©2016 by Raymond Alexander Kukkee
A Writer’s Dilemma
Well, how about that cool winter holiday, people?
It was a long, yes, but somehow, it seemed a whole lot longer. I have been mulling over a writer’s dilemma…which, sooner or later, like everything important, must be faced down. Surprisingly difficult decisions must be made in the writing life. Have you made any lately?
Publishing decisions, that is … Simple? No. A writer’s dilemma , two less-than-perfect choices, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Tough choices.
We have been totally distracted here at Incoming Bytes.
Distractions put off decisions, but I tend to digress to allow time to think. Does that happen to you?
Even for the most savvy of writers hard decisions must eventually be made. Get to it, a path must be chosen. We’re getting closer.
Let’s procrastinate. Coffee anyone? See what happens? Writing is more than coffee, staring at that damned cursor, having discussions with the muse, and petting the pups. Decisions like going independent or renewing existing publishing contracts come up and must be made. To renew or not? To remain with a publisher or not? Drop anchor, or set sail off into a stiff breeze? There ‘ya go. Decide already. Facing down a writer’s dilemma… is much easier said than done.
Here’s the thing; as writers, we collectively desire success; we want someone, anyone– to actually buy and read our novels, whatever we’re scribbling. Being ‘out there’ pretty as you please on a publisher’s website isn’t enough. Reality sucks big time; in the starving writer’s attic, dollars pay for bread.
We all dream that readers will be interested enough to bust the bank and buy a real book, —a novel, preferably one of our own. Facing reality and the increasing cost of living, writers dream not only of writing a winner, but of actually being paid, too —a lot more than the unrealistic pittance called royalties now offered by publishers. It’s a tough game.
In theory the whole process is simple enough; write a great book, find a great publisher, an insanely insatiable, interested community of readers, and sell, sell sell to the right demographics, etc. etc… The book simply has to fill a need and a niche. It seems simple enough, but is not.
Your book must also fulfill expectations. Interpretation of your vision, book classification, publicity, marketing, a timely launch. All of the above. Your book must be unique, well-written, formatted, edited, loved and mollycoddled by your publisher…and then sold all the way to the million copy best-sellers list… Okay. That’s quite a lot to ask.
As an author, success and financial returns are only one consideration. Future sales potential, future books, perception of important friendships, the supportive author community —and so many other aspects also occur in an author/publisher business relationship. Simple enough?
What is not simple however, is how, or why, publishers make those all-important and critical production decisions made for your book. Covers, formats, fonts, printing, marketing ploys, write-ups, and ultimately promotions, discount sales, giveaways, whatever. Interpretations and decisions out of your control. Everything a publisher does affects your book; all of these ‘production decisions’ are critical to success. Do some go astray? We hope not, but, indeed, some inevitably must.
Keep in mind decisions made by publishers are never ‘wrong’ from the publisher’s point of view or master plan at the time… Good publishers have a vision they would like to see fulfilled— they, too, want success for their authors. Does that success always happen? No. Do publishers always make the correct written-in-stone decisions for every author, every book? As the author, guess what? Only you can decide. In addition, some decisions don’t seem to work—for whatever the reason.
Let’s talk about a specific book. It is a good example. The publishing contract simply expired for my Christmas classic “Morgidoo’s Christmas Carol, ” so all stops are pulled; it is now top priority even though Christmas is still 10 months away. Am I looking closely at all of the options available? You bet. Including going Indie.
Morgidoo going Indie? Well? Why not? I published the 1st. edition back in 2011 as an eBook. MCC was subsequently picked up by Rocking Horse Publishing for the 2nd Edition (2013).
Why change now? Two Years later…Sales have not been great. Why? For a much-loved Christmas classic written for all ages, a unique story, poor sales were certainly not expected, and realistically, the status quo is not going to cut it. Not enough promotion? Who knows. There can never be enough promotion for any book by author or publisher.
A ‘Look at The Book’ View
Let’s get to it. Out in the market, the contentious square format apparently labeled this Christmas classic as only a child’s book —another writer’s dilemma —and in fact resulted in negative feedback to this author.
“Great cover, great story, but…” comes to mind. Why? Adults immediately perceive the square format to be a ‘kiddie book” product. Subconsciously or not. The surprising fact is, adults apparently do not like square, flimsy, skinny formats which demand table space instead of standing vertically on shelves ‘like real books do’ as someone suggested, tongue in cheek. Miffed upon hearing that possibility, I did an unofficial experiment.
One of my favourite hobbies is observing people, so during the recent Christmas season, I stood about and, interestingly, observed that shoppers tend to studiously ignore tables loaded with a great variety of “square format” books. “Those are kid’s books”, some commented. “They’re not real books, and are really overpriced for what you get“. “I don’t buy them for my kids.” “I don’t bother with them.” “I don’t have kids.” That last comment was reasonable, but the comment “I hate skinny, square books…” was an eye-opening response received from one shopper. Verbatim. “…they’re awkward to read, and you have to pile them up somewhere.”
That said it all. Fair enough. The square format could potentially be detrimental to the sales of books mature readers might otherwise consider. In marketing, not a happy thought.
I thought about that conundrum for quite a while. Reality is an incredibly steep learning curve. Learn by making mistakes
, and don’t get paid for it.
Bottom line, I was forced to conclude: “Politically-correct or not, publisher decision or not, the square format was likely a bad choice; perception is everything, the book-buyer makes the ultimate decision, the customer is always right, yada-yada. Time for reality.
As a result, the 3rd Edition of Morgidoo’s Christmas Carol will now be re-edited, re-formatted to it’s original vertical format, and coincidentally, will be launched under my own publishing label, (Whitewood Forge Publishing.) New cover, new format, true to the original edition, even subtitled “The Bells of Blister” which was the original file subtitle. But still new.
You got it. New. Reshaped. More consumer-friendly. Will these marketing choices work? Only time will tell.
Morgidoo’s Christmas Carol (The Bells of Blister) will be issued both in print and as a Kindle eBook. Be advised the 3rd. edition will look VERY, very different. It will look like the timeless classic it IS…suitable for readers of all ages.
Watch for it……….. Coming soon.
How about that. Another writer’s dilemma faced down.
Is that Incoming I hear?
Photo credit: © 2016 ‘The tiny church on Blister Street’