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Avoid the System: Do it yourself

by duncanweller, about 3 years ago

I spent over $50,000 dollars printing five books in the last four years. The money for the first printing took a while to save up, but money for the next four books came in fast and furious from the sales of the first and subsequent books. I have sold out of other books I printed, a poetry book and a book of short stories for adults. All printing is done in Winnipeg and has been paid for, so I now earn eleven to twenty dollars per book depending on where they are sold. I use one book as a lost leader to sell two other books for forty dollars. On the weekend where a hotel ballroom in Thunder Bay hosted Artisans Northwest I earned just under two thousand dollars from the sales of my books. In November and December at the local Country Market vendor’s booth I will make another two thousand dollars or more. Various schools and professors have purchased books and I make some pocket money through retail shops and Chapters in town. I expect to earn another thousand or two before Christmas from sales a friend will make in Nanaimo. (By the way, I’m looking for people to sell my books in other cities.) And I do readings in schools where the payment is often large enough that I can give every child in the classroom (up to 30 kids) a free book.

I’m having an easy time selling my books because not only are they popular, they have literary merit, as many students of English literature courses at Lakehead University have been surprised to discover. Children and their parents are not so surprised. They love my books and count them as their favourites, up there with Dr. Suess and Maurice Sendak and other top writers.

I don’t earn a professional wage, but I have been a full time writer and visual artist for the last nine years. I had a publisher, but dumped him and gave up on the publishing industry in Canada when I discovered what a joke it all is. (Best selling book in Canada is 5,000 copies. Jeeeezzz!) In fact, I’m glad I met with a bad publisher rather than a half-decent publisher because I would never have discovered how much better it is to do it on your own in Canada. The public is desperate for good books and eager to buy Canadian. I do have to thank the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for their support. For a three year period I had a fifty percent success rate with obtaining grants. And with a Chalmers Arts Fellowship Award I went to Africa to do research for one of my books. And I shouldn’t forget to mention that with only my third published book, I won two of Canada’s top awards for The Boy from the Sun, which I reprinted (5,000 copies) last year as a special second expanded edition with new illustrations. It sells like hotcakes. Sales have been so good in Thunder Bay, population 110,000, that I am giving away a thousand books in 2017 to individual children to thank the city for their support. I have fans who have bought three sets of my books to give to relatives in other cities and other countries around the world. I thought I had saturated the market. Apparently not. But it is good to put out a new book every year. People look forward to it.

Mostly I avoid the Internet. It's a big time waster, but I know it is important for many writers to promote books for their publishers. I use Adobe InDesign and email pdfs to printers. I love my laptop and desktop and use digital technology all the time, but I create original works of art. I have the illustrations professionally scanned in Victoria. The business might have gone digital, but so far there's no need for me to. Currently I'm looking for agents and publishers in the United States. I'm opening up a gallery in Thunder Bay to show my work and to sell my books. Eventually I'll move to a bigger city to double my money, but things are going great now.

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