OR: The Illusive Specter of Traditional Publishing Taunts Again
This year’s Chronicle Book Fair in Glens Falls was bustling! There seemed to be more vendors than ever before – which translates to more competition for buyers. My fellow writer and friend, Gloria Waldron Hukle, and I shared a table and collaborated on a massive poster announcing the launch of our new books. We decorated the table to suit the event’s theme, Autumn Leaves, complete with garlands of colorful leaves, a container of fall foliage, and strings of lighted acorns and leaves. The compliments were abundant.
The sales, not so much.
Neither of us sold as many books as we usually do at this event. And I always raffle off a book or two, but even that had no takers! It was hard to imagine how the attendees were seeing anything, as they wandered the aisles of displays chatting with each other and only sporadically eyeing a table’s wares.
And not once, not twice, not even thrice…but FOUR of the people who bothered to make any inquiries about my books asked first if they were traditionally published.
When I had to answer no (but they were thoroughly edited, I hastened to add!), eyes glazed over as if to say,
Let me know when you have something interesting to share.
OUCH! That had never happened to me at this event in the past. Clearly more and more people have been taking chances on self-published books and found them lacking.
I even ran into my first post-high school writing teacher, and she, too, asked the painful question. When she asked who published my new book, I confidently responded,
“Dog Ear Publishing.”
(Have to love that name, huh?).
Her face clouded barely perceptibly, but like the supportive teacher I remembered from so many years ago, she didn’t say anything negative. She didn’t have to. Her face said it all. Later, she visited my table and bought one of my books – not the new one, but the one whose description resonated best with her. I appreciated that. As she turned to leave with her signed copy, I said, “I’d appreciate any feedback you could give me after you read it. Clearly, since I have been unable to attract a traditional publisher, there is something lacking in my novels.” She just smiled knowingly, maybe a barely perceptible nod. I don’t really expect to hear from her – she is very busy, writing her own books and teaching in multiple community colleges. But it was nice of her to buy one of my books anyway.
I did have the pleasant experience of meeting a friend I knew only from Facebook. And seeing a former colleague from a job I had in the nineties. That was fun. And Gloria and I had plenty of time to chat.
But that illusive specter of traditional publishing re-appeared in my dreams last night.
I awoke this morning ready to make a bonfire of my books. Why bother? I thought. Why am I wasting my time? I can’t be annoyed at the fair attendees who asked that question. In truth, I’ve developed my own “attitude” about self-published books. Yes, I know they aren’t all bad – in fact, there are many that are very good. But unfortunately they are heavily outnumbered by those that are poorly written, poorly edited, and just not very interesting. I spent a small fortune trying to support my fellow indie writers, and my findings have not been positive. I’d estimate I actually finish one out of about every twenty I try. So no wonder people have the attitude I saw at the book fair.
I think maybe I just need to take a break from all writing-related activities. The last time I did that for a few months, I dove into the book that became Star Catching and finished it in record time. (In fact, it took me longer to complete my futile search for an agent than it did to write the book and have it edited.) So you might say it was therapeutic. Because the book is brand new, I’ll go forward with some of the already-planned promotional activities, but I won’t add to them.
Instead, I will look forward to focusing on the holidays!
And see how I feel at the start of a new year. I have a story spinning in my head. But when I floated the concept to someone at yesterday’s book fair, the response was cool to tepid. So maybe I should “just say no.”
Or maybe not.
Meanwhile, we all have to get through Election Day. Here’s hoping you are satisfied with the outcomes of tomorrow’s elections. Something tells me all will not be quiet on the eastern, western, northern or southern front.