Notes on Publishing
So the book has been officially available for three weeks today and, as I write this, is sat at #1 in Advertising/Graphic Design on Amazon.co.uk and .com, which is pretty cool to be there on both sides of the Atlantic. Seeing it above the D&AD 50th Anniversary book and various other tomes that I know well is an amazing feeling and I can’t thank everyone who has supported the book enough. Really.
Overall that places it at #1284 (UK) and #2392 (USA) in All Books which, out of over 6.5 million books available on those sites, is even more cool. In the top 0.1% in fact.
I’ve no idea what that translates into in terms of real numbers (and won’t for some time until I get a report from the publishers at the end of the quarter) but, it’s probably not more than a thousand or so.
Still, no small beans considering, as I was told last year, that over 98% of books that are published go on to sell less than 250 copies. Which is a pretty preposterous statistic…
Either way, I reconciled with myself early on that this wasn’t going to be something to retire on, rather that now I just get to be ‘The Guy That Wrote That Book’. My dream of buying a townhouse in the West Village with all the other successful authors will have to wait for a little while.
I thought it might be worth noting my experiences down lest anyone else is in the position where they want to publish something so, below are some observations – I’m hesitant to say advice – on the process as a whole.
1. Publishing is slow and unpredictable.
I mean, really slow. Compared to how I’m used to working I mean. Aside from this, my project was beset with delays that were, to be fair, out of everyone’s hands. Actar are based in Barcelona where, during October and November of last year, they were faced with the country engaging in a series of austerity strikes which saw everything grind to a halt.
Delayed art to the printers meant delayed pages to the binders which meant delayed books tot he shippers… it went on. The original release date was late November but it was early January when copies finally emerged from the warehouses. This kind of thing you just can’t plan for but, it’s something to bear in mind in much the same way as the printer will always break down the night before a pitch.
That led, ultimately, to Amazon cancelling hundreds of pre-orders and me receiving a lot of embarrassing emails, tweets and Facebook posts. I’m not sure whether J.K Rowling gets the same emails when one of her books is delayed but, it was pretty humbling and I did my best to respond to as many people as I could and to control the damage.
Trying to get people to order in the first place was one thing, trying to get them to RE-ORDER a second time was, well, difficult let’s say.
2. Price point matters.
When I originally specced out the book, being a dickhead designer I wanted it hard back, perfect bound, 7 inks, 5 paper stocks… you name it. When I was informed that, while that was all perfectly achievable the publishers would have to sell over 5000 copies before they could begin to pay me a dime (and only 3% at that), I decided to reign things in a little.
The book, however, was never meant to be a giant, $75 coffee table ornament. It’s aimed primarily at students and recent grads and is meant to be dipped in and out of. Like a Gary Larson compendium you find in people’s bathrooms. In addition, just 2 of my illustrations required colour so, again, costs were trimmed. I did still want the designer contributes section to stand out so we kept a different paper stock for that and, in the end, I was able to negotiate something a little more reasonable in terms of compensation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about doing things for the love of it but, for a project that I worked on, somewhat swervingly, for a year, I did want to get some sort of a cheque at the end of it all.
3. Make lots of noise.
Do you know how hard it is to get people to buy something?
I mean, it’s hard enough getting people to click on a link anyway, but to get them to actually part with money, even if it is only £10, is a Herculean task. I contacted design blogs with a combined Twitter following / readership of over 1 million. I posted it on my Behance page and, right now it has had some 30,000+ views and 2000 appreciations on that site alone. If I search for it on Twitter, reams of posts and reposts come up. Literally hundreds. And yet, I’ve still realistically only sold a thousand or so copies.
Obviously, this was never going to be the next Harry Potter / Twilight / 50 Shades of Grey, but what this says about online coverage is up for debate. You really can’t expect to put something out there and people just know about it.
In addition, expect to do EVERYTHING yourself in terms of marketing. Your publishers will take it to book fairs, post it on their site and suchlike but, in terms of actual promotion, you really need to be ready to drive around not he back of a lorry with a megaphone if you want to get word out and convert ‘Likes’, Tweets and Appreciations into actual sales.
4. Adjust expectations.
As I’ve said, this was never going to be a retirement plan but in this sense I mean adjust your expectations of everything. I’m a first time author who managed to convince a small publisher to print a few copies of a book. Actar are not Lawrence King, Phaidon or similar and, as such, don’t have the same scale of distribution. They were, however, helpful, keen to work with me and overlook my ignorance of the process, which was invaluable.
There probably won’t be a world book tour for this. Unless a university or similar specifically wants to fly me over to give a talk and do a signing, I can’t justify spending thousands of dollars on flights and accommodation to sell a few hundred more copies.
However, when that first royalty cheque does come through, for however small an amount, I’ll be more than a little tempted to just keep it for posterity. The first cheque for the first edition of my first book.
Thanks all again for the support.
Popular Lies About Graphic Design is available from Amazon in most territories along with selected retailers. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for stockists in your area.