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working writer wending her way through the labyrinth that is self-publishing

Monday, February 28, 2011

interview on marketing with self-published author, Harley Sachs

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself--full-time writer?
I've been a freelance writer since 1957 when I sold my first article to Motor Guide magazine whose editor was an old army buddy. When between jobs or addresses I made survival money freelancing for trade magazines. (See my book "Chilly-Chilly-BANG: how we freelanced through Europe's Coldest Winter in a VW with a KId"). I never made a living at freelancing because it demanded constant travel. Once I had a teaching job and a family, there were limited freelance opportunities. I did start writing regular newspaper columns in 1992 and have published hundreds of those. See my collected "Essays and Columns: 1992-2009) at lulu.com and downloadable on the Kindle and Nook. Now that I'm retired and on a couple pf pensions I write a couple of hours a day and produce a book or more a year. I've published more than a thousand items including letters to the editor.
2. What made you decide to self-publish?
I've had several niche publishers. The first paid $1000 advance and virtually nothing after that before the publisher died. The second publisher paid no advance and no royalty but did send a check for $500 before letting the book go out of print. The third niche publisher bought the list of the first publisher but was terrible and was finally persuaded to return the rights. An agent I met here in Portland tried marketing my books by sending out digital disks, but that didn't work, and he then partnered with some folks setting up an ebook publishing venture called "Electric Umbrella." One of the backers was a crook and the business failed. I was introduced to an Australian POD printed, "Digital Print Australia" when the dollar was worth something, but the collapse of US currency made it too expensive, so I shifted to lulu.com.
I have had a number of agents, only one of them any good, but he was in England and exhausted possibilities for my work there, so that faded. We hooked up with Wings ePress and Zumaya, both ebook publishers, but Wings wasn't effective and I cancelled out on them. Zumaya still has two of my titles, but we will withdraw the rights from them in a few months. I want total control of my work. No agent  commissions to pay, and no bookstores to beg for display or sales, no beleagered agents or publishers to send me "not for us" rejections. My company owns the rights, period.  
3. Mostly I would like to focus on your marketing plan since this seems to be where most self-published authors flounder. Can you tell us what you've done to get your book/books to your potential readers?
I advertised for free in newspapers across the country to no result.I have had a few reviews, but those did not generate sales. I have a blog and facebook visibility and a free web site. I carry bookmarks in my pocket at all times and whenever I see someone reading a book I give them a bookmark and a pitch. The advent of the Kindle and Nook as vendors has been a breakthrough.
4. How has that worked for you?
It is amazing. We are not getting rich or even in the black, but sales on the Kindle, which also reaches UK buyers, have grown about 30-50% EVERY MONTH. When my newspaper columns are published the editor is kind enough to include my web site with the byline. Having 25 books on the Kindle and Nook list and at lulu.com (soon also the Authors Den bookstore) is like owning a few shares in a company that pays occasional dividends. With electronic publishing no book need ever go out of print.
5. would you recommend this approach to others? at this point in time?
Absolutely. It takes about 2 years to find an agent and time for the agent to find a publisher, then another two years in production. I am now 80 years old. I am too ill for a $1000 a city book tour. I am not pretty or cute for public readings.  When I complete a book I can publish it myself in half an hour on the Kindle and Nook and other places I haven't even yet explored. I have been turned down by publishers so many times I have an aversion to that groveling business. Face it, until the ebook revolution publishing was a rotten business. Things are looking up for writers now.

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