Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Cumbersome Climb of the Indie Author

Hello Friends!

Now that I've published my debut novel, The Windsome Tree: a ghost story, I am quickly discovering how hard it is to get people to take me seriously. Because I'm under the umbrella of "indie," big-box booksellers and small-town booksellers alike refuse to put my book on their shelves in favor of more established authors with celebrity or a large following. When an independent bookstore says they support indie and local authors, but reject me because I'm a debut novelist published under a small imprint, that's not really supporting independent authors. 

Many independent authors have or have had agents guiding them through the quagmire of traditional publishing houses, only to find that smaller, independent presses are their "starter home." That's what happened with me. Independent can mean published through the help of an agent but at an independent press, or it could mean self-published. And there's nothing wrong with that. There are some brilliant self-published authors out there who deserve all the recognition they can get. John Grisham was a lawyer when he wrote his first novel A Time to Kill. The book was rejected 28 times before he went to a small, independent press and published 5,000 copies on his own.  In 1931, Irma Rombauer wrote Joy of Cooking with her daughter. It's said she used half of her life savings to pay a local printing company to print three thousand copies. The company had printed labels for St. Louis shoe companies and for Listerine, but never a book. Five years later, Bobbs-Merrill Company acquired the rights. Over the years the book has sold over 18 million copies. There are countless accounts like this.

So, Barnes & Noble may say they don't have the shelf space for every independent author out there. But the local bookstore down the street should certainly carry the book of an author who lives around the corner. That author will do a public reading at the store and potentially bring new customers in. It's a win-win.

For the past 29 years, I've owned with my husband a comic book store in Rocky Hill, CT called Heroes & Hitters. Whenever a local author comes in with a self-published comic, we happily accept it on consignment. We've dedicated a whole corner to indie comic book writers and artists. We place them right under the super popular Walking Dead trade paperbacks to give them focus. It costs us nothing and helps a local talent showcase his or her work. 

My additional concern is that some "independent" bookstores charge authors to do readings at their store. I won't mention their name, but a well-known Connecticut indie bookstore charges authors $50 to read at their store, and that's only if they approve the author, which they won't if said author is unknown.

An acquaintance informed me that he knows an author who turned to doing "library" tours, because he couldn't get into the local bookstores. He was quite successful and went on to publish over 20 books.

My goal now is to find alternate ways to get my novel out to the public. I've contacted my local newspaper, and they are publishing a small article on my "success story" as an author.  I will be going to the Big-E in September--one of the top-ten fairgrounds and trade show venues in the country--where I'll be selling The Windsome Tree alongside other authors at the Connecticut Authors' and Publishers' Associations' bookstore in the Connecticut Building. And I will be teaching an eight-week novel-writing class beginning in September as part of my local Wethersfield, CT adult education program. So, that's a start.

The Big E at the Eastern States Exposition Grounds in Agawam, MA
If you have ideas for how independent authors can promote their books outside of the bookstore environment, I would love for you to share that with us. Let's work together to lift up the independent author and the independent presses out there!

Thanks for reading.