Crossing the Rubicon — Guest Post by Rosemary Harris


I’ve crossed the Rubicon. I’m guessing it won’t be as historically significant as Julius Caesar launching the Roman Empire but it was something of a milestone for me. I made the decision to self-publish. And not just an ebook, format the file, throw it online and see if anyone notices. I self-pubbed as a trade paperback Slugfest, a book that had already been published in hardcover and as an ebook. This is what’s known as going down a road a lot of people have called a dead end.

Most writers I know have had the self-publishing conversation – with each other, their beleaguered spouses, themselves, or the dog. It’s a big decision. And not just because it would cost a lot or even take a lot of time. It doesn’t. It’s like not being a virgin anymore (btw a 1920s definition of “crossing the rubicon” referred to losing one’s virginity.)
For some, self-publishing still carries the faint whiff of failure or self-delusion. “Did you hear….she self-published.” Any old movie fans here? Think Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh, going from highly respected doorman to men’s room attendant. It broke your heart.

My decision to self-publish was less a response to the shifting sands of publishing than it was a simple business decision. The first three books in my series, Pushing Up Daisies, The Big Dirt Nap and Dead Head had all been published hard, soft and e by my publisher. After initially telling me that Slugfest would be released as a mass market paperback, the publisher reversed that decision. It happens.

I was focusing on my fifth book (not in the series) and apart from a little grumbling, didn’t think too much about it. But once I’d delivered the new manuscript to my agent, I had the time to investigate self-publishing options. Why shouldn’t I try it myself? If nothing else I would learn a lot about my marketing efforts and whether or not they were actually generating sales or just keeping me in Likes and Friends. The cost of entry was low, the book had already been professionally edited (alas she has left the business), I had a pretty good idea for a new cover – and it had been well-reviewed. For goodness sake, Kirkus liked it. Besides it was killing me that the book might never be available at a consumer friendly price.

Small detail. I no longer had the rights. I’m from the school of ya don’t ask, ya don’t get. So I asked and I got. In fact, my publisher could not have been more accommodating.

Most of the players in this field, Lightning Source and CreateSpace among them, have similar royalty structures and timelines. I’m not here to lobby for either one. I chose CreateSpace and they were a breeze to work with. I particularly like the option to click on a link to have someone call you. Immediately. I did not take advantage of their Expanded Distribution option because I would have had to raise the cover price to 11.99 and I wanted to test the waters at the 8.99 price point which compared favorably to other traditional mysteries even though mine was a trade pb not mass market. Perceived value of a trade as higher than a mm is not something easily communicated in a postage stamp sized picture. It meant Slugfest wouldn’t be listed on Baker&Taylor or Ingram but that was a call I had to make.
So far, so good. I’m not giving John Locke a scare any time soon but unlike traditionally published books which have 2-3 weeks to make an impact before they’re yanked off the shelves, I’ve got all the time in the world. Ask me how I’m doing in six months.


Libby here:

Rosemary is one of the hardest working authors I know. She understands the book business, especially marketing and promotion. So this must have changed ALL her perceptions about the industry. (I know — I developed ulcers when I realized that ebooks required a totally different skill set than the one I’d been using for ten years). So for Rosemary to have been so flexible and to have adapted so quickly is a tribute to her. In fact, it’s getting harder and harder to understand and justify what’s going on at the Big Six these days. And while I have no ax to grind, all I can say is that through Amazon I’m finally making some money and attracting new readers. How can I complain?



What do you think?