Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Story -- Henry Baum

Our My Story segment this week is with Henry Baum, Editor of the online Indie Review Magazine: Self Publishing Review and author of The American Book of the Dead, which I reviewed here, so let's give a warm welcome to Henry.

Why did you choose to self-publish and what were your expectations?

My first novel was published traditionally with Soft Skull Press and in the U.K. and France. It took three years to write the follow-up, which was an entirely draining experience. Not getting published rubbed salt in that wound. So when the next novel came around (and didn't find a publisher with an agent) I wasn't going to be idle anymore.

My expectations were - Oh My God, I'm going to be in print. After struggling for so long, seeing that first copy from Lulu actually felt like being published and I wondered what had taken me so long. I hoped to become some kind of overnight phenom like any writer, though I was of course realistic. That didn't quite happen, but the book was well received and got some readers. I feel like I've had to scratch and claw to get attention my whole life, so this wasn't much different - whether it was self-releasing a 7-inch record of my high school punk band or stapling together a fanzine dedicated to the movie "Taxi Driver" in college, I've always been pretty DIY.

Why did you select your specific publisher?

My first self-published novel was published with Lulu - because I didn't know any better, and liked that it was a free service. I saw it as a kind of Blogger for self-publishing and thought maybe the community there would help the book sell. That wasn't really true because it was the off-site stuff (reviews etc.) that helped sell the book.

With my current novel, I chose Lightning Source. Same printer as Lulu, but instead of getting charged $9 a book - plus stupidly-high shipping charges - it only costs $4 a book. This is not only good for royalties, but allows more freedom to send the book out to reviewers, free copy promotions, and the like.

How is it going so far? Are you achieving your goals?

My goal (to quote Steve Martin) is to become the All Being, Master of Time, Space, and Dimension. But that hasn't happened yet. Baby steps. But this book is going much better than the last one. I've learned from my mistakes, but also it's easier. Twitter/Facebook etc. didn't exist the last time around. Ebooks were barely a reality. So while I'm not really paying the rent with sales yet, I'm releasing my ebook for free and I've had 16000 downloads since April. I don't really care at this point about turning a profit, especially as this book is part one of what's going to be a three part series. So the book I've released is basically the introduction and I want as many readers as possible. I can't be guaranteed that those 16000 are actually going to read it, but odds are good that some will when I'm getting around 100 downloads a day.

What advice would you give a person who has completed their manuscript and is considering self-publishing?

My answer is usually, "Be patient." I ran out of patience and I really love the "culture" of self-publishing. I love being a part of this revolution. And I love giving the finger to corporate publishing - which, while having advantages, also has a lot of faults. But if you've got the patience to query, do it, because having a publisher that will do some of the work and be an advocate is a good thing. But if you're ready to self-publish, it really depends on the kind of book you write. Like mainstream publishing, the self-published books that become really successful are usually mainstream-oriented. So you can't really expect "indie" publishing to be like the world of indie film - where quirkier, more offbeat stuff finds an audience. It's as hard for that quirky novel to find an audience as it is to find a publisher. So you should really be thinking about promoting a book in terms of years, and not the few months that are usually given in traditional marketing.

Bio: Henry Baum is the author of The American Book of the Dead. The novel won Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival and the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction. Largehearted Boy says it's "reminiscent of Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami, a book that boldly explores the future and defies genre." He's also the author of North of Sunset, winner of the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize, and The Golden Calf - first published by Soft Skull Press, with editions in the U.K. (Rebel Inc.) and France (Hachette Littératures). Visit theamericanbookofthedead.com, where he's posting the soundtrack and Part II of the novel. He is the editor of Self-Publishing Review.

Book link: http://www.theamericanbookofthedead.com/buy-the-book/

If you would like to participate in the My Story Column, please send your responses to the questions above to podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line of My Story. Please include a short bio, a link to your website and/or blog, and a link to whatever book you happen to be promoting at the moment along with a good quality cover jpeg. You may be as brief or as long-winded as you like.


Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Thanks for participating Henry. I love reading about other writer's experiences.

I too had that delusion about Lulu in the beginning, but eventually, their forums and the board participants really put me off with their lack of professionalism. Quality was also an issue, and that's why I left as well. I still list my ebooks over there because I do still scrounge for review material over there and didn't want to close out the account. Sadly though, Smashwords has become my new hunting ground.

DED said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Henry. I too went with Lulu for my first novel but have since grown weary of the cost structure. It sounds like Lightning Source offers a measure of flexibility (assuming that I'm willing to do the extra work) with price point, which I discovered is a major factor in a reader's decision as to whether or not they're going to buy a book by an unknown author.

Ugh. Sorry for the business-speak. :\

Henry Baum said...

Thanks for the opportunity, Cheryl, and for the comments. I still use Lulu to print up copies of my book for revisions - to see how the book reads as a printed book. For that, it's amazing and worth the extra money. For everything else, not as much.