THE WRITING LIFE by ALVIN ABRAM
I’m tired of reading comments on Self-Publishing as a potential threat to the industry. The writers always fasten on writers who produce chapbooks and offer that as the straw that will break the industries back. That's ridiculous.
As a published author of over 30 stories including Chicken Soup and Women's World Magazine as well as being published by (Key Porter Books), I consider myself a self-published author. I self-published 2 non-fiction, 1 children's, 1 anthology of short stories and 3 fiction novels, one of which was nominated for the Arthur Ellis Award (2002) and the another won the 2005 International BookAdz Award. Am I a threat? Hardly. But I am also a gnat whose success will be emulated by others.
I self-published 2,600 copies of my first book in 1997 (278 pages) (hard cover). The stories were priceless but the writing was amateurish. By year end the book had sold about 2,000 copies/Retail: $27.95 and in 1998, I published 2,300 soft covers. Retail: $21.95 and sold a further 1,000 copies until Key Porter Books bought the rights. They published over 3,000 more copies for $25.95. Three years later I obtained my rights back and subsequently went back into the market with my books. I've sold over 6,000 copies of my book to date. I don't know what they sold other than the 1,100 copies from the royalties I received. There are only a few of my books left. I presume they remaindered theirs because I refused to buy them. It looked ugly.
In 2000, I self-published 2,200 copies of a similar book (254 pages) Retail: $23.95 on the same subject. I hired an editor who worked with me so that the prose sang. I only have 600 left. On June 2004, I donated $20,000 of my profit from both books to charity. How did I sell them? I hired a publicist, undertook a mid-western book tour, appeared on television, radio and was interviewed in newspapers in 3 countries. It's called marketing.
I have since self-published 3 novels and earned enough profit to pay for the fourth which will be launched in 2008 and still leave me with a surplus. In fact, I've sold more than $100,000 worth of my books as of last September.
When critics focus on self-published chapbooks, they are making a mockery of those of us who are not challenging the system as much as have a desire to enter it. One time authors have to enter a lottery of slush piles in the hope of being discovered. Agents have too many clients and not enough time to undertake much more than they have already. The rejections are plentiful and the waiting agonizing.
Those like myself are forced to enter the gray area of self-publishing with its mediocrity, poor quality and uninspired writing for many reasons. Poor quality is not one of them. Lately, the legitimate publishing industry are releasing sub-standard writing and trying to pass them off as having been written by good writers of the past. They are closeing the gap themselves.
I am not a writer who has put himself into a self-imposed exile but one who has a passion to put words on paper that make people laugh or cry. I, too, would like to be published by any of the giants of the industry but I am resigned to be a niche writer. I am 71. My future is limited. I began to write when I was 58. Does age mean I'm impotent?
I am not alone. Though I may not know too many like me, our numbers can only grow. In 1978, I was one of the largest linotype houses in North York. I exchanged my machines for the primitive computers of that time. My peers laughed that I was destroying my business. For a while they were right. But I survived until I retired in 2000 and they, the giants of my industry went the way of the do-do bird.
How many remember the do-do bird?