Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Publish and Be Published. Adding it up.

Commercially sensitive, my arse. Here’s the figures;
I had 200 copies of BCL produced. Cost £324 ie £1.62 each.
23 of these sold through shops. Wholesale price was £1.50 to £1.60; ‘profit’ on copies sold direct could subsidise the tiny loss I made on these. The shops then sold BCL for between £2.50 and £3. Hey ho.
I sold about 6 copies through my website at £2.
The rest were sold direct for between £2, £1.50 and £1 depending how desperate I felt. I wrote off 10 copies as losses; sale or returns that were too tatty to sell, or review copies sent to zines. I threw 5 copies in Deptford Creek in despair.
A reasonable guess at how that breaks down is; £324.00 cost of novels minus £90.00 = 45 sold at £2, £192 = 120 sold at £1.60, £20 = 20 sold at £1. Balance = £22 loss.
No profit made, but it was at least a sustainable loss. But the real gains and losses weren’t financial. The satisfaction of being undefeated means far more than money.
Losses. The process of selling the novel was often painful, particularly selling to strangers at gigs. Experiencing first-hand the often arbitrary, casual dismissal of my work really got to me. Lots of this was avoidable. I could’ve done a smaller print run and reduced the pressure not to lose money and lose face. I’d’ve been no less happy selling 100 copies. I could’ve done better at marketing and got the novel into more shops. In hindsight it would have been good to produce the novel in two formats – a full length one for shops and a serialised version for zine distros.
Gains. Grim as some memories are, I gained a lot from the process. It feels like a triumph of bloody-mindedness over experience, but only just. Partly I’m putting a brave face on things, but hey, making a virtue of necessity is the mother of invention. Flawed as BCL may be, I’m glad I didn’t let it rot in a drawer. I sold 200 copies. That’s 20% of the sales of a typical first novel, without a big publisher’s marketing clout.
In the time between completing BCL and self-publishing, I was on course to become yet another would-be writer bleating about the nepotistic and market-driven book world. That perception of publishing may be correct, but now I don’t feel bitter because it doesn’t stop me doing what I want. I can continue writing and being read for as long as I want.
Best of all, I got amazing support from people. Lots of shops were helpful, particularly Wordsworth Books of Camberwell. When Wred Fright read on my blog that I’d chucked five copies of BCL into Deptford Creek, he offered to sell any copies I sent him at gigs in Ohio. In his capacity as a college professor he even discussed BCL in a paper he gave on the zine novel to a national conference of the American Culture Association. Other people took the time to email and say they’d enjoyed the novel. One even sent a copy to her author father in Australia. Someone who bought the novel on Brick Lane gave the police a bollocking for moving me on. I experienced more kindness like this than I ever would have if I’d been published like a ‘proper’ writer. So, finally, thanks are due to all those people who supported me in any way. Ta very much.

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