As a writer, I bump into all sorts of problems that one would not ever consider ahead of time, as having anything to do with the craft of being a writer. When I began to write, once I had retired, I gave my novel, On the Broken Road, which was loosely based on my youth as a folk-singer wandering around Canada, away for free.
I had first published the novel with Smashwords in late 2013. I had written the book as a challenge for NaNoWriMo – the National Novel Writing Month – the objective being to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty or less days. At Smashwords, I had the option of setting my price for the book. Since I didn’t think of it was a public book but as one that only family and friends would read, I set the book’s price as free. Smashwords provided me with a free ISBN for the novel and so my story began to find readers.
When the book passed 500 copies downloaded, I began to reconsider my original choice for having my books being given away for free but continued to do nothing about it. At that time, I had published other titles with Smashwords including two photo-poetry books, a book called A Broken Boy, and another novel, A Small Company of Pilgrims. At that time, the total downloads of my “free” eBooks had begun to approach 2,000. Somehow, my books had become of interest for others outside the family and circle of friends and neighbours. I pulled all of my books from Smashwords and began to search for another route which led me to CreateSpace, an arm of the Amazon on-line book store.
Again, I happily accepted a new ISBN for each of my books from CreateSpace and had the titles now made available at Amazon. I ordered hundreds of print books and found myself selling the books almost as fast as I ordered them. All was going well until I attended a writer-publisher conference in my home province here in Canada.
I had wanted to get my books recognised by the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild to which I belonged, and have them made available for sale at sponsored events, and even hopefully have them considered for awards. I had already sold more copies of my books than many others who were raking in the awards every year. Then I learned that because my books had a CreateSpace assigned ISBN, and not assigned by a Canadian publisher, and even worse, a Saskatchewan publishing company, my books couldn’t be included.
I already had formalised my own publishing company and had been paying taxes accordingly since 2009. My books were selling well and it was almost time to re-order an additional 100 copies of each title which made me realise that here was a golden opportunity to resolve the ISBN problem. I had previous books that weren’t geared to the public market and which I had assigned my own ISBNs which I could do as a legitimate publishing enterprise. Now it was time for me to re-issue my books with ISBNs from Retired Eagle Books. Replacing the ISBNs meant that one is creating a new edition for an older book. It was time to rethink my books before republishing them.
First change, the size of the books. I had originally published the naturist novels as 5.25″ x 8″. I found out that by changing the size to 5.5″ x 8.5″ I would be saving about twenty cents per book on printing costs. I sell around 300 books a year so that meant about a $60 saving which then would translate to profits. [No, a writer doesn’t get rich with these kinds of numbers.] Next, I took the opportunity to carefully go over the existing manuscripts in search of errors, after all I wanted to present the best version of my books possible given the opportunity for a 2nd edition. Then, I rethought my covers. Since I liked the covers, I had only a few changes that I wanted to make, visible improvements. With that all done, I began the re-publishing of the two René Beauchemin novels – A Small Company of Pilgrims, and It’s Complicated When a Man Meets a Woman. Both books are now available in print and eBook form from Amazon.
A Broken Boy, and On the Broken Road soon followed and are now available from Amazon. I still have the other books to reformat and republish, a fairly significant task that lays ahead of me. However, I am not in that much of a rush as I still have enough copies on hand to take me through most of the summer and early autumn for book-signing events.
Is all this work worth it? Would I be better off allowing Amazon to be the publisher on record rather than owning my full rights to the books? Wouldn’t it be better to just write and leave well enough alone? For me, the answer is simple, the work is worth it. It’s a matter of pride. Amazon will still get its share of profits from any book they sell.