Among my many ‘how to’ books, Stephen King’s On Writing, stands head and shoulders above the rest. His no-nonsense style gets to the heart of why writing a book is demanding. But it’s what follows – getting published – that is the real challenge. Unless of course you’re Stephen King.
In 2018 I was invited to be part of the People’s Library Project. This was a great opportunity to get my latest book Fat Chance, in print. One of the benefits of participating in the People’s Library was that authors retained the publishing rights, so down the track I could republish my children’s story as a full sized edition. The question then was - who whom? I could pitch my book to a small local publisher or a major publishing house, but neither came with any guarantees. The wait could be lengthy and the book would likely be reduced in size to the standard 32-page picture story book. Also, any advance was likely to be small. Book stores return unsold books within weeks, so royalties can be non-existent unless the book has real audience appeal in terms of looks and content.
An alternative for me was to self-fund the venture. One drawback would be the upfront cost. The more books I had printed, the cheaper it would make each book, but it still amounted to a hefty investment. The profit margin selling through retail outlets is minimal, so I needed to be confident that I could sell a good number of books myself. At the end of the day it wasn’t a difficult decision to make, especially as I had Ron’s full support.
I contracted Warner Design to create a new layout. They’re local and had been involved in the People’s Library project. As well as that they were reputed to be the best in the business. Next step was to write up a formal agreement with Jenny, my book’s illustrator, and pay her for the images. Other questions needing consideration were soft vs. hard cover and local vs. overseas printers. I finally decided on a semi gloss, hard cover. I chose the latter because it would stand up better to repeated use, helping to make it a book that children would cherish. While my preference was for an Australian printer, the price proved to be way beyond my budget.
When the advance copies arrived recently I was thrilled with the results. Book stores I approached were enthusiastic and immediately placed orders. In a week’s time Fat Chance will be launched on Threatened Species Day. This is significant as the story highlights many of Tasmania’s lesser-known rare and endangered species and is a timely reminder to its audience that these are dire times for our precious wildlife. There is an engaging and positive message of hope in the story as long as we pay attention and work together to make a difference.
I’m now anxiously waiting for the full shipment to arrive in time for the launch, but I still have lots of work to do with promotion and preparing for upcoming events. Though overseas travel has been put on hold for the foreseeable future, I’m optimistic we’ll recover our investment with the first print run. Time will tell if a reprint is possible. Having a good idea doesn’t necessarily lead to a #1 best seller, unless you’re a Bryce Courtney or Richard Flannagan, but I’m optimistic that my leap of faith will have been worth it.