Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Moment of Truth

I’ve been a professional writer since 2005. Before I continue, I have to confess that was a difficult statement to write. For so long, I’d considered myself an aspiring professional writer because I didn’t have a book published with one of the industry leaders; think Random House and the likes.

The publishing industry has changed a lot since I started out in 2005. At that time, electronic books were still a far-fetched idea and being a self-published author was a stigma. Many literary agents even refused to take on self-published authors or consider their indie titles as part of their publishing credits. That may still be true for some agents, but there’s no denying the industry has changed as has my opinion of my career.

No longer do I refer to myself as an aspiring professional writer. With three magazine articles and several self-published novels under my belt, I feel no shame in dropping the “aspiring” and simply acknowledging that I’m a professional writer.

When I released my first novel in 2006, self-publishing was still very much frowned upon, but I didn’t care. I’d been rejected so many times the letters could have wallpapered my bedroom twice over. I’d also been scammed by an agent who didn’t have her clients’ best interests at heart. After so much heartache, I was discouraged and desperate to get my work into the hands of readers. I believed in my novel and I wanted it to be given a fair chance so I went for it.

Rather than secure my own ISBN and print the book myself, I paid for the services of a print on demand company. That initial experience left a lot to be desired. I had to format the interior of the book myself. The cover art didn’t fit my vision, but I was too afraid to ask them to go back to the drawing board. The price of my novel was set at $14.95. Although I wanted a lower price to attract more readers, I didn’t have a choice. The price was based on the length of the novel.

When it came time to release my second novel, I stuck with print on demand but changed companies. I chose one that allowed me the flexibility of setting my own price. I was also given the option of using one of their artists or submitting my own cover. Having found a wonderful designer in my husband, I opted to submit my own covers. And not only did they secure the ISBN but they formatted the interior. Not to mention, they would distribute the novel to the same major retailers the first company had; Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

I was so happy with how everything went with the new company that I stuck with them for two more novels not considering the future expense I was creating for myself. You see, this company charges a $25 annual storage fee for each title. On top of paying for the privilege of printing my novel, I have to pay a yearly fee for them to continue to be willing to do so. That means I’m presently on the hook for $75 per year.

Until recently, I’d forgotten about this $25 fee. The last time I used a print on demand service was four years ago. Since then, I’ve switched to e-books only. Doing this, I keep my costs low and pass that savings on to my readers.

A few days ago, I was reminded by the print on demand company that I was severely behind on my storage fee payments. I was told to pay within thirty days of receipt of the notice or risk the removal of my titles from their records which would also mean these three titles would no longer be available for purchase from sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Let me be clear. I have every intention of paying. I was aware of the fee going in. Forgetting to pay doesn’t forgive the debt, but I did find myself wondering whether or not it was in my best interest to continue to pay the $75 each year for these titles to be available in print. Besides the fact that the e-book has become the preferred format for many readers, I’m not sure I’m making more money than I’m spending on these books. I made the prices lower than was recommended because I wanted to reach more readers, but that makes my royalty checks anywhere from small to non-existent.

So the moment of truth is here. Once I pay the past due amount, do I continue to spend $75 a year on the off chance that someone might purchase one of my print books, or do I close that chapter of my career. It’s a lot to consider.

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