Last Friday, my suspense novel Dead Witness went to press for the second time. In a few weeks, it will be in the hands of my distributor Sandhill Books.
I should be thrilled. Yet, I’m scared to death.
I published one copy of Dead Witness through Lulu in April 2008 on a lark. One copy was meant to encourage me to carry on searching for a publisher. You can receive just so many rejections letters before you start doubting yourself. I wanted to hold my novel in my hands, thus making what it is I do feel real.
One thing led to another; my family all wanted one, and my husband was sure people would buy a copy; and I was printing 100 books. I’d already found several local stores that agreed to sell Dead Witness for a commission. Nobody was more surprised than me when they sold out in the first week.
Because I’m a realistic person, I assumed eventually sales would slow and I’d have enough books to last the summer, if I printed 150 more. Summer sales aren’t generally high. It’s Christmas that retailers aim for. At least that’s what I was told.
I sent a dozen books to reviewers, stocked the local bookstores, and by the end of August, was out of books. Clearly Lulu would never support me online. I’d reached my targeted audience, and the fun was over. But that was okay. I accomplished what I set out to do. Great reviews had come in; I could bow out with my head high.
And then one day my best friend’s daughter gave a book to her boss at Save-On Foods, formerly known as Overwaitea Foods. Her boss loved it, showed it to her boss, and the next thing I knew she’s calling to ask if they can stock my book on their shelves.
What could I say? I couldn’t afford to print more copies. I’d lose 70 cents on every book.
The nice lady at Save-On Foods replied, “Why haven’t you called Sandhill Books?”
Mainly because I had never heard of them.
She explained they were the distributor Save-on Foods dealt with. I’ve since learned they are a highly respected Canadian book distributor. Mention their name in any bookstore across the country and you’ve got somebody’s immediate attention.
What did I have to lose? I called Sandhill, and the owner Nancy suggested I talk to Hignell Book Printers in Winnipeg. She wouldn’t commit to distributing Dead Witness until she had a chance to read it. I understood. I called Hignell and we negotiated a very fair price. Now I needed a distributor.
I called Nancy back at Sandhill a week later and asked if she’d distribute my book. She hadn’t read Dead Witness yet. And to make matters worse, she had the flu. I agreed to call back in a week.
To make a long story short, the flu was a bad one and it took an additional two weeks before Nancy agreed to distribute Dead Witness, even though she hadn’t finished reading it. However, she did strongly advise that I change the blurb.
I called Hignell back and said, “Okay, what next?”
What next turned out to be a long exhausting process. Just before we were to go to press, Nancy asked me if I had the CIP. CIP? Something else I’d never heard of. Turns out it’s the library numbers on the backside of the title page. To which I had to apply for online, then wait sixteen working days before I’d receive them.
I contacted Hignell and we spent the next two weeks getting Dead Witness’s format-ready. The proofs arrived by mail, I approved them, and now I’m back at the beginning:
Dead Witness went to press seven days ago.
In a few weeks, a few hundred books will arrive at my door. 800 more will be sent to Sandhill. I’m scared to death.
Yes, I know I’m being silly. Dead Witness is a good story. I’ve received wonderful reviews. Of the 242 books sold, one person didn’t like it, and one said it was mediocre.
That’s not what’s scaring me. I have to sell myself. I have to do book readings and book tours and book signings, virtual book tours, not to mention all the stuff I’m already doing online: marketing, blogging, networking, I’m a writer. Writers are solitary people who like to sit home and write.
I’ve written 4 other stories, but what if all these accolades are in vain? What if I lucked out because I belonged to so many outstanding writers’ lists and it’s really because of my critique partners that Dead Witness is as good as it is? What if once I get out there in the public and start talking, “they” will realize I’m a fraud?
I know, I know, I’ve got to suck it up and be grown up about all this. And I probably will once the time comes. But for now, I’m sic to my stomach with fear. Tums anybody?
A day in the life of a writer. Humph.