Monday, November 10, 2008

How I became a publisher

I’ve always had an interest in business. My parents were successful small business owners, so I had that example to follow. But as a young person, I could not think of what my business would be.

As the years went by, I pursued my desire to write because for essentially inexplicable reasons I am a person able to write books and compelled to write books. I enjoy fantasy the most of all genres, and my contribution to this timeless form of storytelling was The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series. In addition to fiction writing, I wrote Get Dicey, a nonfiction how to play craps book, based on my years working in Las Vegas as a craps dealer. This writing was all happening during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As most aspiring writings can confirm, writing books rarely results in gaining a publishing contract. From about 2000 to 2004, I did the usual things: querying agents and publishers. Marketing my fantasy series was problematic because trying to get one book published is hard enough but trying to get a publisher interested in a four-part series from an unknown author is basically not going to happen. My nonfiction work Get Dicey aroused some interest from agents, but ultimately I found that process too frustrating. I totally understand people are busy and I was an unknown author, but I could see no reason to let my aspirations rot on other people’s geologic timescales. Therefore, I reasoned that self publishing was the course I wanted. Self publishing at least allowed me to put my hat in the ring instead of being indefinitely shut out.

Because I was looking for a business to start, I chose publishing, got my business license, invested in my block of ISBNs for my publishing company, typeset and designed my books, and paid to have small print runs made. Despite these achievements, I really had no idea what I was doing. I learned that little publishers, especially self publishers, are almost always locked out of the bookselling business model. I was too small and unknown for distributors to pick up and bookstores stock mostly popular titles that customers will recognize and buy. Thankfully I was able to participate at Amazon and eBay, where I sold books and continue to do so.

At the same time I published my print books, I also made them into ebooks to sell from my website. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision because the ebooks actually started selling. Ebooks have distinct advantages as a way of producing my work. I do not have to invest in costly manufacturing (which accounts for the lower prices I place on them) and I am able to market to readers worldwide because no prohibitive shipping costs are necessary. Going forward, I plan to focus on the ebook business and continue expanding my selection of websites where I make money from advertising. After my inventory of print books is gone, I will switch to offering books in a print on demand model.

Am I making money at any of this? Yes, I have income, but it is only a part time income at this point. I remain very hopeful for my future as I expand my operation and learn to market myself better.

I’m in the middle of writing another epic fantasy series, and when I’m ready to bring this one out to the public, I will benefit from the many things I’ve learned since starting Falbe Publishing in 2004.