Part 1: Can a self-published author (of fiction) succeed?

Posted by on Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 in Self-Publishing

Certainly they can and, my husband, J. Robert Whittle, who writes all these popular, bestselling and award-winning novels that I edit, publish, brag about, and in recently years co-author, is a perfect example.  Because we are a couple (yes, married too, although I kept my very historical Scottish surname), this means we are ‘self-published.’ What a stupid rule! put in place naturally, by the large publishing houses eons ago to differentiate between ‘real authors’ and mere ‘wannabees.’

There has been so much written for and about non-fiction self-published books … most of them come under the category of ‘How-To’ books, so I am writing from a different perspective – the one I am more knowledgeable about.

They say that self-publishers finance themselves rather than being paid by a publisher. Fortunately, we became so well known across North America it took visitors to bring it to our attention. Now, I think it’s all been forgotten and they think of us as a regular publishing company (Whitlands Publishing Ltd.). Robert IS the author and I am the Publisher. He had virtually nothing to do with the publishing end of the business except when I thought I should ask for his advice from time to time! He had become a master book salesman and at that he was much better than I!

This can be such a lengthy and heated subject and I don’t want these entries to be too long. This will be continued, hence Part 1!

Our first book was ‘Lizzie’ and the print run was 500 copies (Dec 1998). This was the recommended print run in those days and was the only printing we have ever had to borrow money for … and it was our own!!

The loan lasted only 3 months … the time it took Robert to gain the confidence to sell 500 copies at coffee shops, grocery store lineups, the recycling depot etc.. We even had money in the bank at this point and printed our next run of 1,500 copies of the same book! The following year we printed a further 4,000 copies (they were selling like hotcakes! as word-of-mouth spread!) and the sequel to Lizzie came out on April 1st with a big launch at the Victoria Art Gallery. This was the only ‘book launch’ we ever planned – there simply was never enough time.

We soon realized that graduating to larger print runs meant less money paid up front and more in our pockets with each book sold. We began selling from our booth at markets (1999), craft fairs (1999), and the ferry terminal (2000). We have never looked back!!! I hear there are not many indie-publishers that can boast about this kind of success and it has continued for 13 years. Oh yes, it has been hard work for both of us and still is and it was my sole income until last year when I turned 65. Robert was forced into retirement in 1994 due to an old mining injury (see his bio and other posts) and in 1998 he began getting the old age pension, our only income when we began the books!

As self or indie publishing becomes even more popular due to ebooks, everyone seems to want to or is told they should ‘write a book’ so the competition has grown fierce. So we continue as in the past with no plan to stop now telling people at the markets that they can also get our books on ebooks at Amazon.kindle, Kobo.com, Smashwords.com (all formats) etc.

I have only just begun this new blog format on my own website which has been around for many years. I seem to feel a need to share with you my 13+ years worth of experiences! If this introduces more people to our books in the process then I am doing a good job. The bonus for readers (and us) it that with our books in ebook format, they are more readily and cheaply available.

I have never joined author’s groups, although I have attended a few. Time has always seemed unavailable and they weren’t really my bag. My husband was the author, not me. I’m the at-home workhorse and I end up sitting here day and night filling my time with ‘work’ of one sort or another. A publisher’s life is filled with many things especially when they wear ALL the hats in the company!!

I had an earlier blog called:  Of Books, Marketing and Self-Publishing … but I’m in the process of incorporating it, along with a couple blogs on my hobbies, under this umbrella.