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Random notes about e-publishing my second book

Posted on June 19, 2011 and read 3,929 times

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lukesmall Random notes about e publishing my second bookLuke Sullivan
Chairman, Advertising
Savannah College of Art and Design


Over the last twelve years, I’ve slowly been polishing a manuscript titled Thirty Rooms To Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic. It’s a memoir, and the best way I can describe it is “The Shining… only funnier.”

Does the world need yet another touching memoir? Well, after 30-some rejection letters from publishers like Simon & Schuster and Random House, my agent said, “Luke, I love your second book, but guess what? Here’s our problem: your book is basically a couple years too late to a market that’s flooded with memoirs.”

She was right.

Go to any bookstore and you’ll see shelves pretty much wall-papered by every crybaby in America with a typewriter. Everybody in America has written a memoir about their douche-bag junkie parents. Everybody in America has an uncle who molested them in a stairwell. I include myself among them and not the uncle part, the memoir part. Whole forests are being felled to tell these stories and this is the market I picked??

So I decided to e-publish my second book on amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble as well as have a print-on-demand option like Blurb.com.

None of this is bout savin’ trees. And not that I wouldn’t have preferred Simon & Schuster to print a good old-fashioned book I can put on my shelf. No, I have to e-publish simply because I still believe in my book and like any writer, I want to see it out there. I wrote it to connect with people.

I don’t blame my agent; she tried hard. And I don’t blame the publishers either. See, the thing is when a house publishes your book they’re placing a bet; a bet that your stinkin’ book will sell enough copies to make them their money back and then some. Unfortunately, most of the bets publishers place lose money. This is why they say the publishing business a “hit-based” industry. Publishing is a business where the big hits pay for all the also-rans.

It’s true no matter what publishing business you’re talkin’ about, and that includes the music industry, the gaming biz, and Hollywood’s movies. The few oil wells that turn into gushers pay for all the ones that come up dry. You know those diet books you see forming huge pyramids in the bookstores? Those are what paid for riskier bets like my little ad book, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.

So, this self-publishing thing has been an education and the training isn’t over.

Part of what I’ve had to get over was the hit to my ego. (What?? There’s no bidding war over my work of genius??) They used to call self-publishing the “vanity press,” and frankly much of the stuff that’s self-published today continues to deserve the appellation. Literary agents, love ‘em or hate ‘em, have served for years as the filtering system for publishing industry. In fact, we owe agents everywhere a nod of thanks for keeping hundreds of thousands of really bad books from ever seeing the light of day. On the other hand, we could just as easily vilify both agents and publishers for sticking to the tried and true, for publishing mostly Jackie Collins novels and another Chicken Soup for the Douchebag.

But all this is going to change. It’s already happened in the music industry. It’s called disintermediation – a fancy word for sayin’ “Let’s get rid of the middle guy.” In this case, that’s the publisher and the agents. Today, straight-to-consumers is what it’s all about. Digital technology is turning readers into publishers, musicians into recording companies, and movie buffs into directors. We’re moving from a Downloading Culture to an Uploading Culture and a quick look at the success of YouTube should bear this out. Everybody wants to be heard. Everybody wants to be seen.

Still, change is rarely graceful and now that any knucklehead can upload his college term paper on existentialism and be a “published author,” it’s likely we’re going to have to wade through a whole lot of bad books to find the good ones.

Where all this is going has yet to become clear. Me? I’m just getting on the bandwagon to see where it’s all gonna go.

I have yet to do any of the real marketing for Thirty Rooms To Hide In. I’ve been busy mostly doing basic production; stuff like getting the manuscript formatted and uploaded to all the different distributions systems: amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iBooks, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Sony’s eReader. There is so much to do. In addition to getting ISBN numbers and building a website (which I am happy to say just went live), I’m busy posting content on all kinds of platforms, tagging it and cross-linking it all on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, the blogosphere, everything.

Truth be told, this essay on ihaveanidea.org is part of the marketing process. At the end of the day, it seems the rules of the new world are kinda simple. You have to produce content that’s either entertaining or useful. I hope you’ve found this essay to be one or the other.


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After 30 years in the advertising business, author Luke Sullivan is now chair of the advertising department at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He’s also the author of the popular advertising book Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Advertising, and the blog heywhipple.com. Sullivan now lives in Savannah with his family. He reports that he “enjoys the indoors” and likes to spend a lot of his time there.





  • Anonymous

    I especially liked this article because it stresses the difficulty of publishing if you are not a Vince Flynn or Stephen King – publishers as well as agents are very picky on who they will represent and so the idea of self-advertising your work as this article addresses makes sense. Every avenue needs to be searched so your book reaches the intended audience. I had to self-publish my first novel ‘Pursued’ and though it did fairly well I still can not find anyone, agent or publisher, to handle either my 2nd or 3rd novel. Mr. Sullivan’s article certainly spells out how to do it ourselves and be successful – of course it will be a lot of work but if a person truly believes in their work it will be worth the time and effort. Thanks for the glimmer of hope from us lesser known novelists – John R. Beyer


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