Thursday, 5 April 2012

Is Your Book Worth Your Car?

Many, many years ago I had an idea for a non-fiction book. I thought it was a good one and approached a publisher who expressed some interest but asked a few questions about my background that I hadn't thought to supply - oh, how little did I know at the time - and that put me off. A couple of years passed...

And I found myself broke, unemployed and pregnant. I thought back to my idea, decided it was still good, and decided to print and sell it myself. I very carefully typed it out (I told you it was many, many years ago) and did the layout on the living room floor. I found a local printer who quoted for a short print run. Only problem was, I had no money to fund this project. So I sold my clapped out old car (a terracotta Ford Fiesta) and put all the money into the first print run and small ads in The Stage, Time Out and Private Eye.

Luckily I was right. It was a good idea and the orders flowed in. Due date for both baby and print run was the same but, equally luckily, my baby was 3 weeks late so I was able to send all the books out and cash the cheques and postal orders before going into labour. Happy days!

I was of course having to print using traditional methods - litho presses and plates. Now I'd have been able to produce my book electronically without needing to sell my car to fund the process.

But perhaps that's the question would-be self publishers should still ask themselves: do I believe in my book so much that I'd sell my car to fund it?





4 comments:

Jean Bull said...

I've been thinking about this all day! I managed to pay for 100 copies to be printed, so I didn't have to sell my car. But in your situation, with no other choice, I may have sold something else, I don't know. However, now there is CreateSpace, so that would be a solution to someone desperately believing in the book that they want to publish. But that, of course, is strictly on demand, so may not be so easy to distribute as the paper copies of your non-fiction book.

Sarah Duncan said...

Jean, what I was trying to get at was the question of belief in one's writing. I know the financial barriers have gone down but I think if a writer wouldn't sell their car (or something else big that mattered to them) to fund publication, then they don't believe in their writing enough. And that deep down lack of belief will filter through if they've approached agents, publishers, any one else. You've got to believe because otherwise, why should any one else?

steve gentle said...

Reminds me when i was in a duo in the eighties. We decided to self-finance a 45 single (remember those) ....1000 pressings plus recording costs. The recording cost was roughly £500.0 and about the same for the pressings and paper wallet. I was pleased with the two songs i had written and waited with baited breath for the records to arrive. When we took delivery of them and played one we immediately noticed a problem......The "A" side label was on the "B" side and vice-versa. The pressing company would not take responsibility for the error as they told us that the artwork (submitted by me) was not clear. We had to pay for another 1000 records to be pressed. In the end the duo broke up - and somewhere there are approximately 1,998 records still in the boxes.It was a lot of money and i remember borrowing - with heavy interest.....maybe, i should have sold the car!!!!! I'm reading all your blogs with great interest Sarah......and although i am no spring chicken, i'm learning alot - and i really want to put more effort into lyrics for my songs. I have played the piano since i was 8 years old - i'm 54 now and realise that the chances of becoming the next Sir Paul McCartney are somewhat on the slim side!!but the pleasure it gives me is immeasurable and i know that if i keep my mind open, one day, i might be able to sell a few recordings.

Sarah Duncan said...

And that's what it's all about, Steve - getting pleasure from one's writing. I love your recording story and while Simon Cowell may be biased in favour of spring chickens, the writing world is open to everybody.