Author Archives: janet

What a difference a distributor makes

Such a lot has happened in the ten days since I launched What Are You Doing Here?  I thought the learning curve would flatten and the workload slow down after I’d launched the book.  Not so.

I expected marketing to take up lots of my time, and it has. I’ve arranged talks to community groups and recorded my first radio interview and started sending copies out for review.  What took me by surprise was how much time and effort is involved in distribution. I was dimly aware that this could be time consuming, but I underestimated just how much is involved in processing orders, preparing invoices, packaging books and running down to the Post Office.

An unexpected turn of events

Initially I decided not to try to get a distributor, partly because I didn’t think I could afford to and partly because I wasn’t sure that a distributor would be interested in a self-published book.

I sent a copy of the book to a buyer at a large bookseller and almost forgot about it because I expected that even if they liked the book, they would not want to deal with a self-publisher. It turns out they did like the book but would be interested in taking it only if I had a distributor. How long did it take me to arrange a distributor? Slightly over 24 hours.  A few days later I delivered a load of books to the distributor.

Loading books to deliver to the distributor

Loading books to deliver to the distributor

What’s so great about a distributor?

Far fewer boxes of books in the spare room. I know that just because the boxes are gone doesn’t mean the books are sold, but I kept my print run small, so I was never going to be left with a ridiculously embarrassing number of unsold books. Still, it was daunting seeing the boxes.

No more messing with paper, parcel tape and bubble wrap and no more hanging around in queues in the Post Office.

Simplified business procedures because the distributor will deal with the bookshops.

My book in bookshops!

I can get back to writing.

My very own book launch

I love going to book launches. I’ve been to a few over the last few years—mostly local authors—but on Sunday it was my turn when I launched What Are You Doing Here? Reflections on Dementia.  As a self-published author, this was very much a do-it-yourself affair—a morning of making sandwiches and savouries and chilling the wine, followed by a relaxed gathering on a perfect spring day.

One of the nicest things about the day was that some of the people I interviewed for the book were able to attend. They have all been involved in caring for people with dementia, and were unstinting in their time and willingness to talk to me when I was researching the book. It was a pleasure to see them again, especially as September is World Alzheimer’s Month and the theme is ‘A Journey of Care’.

I made a healthy number of sales and was delighted when the next day I made almost as many sales again. It’s starting to feel as if I’m gaining a bit of momentum.

Why I’m getting another Kindle after all

In my last post, I complained about my Kindle breaking down and said I didn’t think it was worth replacing and that from now on I was going back to paper books. I would have been quite happy to do so, but my technical advisor (husband) doesn’t like to be beaten by any piece of electronic equipment. He spent half an hour on Skype talking to a very polite, very efficient customer service person at Amazon, who concluded that my Kindle was indeed broken. She then offered several options to replace it with a reconditioned model with a full warranty at a discounted price. We decided to opt for a cheap, no frills model at a far lower price than we would pay retail for a replacement. She even offered free delivery, until she realised that New Zealand is a very long way from the United States (in fact, it’s a long way from everywhere).

My new Kindle arrived a few days later. Sadly, it doesn’t fit in the nice red cover I had for my old Kindle, but I now have access to the ebooks I bought in the past. This episode has made me think carefully about what I read in ebook format and what I read in print. I’ll keep my Kindle for lightweight reading and reading when I’m on the move.

We asked about the expected lifespan of a Kindle, and the helpful customer service person said at least four years. It didn’t seem long to me, and I suppose we were unlucky that my device didn’t even last that long. But then, I don’t expect other electronic equipment such as my laptop to last indefinitely, although I usually manage more than four years.

It made me think, though. To me, one of the advantages of print books is that you can put them on a shelf and they will still be there years later waiting to be read without the aid of any device, except perhaps, reading glasses.  It seems that with ebooks, you have to be much more active in managing the hardware needed to access your book collection.  What’s going to happen when large numbers of Kindles reach the end of their useful lives? Will people replace them or use tablets instead? Will today’s ebooks still be accessible in a decade’s time? Anyone else remember floppy disks?

Why I’m abandoning my Kindle

I don’t have anything against ebooks. I liked my Kindle, especially for reading in bed on cold nights—so much easier turning pages with just one hand poking out from under the blankets.  After a bit of experimenting, I found I would opt for an ebook if I wanted an easy read where I would start at page one and read straight through in a short time, or if I was travelling. I still preferred a print book for non-fiction or more challenging fiction. I liked to be able to go back when I suddenly realised the significance of something mentioned earlier. I also liked to flick ahead to see how many more pages to the end of the chapter so I could decide whether to turn the light out or keep reading.

Another advantage of ebooks is that they are cheaper, even if you’re like me and buy mostly $9+ range. Except they aren’t really cheaper, not when you look at the whole cost. An ebook is useless without a device to read it on. Yesterday I picked up my Kindle and was about to go on an ebook buying binge, and this is what I saw:

Dead Kindle

Nothing but vertical and horizontal white lines intersecting over the screen.  My technical advisor (aka my husband) was straight onto it and soon advised that the screen was munted (and in case anyone who’s not from New Zealand stumbles across this post, ‘munted’ means irretrievably broken, knackered, wrecked). And it’s out of warranty. Maybe it’s just bad luck that it stopped working, but I’d never really thought about the lifespan of these devices before, and by extension, ebooks.

Do I really want to spend $190 replacing a device that’s not even two years old? By the time I spread the cost of two devices across the cost of the ebooks I buy, it would be cheaper just to go down to a bookshop and pay for a print book. And that’s what I intend to do from now on. I might eventually get another device and start reading ebooks again, but I’m in no hurry.

Farewell Bubu

BubuBubu came into our house when he was three years old. He was already seriously overweight and simultaneously timid and aggressive. His face, paws and tail were dainty, and despite the fact that he wasn’t greedy and didn’t eat much, we could never get the weight off him.

He arrived almost by accident. When his predecessor died, we asked our vet to let us know if he had any cats come in that needed re-homing. Big mistake. Two weeks later the vet phoned and soon after Bubu moved in with us. We thought his name was rather silly, but he wouldn’t answer to anything else, so the name stayed.

He mellowed over the years, especially after we moved from Wellington to Christchurch. In Wellington our house was in the shade of a hill; here our house gets all-day sun. Bubu knew within minutes exactly where the sun was at any time of the day, any time of the year.  Although his temper improved, he still found it necessary to reprimand us at times with a swift whack or an unfriendly bite. In later years he took to stalking my father’s dog whenever he visited. He only once sat on a lap, but every night he would burrow under the cover on our bed and push his way into the best spot.

He went down-hill fast and the weight fell off him. Despite this, he seemed quite happy sleeping in the sun and snuggling up beside us, but never on us.  After a month of this he became lethargic and stopped eating. The vet told us he had almost no kidney function left. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t pee, so sadly we had him euthanised.

I didn’t think I’d miss the bad-tempered old fellow, but I do.

A print book–a risky business?

In these days of e-books and print on demand, why would any writer publish their first book using traditional print? It means paying all the costs of printing upfront and taking the risk of ending up being out of pocket if sales aren’t enough to cover the costs. Nevertheless, that’s what I’m doing–I’ve decided to self-publish ‘What Are You Doing Here?’ as a print book.

Before going down this path, I thought carefully about how people might want to read and buy my book and how I can reach my market. I came up with what I think are a couple of good reasons for choosing print. Reason number one: my hunch is that people who will prefer to read it in print; they might like to go back to it after they have read it or perhaps lend it to someone else.  Reason number two: with e-book and print on demand options distribution is mainly online (you go to a website to order the book). But I intend to get out and talk to people, and selling books direct is a main plank in my marketing plan. I need a print book for that.

I wouldn’t necessarily make the same decision for a different book; nor have I ruled out the possibility of doing an e-book later on. Of course, I could fall flat on my face and end up with the spare room full of unsold books. I’m taking a risk, but the print run is small enough for me to be reasonably optimist that I can sell enough copies to cover my costs. The plan is to start small and local and then grow.

The book is at the printer now, so there’s no going back.

16th century printing

Getting started

Earlier this year I made a decision that has taken over my time and energy. I wake up thinking about it. I work on it most days, and I go to sleep thinking about it. ‘It’ is my decision to self-publish.

My book is about dementia. It follows my mother’s experience of dementia, but it’s more than a memoir. It draws on other people’s stories, and is as much about dementia as my mother or our family. I’ve tried to understand and explore the experience of dementia, as far as that is possible.

I did try to get the book published and received a lot of very positive and encouraging feedback, especially about the writing. In the end it wasn’t commercial enough for a traditional publisher. However, I realised that ‘no’ from a publisher does not necessarily mean the book is no good. A publisher will only take on a book that they are sure will be a commercial success, and that’s not easy in a very small market like New Zealand. A self-publisher, however, might be able to afford more modest aims and a more hands-on, personal approach to marketing. I decided to back myself by self-publishing. Let’s see whether it was a good decision.