Of Remotely Possible Interest

For any of you thinking of getting a book published, or know someone who is, consider this: Success can be failure. Let me explain.

I sat in the audience of a panel discussion in Galax on Saturday. Editors from JF Blair, McFarland, and Norton and one highly-successful NYC agent (a Galax native!) discussed the world of publishing. I took the opportunity to ask a question, whose answer I anticipated would hold interest for other authors in the room.

“Given a self-published book that has met with modest success (1100 sold its first year) what would you recommend to move such a book up into wider distribution? Would it be thinkable that a publisher (like Blair) would accept submission of such a book, the self-published copy being the “manuscript”, and work to distribute it to a wider market?”

The answer: NO

They all said “be happy for your successes to date. If we’d picked it up, that’s about what we would have projected for sales.”

And of course, the publisher would have taken no small percentage of the costs over printing. Keeping full control has allowed me to keep more of the returns. And going with a “real publisher”, for all the angst and delay that would have required, might not have gained me that much after all.

So if you’re thinking of going the way of traditional publishing, shop your manuscript early, before it becomes a trial-balloon short run book. If it succeeds in this latter form, it may fail to get past the front desk with the editor. They want the same low-hanging fruit you want, and if you pick it first, they won’t give you a look. Now I know.

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Interesting to me. But your book will continue to sell, especially now that you have the niche market along the parkway, and you will be all the more successful for it (directly).

  2. It seems to me it took your own confidence in your ability to take the book as fr as its gone. I doubt a publisher would have worked that hard for a “niche” book. Plus there is the fact you probably have met a greater majority of your readers than most published authors…I guess the real question is…Did you enjoy the past year in retrospect? Irregardless of profit, do you have a feeling of pride and accomplishment? And most importantly, would you do it again?

  3. I too have heard that publishers seldom touch an already self-published book. Though you have a great sales record, your particular book is location-focused. I well can see how inviting your book would be, especially with your images, to a larger audience, but then I’m more open-minded and less profit-minded than a publisher would be.

    susan @ spinning