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3 - Self-Publisher Me
Previous: Diamondhead Jubilee
- Three -
Developing new skills in Self Publishing
Well, to produce my first book, “Diamondhead Jubilee,” I procured a quantity of 2,000 color covers for $500 down and paid out the remaining balance of $700 over a 12-month period. From Kinko's, I had 250 books printed at a cost of $1350 plus my set-up charges of $2 per page. The cost of Kinko printing was a total cash outlay of $1650 in June of 1995.
Upon picking up the printed text pages from Kinko's of Baton Rouge – of which, the pages had been collated into separate books – I drove directly to the Biloxi printer where the books were “perfect-bound.” This was the cheap part – the printer only charged me $15 per hundred books to be bound. All in all, I had to cost justify each book with my total expense involvement – excluding gas mileage and my time. My best estimate arrived at $11.60 per book. I was certain that I would sell my inventory in quick order. The Diamondhead market consisted of 5,000 residents and nearly 100 commercial establishments – but, it was then that I found just a few businesses who cared to carry copies – even on consignment sale. There was no local news media to reach out to the residents and only few persons were willing to help promote what I considered to be a great boon for the developing community. It took three years to sell the first 250 books and thereafter, I had another 50 printed. It wound up being my weakest marketing effort.
I really thought that I had all the promotional tools going for me. The local coastal newspaper published a good book review write-up and the local television station gave me wonderful coverage during their news hour. Normally, these should be keys to success, but Uh-uh. Not the case here, as previously stated, the Diamondhead community, is composed primarily of New Orleans transplants – and they just don't watch local TV, nor do they read the local newspaper. I then tried to get coverage from the New Orleans newspaper, but the book reviewer there stated bluntly, “We don't do Self-Publishers!”
In a departure, following my mother's death in 1996, I plied my time in putting together "Lili of the Lake," a compilation of stories that were rendered by me and my five siblings, in addition to a dozen uncles and aunts. The result was a 95-page book populated with numerous pictures contributed from various family sources. It was printed on one side only in order to allow family recipients to add their own hand written notes That endeavor was when I became aware that I could get a minimum of 25 books printed and yet continue to get my Kinko's merchant discount.
Throughout, while yet undaunted, I continued to keep myself busy performing research at two of the area's county courthouses. Here's a quickie history lesson about the Gulf Coast.
The Coast was settled in 1699 by the French – followed by the British, then the Spanish, then a brief 74-day period of independence before being claimed by the Americans. There are 3 coastal counties situated between New Orleans and Mobile – named Hancock, Harrison and Jackson. There is a string of nine cities ranging across the Mississippi Sound's beach area and a number of barrier islands that can be seen a short distance from shore. Now, how's that for a quickie?
Undaunted should be the title of this chapter, because I was not to be discouraged. There were enough people who began to recognize me as a local history writer – with just two books released. Some even pumped me up as if I were a celebrity whenever I was in their acquaintance groups.
In performing research, I was filled with an eagerness to find out as much information as was available about the earliest settlers. Result, I began making several stay-over trips to access archival vaults in Jackson, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama. I consumed all available books and “hanging files” at the local public libraries across the Coast. I made frequent drop-by visits to local Historical Societies. I extended myself in meeting the prominent and not-so-prominent coastal historians. I also made churchly visits in a quest for records.
In retrospect, I was – without consciously being aware of it – preparing background material in my computer for the next three book releases. "St. Paul Parish Jubilee 3", in 1996, "Pass Christian Discovered", in 1996, and "Hancock County-Bay St. Louis Discovered", in 1997.
The significance derived – was that I found a niche. Local people support the idea that local lore and heritage should prevail – as long as someone else produces it. As I went throughout the Gulf Coast communities, there were a number of people who would state, “Well, such and such, is supposed to be writing a history of the area.” At first, I skipped over those communities, but later returned to them when I found that “So-and-So” had made no progress. As you, yourself, may attest – there are many of you who say, “I'm going to write a book!” – Yeah, in the next life -- you will!
The above three books were followed with "Gulfport Discovered", in 1998 and "Kiln Kountry – Home of Brett Favre", also in 1998. With the completion of those two books, I took stock and realized that with the history genre niche established, I had developed several retail locations from which to sell my books.
As a Self-Publisher, I'm barred from selling through the local Barnes & Noble store and other such book chains without submitting to some consequential processes. There are less than a handful of independent book stores along the Coast. But, I was able to find various other retailers.
I found that with each new book release, when supported by announcements through TV and press media, I would benefit by a splurge of immediate sales – but in addition, I found that consumer readers would also purchase my previous issues. So I began to keep a small stock of my various books at certain retail locations. I also observed that the community residents were only interested in their own historical heritage and not at all interested in their neighboring sister cities – except for my “Darlings” – those kind souls who wish to have an autographed copy of each of my books. Unfortunately, these are so few.