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1. This Is It, My Final Blog On Self-Publishing

I started this blog as a self-publisher. There's no doubt about that. I didn't know what I didn't know.

As I write this final blog entry I can definitely say I'm not a self-publisher anymore, I'm an Independent Publisher.

People in the traditional book industry would dispute that because that's how they are. But I'm about to put my fourth book into bookstores. The largest book wholesaler in the world - Ingram - will sell these books to its customers.

The traditional book people could say that I'm the author or co-author of all four books. That's true. But in several book stores in the Northwest - including B & N and Borders - my books sit in the shelves right next to books from the big publishing houses.

I won't sell as many books, obviously. I won't be in business as long. But the independent publishers are slowly changing the publishing business. Depending on whose stats you believe, small independent publishers combined sell more books now than the traditional publishers.

The traditional book publishing business is breaking down. Improved technology will eventually force them to change or quit the business. The independent book publishers will only get stronger.

But the main message of my blog has been there's both a thin line and a large canyon between self-publishing and reaching the independent publishing stage. To jump that canyon to independent publisher many self-publishers need to get their act together.

Here's a checklist.

Do you take short cuts to save money in the production of your book?
Are you under capitalized?
Do you routinely reject criticism of your work?
Do you assume the market is there for your book?
Do you think you know everything you need to know to publish books successfully?
Do you believe your book is so good it's going to make you a lot of money?

If you say yes to any of these you're going to have a problem and I recommend you reconsider your options. Otherwise, good luck in your endeavors.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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2. Change Of Plans On Printing Book

Last time we chatted I was resigned to having our new children's picture book printed in China.

Never mind. The book designer put out a few bid requests and I'm taking one that came from that hot bed of U.S. printing - Minnesota. For 2,000 books they came in at about $500 more than China which was close enough for me to pull the trigger.

For that $500 I expect to get much, much better communication, a significantly quicker turnaround and no shipping/container ship issues. On the surface, that's well worth $500. Of course, who knows how it will all turn out.

I am also hoping that the experience gained in already publishing two children's books and a novel will make the process on this book go much smoother. Dream on. Anyway, the biggest hope of all is that the book will be the best book we've done because of everything else we've gone through.

A lot has been learned.

Michael LaLumiere
www.staggerleebooks.com

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3. I Had Hoped To Avoid Overseas Printing This Time

I printed our first two children's books in Korea. The end result was good. Excellent production values. But I didn't like the experience. Communication was sometimes difficult even though I worked with an in-country printing broker.

Still, I'd do it again if I had to.

But I didn't want to. Good communication makes life so much easier. It's worth a lot.

However, it's not worth $1,ooo per thousand books. We got several quotes from U.S. printers and unfortunately there's just too much disparity in cost. I'm sure the quality is fine but in the thin-margin children's book business that's just too much. So, we'll just put our helmets on and go with an overseas printer again. This time probably Hong Kong.

Many people in the small independent book business will say just go with digital printing. That way you don't have to print a lot of books. Everybody is doing it so save yourself some money in case you don't sell many books, etc.

Wise advice if only it were true. Talking to the wrong guy. Been there, done that. I swear I hear that quite often on the publishing lists. Maybe if you were galloping by on a horse and someone uncovered a digital book for a second and then covered it back up, you could think the quality is the same.

Not yet folks. Just not true. People want to save money so they do it. Maybe it's OK for a how-to book but it's the kiss of death if you're doing a children's picture book.

Michael LaLumiere
www.staggerleebooks.com

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4. The Three Most Important Things About Designing A Book - Cover, Cover, Cover

We've been working on the cover of the new book for what seems like weeks.

This will be my fourth book cover and each time it gets harder because I increasingly realize how crucial a successful cover is. I get nervous.

My angst boiled over in an email to the book designer. This is what she sent me to calm me down:

There are two levels on which to evaluate any cover design, objective and subjective. In the objective area, you need an eye-catching graphic and a title that can be easily read in small sizes online. The font should be appropriate and the type should be set skillfully. You have a great illustration, and we’ll take care of the rest.

Subjective considerations are an ever-moving target that cannot be hit, so there’s no such thing as a “perfect” cover. But I can’t imagine anyone not liking your illustrations (what kid doesn’t love a giraffe?), and that’s going to be the main draw. No matter what type font is chosen, some people will like it and others won’t. You’ve probably seen the covers that people “like” on the Yahoo forum. It makes me want to jump off a building. We’ll show you some options. :)

Did her message make sense. Yup. Did it make me feel less nervous. Nope.

Michael LaLumiere
www.staggerleebooks.com

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5. Hopefully What I've Learned So Far Will Make A Difference On This New Children's Book

We're just starting production on our third children's picture book - "Song for a Giraffe.'' I think the culmination of putting together two previous children's books and releasing a novel should be a better book from end to end. Maybe we'll have our act together now.

The first two books have been pretty good. But there have been minor issues. With this one there shouldn't be any newbie mistakes. The whole package should turn out to easily be the best book all the way around.

Anyway I hope so.

The illustrations are excellent. We're having a professional format the book. We're taking extra care with the cover. Looking hard at a lot of the little things. The story is strong.

This will be our best shot. We also now have a track record with some people. How good it turns out will probably determine if we do any more.

Michael LaLumiere
www.staggerleebooks.com

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6. More Reasons Why Beginners Shouldn't Publish Books

As you know I'm on the record as saying, do your own book publishing if you're doing it for fun or a family project. Or just because you want do.

Don't do it because you're taking yourself seriously or you think you're a great writer or because you want to make money. Why? Because failure is waiting for you - with a big club - just around the corner.

There are a few highly qualified book pros that sometimes comment on the various publishing lists. A lot of beginners haunt these lists thinking they're the next big deal. I've got to know one of these experts via email. She's worked for a couple publishing houses and now is a consultant.

She swatted down some newbies on a list the other day. And I must admit these particular realities escaped me also when I was a newbie.

One of the reasons we beginners use to justify self-publishing is we know for sure if we make a book and get it out on the market there's no way a publishing house won't see it and buy it from us.

Here's what the expert says. You must sell 10,000 books minimum to get the interest of a publisher (I for one can tell you how hard it is to sell 500 books). And then only if the book has a gigantic market. Her summation: self-publishing probably hurts you more than helps you with a publisher.

Self-publishers are forever trying to cut financial corners so that they can get the book on the market. They're under-capitalized. They do something cheaply when they needed to do it professionally. A sure fire disaster waiting to happen.

Here's what the expert says. It costs $20,000 to launch the average (bookstore-ready) trade book (paperback). If you don't spend the money you're done before you started.

Good luck everyone.

Michael LaLumiere
www.staggerleebooks.com

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7. Today's Very Annoying Development In My Little Book Publishing World

Last time I talked about showing our children's Book - "Birthday Snow'' - to book buyers in place like Barnes & Noble and Borders Express in the recent mini-book tour. And the good news was they liked it.

Unfortunately, I just got the bad news. The publicist was doing followup calls regarding the book tour and asked the buyers about "Birthday Snow.'' They said they'd buy it except it's listed in their data base as "Non-refundable.''

That's just not fair. In the book store business returns are an ugly reality. A lot of stores send books back that don't sell and the wholesaler subtracts that from any profits there might be. If a book store can't get rid of it if it doesn't sell they can't afford to buy it. That's the law in chain store book land and most everywhere else. A buyer or manager could get fired for it. So standard operating procedure in the book trade is all books going out from wholesalers are returnable no questions asked.

So why is "Birthday Snow" book listed as "Non-refundable.'' I don't have a clue. Partners/West, a wholesaler that handles our books, says it isn't them. They said it looks like it's a chain store corporate decision problem. They don't have a clue, either.

I emailed a distributor that handles our books. They sell to Ingram. Which is a very important channel for us. They haven't got back to me. So a chain bookstore wants to buy our children's picture book but they can't. Great.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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8. While On The Novel Book Tour I Tried To Get Feedback On Our Children's Books

One of our many crazy hopes about the new novel was it would be popular enough to get bookstore people to look at the children's books we had with us on tour stashed away in the computer case.

Turned out it was pretty easy to get bookstore people to critique them. In some places it was impossible because they were too busy just running the store or the people really weren't the right folks to bother with. And that Harry Potter thing was going on (By the way the Harry Potter press run for just the U.S. was 12 million printed. And that Grants Pass store I talked about earlier had a Harry Potter party that crammed 500 people into their little space.).

One of our books, "Birthday Snow,'' got consistently good reviews and three book buyers said they would give it a try. It's easier now because stores can buy "Birthday Snow'' from Ingram which I didn't realize was such a big thing. You say that to a book buyer and it's instant credibility.

Of course you make about a penny on the book going through Ingram but that's show business.

Michael LaLumiere
www.staggerleebooks.com

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9. What Worked, What Didn't, Part II

I often think of the world like this: Dentist visits are never as bad as I imagine they will be and little, no-problem procedures by surgeons are always way worse.

I don't know what that means exactly but here's how it relates to my recent book tour. I had lots of positive media (relatively speaking) and as a newbie I thought that meant a a lot of people would show up at the book signings. Of course that didn't happen.

We sent postcards to places like Barnes and Noble and Borders with a note saying we were doing X media in that area. Did it as an afterthought and assumed it would get lost in the mail. Wrong. From those postcards chain stores got the books in bookstores without hardly any prompting. Who knew.

One other thing. I did four In-Studio interviews (three TV and one radio). Each time the interviewer clutched a three-page question and answers sheet we sent prior to the interview. They worked off it at each break. One was even willing to say "on a Monday morning it's great you did our job for us.''

This is a must do.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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10. There Are Mixed Feelings About Book Signings

The Waldenbooks store manager said corporate really prefers that he not have book signings at his store. And as a unknown author I can tell you I'd rather not do them because I know there aren't going to be lines going out the door waiting for me to sign books.

So who likes them. Publicists like them. Any publicity is good publicity to them. They don't have to sit at the table trying to look inconspicuous (thank God for wireless networks). The marketing people at bookstores like them because they're on the same side of the fence as the publicists.

The bookstore manager wanted me to do a signing of the Crater Lake book because in the dead of summer he'll do anything to create some interest. I don't think that's a compliment.

I think some beginning authors get excited about doing a book signing because it makes them feel like - finally - someone is going to pay attention. But really book signings are all about getting a store manager to see your book, like the book and put it in his store for sale. Everything else is not as important. So by combining media and signings I got books into bookstores. Ultimately, that's all i can hope for. Then it's up to the book to make it happen.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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11. What I Learned On My First Book Tour

Actually I learned several things.

But the most staggering was just how big the Harry Potter book is. All the bookstore staffs were in a constant state of flux preparing for the release. (I was glad I got my books in the stores beforehand as maybe more people will see it now.)

Here's the scale of it. Grants Pass, Oregon, is a small town situated on I-5 above Medford. They have one bookstore - a nice independent place in a strip mall. They've PRESOLD 400 Harry Potter books. They expect to sell a thousand. With Fred Meyer and others in town the book store owner estimated that 4,000 books will be sold in the area - right away. In Grants Pass, Oregon.

It's the biggest thing to ever hit bookstores - Everywhere.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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12. Ok I Take That Back About Roseburg

Hello there.

Today I'm at The Book Barn in Bend. This place has grown quite a bit since last time I was here. And the "Beautiful'' people are here, too. It's the first place I got to see my book in the window of a Barnes and Noble as well as an independent book story. A small victory.

Ok I was whining about Roseburg the other day.

But just before I signed the remaining books and headed for I-5 a mom and her three kids stopped at the table. The mom pointed to her 14-year-old daughter and said she was trying to be a writer.

That was nice. Don't meet many 14-year-old writers. She told me the problems she was having with her writing. And I got to give her a pep talk and some tricks of the trade. And that it's always going to be hard but if she can get to the end of a play or book or whatever that she'd feel much better about it. Mom was happy.

I was happy.

And Roseburg no longer seemed to be a mistake on the book tour.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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13. Sitting At A Card Table In Roseburg, Oregon

My sister was saying how exciting it was to have a brother on a book tour.

Well she wasn't sitting here with me at a card table in a little mall in Roseburg, Oregon. Thankfully my spouse, Gail, is with me. And even more thankfully my laptop is able to hook into a local wireless network. Whew.

Suppose to be here for THREE HOURS. I don't mind Roseburg. I really like Southern Oregon. All the trees and rivers and stuff.

But it's agonizing to be on display and no one stopping by to talk about the book. I assumed this was how it would be. Dead of summer. Spread-out ranching and lumber towns. Who exactly is the target market?

This is why authors and book store owners don't like book signings. Unless it's a famous author, well, you know what I'm getting at.

Publicists and marketing managers like book signings. They don't have to sit at the card table and any bit of publicity is good to them.

I do have to grudgingly admit that the real value is the media coverage. Getting the book mentioned in the newspapers and radio, etc. Unfortunately, the book signings come with that. And I like meeting the book store folks. They all like books so much. That's refreshing. But, MAN, it's a serious price to pay.

While I was waiting to go to the signing I stopped at a used book store. I was asking the owner about his book business and he told me the best advice he got about the business. "Don't get emotionally attached to the books. It's a business.''

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

ps. Somebody just stopped by to talk about the book. Alas, they were elderly and the price point was too high for them.

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14. When Something Shows Up In Print It's Always A Surprise To Someone

See my notes below this story that appeared in the Bend Bulletin last week - ML

Book an ode to Crater Lake
By
Jim Witty / The Bulletin
Published: June 27. 2007 5:00AM PST


There’s something nefarious going on behind the scenes at Crater Lake National Park.
That’s the gist of Michael LaLumiere’s new novel, “Why is Crater Lake so Blue?” is scheduled for release Sunday.


It’s a novel, but author LaLumiere writes what he knows; he served as a summer maintenance worker at Crater Lake National Park for four years during the 1970s.

“Blue” features Sam Hunter, a student and seasonal worker under Park Service employ. By midsummer, Crater Lake is forced to close to visitors — the first time a national park has ever closed — because of an antiquated sewer system. Greed and secrecy come into play as managers hide and pass the buck.

It’s a complex story, but also an ode to Crater Lake.

“At about 5:30 the sun broke through and shot beams of light down onto the blue lake,” LaLumiere writes. “Crater Lake is seriously blue. I sat on the rock wall, wondering if I’d ever seen such a rich blue in nature. Shasta Lake, across the border in California, had some blue, but mostly it had the emerald green tint that all mountain lakes seem to have. I thought snowmelt caused that color, but Crater Lake obviously got its water from snowmelt. I could see green at the edges of an island close to the side of the lake where I sat. In the middle of the island was a volcanic cone. So the incredible blue must have to do with the extreme depth of the lake.”


LaLumiere is a graduate of the University of Oregon and was a newspaper editor for nearly 20 years. He’s now retired and lives in Arizona with his wife, Gail.

This is the second story that's appeared about the new novel "Why Is Crater Lake So Blue?''
Some interesting things of note for all you self-publishers out there.

First of all, the story ran before any of the local stores had books. When the store manager at the local Barnes & Noble was asked today if he had sold any of the books he said, "No, not very many.'' The reason, he just got them in. People had been asking for them after the story ran but he didn't have them. GREAT!! Trying to get the book released, advertising in, newspapers writing about it, wholesaler distributing the book - ALL AT THE SAME TIME. It's very painful to actually get most of it done correctly except for the most important part - the customer can't buy the damn book.

Right this minute at Powells.com and Amazon.com the book is listed with the book cover photo. It looks great. Can you buy the book? NO! They both had a few, sold them, then it was back ordered. And what makes it worse is the websites don't say that. They make stuff up. Amazon says you can order the book and it takes 4 to 6 weeks to be delivered. BS!!! They'll have books Friday. Nobody knows why their computer insists on putting up that message when they're out of books but damn it!!! And Powells just leaves you an error message saying the book can't be found in their data base despite the listing on their website. They have 10 backordered with Ingram. More Great!!!

How about the excerpt they chose to run. My wife looked at me and said, "Why on Earth did they pick that passage with all the other descriptions that are much better?'' Well the answer is easy. They must have wanted me to look bad.

Turns out that excerpt is taken from the first edition ARC. There is a fact error in there where the origin of the Lake's water came from. A Park Service guy - very early on - corrected me and told me that very little of the lake's water comes from snow melt, blah, blah, etc. So I changed it as I wanted my descriptions to be accurate. So what excerpt did they run. Great!

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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15. OK, Here's Something I Would Have Never Expected

Hey there. So today is the day my novel - Why Is Crater Lake So Blue? - is officially released, although that really doesn't mean anything in this weird, small-publishing world.

Amazon has been selling copies and I know a couple bookstores in the Northwest have put some copies out. There's even one copy in the Burnside store of Powell's Books - the biggest independent book store in the world - in Portland, Oregon.

Wholesalers are really in charge (a loose term) of how your book is distributed - or not - to the resellers. For example, if you check out Border's website right now you'd find my book in the database but it wouldn't include the cover photo and would be calling it a paperback rather than what it is - a hardback. At B&N, no photo, wrong ISBN number, no description. At Powells, no image. That's so sad to an expectant author but in the long run it's just exasperation rather than a huge problem. I think.

And at Amazon this morning they say the book hasn't been released yet despite the fact that they sold books last week. What it means is they ran out of books and they don't know where to get new ones.

All this is due to something happening on the other side of the country. The NY wholesaler who distributes the book to the giant wholesaler - Ingram - doesn't have the final paperwork settled on. Thus all this database stuff is in disarray. At least that's what I think is happening.

I won't know for sure until I start calling people Monday morning. Sheesh. And then the book tour starts Saturday in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Can't wait to find out what will go wrong there.

So you want to write books?

Michael LaLumiere
http://www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com/

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16. Being In The Book Business Cuts Down On Your Writing Time

The countdown stands at six days to the release of the "Why Is Crater Lake So Blue?'' novel, although I think Amazon is selling the book now. And about 13 days to the start of the mini-book tour.

I was trying to remember the last time I'd written anything. After being amazed I could spit out 85,000 words in a relatively short time I now haven't written anything in quite a while. I find myself interested again in starting the process of a another novel. But I don't find it SO interesting that I'll do it without some confirmation from critics or the marketplace that it would be a meaningful endeavor.

I'm not into writing "for myself.'' The thing that interests me about writing a novel is writing it well enough for it to be considered credible, professional work that could appear in a bookstore. Anything short of that and I'm not much interested.

However, having said that I think a recent post on this blog is what writing should be about. The author said he was quite happy that his children's book was loved at his school. I think that's a success. If you can write and make the people around you happy that seems to be well worth the effort to me.

But back to my original point. it's very difficult to be in the book business and be a writer, too.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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17. The Countdown Begins - How Many Books To Take

Twelve days to the theoretical book release - "Why Is Crater Lake So Blue?''

The first order of books shipped to the wholesalers Friday from way up in Minnesota. Wholesalers and distributors are loathe to list books for their customers unless they have the books on the premises. Thus I'm a little late with giving stores time to buy the book for my regional book tour the second week of July. You have to be so far ahead in this business just to be on time.

A ten-day book tour in Southern Oregon. Yikes! Let's skip the fact that I've never done a book tour or a book signing or actually been in public much, just the logistics are daunting. What kind of clothes do i need to pack. What sort of attire will be required for a TV interview spot in Bend, Oregon?

And how many books do i lug around with me for promotional purposes. My publicist says 6 to 8. But then I'm hoping to show our children's picture books to store managers when I'm up there. Will they even be interested? They'll probably just want to see if the Crater Lake book sells first.

I don't even want to think of the book signing nightmare scenario where nobody shows up. OMG.

If you'd pre-order a copy of the book on Amazon I might feel a little better. How about it?

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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18. But What About The Children's Books, Michael?

My goal in beginning this experiment was to publish children's books. Well I had to learn how to create a book first which took some time. But when I finally got the children's books printed I realized there was a giant hole in my strategy.

How in the heck do you market children's books?

Unfortunately, marketing children's books is a pound-the-pavement, reading-to-kids-in-school and stopping-at-stores-one-at-a-time sort of business. That's way down the list of my things I do best. And the ugly truth was I didn't want to do those things. And my partner wouldn't do them either.

Oops.

That's when I came up with the Crater Lake strategy. If I could make "Why Is Crater Lake So Blue?'' a successful novel then it would be much easier to do some piggy-back type marketing of the children's books.

That's my story anyway and I'm sticking to it.

The good news is I've found marketing this novel much more in my skill set than the children's books. This strategy better work because we're finishing up the third children's book and it's good. but I need to get it into the marketplace to give it a chance.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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19. Getting Good Critiques Early Saves A Lot Of Time Later

Before you get about a half-mile down this self-publishing road you should stop and get about a hundred quality critiques of what you've done so far. Believe me, it can only help.

Just because you were once a kid doesn't mean you can write a really good kid's book.

Ha, ha, ha, Mike. No really. It irks me just a tiny bit that people who have written maybe 5000 words in their life think writing is so easy that they can just whip out a best-seller because, well, they're special. I've been writing for 30 years - mostly professionally - and I get pounded on every time I try to write something seriously. I completed the novel that's being released in July about six months ago. People are still going over it finding stupid things I wrote.

The only way you can speed up the experience process is to find people who will give you quality critiques. A bad critique is worse than not getting one at all. Why? Because, "Oh you're such a good writer, you should write a book,'' is going to set you back years. Mom can only buy so many books. And then you won't believe the person who says, "You Stink!''

If you've read this blog you know a book publicist recently told me I stink (I ran her comments verbatim). And maybe I do. But if I do, you (person who's only written 5000 words in your life) do, too. So find out if you have any chance at all and hire a professional to give you an appraisal. It will save a lot of time.

The publicist told me that because I was obviously a beginning I would just laugh off her critique (I didn't even though she was clearly having a bad day). But she's right, that's what beginners do. They laugh off the criticism and bask in the, "Oh you're such a good writer, you....

Michael LaLumiere
www.staggerleebooks.com

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20. Just Because You're Self-Publishing Doesn't Mean You Have To Act Like An Amateur

I belong to some lists that have to do with self-publishing issues. Self-publishing started out on the fringe and it's easy to tell a fair number of its practitioners are still out there.

At my advanced age I'm sometimes surprised but hardly ever shocked. I was shocked today when I read that many self-publishers believe it is just fine to misrepresent themselves in press releases to the media in hopes of pulling a fast one and getting a book reviewed. The idea is that if an editor knows that the author is sending in the press release about his or her own book the editor won't take them seriously. So they make up a name and pretend they're someone else handling the publicity.

Oh My God.

The argument is they're just trying to get publicity any way they can and the publishing world is already against them so all is fair ....

The self-publishing world is never going to get the respect it needs if people act like silly amateurs. If you can't put together a book that will sell being dishonest is not going to help.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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21. It's Crunch Time For The Book Release

With Memorial Day gone the countdown starts for the release of our new novel, "Why Is Crater Lake So Blue?'' The target date is July 1st.

I've received the first two orders for the book - one from a wholesaler and one from a speciality account.

The newspapers have the review copies. The publicist is approaching the radio shows. The final proofs are being OK'd.

A very nervous time because we've put a lot of money into this project.

As you go through the process you try to anticipate what will happen at each step of the way. Like, will you be able to get the newspaper book reviewers to take a look. The rule for small publishers and self-publishers is no, that's not likely to happen.

So the publicist and I have been surprised to get 17 requests for the ARC (advanced reader copy) from newspapers in the Northwest. Never thought that would happen. Neither did anyone else. I think the problem for most self-publishers is that they don't have a smart plan and they're unwilling or unable to spend the money required to get the respect of the reviewers.

My part time publicist did the approach to the reviewers. We provided professional press releases, story ideas and book package. Not one reviewer said a thing about being a self-publisher or small publisher.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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22. All That Doesn't Add Up To Success

I recently blogged about the success we had getting newspaper reviewers to take a look at our new novel "Why Is Crater Lake So Blue?''

I should have also said that by no way do I think we now have it in the bag. Having reviewers ask for the book only means you checked off another needed step to have a chance at success. That's the tough thing about this publishing process. If you fail in any one of the many, many steps - book design, proof reading, publicity, pre pub reviews, etc. - it can all end up as one big fat zero. That's why there is so little success with novels.

At least with non-fiction you should have a very targeted market and that alone should give you a chance.

Today's worry. Will the books get to the wholesaler in time? It never stops.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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23. The Good News and The Bad News

So I have a wholesaler handling the new novel - Partners/West based in Renton, WA. They liked the idea of my book because they're regional and are always looking for Northwest-related titles.

When you start talking or mailing to bookstores they'll want to know what wholesaler is handling your book. They don't want to hear that you're selling it direct. They can't handle that. They don't want to buy from every author that walks in the door. They want to buy from one place - no fuss, no muss. Who can blame them. I wouldn't want to go grocery shopping at 57 different grocery stores.

So it was a big hurdle to get over when Partners/West signed us up. They are well known in the Northwest and our initial target market is the Northwest so life is good.

But the big problem was the giant in the bookstore wholesale market is Ingram. They had turned the book down through a program with a publishing association. They didn't think it would sell enough for them. They didn't think it would make their minimum of $20,000 in sales for them. So see ya.

That was bad news because some book stores will only buy from Ingram. Plus they have the reach across the country where Partners/West doesn't. It was a big hole in our opportunity and a very good consultant I work with said you have to get in the Ingram database or you can't reach your stated goal.

For the record my goal is to get into the mainstream book marketplace and hold my own in the literary fiction category.

Turns out there are a couple niche distributors that have special deals with Ingram. They basically sell the small independent publisher created books to Ingram through their contract. So by signing up with this niche company I can get into the Ingram database.

The niche company accepted the book. That's the good news. The bad news is they charge heavily for getting you IN. If you don't know, the standard deal you get from a wholesaler/distributor is called a 55 percent discount. That means right off the top of the retail price of your book they take 55 percent. Now turns out these niche companies get to tack on another chuck of percentage.

Yikes. Not such a good deal. But big picture, it's the only way to reach the stated goal above.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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24. OK What Newbie Mistake Did I Make Today?

Believe me there is always some newbie mistake I'm agonizing over. Fortunately some aren't very big but add them up altogether and, well, it's agonizing.

So I get the proof of the new book in the mail from the printer. The printer happens to be in Minnesota. (Did you know Minnesota was a hot bed for printing companies? Who knew!) Anyway, I couldn't bear to be the only one looking at it so the book designer/formatter graciously looked at it, too. She says hardly anything can go wrong with a book these days because everyone uses a PDF format which doesn't break. "OK, but could you look at it?''

Anyway, despite my wanting to rewrite every chapter, we gave it the OK and I sent a signed piece of paper back to the printer. Well, turns out the printer needs all the pages back, too. Apparently they use the text they sent me as a guide in the printing shop. That takes a couple extra days which isn't much except every day counts in getting the book from the printer, to the fulfillment people, to the wholesaler, to the bookstores. And now I've cost us crucial time over a newbie mistake. And everything adds up.

Oh well. Another newbie mistake I'm becoming more aware of is that I under priced the children's books that we did last year. At the time I established the price of the book I didn't know much about distributors and wholesales and the enormous percentage they take. Thus the profit margin - if you can call it that - on those books is negligible.

Damn.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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25. Getting Listed On Amazon.com

I mentioned to someone yesterday that they could pre-order the new novel at Amazon.com.

It made me think of way-back-when, (three years ago or so) when as a newbie I thought how big a deal it was to be listed there for a self-publisher. Turned out anyone could list a book on Amazon - all you had to do was open an Advantage account with them. They take 55 percent off the top and make you pay to ship to them. They're happy for you to try and sell a book on their site.

One of the big mistakes all beginning authors and self-publishers make is not understanding that the saying "If you build it they will come'' is absolutely untrue when it comes to most businesses.

In the music business performers are starting to successfully sell cd's on the Internet. I think that will continue to grow until the music business as it was, say, 10 years ago, will be totally dead.

That won't happen for books.

The marketing machine for celebrity and entertainment, etc., is 24-hour non-stop in magazines, the Internet, TV, whatever. All that marketing drives the customers right to the music specific websites. Those sites get the customers to buy there or sends them on to the performer's website to buy a download. Music performers are figuring out that they're giving the music companies a lot of money that they could keep if they just paid attention.

There is no such thing with books. As you all know the buzz for books in on a down trend.

And what that means is you're biggest task will be marketing. And it will have to be excellent marketing or your books will get awfully lonely there on Amazon.com.

Michael LaLumiere
www.whyiscraterlakesoblue.com

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