Thursday, 4 June 2015

An Embarrassment Of Books

some old books i found in the guest room. =]
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's not my fault I've ended up with two books. The Irish Farmer took a year to write, the newnew book has taken a tad over a month, having possessed me in the spirit of something Steven King would think up. I've been haunted by a book and it used me as an unwilling channel to create itself.

So now I'm in the odd position of having one book still being rejected by literary agents as I start to shop the second one around. Even beta readers haven't finished sending me their comments and feedback on the Irish Farmer. Some of the poor darlings have ended up with TWO of my books in their inboxes because they weren't fleet enough to get rid of the Irish one. I'm keenly aware my beta readers, kind enough to agree to being part of my book development process, are being soundly abused right now.

So now I have two unpublished manuscripts clamouring to become real books with titles and covers and Amazon pages and everything.

The question is what to do next. Assuming the result of sharing the newnew book with agents will be the usual round of smug, platitudinous form letters...
Sorry, but we're going to pass on this one. It's a tough market right now and we didn't feel enthusiastic enough about this to take it forward. However, this is a subjective business and others may feel differently, so don't be dispirited.
...I will then face self publishing two books, both set in the UK and so with limited appeal for a Middle Eastern audience. Do I print them as I did Olives and Beirut? Certainly, not printing a UAE edition of Shemlan had a major (negative) impact on the book's sales - but then I really don't have the time to go around chasing up bookshops and trying to chivvy up a charming but ultimately flaccid distribution chain. Doing that for the first two was exhausting.

And Shemlan didn't leave me out of pocket to the tune of a Dhs 15,000 print bill. Every copy of the book I've sold has been profit and while it all hardly amounts to a hill of beans, it seems to make more sense to be in the black than in the red. Call me old fashioned.

Fair enough, having sold out both books' print runs means I'm not technically out of pocket, but I'm hardly laughing all the way to the bank - and back at square zero anyway, because I'm certainly not about to order a reprint and start all over again. So if you want to buy Olives or Beirut today, you'll have to go online same as you do for Shemlan.

I tried to resist, honestly I did, but it's no use.

I can order smaller runs from Createspace, getting them delivered here to the UAE for a little over Dhs30 per book. This means I can sell them to people at events and so on, but makes traditional distribution unworkable (the disty takes 50%). People here generally seem happy to buy a book that's in front of them but very averse to buying print books online. In fact the online habit, including ebooks, is pretty nascent around here.

But, for a self-published author, online makes so much sense it's not true. So the decision's pretty much a no-brainer: no big print runs, we'll be going with Amazon, iBooks, Createspace et al.

The next big question is timing. Giving agents another month to finish rejecting the Irish book takes us into July and Ramadan and Summer. And editing takes 4-6 weeks. So we're looking at October publication. Should I hold back on the newnew book and publish it to coincide with the LitFest in March next year? That would seem to make sense, but I can't for the life of me see how I can sit on a book for six months without bursting. Especially the newnew one, because I am very, very excited about it.

So I'm going to have to mull that one over. There are no easy answers. Any smart ideas gratefully received...

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