I think the book launch is going well. I've sold 61 books, and have decided to go to print when I have 90 orders (I'll keep 10 books back for personal use / emergencies). I'm really really hoping that Magical Ninety will be reached this weekend... which brings me to the point of this post.
At several points during this self-publishing process I've got confused about why I was doing it. There have been a few (unpleasant) moments when I've got my knickers in a twist because I worried that I was Doing The Wrong Thing. Usually in respect to some attempt at publicising the book, but sometimes regarding its content. All of those worries could be summarised as either What will the publishing industry think? or What will potential buyers think?.
I do care what other people think, of course I do. But why should I care what the industry thinks? I've already accepted I'm not going to get a conventional publishing deal, and that's no longer my aim. If it was, this would be the wrong way to go about it.
I really want people to buy my book, and enjoy it when they read it. But does that mean I want to start jumping through all those publicity hoops, doing anything I can to get sales at all costs? No. That's one of the things I was trying to get away from. And there are practical issues here: I have a young child, who needs a lot of my time. And soon I'm starting a new job.
I switched careers a year ago and have spent the last twelve months retraining to do something astonishingly demanding and stressful. When I start the new job I'll scarcely have breath to call my own, let alone time or energy. I knew I'd have some spare time this summer, and I decided to use it to publish this book. But I also knew that the legwork would have to fit into a small window, and then I'd have to abandon it to its fate.
So, I can't set up a situation that means I'll still be faffing about with websites, online orders, stuffing books in envelopes or general publicity when the summer ends. And that's why I'm thinking about what I'll do when sales reach 100. I'm contemplating stopping there.
I'm going on holiday for two weeks this Sunday. I'll be in a remote location with minimal internet access, and I'll be on my own with the kids (my partner has to stay behind for work). When I return I'll be manically preparing for the new job. I knew this holiday was coming, and squeezed the book launch in the gap. If I can reach 90 orders this weekend then I can fire off the print run, close down the website and go on holiday with nothing much to worry about.
But... but... but...
What if I could reach 285 sales? If I sold that many, I'd break even. That would be nice. It's unlikely, let's be realistic. But why on earth have I put so much work into spreading the word if I'm going to stop when I've only just begun? And what if some kind of miracle happened and Some Proper Publisher noticed what I was doing and decided to publish me after all?
Argh. That would be a hard one. I'd be a bit dismayed, to be honest. Like I say, I'll very soon have no spare time. They would want me to Do Things which I might not want to do. But maybe I'd be so excited I wouldn't care? Or maybe we could schedule all the Doing Stuff for some future breathing space? But I've already turned my back on all that. I've already published the book myself, and I've made a Damn Nice Article. I think I'd be tempted to say "No, sorry, I can't be arsed." Still. I say that. It's easy to say when I know it won't happen. If it DID happen... oh well. It won't, so that's that.
What I'll probably do is just tinker with things a bit: When the Magical Ninety is reached, I'll change the site so that instead of paying for books, people are making a £2 deposit. If 100 people make a deposit, I'll bill them for the full amount and fire off another print run. And so on, ad infinitum. That would require minimal maintenance, apart from the envelope-stuffing, but I could rope in some help for that. I think I'll do that.
There's an extra tinge of poignancy to this whole adventure. A year ago I had written myself off as a Failed Writer and didn't expect to have anything to do with writing or books for many years to come. Now I'm popping my head back around the door... but it's only to say goodbye again. It took me four years to get my first book into a publication-ready state, and six years for the second. Even if I had spare time to write - which I won't, not for a long time - it would take me an age to get another book out there. I've finally acknowledged that the third book I wrote, the one still in first-draft stage, is never going to be worth continuing with. I'm sure I will write another book. I'll never stop being a writer. But it will be a long time coming. Five to ten years, I reckon. Which is another reason why I'm no kind of proposition for a Proper Publisher. I don't have enough to offer.
I'm really proud of this book, but if you want to read something written by me, you'd better move fast - because after this summer, you'll be waiting a long time.