Writing to Self-Publishing to Publishing and Back.
One author’s journey to self-publishing to forming a publishing company and back.
It seemed like such a good idea—I already had accounts with the major platforms to print and distribute my book. I created a publishing imprint, 13Thirty Books, and had a book on Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, iBooks etc.—why not take what I have and create a publishing company for not only my books, but for others also?
Like I said, “It seemed like a good idea.”
In Search of a Publisher
Agents said it was an intriguing idea and a fresh take on the classic Cynderella story. Editors were excited by the story line, characters, writing and the blending of romance and horror. The marketing/sales teams... not so much.
Every time the book made it up to Sales—they came back with we don’t know how to sell it. The book nearly made it to contract with 3 major publishers—3 times!
It was an exciting and exhausting time. I wrote Ripper-A Love Story in about 10 months. I submitted and waited... submitted and waited... submitted and waited for nearly three years.
Time to Self-Publish
Frustration with the Marketing/Sales departments lead me to exploring the (at the time) relatively new idea of self-publishing. I had mixed feelings about self-pub, but I wanted to get the book out into the market and being tired of the “traditional” route, self-pub was the next best process.
I began the journey with hours of research, taking into consideration the different platforms, rules, style guides and reviews. I read half a dozen books on formatting, printing, creating and selling your book via Amazon and Kindle. I spoke to others who had experimented with self-pub for their input.
A few weeks later I had a cover designed, an editor hired, quotes and accounts set up for 13Thirty Books (the name of the imprint) with Createspace and Amazon (the two were not connected at the time). I was ready to launch the first book into the world of the self-published. The trade paperback was printed via Createspace. It was a relatively easy process. Through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing I had the e-book. Both would appear for sale on Amazon, Createspace and the other channels that Createspace offered. Smashwords would come into play later, after I had mastered the Createspace/KDP platforms. To be honest, at the time, I was only concerned with having the book available on Amazon, I didn’t know enough about the markets or the other platforms available to understand the impact those channels, platforms or markets could have had on the book.
Now I was about to have the first book published and available through my own 13Thirty Books.
The Best Day
The first box of freshly printed books from Createspace arrived. It was awesome to hold and feel and smell a book that I created.
Because of the “connections” and “relationships” I had, Ripper-A Love Story started to sell quite well right off. The book would go on to sell over twenty thousand copies, 800 on a single night when we announced the pre-sale at a romance convention.
I need to back track here so you’ll understand a bit better where I started and how I got here.
Lance Taubold, my writing partner on Ripper-A Love Story and I, had met Kathryn Falk of Romantic Times at a small writer’s conference in Long Beach CA (I didn’t want to go, but Lance assured me that it would be fun and after all Fabio was going to be there. I didn’t know who Fabio was but I went along anyway.) We arrived and found ourselves to be the only two males in the room... except for Fabio and his agent Paul. Lance had been a big fan of romance (among others, he reads more than 300 books a year) and wanted to meet a couple of the authors that were attending this conference. That’s when we met Kathryn. She invited us to sit at her table with Fabio and Paul. Before long we were in deep conversation as though we had all been friends for years. Kathryn invited us to the Romantic Times Convention being held in San Diego later that year. Lance jumped at the opportunity and few months later found himself sleeping in the closet in Kathryn’s suite at the RT Convention. Yes, you read that correctly... in the closet. He had agreed to help with the newly formed RT Cover Model Competition hosted by Fabio and with the hotel being sold out, Kathryn invited Lance to stay with her... only problem, she had a few others crashing in her suite also... so Lance found himself in the closet.
The next year Kathryn asked Lance if he knew of any directors (we were living in LA at the time and we were actors) who might be able to direct the RT Cover Model Competition for that year’s RT Booklovers Convention (That’s how I got involved). That year the first Romantic Times Mr. Romance Cover Model Competition debuted to a standing room only crowd of very enthusiastic romance readers, writers and fans.
As the director and co-director of the cover model competition, Lance and I got to meet many wonderful authors (and now lifelong friends) of romance. We got to know not only the authors but their publishers, agents and PR folks as well. We would have long dinners and lots of drinks—we got to know the publishing side of publishing very well.
The First Book
Writing wasn’t new to me. I had written several plays while living in New York. My play My Mother’s Coming, received the coveted, Foundation for the Vital Arts Award and was produced in New York by the Foundation for the Vital Arts and later on in Los Angeles where we had a sold out – extended run in.
So, we wrote Ripper-A Love Story.
As Ripper was selling nicely we asked the local Barnes & Noble if we could do a book signing in the store. The store was having an author showcase in just a few weeks. We got in and had a wonderful time. Lance spent a great deal of time with the readers and other authors, I spent a great deal of time speaking to the Barnes & Noble store manager and District Manager who happen to be that day. The retail aspect of publishing was something I knew little of, so when the DM asked if I had any questions, I went right to it. I found out that I needed to find out a lot more!
A few months later our great friend (and one of the nicest people in publishing) Heather Graham was on a book signing tour and she was going to be singing at a B&N in Las Vegas. I got on the phone and spoke with the manager of that particular B&N asking if we could sign our book, along with Heather’s. She agreed. We went in with Heather and were greeted to a long line stretching out of the store. Of course, it wasn’t for us, but it made the pictures of that book signing we posted on line look super awesome!
The Birth of 13Thirty Books, LLP
Lance’s best friend was helping out with Heather’s signing. Later during dinner, he said “Why don’t we turn 13Thirty Books into a real publisher and publish for other authors who might be in the same situation you are?” The idea was born and soon 13Thirty Books, LLP (no longer a self-pub) was up and running.
Lance, his friend, and I filed the legal papers, formed a Limited Liability Partnership, set up bank accounts and registered 13Thirty Books, LLP. As a 3-partner company—our responsibilities were many. So many in fact, that I found myself spending countless hours at the computer... not writing, but working on the company and other people’s books. We published 6 books that first year. That takes a lot of time and energy. Lance handled the acquisitions. Our friend handled the accounting (he was a CPA major). Everything else was mine. I work for a major casino company in the marketing department. It was obvious that I would take over everything marketing. I didn’t mind. I loved the business aspect of publishing and the company was doing quite well. 13Thirty Books, LLP won the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for Best New Non-Fiction for the book On Two Fronts, during our first full year in business.
The following year we added about 10 more books to our calendar. Soon, we were attending conferences and convention and book signings not only as authors but as sought after publishers. We had set up 13Thirty Books, LLP not so much as a profit driven company but one that would be to the authors benefit. The company only kept a small percentage of sales-just enough to keep us out of the red. The Partners were only paid royalties from their own books and an occasional small (I mean small.) dividend. We were in it to produce books by authors we had met or who were referred to us. Our hope was to give new voices a platform. We were succeeding in that and in that successes... I was losing my own voice.
Losing My Way and Finding It Again
I keep a journal of book ideas. A quick line or two, what we called a “TV Guide” log when I was a theatrical agent in LA. That journal was nearly full of ideas. That’s when it hit me... the journal was full, but I wasn’t writing. The publishing company was taking so much of my time that I had little time and energy left to write. I did manage to get a few short stories out for the anthologies we were producing. That kept me going for time, but honestly that left me discouraged as I didn’t have the hours needed to write what I wanted to write.
And so, the decision to leave.
In December of 2016 I left 13Thirty Books, LLP as a Partner.
After 3 years of being a publisher—I was ready to get back to being a writer.
All’s Well That Ends Well
I learned so much from this journey. Information that will make me a better author... not writer... author. Writers write but an author: writes, markets, publishes and sells books. I’m happy being an author again.
And now with a journal full of ideas (3 already in the works) I’m back on the computer putting words to digital paper, creating worlds and characters and stories.