Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Cost of Doing Business

Writing for a living is different from having a day job. Believe me. I’ve had lots and lots of day jobs. Hated every one of them.

But that’s not the point. The point is that if you’re an author and want to sell more than a book or two, you have to invest in yourself. For some of us, that’s hard to do. For one thing, a lot of us don’t have a bunch of money to fling at our careers, and for another, some of us aren’t accustomed to tooting our own horns and feel mighty uncomfortable doing so. For instance, it nearly kills me to write this blog, even though I only do it once a month. Go figure.

However, in today’s world, an author either invests in herself (or himself) or nobody’ll ever know who s/he is and that s/he writes books. The world of publishing has changed drastically since I sold my first book a little over twenty years ago. Back then, you either got published by a big New York house, or you published your own novel using what people sneeringly called a "vanity press". Vanity presses were considered beneath contempt, or very nearly so.

Nowadays, though, there are lots and lots of venues available for an author, some of which cost a good deal of money. For instance, I’ve recently delivered my most precious creation, Daisy Gumm Majesty, over to a newish publishing house called ePublishing Works. They make me pay for the privilege. So far, even though they’re costing me, they’ve been worth every penny, and I’ve earned several dollars for each one of those pennies. So bless their hearts (and I don’t mean that in the snidely Southern way, either. I DO appreciate them).

There are also venues available for authors to have their books rendered into audiobooks. If you’re a wildly successful author (think Nora Roberts or Janet Evanovich), you’ll have audio publishers banging on your door to publish your books in audio format. If you’re me or someone like me, whom very few people have ever heard of, you can now go to Audible/Amazon’s ACX site and offer your book for narrators to read, if they’re of a mind to. ACX itself doesn’t cost money. However, you need a cover for your audiobook, because the one that originally covered the book isn’t yours for the taking. It belongs to the original publisher and/or cover artist. Therefore, you have to find someone to do the cover art for you. So far, I’ve been lucky. Melissa Alvarez (at has made me some gorgeous covers. And Aaron Heath Thompson ( has done some wonderful ones for me, too. His wife, Heather, moreover, is narrating several of my books (PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL and PECOS VALLEY RAINBOW among them). Another friend of mine (Jim Hull) has just finished reading RESTLESS SPIRITS for me, and Aaron also created the cover for that, which is here in all its glory:


Oh, yeah. This brings up another point about authors having more control over their careers these days than they ever had before. When RESTLESS SPIRITS was first published by Jove Haunting Hearts a billion years or so ago, I didn’t want to call it that. I wanted to call it THE SOUL OF CHESTER PEASE, because it’s the soul of Chester Pease (who, in life, was a Very Bad Man) that causes all the trouble in the book. However, Berkley (Jove’s mommy) used only two-word titles. What’s more, they gave the book a blood-red, sinister cover, but it’s really quite a jolly book if you forget the fact that poor Penelope Potter’s brother Harry (yes, I had Harry Potter first, dang it) has been invaded by the soul of Chester Pease. You can see Chester in the glass of corn whiskey Harry imbibes if you look hard at the glass.

I’m also paying someone (Rae Monet) to re-create a web site for me, since the one I’ve been maintaining for myself for lo, these many years, is ungainly and difficult to manage. So there’s more money gone. With luck it won’t be money down the drain, but it’s still money, you know? Piffle. Maybe I should just go get another day job.

Naw . . .


Sheila Deeth said...

I love that cover! Very cool.
And I hate investing in myself, but I always love your blogposts. Thank you.

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks, Sheila! I think women are taught from the cradle to be shy and retiring or something and never to put ourselves forward. Unfortunately, that doesn't help sell books.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

The truth is, these days publishers don't promote their writers. Unless you're a big name, they don't bother publicizing. And unknown authors badly need publicity. I think you're doing really well on building a readership, Alice.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Writers now have to have two personalities--the one that writes the book and the one that sells it. The two are not the same. It sounds like you're doing everything right. Not easy.

Alice Duncan said...

It's so blasted difficult to promote one's own books. You're right, Jacquie; publishers don't promote an author unless the author's so famous s/he doesn't need it. And Susan, the jury's still out on whether I'm doing anything at all right. But I'm really trying. Which brings up something my mother used to say whenever I'd say, "I'm trying." She's invariably say, "You certainly are." Sigh.

Alice Duncan said...

By the way, I guess I didn't make it perfect clear that ePW is NOT a vanity press! They're very selective about the authors they publish, and they promote the heck out of us, bless them!

Brian Paules said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brian Paules said...

Alice, thanks for the kind words about ePublishing Works.

We really appreciate you and love Daisy as well. It's been tremendously rewarding to bring Daisy before a whole new generation of readers.

You correctly stated in your above comment that ePW is NOT a vanity press and there's no way to "pay for the privilege". We're quite selective about the authors we publish because we want to be sure we're a great fit for each other.

Most authors have little understanding of what is required to promote a book. Frankly, the time and energy required to do it well cannibalizes their writing career which is why so many rely on us at ePW. Furthermore, there are advertising and promotion channels only available to publishers. We believe the best use of an author's time is...writing!

We are a publisher that promotes books. And why wouldn't we? Selling books is the only way any of us succeed!

Writing and publishing a book is a team effort and we're delighted to work with you.

Many thanks to you and Daisy!

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks, Brian! You're so right. Before I went with you guys, my books were floundering out there in the ether with no audience. Thanks to the FANTASTIC efforts of ePW to promote them, they're actually SELLING. That's never happened to me before. So thank you! :-)

Carole Price said...

Always an informative and humorous post. Thanks, Alice.

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks, Carole!

Anonymous said...


As much as I would love to win a copy of your "Restless Spirits" DVD, I have decided to buy it. Which brings me to the fact that I have now read all of your "Daisy Gumm Majesty" books. I thought getting the DVD and listening to the first book all over again would be fun. So, whenever you are ready, I am patiently waiting for book eight! Also, I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it that Daisy has actually been contacted by a real "spirit". She should no longer feel like she is fooling all of her customers. She is an actual spiritualist. Wow, it opens up an entire new world to her!

I so enjoy your books....Thank You!

Janice in northern Minnesota

Alice Duncan said...

Thank you so very much, Janice! I truly appreciate your comment and bless you for buying Restless Spirits! Dark Spirits, Daisy's next adventure will be out this summer sometimes, and this very day I began book #9, "Spirits Onstage". It'll probably take the rest of my life to finish it, but I'll try to be faster than that.