Sunday, September 11, 2011

Another San Pancho Writer Breaks Out

One of our number, Ellen Greene, published a wonderful book called Remember the Sweet Things (William Morrow/HarperCollins) in 2009, and now I’ve followed her with The Lives of La Escondida (Lirio, 2011.) When we started our writers’ group several years ago, publishing was only a gleam in our eyes, though we were all serious about our “craft” and a couple of us had books in the works. I think both Ellen and I would say that our writing group was catalytic in our writing process.

Things are strange in the book world these days. Barry Eisler (writer of bestseller thrillers) turned down a $500,000 advance in favor of self-publishing on Amazon’s CreateSpace after a hard look at the bottom line. Considering that an advance is, by definition, to be paid back from royalties; that book royalties from publishing houses run in the 10-15% range, while you’ll get more like 40% if you self-publish—with the disparity even greater for the e-version—the math was clearly in favor of the Indie approach.

Of course, Eisler was already well known and has no need for the book tours and all the other publicity efforts of the established publishing houses. Oops, make that the book tours, etc. that used to be part of the package at the established houses. Now, times are tough, and HarperCollins belongs to Rupert Murdoch.

And those traditional houses accept manuscripts only through literary agents, and agents take a hefty percentage, too, if you can land one, which I hadn’t when I stopped trying. I stumbled upon a publisher that would accept author submissions. I submitted; I was accepted! But if something seems too good to be true… After nearly two years of dealing with rank amateurs—extending to their knowledge, or lack thereof, of grammar and punctuation, and a refusal to allow the book to appear in e-form—I extricated myself from my contract.

What’s more, the publisher was going to print my book using CreateSpace, and then give me 10%. Sure, he provided me an editor—whose work I couldn’t use—and a proof-reader—who wouldn’t consider even the Chicago Manual of Style (“We aren’t in Chicago.”) Those, if competent, are worth a lot. However, the publisher wasn’t paying these people—thus justifying his percentage. They were working for royalties, too, and their work was slow since these weren’t their day jobs, which they should never consider quitting.

So, like Barry Eisler, I published on CreateSpace, and I make about two dollars more per book than Kathryn Stockett gets for The Help. (It won’t be necessary for you to point out who is likely making more money.) For fees, CreateSpace will edit, proof, or design, but you may do it all yourself virtually free of charge. And, if there are tricky bits, there is also prompt and competent tech support. For ten dollars, one can have an ISBN attached to a publishing house of one’s own—mine is named Lirio, from Casa de los Lirios, my San Pancho home.

My book is a romance that violates some of the conventions, hopefully making my characters more lifelike, while still devastatingly appealing. I based it in New Mexico where I lived for thirty-seven years, and in Mexico, too. There, in the 1590s, the Inquisition drove suspected Jews north to New Mexico where they went underground and hang on until this day. The book is available on Amazon and in all e-reader forms, as described on my webpage:

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