I am writing an essay on how to get published, especially on self-publishing, for my students, and after reading a draft, Chris Cameron, one of my editors, urged me not to be so negative – not to focus on what kids now call “the big fail.” I was writing about my own experiences, both with my first book which was published by a good American university press and got almost no publicity (and which was in fact considered a huge success by them because in five years it sold almost a thousand copies and was re-issued in paperback, translating however into very little remuneration for its author), and with my next two books which were midway between being published and self-published and received even less publicity. A certain despair creeps in.
So in the rewrites, I have tried to be more positive about both self-publishing – creative control and a speedy process – and the regular publishing world. But I have to say that it would not be fair to paint too rosy a picture. It’s not rosy. For almost all of us, it’s near-starvation.
My friend Piers Hemmingsen, who’s producing a Beatles event at the Revue Cinema tomorrow night – it’s the 50th anniversary of “Help,” so he’s got a remastered copy and will speak, and I will be there – suggested I get in touch with the owner of the wonderful Another Story bookstore nearby on Roncesvalles about carrying my Beatles book. I stopped by there a few weeks ago and left the postcards I’ve had made about both my books (marketing!), waited for her to get back from vacation, spoke to her today. Would she carry them, even on consignment? “Let me ask this: do you have a sense of who will come in to ask for them?” she said.
Yes, I do have a sense of that – no one. As I write in the essay, marketing is key – and marketing is my downfall. There has been almost none, no one knows my books exist, so the nice lady doesn’t want them. Without marketing, you can write a magnificent book, and you’re toast. And mine are nowhere near that. Double toast.
So in that vein, I hope Camilla Gibb is happy. As anyone in Canada cannot help but know, she recently brought out a memoir, “This is Happy,” about the breakup of her marriage (as we also all know, to Heather Conway, a vice-president at CBC, who walked out on her when she was a few months pregnant – I love it, the revenge of the writer!), about pregnancy and birth and family. As far as I can tell, she has been reviewed in every paper known to Canadians, and I assume this will lead to major readership and sales. I shake my head in wonder and congratulate her. She’s beautiful, she’s a very talented writer, and she has hit it out of the park with this one. Good for her. It gives us all hope.
It’s getting chilly – I’m wearing a sweatshirt. Hard to believe August is nearly over. Where did it go?