Publish or Die! Part 2

January 13, 2009

I’ve just been informed Brown Girls is alive and well and making someone money. Unfortunately, that someone is not me, the person who actually wrote the book.

If that sounds a bit confusing — after all, these Publish or Die! posts are all about following Brown Girls on its journey to mass circulation — permit me to explain.

The suspense thriller, based on events and people I met while living in the Cook Islands, was ‘printed’ by PublishAmerica in 2004.

Notice that I didn’t say ‘published.’

That’s because PA is a Print On Demand (POD) company, meaning it prints a copy of one of its writers’ books only after it has been ordered and paid for. Yes, it does save warehousing costs, but if no one orders your book, not one copy will ever see the light of day.

This is how POD works, as opposed to a vanity press, where the author pays upfront for the actual printing process, just as you would for a business card or brochure.

But, in a relationship that seems somehow incestuous, PA makes it real money from its stable of writers. These keyboard tappers tend to be so excited about finally having their work ‘accepted’ after years of negative responses from mainstream publishing houses, that they  tend to order entire boxes filled with freshly-minted copies of their masterpieces.

They envision setting up a table in their local bookstore and spending entire weekends signing autographs for an adoring public.

The reality is slightly grimmer. It involves shuffling those same boxes of books — still mostly full — around the garage before, one sad day, putting all of them on the curb for the recyclers.

PA does little in the way of marketing and zero in the way of placing its product in actual bookstores. But all that information is easily found on the Internet and those people who sign with PA without doing some kind of research should not be allowed to whine later when their local Borders refuses to stock their deathless prose.

I knew going in what I wanted: a book with my name emblazoned on the cover, something I could hold in my hands like a new baby, one I could be assured wouldn’t grow into a teen and want to borrow the car.

And that’s exactly what I achieved. PA has a professional enough website (publishamerica.com) and actually pays royalties to its writers. If you squint in the right light, it could pass for a real publishing house.

Like all good PA writers, I bought copies of my own book. I, at least, had enough foresight and discipline and math skills to order only as many as I knew I could dispense. I gave away some copies, I donated another to my local library for all posterity, and then sold the rest to close friends and distant relatives — and very few actual strangers.

So when I hear used copies of Brown Girls are being offered for sale on both chapters.indigo.ca and amazon.com — not just copies, but signed copies — I can’t help but wonder who is flogging my work. 

I’m not terribly upset — I’d rather have the book circulated and read than gather dust on someone’s shelf, to be forgotten forever. My only regret is not making a cent from the $18.71 US being charged by Amazon or the $45.50 CDN it will cost you on chapters.indigo.ca ($65.64 CDN for a “clean and nice copy”!).

Now that PA has relinquished the publishing rights, I can only hope those sellers will use some of what they’re earning off my labor to buy Brown Girls — newly edited, freshly trimmed — when it returns to the marketplace.

I think that’s the least they owe me.

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2 Responses to “Publish or Die! Part 2”

  1. Megan said

    I bought 5 copies of Brown Girls. One for me- still sitting on my shelf/not in mint condition as it has been read, and 4 others as gifts. I loved the book, my friends loved the book, and we are still waiting for Brown Girls 2.

    • bitemymoko said

      Megan, you were always my No. 1 fan and I appreciate that muchly. I’m still working on the sequel, The Blue Beneath, if only because you keep urging me to write. Koleman and I are working on a Plan B forgetting it published. Stand by for updates.

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