Yesterday a book distributor of a major bookshop chain contacted me, on my request to have my book listed / stocked at that chain. She informed me of a few interesting things meant to - no doubt - prepare me better and give me an idea that I should stick to submitting to agents and forget about self-publishing.
I'm very thankful to that lady that she took the time and effort to speak to me, whom she's after all only met in a short email. She is a true lady.
What crystallized out was some very good information. Take this, like everything else, with a pinch of salt as once again it comes (as yet) from only a single source. Telling, nevertheless.
- Editing. (I knew this and an editor is on the charts for the book - but not at the murderous rates they charge!!!! Eish!!) A book needs professional editing. (R20 000 later. No kidding. That's what they charge, online and freelance. Good business.)
- Cost per copy. Get this: SEVENTY PERCENT markup from the cost price to the selling price, plus VAT... Sheesh, don't tell me books aren't a rip-roaring business! What freeks me about this is the following. R66 is R40 more than R26. A book costs R26 to mass-produce; it retails at R100. Ok, fair. A book costs R66 to produce - it doesn't retail at R140 or even R160 but at R300!! Tell me what that is, if not plain greed? If this is actually correct, then that's the single greatest deterrent for me from offering the book in stores. Nobody would want to buy it at that price!
- Ok. So you mass-produce to bring the ridiculous retail price down. Do a print run at R60 000 to R100 000. You pour your life's savings into it (remember that's after the editor - R20 000. Writing "courses" also charge R7000 for a weekend). You get it stocked in bookshops. First-timers ATTENTIE:
- THE BOOKSHOP (at least the chain in question) GIVES YOUR BOOK THAT THEY'VE FORCED YOU TO MASS PRODUCE VIA PRICE MONGERING, EXACTLY THREE MONTHS. After that, the thing gets returned to you if it didn't "sell" (i.e. didn't sell enough copies - and how many are "enough"?). And after this? No bookshop or publisher will touch that particular book ever again. It's "damaged goods". The author is "damaged goods" and will struggle to publish anything else.
A new book is a business project. Correct?
And ANY business project takes 6-12 months before it's even in the running!
Advertising takes 3-6 weeks for people even to look up and notice! (Longer on the Net)
How in hell is a guy who is good at writing (introverted, thinker, dreamer) and brand new in the business world, going to sell 3000 copies in 3 months from zero? This is a tried and trusted recipe for failure!
(Because remember, they only "stock". They don't raise publicity for you. They are really only a display case - and not a very good one because all that displays is the spine, between thousands of competing books.)
Who gives ANY business venture only three months to get up to full steam?
Unless they MEAN for it to fail! Unless the INTENT is that the book fails!
I learnt a lot yesterday.
This is at best horrific; at worst, sinistah!!
BUT. That's the thing. Bookshops, although the most convenient outlet for books, are by far not the only one any longer. The Internet has seen to it that their era is passing. I very nearly ordered a book from Kalahari yesterday because the process was so easy. Click, click. Delivered to your doorstep. You can browse, right in your comfort zone. And the cost - same ballpark. I'm going to check out the book's pricing in shops today or tomorrow and if it's the same, I'll rather order it from Kalahari. To test the process.
But even without internet there are many ways of vending a book in this our Free Country. All the channels we were looking at for marketing now become more important as the bookshops (at least that particular chain) fall away. (Possibly other chains don't have the same kill-the-newcomer attitude.)
The point is, I made a promise.