Self-Esteem, Self-Loathing and Self-Publishing
I just submitted my final edited manuscript to my publisher Book Surgeon Monday, November 23rd, 2009 – a Big Yayyyy (my editor would shoot me if he or she–they is incorrect– as well as these dashes, I think I need an em dash, but that’s a whole other story!)!!! OK, back to the real world.. I spent about two weeks going through the final edited version of my book “I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine” which included inserting 36 images of me (that’s Charlie Adler!) in various poses demonstrating different aspects of my teaching style. The book is based on a popular wine class I’ve been organizing and teaching through my company TasteDC TasteDC.com in Washington, D.C. for the past twelve (not 12) years called Wine Basics 101. I still have to finish final design of the cover and interior of the book, but since my publisher’s team of designers handles primarily handles that, I’m just giving them as much direction as I can, and that’s not very much! The following are some observations from what I’ve learned so far about self-publishing:
1) Self-publishing means you need to purchase the various components of your book.
If you get a fancy literary agent, or you’re lucky enough to have a major publisher throw beaucoup dollars at you with an advance, then you actually have money in your pocket when you start the publishing process. I considered sending proposals to publishers and literary agents early in the process until I met with my old neighborhood buddie, Dan Moldea. Dan is an investigative journalist, he’s written eight books that have covered everything from the Mafia to O.J. Simpson (his website is at Dan Moldea’s Website I met him at his hangout in DC, Morty’s Deli back in early 2008 to discuss writing my first book. What Dan told me was fascinating. In his experience, he never felt he was treated very well by the major publishers, in fact, he felt they pretty much forgot each of his books about eight months into the marketing of his book. Yes, he received advances and he also made some good money on the O.J. title which was a timely best-seller, but he guided me away from going to a traditional publisher. He mentioned a company called “BookSurge” which is a self-publishing company owned by Amazon.com.
In a nutshell, Dan told me that self-publishing was the way to go: yes, I would have to purchase all the services from editing to layout, but there were numerous benefits. Some of the benefits he mentioned include the ability to continue marketing and promoting your title for as long as you choose, higher royalty fees, and setting your own deadlines for production. Just so you know, the latter may or not be a benefit, I started my first book almost two years ago, I thought the process would only take six to nine months! There are some negatives as well, such as the fact that I won’t have my book for sale in traditional book sellers, but frankly that’s probably a good thing. Realistically, how long do brick and mortar bookstores have left in the commercial world, and even if they survive the internet, they also hold the right to return unsold books. Add the lower royalty to selling through a traditional bookstore, and it becomes obvious why selling on Amazon.com and other internet retailers makes more sense. It’s all about On-Demand publishing, books are printed as they are ordered on Amazon.com, but that’s a story for another Blog entry.
Almost forgot to mention: The actual cost of self-publishing my first book including interior photographs, publishing services and a dedicated website will be around $10K. Could you do it cheaper? Yes, there are ways to save money, for example, you could create your own website and forego hiring a photographer. Other ways to save money include using Booksurges standard templates for cover and interior, and learning to edit yourself, but I felt these were outside my expertise. Let’s just say, you need a few thousand dollars to self-publish a full book.
2) You must give yourself plenty of time.
As I mentioned in the prior paragraph, my first book has been about a 24 month process – that is IF I finish it by the end of January, 2010, but that seems realistic at this point. If you have a full-time job and a life before you start your book, one of them will have to give way for the book! I know that life isn’t fair, but you can’t have it all, and you need immense concentration and free time to finish a book. You’ll most likely turn into a moody, overly emotional vagabond..well, OK, that’s a bit extreme, but I have definitely developed a personality “edge”, although some people say I’ve always been this way.
My publishers told me that slow and steady is the way to go. They suggested that hurrying a book is not a good idea, most authors only regret it later. I’ve taken plenty of time for each process, I even hired a PR company to handle my book and then decided a few weeks later that they were not right for me. Since I didn’t really need to do much research for my book because I am the subject of the book based on one class that I’ve taught for twelve years, I put my efforts into organizing and re-organizing all the information. I have spent time with a photographer for interior photos, promoting myself to local wine festivals as a speaker, networking at various charity and wine events, and now I’m working on www.idrinkonthejob.com as the main book web site and re-designing this Blog. You can’t hurry time, you just learn to deal with delays..
3) Self-publishing means you need to be self-motivated.
If you’re used to having a boss, a weekly paycheck and you follow orders really well at work, then self-publishing might be self-torture. Since I’m entrepreneurial and I’ve run my own company TasteDC for over twelve years, I’ve learned to stay focused and motivated. I have a personal trainer, I get a “therapeutic” massage every Friday like clockwork, and I generally stay in shape to keep my mind and body sharp. I’ve even added self-hypnosis tapes to increase my concentration, relax better and ultimately I lost forty-seven pounds as well – an important feat because I’m on the cover of my book! I wake up when I need to, I eat when I need to, I write/edit when possible, I run my full-time wine tasting business in-between, and I sleep when I need to. I’ve learned to balance my work and my book, my social life has been reduced significantly. Sometimes I think about all the fun things I could be doing other than writing a book, but I know from experience that the payoff will take time. The first book may not sell well, but that’s irrelevant to me. I’m writing the book for credibility and as a vehicle for self-promotion-OK, there’s a bit of ego involved, but I accept the worst-case scenario of failure and I can live with it. Self-motivated people are used to rejection and negative reactions in general, frankly I find it motivates me to another level. When I’m at the gym with my personal trainer and he tells me to do 50 push-ups, I do 55 if I can. There are no excuses in life–especially when you rely only on yourself!
Cheers everyone and happy Thanksgiving!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Great article! I’d like to recommend this post to writers who are still torn between traditional and self-publishing. I would agree with you that it takes more than to be a writer to make your book sell. Initiative, resourcefulness, and dedication are vital in the 0verall process of self-publishing. Thanks for the insights. Happy Thanksgiving!