I, Bill Ruesch, have a confession to make. Although I’ve been in and around printing for some 35 years, book publishing is comparably new to me. You see, I did something that most Americans (somewhere around 80% wish they would do) I wrote a book. Actually I wrote four, one non-fiction, two poetry, and a novel, but that is beside the point. My novel would be my break through book. It is a children’s fantasy story set in the fictional 1950’s small Florida town of Burns. It’s called The Whistlin’ Salamander. The thing is, I didn’t know what to do next.
Does that seem odd to you? I don’t mean to imply that I don’t know how to get a book printed. I could do that in my sleep. What I didn’t know was how to get it published. So, I turned to the Internet and bought several books on the subject. I found tons of information on the business from landing an agent, to wooing a publisher. Publishers, for the most part, I was advised, won’t even look at a manuscript that hasn’t been presented by an agent, so I tried, and tried, to find an agent.
I learned about query letters. I came up with what I believed was a dandy, and made sure it was letter perfect. Agents, I read, have zero tolerance for grammar or spelling errors. I found out that different agents required different numbers of pages to sample your manuscript, and that I had to scrupulously follow every instruction or risk immediate rejection. I was very certain that they would love my letter and the submitted pages would be hailed. In my daydreams agents competed to sign me. That was the fantasy. The reality–not so much. Not only didn’t anyone bite, they didn’t even nibble.
What next, I thought?
Aha! An old friend Karen Christoffersen, I recalled, had worked with Richard Paul Evans author of the best-selling Christmas Box. Maybe Karen could help me. I called Karen and she told me that they were working on a program to teach self-publishers everything they needed to know through a practical hands-on method. At the completion, authors would receive fifty copies of their bookstore-worthy book printed, designed, edited, and proofread. That sounded like a good idea, but I already knew how to get all of the production things done. What I needed to know was how to sell my book. The great-agent-chase convinced me that traditional publishing wasn’t ready for me yet.
Karen introduced me to Phil Davis the owner of ZDocs a digital printing company specializing in short-run books. Phil, being the savvy entrepreneur that he is, had created a course to teach authors how to use the Internet to establish or increase credibility, and to sell books. He named the course T.A.P.The Author Platform. I told Phil about my quandary and he gracefully allowed me to study TAP with the proviso that I would report back to him anything I didn’t understand. Hey, I could do that. Through The Author Platform I learned the importance of creating a blog. Viola, that’s what you are reading now. I learned about social networking and you can find me on Facebook , Linkedin and Twitter, I found out that through social networking you can reach thousands of people with your sales message in less time than it takes for one person to walk into a bookstore, pickup your book, and look at the jacket.
I’ve been practicing the principles Phil teaches in TAP. I now know that self-promotional activities are challenging. They take time, they take energy, and they require all of your creativity. How well does it work? In just a few months I’ve become connected with amazing people all over the world that I could never have met in 10 lifetimes otherwise. My network gets stronger everyday. The more I learn the more I realize there must be thousands of people in the same boat as I was, authors stuck somewhere along the path between writing a book to successfully selling it. My need became the incentive to develop The Red Hen Association of Self-Publishing Authors. You can read the manifesto, which is just a fancy way of saying vision and purpose by clicking here.
I’ve heard sad stories of garages full of self-published books that don’t sell because the authors don’t know what to do once they have them. I would heartily recommend The Author Platform as an excellent way to begin. It costs a little money, but compared to the cost of just storing unsold books, it’s a pittance. Knowledge truly is powerful.