A Greater Year

By on January 8th, 2013
Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment »

Happy New Year everyone!
New Year CardI was delivered some good fortune here at the beginning of 2013 when I learned that A Greater Monster was named to two top ten lists. It was named in “Top 10 Books of 2012” by Common Ills blog as voted by members, and it was also named in a “Best of” list on Refinery29.com and described as one of “10 books every Chicagoan needs to read right now” to their email list. Refinery29 email header - Top 10 Books

In that spirit, I’ve written four top ten lists to evaluate my success as a self-publisher and provide a little bit of advice for authors-to-be.

Top 10 Things I Did to Produce A Greater Monster:

  1. Spent seven years obsessively writing it (through fourteen drafts)
  2. Paid a professional proofreader to give it the once over
  3. Asked two excellent writers to give me their detailed thoughts on it
  4. Hired a book designer and spent six months working with him to design it
  5. Hired an illustrator and spent six months working on the illustrations
  6. Hired an animator and a musician to collaborate on the web scenes
  7. Asked authors to read the manuscript and provide promotional quotes (if they liked it)
  8. Read and re-read several books on self-publishing (my favorite) and created long to-do lists
  9. Bid multiple printers to find the best price and quality
  10. Created a video and promoted a Kickstarter project to fund the print run of 1000 copies

Top 10 Things I Did After I Published It

  1. Held a big reading/release party at Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago
  2. Made the rounds to all the indie bookstores in Chicago and St. Louis, leaving them copies with a press kit
  3. Held a reading at After-Words Books
  4. Reached out to numerous bloggers across the web requesting reviews
  5. Entered twenty (or so) literary competitions
  6. Contacted numerous distributors, trying to find one who would carry a self-published novel (Hint: it’s next to impossible)
  7. Emailed bookstores occasionally when I had news
  8. Participated in a Chicago author reading tour in New York City and made the rounds to bookstores
  9. Created a postcard that highlights my literary award and an excerpt from a blogger review for bookstores to post on the shelf
  10. Hosted two giveaways on Goodreads

Top 10 Successes

  1. Made two top ten book lists of 2012
  2. Gold medal as “Outstanding Book of the Year” in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards
  3. Finalist for National Indie Excellence Book Award
  4. Received many thoughtful reviews from both readers and bloggers including The Chicagoist, The Midwest Book Review, Psychedelic Press UK, dig Boston, and the Seattle PI
  5. Interviewed for Chicago’s Newcity arts newspaper in both print and online, and by various bloggers
  6. A Greater Monster was featured in University of Wisconsin’s alumni magazine, On Wisconsin
  7. Managed to get listed with a small press distributor
  8. I feel proud of my work artistically
  9. Have sold more than 500 copies
  10. Am carried in nearly 15 bookstores

Top 10 Failures

  1. Post office lost 16 books and destroyed 8 (Lesson: always insure mailings)
  2. My distributor has done very little to promote my book
  3. One bookstore ordered 15 copies and the order never got through to my distributor
  4. Don’t have enough media attention to get picked up by a significant number of bookstores
  5. I have been disorganized following up with bookstores (especially those out-of-state) and getting paid for sales
  6. Struggling with developing an ebook version—had to fire my first ebook vendor; on my 10th round of feedback with my second
  7. Started an audio book version but put it aside due to other priorities
  8. Amazon sales have been pretty slow (bookstores have sold much better)
  9. Couldn’t get to 10 failures (oh, the irony!)

If anyone ever tells you that self-publishing is easy, they’re not doing it right. Sure, anyone can write a crappy book, export it as an epub and Kindle file, find a stock photo for the cover, submit it to Amazon, and voilà they’re published. But almost no one will read it, it will likely be riddled with grammar errors and typos, and the author will often be too close to the work to recognize its larger flaws. That isn’t to say, self-publishers can’t write great books. But they need some honest opinions and a lot of hard work. If a book is self-published in the wilds of Amazon, does it make a sound?

P.S. What a relief that this asshole lost

Romney


A Greater Monster lives!

By on November 30th, 2011
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment »

Dear Friends,

A Greater Monster cover

After nearly eight years of labor, I’m proud to inform you that my second novel is now available for purchase. You can find it on Amazon here. And on Goodreads, of course, here: [book:A Greater Monster|12480602]. It is also available in Chicago at Quimby’s Bookstore, Unabridged Bookstore, Chicago Comics and Sandemeyer’s Books. At some point in the next couple weeks I hope to make it available via PayPal on this site, if you would like a signed copy.

My book release party was a great success! There were about 45 people in attendance, and the crowd was quite engrossed in my reading. Eight people actually showed up as we were closing down! Drinks were imbibed, and good times were had by all. A few snaps here:

A Greater Monster release party pic1 A Greater Monster release party pic2

 A Greater Monster release party pic3 A Greater Monster release party pic4

 A Greater Monster release party pic5

In the meantime, I’ve been hard at work on my Kickstarter project rewards. You can still watch my amusing video (about the book. I pre-sold 120 copies through this project and all the pre-orders have finally been mailed out. I’m also halfway through writing stream-of-consciousness letters and emails that were included in the rewards. It’s quite fun but also a bit exhausting to write 125 emails and letters and keep the inspiration going.

On top of that, I’ve been trying to make the rounds to the bookstores in Chicago. Sadly, there are so few independent new bookstores left. There are numerous used bookstores, but they won’t carry any new books even on consignment.

I’m still working on landing a national distributor for the book as well. Was turned down by Small Press United, which was my first shot. They sent a form letter rejection without explanation. C’est la vie. The point of having a distributor, for those who don’t know, is to provide bookstores a way to order your book when a customer requests it. It will show up as available in their system. Ingram is the top distributor, but they are hard to break into. Some of the smaller distributors will network with Ingram. Createspace through Amazon supposedly gets you into the system—but then you need to accept the quality of the job they do and the large cut they take with each print-on-demand book.

A good distributor will also notify bookstore buyers that your book exists via some sort of catalog update or a sales call in an effort to get some orders. (Createspace doesn’t do that as far as I know.)

Next steps are to visit more bookstores in Chicago and begin sending out review copies and interview requests to bloggers. As well as finish all my Kickstarter rewards. I’m a busy boy.


The cover, the quotes, the Kickstarter

By on September 10th, 2011
Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment »

I’ve completed the book design for my second novel, A Greater Monster. The cover is done and below for your viewing pleasure. I’m quite happy with how it came out. All the design elements that make up the face are related to scenes in the story.

A Greater Monster Cover design

If you are looking for a talented designer for a project, talk to my friend Mike who did this cover as well as the complex interior layouts: mikewilgus.com. Super talented guy.

Next step is getting a print-on-demand printer to create about 20 galley editions with a plain cover to send to pre-publication reviewers like Publisher’s Weekly and the Kirkus Review. If they review it, that helps get bookstores and libraries to order it. There’s no assurance that they will review it, however. I also plan to take a couple galley copies around to bookstores in Chicago to see if I can get employees to read it and land an in-store review. I highly recommend authors take this approach themselves.

The quotes. As promised in my last blog post. I have been very fortunate to meet several authors who generously spared time from their incredibly busy schedules to read an early manuscript of A Greater Monster and provide micro-reviews that will appear on the cover and interior. The full quotes are a little long for this blog post so I’m sharing the abbreviated versions here. I highly recommend these talented authors’ books, which I have thoroughly enjoyed reading (links provided).

“Brilliant, insane, and utterly unique…”—Jen Knox, author of To Begin Again

“I can’t express how brilliant my favorite scenes in A Greater Monster are. In this extraordinary work, Katzman pushes language to do things, which are truly astounding.”—Carra Stratton, Editor, Starcherone Press

A Greater Monster is…a spiritual (and carnal) quest that reads like Alice on acid, while channeling every trash sci-fi nightmare Creepy Tales had to offer.” —Charles Lambert, author of The Scent of Cinnamon and Any Human Face

“Beautiful mystic-schizo DayGlo wordage. Poetic, peripatetic and diuretic prose that befuddles, enchants and amuses the reader at the same time.”—Lance Carbuncle, author of Grundish & Askew

“This is bizarro fiction at its most intense. It contains scenes and unique designs that seem engineered by some Mad Hatter and Chuck Palahniuk cross-breed.”—Lavinia Ludlow, author of alt.punk

A Greater Monster is a highly creative and original story combining poetry, imagery, and prose—all working seamlessly without a break in momentum. —Charlie Courtland, author of Dandelions in the Garden

Finally, for authors who are self-publishing and feel the premise or nature of their work might intrigue individuals who like unusual, artsy projects, consider submitting your project to kickstarter.com.

It’s a cool site that has gotten a lot of buzz from NYT, CNN, Wired, etc, as a new way for artists to pre-fund their work. First, because it’s a curated site you have to be accepted based on the artistic quality of your concept. Second, you have to offer creative rewards for donations, so one of mine is obviously that you can pre-purchase the book, but I also offered rewards that include a stream-of-consciousness email inspired by your name, a hand-written letter or an original short story inspired by anything you request. Thanks to 84 generous individuals, I just reached my goal and the fundraiser still has two weeks more to go. The book is being printed on 100% acid-free recycled paper, which is more expensive than regular paper, and that has added significantly to my printing costs.

It helps to create professional quality video to garner interest, so check out what I did. Making it funny and entertaining helps as well.

My Kickstarter project

And Kickstarter blogged about my project here.

I’ll be going to press in about two weeks.


It’s go time

By on August 5th, 2011
Tags: , , , | Leave a comment »

(Read that title in the voice of an ironically written CIA agent character.)

The next month is going to be nuts. I’m shooting to get my book to the printers by the last week of August or first week of September, which leaves me feeling like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland … can’t stop, can’t stop, I’m going to be late, going to be late!

So, yes, I’ve decided to end my search for a publisher. I evaluated three last options then called it quits. The acquisition editor of the press that almost picked me up (see previous blog entry) offered to let me use her as a reference to get in with another press. And she recommended three presses that she was connected to personally. I evaluated these presses: their websites, their books on Amazon (how many reviews, style and subject matter), and, finally, I reviewed their contracts/author policies. I also spoke with an author who had been published by one of the presses, the one that looked the most promising of the three. My conclusion was that they would do almost nothing for me that I couldn’t do myself and would take most of the profits. They offer authors 10% of cover price, and they insist on design control of the cover as well as interior. I would have been comfortable with a collaboration, but the upfront “we control it” attitude put into writing left a bad taste in my mouth. Worse, the straw that really sucked the interest out of me was when I learned from the published author that he had actually been required to buy copies of his own book from the publisher in order to mail them himself to reviewers. Screw that.

So where things stand: I’ve been a bit delayed in the design of my book because my book designer broke his right forearm in a moped accident. He’s lucky to have survived the hit and run. Poor guy, I do love him, but why wasn’t he wearing a goddamn helmet? But we’re back on track now. I got a bid for cover art from a painter I met at the last Comicon in Chicago but decided to have my book designer do the cover art in addition to the interior design. That way, the design will be integrated with the cover text. $300 for cover art, btw.

Other actions I’ve taken so far: I purchased a set of 10 ISBN numbers and barcodes ($250), Library of Congress Number (free), and requested quotes from 10 printers. I’ve been sorting through the responses and am collecting the best bids. It’s going to be pretty expensive because I’m committed to using 100% recycled paper. But I’m willing to invest the extra money in order to feel better about stamping ink on 384,000 pages of paper. (That’s another reason not to use a small press–almost all of them do Print on Demand now, and most POD printers like Createspace or Lulu do not have a 100% recycled paper option.)

Still left to do: Create the CIP data—that’s the cataloguing data for libraries. It’s actually quite complicated, and I’ve visited two libraries so far and the reference librarians were not helpful. Any librarians out there want to help me??? I’m in the process of collecting potential reviewer names and websites. Need to find a distributor. Create some postcards. Collect a list of all bookstores in Chicago and other indie bookstores around the country. Setup PayPal and Google checkout accounts so people can buy copies directly from my website and prepare the updates for my site when the book launches. Prepare an ebook. Continue recording my audio book version. Set up a book release party. And so many more little things…I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.

Next blog entry: A taste of the pre-release promotional blurbs I’ve already lined up for the book.


Oh sweet rejection!

By on April 30th, 2011
Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment »

Dear David,
Thank you again for the opportunity to consider A Greater Monster and for your interest in [PRESS]. I apologize a thousand times for the time it has taken for us to respond to your query. We received more than the usual number of manuscripts during this period, had less than the usual amount of publication slots available, and our team of volunteer readers decreased due to personal problems; therefore, we have been incredibly behind in our reading, and, again, I apologize.

At this moment, we are going to pass on further consideration of your manuscript; your project was among the last few we were holding onto from the open submission period, and that is because it is a great fit for [PRESS]. Our readers praised it for gorgeous graphics, material resistance and interplay with the plot, its questioning of the human as master/center of time, space, reason, and language, and its exquisiteness and brutality at the level of the sentence. Incredible sentences verging on poetry. Existence at the realm of the nano, the infinitesimal, the letter, the typographic shift-. We passed on it because of our current lack of publication slots, but please send us more material, either during our next open submission period or during one of our blind-judged contests. Thank you again, and I hope you find a publisher quickly for this extraordinary work.

Sincerely,
[NAME]
Acquisitions Editor
[PRESS]

The above email arrived in my inbox Friday. What a wonderful rejection! The editor also kindly offered, in a subsequent email, to provide me with a more eloquent promotional quote (such as for the back cover or the interior), when my book is published. And she also recommended a couple presses I could contact and use her name as a reference. However…I’m back to my old conundrum: Is it worth it? What will these small presses do for me that I can’t do for myself? And if I self-publish, I will always maintain the rights to my own writing. Of the three presses she recommended, only one of them seems to have their act together online. And when I check their books on Amazon…only a few reviews for each one. The author still has to hustle for professional reviews, press coverage, distribution (getting it carried), marketing, etc. And the reward is 10% per book of the cover price…as opposed to 40% – 100% depending on whether you sell it directly, online or through a bookstore. If I’m going to work my butt off, shouldn’t it be for myself?

The other big minus, of course, is more waiting. Even if I get lucky quickly, my book would likely not be available until late 2012. Depends on how long their queue is. If I self-publish, I can release the book later this year, hopefully late summer. I’ve had a long enough gestation period; I want this thing out of me!

The biggest plus of finding a publisher, of course is that I get more credibility and reputation being published by someone else. So, theoretically, that means I can get publishers to take a more serious look at future query letters. But is it really worth it?

Right now, I’m leaning toward no.