Saturday, June 8, 2013

Artist, Writer, Distribution Manager

 A fellow blogger posted this query on one of our group pages: 

"Do you know anyone who has self-published and made any money or even sold a lot of books? And if they have, what is the correlation between time put in for marketing and profit? It just seems that the market is saturated with e-books and self-published books. Everyone is a writer and no one is reading. Just wondering."

I replied:

We have sold around 2000 copies of our self-published coffee table book

That's not a huge amount, but it meant that we sold out our first printing, then re-issued the books in a paperback edition. These are still selling well. Our experience was positive enough to encourage us to go through the process again, this time with a book of short stories.

As I have posted before, anyone can publish a book. All it takes is money, and something to fill the gap between the book covers. Nowadays it's even easier, and much cheaper, to publish an e-book.

What it takes to successfully publish a book is distribution.

This used to be the sole purview of publishing houses, and their claim to bestowing the imprimatur of authorship on worthy writers. The trouble is, there are far more worthy writers than publishers can handle. Always have been. To make matters worse, there are far more not-so-gifted writers than there are 'worthy' ones. 

The publishing industry has historically served as a tight-screened filter, keeping the 'un-worthies' out of the process, and off the shelves. Obtaining the holy sanction of a publishing house has in the past been the result of a curious combination of talent, experience, persistence, and luck. Many good writers have fallen through the cracks; many always will.

Fortunately, self-publishing allows many good writers (and, clearly, many more bad writers) to get their work in print. Without a system in place to distribute those works, however, these self-published books often remain hidden in a cardboard box in the trunk of the writer's car.

When I decided to become an artist, I read an article that predicted I would be spending as much as 90% of my time not making art. That time would be spent marketing my artwork, and keeping up with the paperwork related to the business of art. Shocking, I thought! I am an artist, not a bookkeeper! 

Well, guess what, folks, I am now an accountant, delivery van driver, business administrator, store clerk, art publisher, advertising agent, janitor, & warehouse drudge who spends far less that ten percent of his time actually making art. Fortunately one of my jobs is also distribution manager – which means I maintain a system of packaging and shipping my products around the globe. It means that I build and maintain mailing lists, e–mail and snail mail, and keep in touch with a growing number of contacts on social media sites and interest groups.

It means that I spend weeks investigating and planning rollout campaigns for my new products, and make sure that I not only have the pictures (and books) on hand to deliver, but that I also have the envelopes, boxes, mailing labels, and packing tape necessary to get the products out to the customers.

I suppose I could draw my pictures or write my books, then wait for someone to discover them, and hopefully give me enough money to allow me to do this kind of thing for a little while longer. But I would rather share the fun of what I do with as many people as possible, and to do that I have to in order to 1) Let them know that I and my creative products exist, and 2) Find a way to get those products into the hands of my eager and appreciative customers.

So write as much as you want. Publish as much as you can. But if you want to keep doing it, you have to find some way to advertise and deliver your creations.


DS Art – The Visual Humor of Don Stewart
2805 Crescent Avenue
Homewood, AL 35209

Twitter: @DSArtDon


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