Monday, October 29, 2007

Divine Busy-ness

One week before book launch and the pace really picked up with all those last minute things that must be done NOW. I still have more questions than answers, but I check each item off the list one by one. Unfortunately, updating this blog has taken a back seat to the other minutia that requires my attention. Once the initial rush settles down (and when will that be, exactly?) I can fill you in on the intricacies of launching a book.

Some very exciting news, though. Traveling Blind is already listed on the Internet stores of Barnes and Noble, Borders, and After I emailed book launch spam... I mean info... to all my friends and family, one of those friends sent me the Amazon link to the book. We all did a happy dance and I promptly had a panic attack. I'm sure the reason we're on those websites is because we are in the Ingram catalogue simply because we're using Lightning. Really no big deal, but seeing the book on the Internet for anyone to find and buy was THRILLING. It's not just people in Ukiah who can buy it; it's the whole world.

(Oh no. I think I just gave myself another panic attack.)

We're also setting up the paypal account on the website to sell books directly. Far more complicated than I thought it would be, but I'll explain how that process worked and how I finally made my decision about selling on the site when I have a wee bit more time (again, I'd really like to know when that will be.)

To top it all off, I have a midterm in Marketing the same day as our book launch! Thank you to my instructor for letting me make up the test when I get back. But I still need to study, which I'd better do right now. No more time to check in.

One odd thing, though... on Amazon there is a third party discounter selling the book. Who are these people and how did they get a book which hasn't even been sold yet? If any of you know, please send a comment and explain this mystery to me.

Thanks for your support. I promise, more details later, but I gotta run. I have a test to study for, three book readings to plan, a trip to Montery, bookstores to contact, and more networking to do in the next two weeks.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Boxes of Books

When the UPS guy brought the books to my door, I didn't scare him this time. Calmly he and I carried ten boxes of books from Lightning Source into my living room. I opened one box to inspect the contents but remembered that I should keep the books stored in their original box as Dan Poynter recommends to prevent damage. I sat down on the couch and examined a few of the books, looking for blemishes or wrinkles. Each book I flipped through was absolutely pristine. Beautiful. The colors on the cover are rich. The printing vibrant. Lightning Source has done an excellent job.

Next week is the official book launch of Traveling Blind. Laura stopped by a little while ago and picked up a box to share with her writing group. She hugged me tightly and is so happy with how her book turned out. In that moment, I understood what a muse must feel; the vicarious excitement knowing you helped someone fulfill their dream. I helped her bring her book to life, and now I'm helping her spread the word about it. All those hours of editing, designing, setting up the business, building a website, researching publishing, forking out too much money... all of it is for this moment. Laura's book is real and I helped make it possible. But it is Jane and Rick who helped me pull it off. Without their support and knowledge, this task would have been impossible.

Thank you Jane for helping me with the editing and for all those unpaid hours you've put into marketing and research. Thank you for believing in me enough to want to join this crazy venture.

Thank you Rick for the website, the book design, and now the audio version you're still struggling with. Thank you for standing in the middle of the street with your camera to get that perfect shot of the asphalt for the cover.

And thank you Laura for trusting me enough with your creation and letting me publish it. You've made my dream come true too.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


We just hit a snag at Medusa, namely, how do we sell books from the website? The original plan was that Lightning Source would be "drop-shipping" the books when orders were submitted to our website. Only problem is, Lightning Source will only drop-ship after you've listed 25 titles with them. 25 titles? Let's see, 3 titles per year divided into 25 means in...8 1/2 years we can sell books directly from them.

In the mean time, if I want to directly sell books from Medusa, I need to do it myself. Okay... um... how do I do that?

Order fulfillment is a complicated, labor intensive process and most publishing companies hire outside help. Seeing as I have no more money in my operating budget, I can't afford help. That means I get to pack a book someone has ordered and send it to the address they gave. Should be simple, right? For some reason this is a very complicated process.

First, you need to decide how people are going to give you money and request a book. After some investigating, I've decided to use Pay Pal. I know there is some controversy about Pay Pal, but for the time being, it is the best choice because of its reliability and ease of use. I have signed up for a merchant account with Pay Pal and now Rick is checking out the steps to set up a link on the website and the parameters we want to use for a "shopping cart."

Next, I am hunting for a space to store ten boxes of books in my 1000 square foot house. As it is now, my office is my lap-top and my desk is crammed into a corner of my bedroom, covered with paperwork and other notes. Somewhere, I need a spot for book storage and processing orders. Kitchen?

Then, I need to find good mailers. Dan Poynter recommends Jiffy-Lite bags. I wonder how many I will need? And how much will it cost to ship a book, anyway? A 6x9 paperback will cost... what? How do I figure out shipping costs? Do I do a standard amount? Send them all media mail? Should I buy a big role of stamps and a meter? How many trips to the post office will I make every week?

Finally, I need a good way to keep track of orders. Who ordered which book and where did they want it sent? Did the book get there? If not, why? Not only is this important for good customer service, but it's vital for tax purposes. I wonder if there's a good program.

I have a feeling I'll be learning the best way to provide fulfillment simply by doing it. Standard trial and error. As long as I don't muck up orders too badly I can figure out the most efficient way to do it. And besides, I can always encourage people to just order from Amazon if it turns out I'm bad at this. Sometimes, the easy way is the right way.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Muses Portrait

My Muse had her portrait done in honor of the press. She spent many hours hanging out with Nate at the tattoo shop, posing and preening and enjoying herself so much she hardly came home at night, leaving me all the fun work of setting up the business structure of the press. At first, I enjoyed the peace and quiet, but I began to miss her constant chatter and snake hiss. At last, she triumphantly returned, bringing this beautiful image with her.

"I am pleased. If I ever get bored with you, I will be going to Nate. He is a true artist." She then lay down on my bed for a three day nap.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Book Is Here!!!

Yesterday, a UPS truck parked in front of my house. When my Muse and I heard the squeak of the breaks and then the distinct sound of the truck's back door being raised, we stared at each other, both frozen with the expectation. Is it really for us? I looked out the front window and saw the UPS guy was indeed walking up our steps.

"It's here!" I screamed and ran for the door. The UPS guy stopped on the first step and stared at me like I might be an ax murderer as I flung open the front door, squealing and jumping. He dropped the package quickly on the porch and stepped back, far away from the crazy woman who had snatched up the package and was hugging it to her breast, saying, "Thank you! Thank you," over and over. He backed away, one hand fearfully waiving, and didn't turn around until he'd reached his truck.

I brought the package inside and shut the door, almost knocking over my muse. "Let's see it!" We ran to the kitchen where I found a knife to slice the tape that locked our book inside. At last, I pulled away the cardboard and revealed our beautiful, thick. glossy, perfect book.

"Is it alright?" my muse whispered, her voice tight with the suspense.

I examined the cover, front and back. Lovely. Then I gently turned to the first page. Good. The second. Nice. I flipped pages more rapidly, feeling the soft, almost dusty texture of the cream paper and smelling the fresh binding. Yes, yes... oh my God, it's beautiful.

"It's perfect," I said.

She grabbed the book from my hand and looked at it, almost drooling with pleasure. "Yes. It's wonderful!" We jumped up and down and squealed some more, which made the poor dog run away and hide in the other room until we stopped making that awful noise. At last, she handed the book back to me and we smiled at each other. "Thank you," she said.

I hugged her tightly, not caring if the snakes bit. "Thank you! This was your crazy idea, you know."

She nodded and grinned. "Glad you listened?"

"Yes. Most defiantly."

Friday, October 05, 2007


I opened a business account at Washington Mutual, which has been my bank for 10 years and I've always been happy with them. As usual, the person I worked with was very friendly and helpful, even though she had missed her lunch and had a line of customers waiting for her. She took the time to answer my questions and since I already had a personal account, it was a snap to open a business account.

Then she asked, "Would you like to open a line of credit?"

"A what?" I stared at her blankly. I had already agreed to apply for a business credit card because that seemed the best way to keep track of purchases. Put it all on the card, pay it off as quickly as possible, preferably the same month. So what's this line of credit thing?

"You can borrow up to $75,000.00 simply by using your checking account. If you need to make a purchase that would make your account overdrawn, you can write the check and that would tap into your line of credit."

$75,0000? Honey, do you know what kind of business I have? It's a publishing company, a small, sole proprietorship, with two books, maybe three, published per year. Most presses barely make a dime and I'll be lucky if I break even. Why in God's name would anyone want to loan a book publisher THAT much money?

But my brain just grabbed onto that amount and began spinning visions of the new laptop I needed for my business and a top of the line color laser printer, plus a new desk, a fax machine, a cell phone that took pictures, and a car, because a business person can't drive around town in a beat up Honda Mini-Van.

"I'll think about it," I said.

The next day, the bank called to let me know the credit card application was approved and had I decided on the line of credit? Kissing my dreams of a fax machine goodbye, I told her I thought it was a good idea, but I only needed $10,000.00 as my limit. She said she'd get that paperwork done asap.

Oh well, maybe next year I'll buy a cell phone that takes pictures. Like one of those IPhones. That would be cool.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Good Enough?

After sending the manuscript and cover files to LSI, I got a message from Jane, telling me how happy she is that we're done. HOWEVER, she found two small errors in the text of the back of book info. Was it too late to fix them?

Great! Just great! I took a look at the book and saw what she was talking about: I didn't capitalize "Ford" and the word "she's" means "she is," not "she has." Lovely! My brain immediately began tabulating how many books I would have to sell to cover the cost of changing the file I had just sent to the printer. And does it matter? Such tiny mistakes; the kind most people won't even notice, and if someone does, they probably wouldn't buy the book anyway if the mistakes bugged them that much. No, doesn't matter. Go with it.

Or does it? Am I really the kind of publisher to let mistakes slide just to save some cash? Quality is extremely important to me. One of the biggest complaints people have about small presses and self publishers is poor quality. I don't want to be one of those presses. There's a reason my partner is a stickler for the proper use of a comma. Attention to detail shows professional work. Medusa may be small, but we are professional and I won't lower my standards just to save a few dollars.

You have to decide what "Good Enough" means for you. There is a point when you have to go with what you have because the deadline has passed. I'm sure Laura has looked at her manuscript a few more times since giving it to me and wishes she could add or change just one more thing. No. It is good enough and now it's time to let go. Rick, our designer, has tweaked and re-done the interior text at least 22 times. There's more he'd like to do, but the deadline is passed. And once the book is printed and out into the world, I'll bet I find a dozen things I wished I'd done differently. Too late. I've sent it to the printer.

Thankfully, LSI has an excellent communication system and my account manager was able to help me send the corrections without additional costs. Once I get the sample copy, I really hope I'll be able to look at it and feel satisfied that it's good enough for Medusa. There's no such thing as perfection, so good enough will have to do.