taking a long, leisurely bubble bath.
At home, I realize that I forgot to buy something to eat with the bread. I check my computer. There’s no e-mail messages. My office is now closed until Monday. At the fax machine, I find a five-page letter from the New York distributor requesting information, in writing, as to whom I’m using locally to distribute my books.
I run the bubble bath, feeling hungry and distracted by the events of my day. I make the mistake of jumping in before testing the water temperature, scalding both feet. I hop out and adjust the temperature. Bubbles dissolve in 60 seconds. These were $4 suds!
After a 30-minute soak, I stroll into the kitchen and eat some grapes. Then I wander to my office to start on the paperwork.
Would I recommend self-publishing to other writers? Absolutely!
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!
Jasper, Annie, I, and all our other friends living in “Jasper’s Neighborhood” wish you the best of luck in your publishing endeavors!
Ursula Krawczyk is the author of the delightful children’s book “Jasper’s Neighborhood.” Her publishing company is located in St. Paul, Minnesota. To see a sample illustration or to e-mail the author, visit the Web site jaspersneighborhood.com.