Everyone thinks self-publishing – or any independent creative work – is sexy. There’s this aura of grittiness, the allure of the idea of that you can grind your way to the top, the crowning achievement being that indelible interview on Ellen or Access Hollywood. It’s not just spectators who harbor this delusion; we artists and creative are guilty of this as well.
When I first began my foray into self-publishing in 2012, I held such delusions of grandeur. I am grateful that reality revealed itself to me sooner rather than later. I was able to spare novice authors who came seeking advice about how to precede in this peculiar sphere any fantastical ideas that would lead to inevitable heartbreak if they let this one idea guide their craft and determine their creative efforts.
“Disabuse yourself of the idea that you’re going to make any money selling books,” I said. “Write because you love it. Not because you want to become a millionaire. The odds just aren’t in our favor.”
It seems a dismal piece of advice to administer, but it’s the truth…especially if you write non-fiction. As much as academics pour into their written work, they are fed by a teacher’s salary and little else. Whoever said “Pursue your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life” should be taken outside and fed broccoli until their intestinal tract implodes on itself. Passion rarely provides the pecuniary stability that comes with practicality. Self-publishing is the perfect demonstration of this. It is a fickle and volatile course…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Being an indie artist means looking for the small wins and celebrating the unexpected scores. We keep turning corners, looking for surprises at the end of each one, all because there is little stability in our world. It’s madness. It’s an adrenaline rush.
I’ve watched my friends in music and film carve out niches for themselves, refusing decent paying jobs that would compromise their integrity or humbling themselves before a crowd who did not connect with their brand of artistry. All of this builds the reputation of the artist. It’s a bumpy road that jolts you with each step, but it’s all part of the process. It’s all a part of the struggle. A huge part of my struggle as an indie-published author has been distribution. Amazon, via CreateSpace, has been instrumental in my getting my work into the hands of readers, but their reach only extends so far. The market I really wanted to tap into was Africa, and the solutions Amazon provides aren’t practical for the audience I want to reach: children. Kids for the age group I am targeting with titles like Sally and the Butterfly and Close to Home are tactile. Then there is the added challenge of Sally’s format – a pick your own path book. Flipping through a Kindle isn’t conducive. Add to that, people in this region (South Africa) enjoy paper and as a whole, really haven’t embraced digital books.
I researched the cost of printing and shipping my books from the US and quickly discovered that I was being priced out of a market before I could gain entry. Surely there had to be a solution!
And then I saw it.
On a recent trip to Cape Town, we drove through Montague Gardens, an industrial hub in the sprawling city. Tucked away from the hubbub of the main road sat the enormous structure of TakeALot’s distribution warehouse – South Africa’s version on Amazon. I stared wistfully at the building wistfully, harboring a fleeting thought. Wouldn’t it be great if Takealot.com carried and distributed my books? The task seemed impossible, the idea TOO crazy. Who would I talk to? Would I have to reformat my books and get new ISBNs? Too many questions. I let it go.
But the Universe didn’t.
Two nights ago, a friend was at dinner and asked how she could find copies of my books. I have generally come to hate answering that question, because of the impracticality of the “solution”. But she was an American and is going back to the US, a set of circumstances that took the sting out of my reply.
“But all of the copies on Amazon are used. How can I get a new copy?”
ONLY used copies? That didn’t seem right at all.
I fired up my laptop and began a search myself. It seemed she was correct! Nevertheless, I knew that couldn’t be accurate. I expanded my search and discovered that Sally and the Butterfly (the book in question) had been featured on Parenting.com and a handful of other book related websites, unbeknownst to me.
And then I saw it.
Takealot.com showed up as one of the resources to purchase the book. Takealot.com, right here in South Africa. Takealot.com was carrying all of my children’s books AND Madness & Tea.
I nearly did a back flip.
This is a big deal for me. This is HUGE. Takealot isn’t just an online shop: it is THE online shop, as far as SA is concerned. They have painstakingly built a reputation over time. They are a trusted brand and deliver exceptional customer service. If they are carrying an item, you can trust its quality. Like I said, this is HUGE for me. It’s an answer to barely spoken prayer. It’s a big fat weight off my shoulders and it’s my win for 2017. I offer my thanks to the Lord, the ancestors and you for your comments of congratulations in the Discuss section below. 🙂