Although I promised myself I’d stop blogging about obstacles in getting my books out, I really can’t believe the reactions I’m getting.

I collected a very thick file of stupid/crazy/nasty e-mails from my escort work. Sometimes amusing but completely predictable. Now I’ve started collecting the e-mails I’m getting from people in the publishing industry. The response has caught me completely off guard. I never guessed that freedom of the press is not a literal concept.

I nearly didn’t end up with anyone willing to print my book. The two reps to whom I posed the question of subject matter had to go to their head guy (manager? CEO?) for an answer. (Both printers said yes to my book because they decided they weren’t in the censorship business. That’s good to know.) So the printing is taken care of. Printing is an important step in getting my book out so I’m happy about that.

Now I’m trying to find a fulfillment house. This is where I pay someone else to store my books, take orders for me, process credit cards and ship the books. The rates vary by house but the usual charges are for storage, amount of credit card processing I require and shipping fees. The cost per book can run to several dollars. Mind you, this is a service I’ll pay for with every book I sell and storage fees I’ll pay for regardless of how many books I sell. Sure, I can do this all myself (and it looks like that is exactly what I’ll be doing), but I’m lazy and if I can pay someone else to do something, I will. (This concept doesn’t apply to needed professional services like editing, proofreading, printing, interior layout and cover design.)

    Just FYI—Distribution is different from fulfillment. Distribution is the system upon which large bookstores are stocked with books and has nothing to do with selling books to individual people. The easiest explanation is that distribution is wholesale and fulfillment is retail. I’m nowhere near having to worry about finding a distributor.

I’ve contacted about 20 fulfillment houses and gotten a response from five. One was actually willing to work with me but their fees were quite a bit higher than I felt comfortable with. (Again, they looked over my site before making the decision. Perhaps I should put up a special section just for industry professionals wanting to do a background/character check on me.)

When I write the fulfillment houses I describe my book as a “series of text-only nonfiction books about the adult industry.” Their first question is always whether or not it has pictures (somehow ignoring the fact that there’s an entire industry built on the publishing and selling of nude photos.) Their next two questions are about the level of violence and erotica in my books (less than any episode of Law and Order: SVU, which is an appalling show, although I do write explicitly about sex). From what I can tell, they worry about subject-matter contamination with the other books they distribute. Non-forbidden topics include: children’s stories, child-rearing, bad fiction, yoga, romance, memoirs, gardening, some sci-fi, history, various wars, animals, business, writing and westerns. Horror seems mostly relegated to a few select places. Occasionally someone will get a wild hair and list a tantric sex book.

I’ve argued with myself over the fact that I give them chance to say “no” too soon. Why not write and get a dialogue going before discussing the subject matter? Because I’d still get the same response and waste everyone’s time.

I’ve come to the conclusion that freedom of the press applies only to the actual writing. It does not apply to the services that distribute said writings. What really burns my buns is that I constantly read about publishers who want controversial and different material (yeah, different like everyone else). Everything I read about book marketing points to having a very specific niche that you focus on (that would be my plan in a nutshell). Yet my rejections by major agents and publishers seems based on the fact that they didn’t like the subject matter and didn’t think it would sell because the market was too small. (I’ve gotten compliments on my writing, so I don’t think the rejections are because they felt I don’t have any skill.)

Just in the news is the outing of author J. T. Leroy who apparently wasn’t the street kid he claimed to be. I never read his work but I heard of him when his book came out. The whole selling point was his supposed “realness.” I’m quite real and no one wants to touch that.

The whole publishing industry seems to be a mass of confusing messages.

At any rate, I’m now collecting material for a new book. From my research, it seems that the real money in self-publishing is in selling books about self-publishing (and consultations, seminars and so forth). I’m going to write a book about my experiences and sell it as a book for the person who is trying to get controversial work out. A small niche but gathering the material is effortless! (I’m considering the idea of writing tons of e-mails to people/businesses I’d never seriously contact anyway just to create more fodder for the book. I’m still debating the ethics and possible repercussions of this.)

I started a correspondence (almost accidentally) with one small publisher who put out a sex guide (for non-professionals). He said that the self-publishing/small press road is nowhere near as easy as the self-pub books say it is. Good to know I’m not completely alone in my trials. I do feel my subject matter is a further hindrance to the process. Since these problems aren’t discussed anywhere that I’ve been able to find I feel it’s a very viable book concept!

Trying to make lemonade, I guess. What else am I to do?

PS: If you’re an intelligent person, you’re probably wondering, “So how come everywhere I turn there’s a sex book being advertised or sold?” The only answer I can come up with: they have a big publisher behind them. Otherwise, I really don’t know. (Maybe the press outsources the whole production/distribution process?)

PPS: I really do promise to blog about something else. And to blog more often.

2 thoughts on “the small publishing industry

  1. Michael,

    I looked at Lulu months ago. It’s POD, which I don’t care for, and it pays royalties, which I also don’t care for. Too many attached strings in the production process. I’d rather find my own people based on my perception of their talent than use someone who is bundled into a purchase plan. Then again, I’ve been without medical insurance for years and like the freedom of finding my own doctors. I guess it’s just me.

    Nice to see you’re still looking at the blog!

    Amanda

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