A few more observations about the BookExpoAmerica show held in Los Angeles last week: It certainly has stimulated my thinking! Some of the most interesting offerings, I thought, were from entrepreneurial authors who not only published themselves but were making sure their literary products were getting distribution and marketing. Some of them had published in China, with a much lower (less than half) per unit cost than my own print-on-demand book (www.cryokid.com) published by iUniverse in the American midwest (www.iuniverse.com). How does under $5.00 per unit (like $4.00) sound to you for beautiful, four-colour, well-bound books?
The best part of BEA was talking to people. I was particularly taken by an author, Carolyn L. Ahern, who had printed a series of stunning children's books that featured a captivating turtle visiting foreign lands (www.TinoTurtleTravels.com), each title representing a voyage to a different country (e.g., Tino Turle Travels to London, England. An audio book was neatly tucked into a plastic case fastened to the back cover. She told me that she had printed 6,000 books through a Chinese publisher. The talented illustrator, Neallia Bart Sullivan, is a Nevadan.
Another family team had created a wonderful book for the coin collector. Gorgeously illustrated by Dad, it detailed the history behind the imprints on the U.S. minted quarters representing each of the 50 states, which my grandkids collect. (These coins will soon be withdrawn, so the book will likely become a collector's item.) Dad's enlarged illustrations were framed, surrounding the entire booth and providing atmosphere plus (and another product to sell). Mom and daughter, who had researched the coins and written the commentary, proudly showed off their products. The front of the booth was dominated by a huge pile of brightly shining, silver coins, complete with magnifying glass so the streams of people coming to the booth could examine them. To top it off, Mom put a coin, untouched by human hands, in a little presentation package as a gift for each of my grandchildren. Now that's marketing! The text of the book appeared in Greek letters, though. It was a dummy book. Either the published book was not ready in time for the show, or (my guess), they were hoping to find a large publisher at BEA.
Another man that I spoke to had printed 50,000 books (one title!) in China and was arranging with Atlas books (who are one of the few publishers willing to distribute the books of independent or self-published authors to bookstores -- for a price, of course, as long as the authors can show they have a marketing/publicity plan in place). See www.bookmasters.com. Atlas/Bookmasters offer a whole range of other services, too, including printing and binding the books themselves. "All I want is distribution," the man emphasized. Presumably he had already thought out his publicity arrangements and seemed very confident about the financial risk he was obviously taking.
When I spoke with the Bookmasters representative, she cautioned that in dealing with Chinese publishers, I should be aware that there might be distance, time, and communications problems. Some of the Chinese publishers I spoke with, however, already had several offices in places like Hong Kong, London, and New York.
For me, all this was information gathering. My book, Cryo Kid - Drawing a New Map is doing well at this early stage, and I am selling it through readings to groups and organizations. Three major publishers and one smaller one expressed interest in it at the BEA and asked me to send them the book. We'll see what happens. Naturally I would love to have a major publisher pick it up. Meanwhile, as a P.O.D. book, it is already published, and iUniverse did a great job with the production of the book.
So far, I have written and done all my publicity myself, but at BEA, I interviewed three public relations firms, one from L.A., one from the mid-west, and one from Florida. I concluded that a minimum campaign using a professional publicity firm would require an investment of approximately $3,000 per month for four months. A lot of money. Would it come back to me?
Taking an entrepreneurial stance requires a lot of ingenuity and personal time if you can't spend a lot of money. And it certainly helps to line up all the information we authors need. Like most of us, I'd rather spend the time writing the next book than promoting this one. But, as a self-published author, I have entered the world of the business of books. No question about it!