Wednesday, September 26, 2012


R-E-S-P-E-C-T

 

I am an Indie author.  Some, if not most of you know what that means.  My books are published independently…or to put it bluntly—I self-publish my books.  Self-published.  That’s a term that the old me would’ve turned her nose up at—and did.  Back when I was pre-published (such a quaint word…makes it sound like everybody is waiting to be published) and even more so when I was traditionally-published by a New York house, I was a snob, believing that if I couldn’t sell my books to a New York publisher, I didn’t deserve to be published.  My subsequent experience with the “sink or swim” mentality of traditional publishing (throw a new author out into the world with a hardcover book that retails at  $25.99 with little promotion and hope she’ll become the next Danielle Steel while knowing there’s only a snowball’s chance in hell of it actually happening) taught me to never say never. 

 

When my sales tanked and my publisher reneged on the contract to put my fourth book, UNDERSTUDY, out in mass-market, and then turned down my fifth novel, I saw the writing on the wall—and it was pretty clear to me.  Especially when my agent couldn’t find me another publishing deal.  Most of you know my story—I finally decided to take matters into my own hands, and continue to follow my dream of being a novelist.  And I published TANGO’S EDGE and LILY OF THE SPRINGS on my own.  A decision I’ve never regretted for a moment.  I may not be going on book tours or being wined and dined by editors in fancy New York restaurants, but at least my books are available for those that want to read them.   And I’m grateful for that.

 

But since my foray into self-publishing, I have made some disappointing discoveries.  Things like how difficult it is to get reviews from places that reviewed my first four novels…websites like All About Romance and magazines like Romantic Times where my second novel, SPOTLIGHT, earned a Top Pick 4 ½ stars.  When I approached them about reviewing LILY OF THE SPRINGS, they refused because it was self-published.  Luckily, I was able to find some reviewers who graciously agreed to review LILY (and I’m pleased to say that it has earned 4 and 5 stars from all of them.)  Harriet Klausner, one of the most visible romance reviewers out there, was one of those reviewers.  She remembered my past books, and in fact, told me they were “keepers” for her.  Thank God for people like Harriet.

 

Recently on a trip to South Carolina, I discovered, first-hand, just how little respect self-published authors get.  Because LILY OF THE SPRINGS is set in the South, and fits the genre of “southern fiction,” I’ve contacted some independent book stores who are members of SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) to see if they’d read LILY, and if they liked it, would perhaps nominate it for next year’s SIBA Awards.  (Books can only be nominated for this award by a book store.)  Several of the stores asked me to send them a copy, and I did.  Since we were going on vacation to Myrtle Beach, I decided to stop in at a couple of book stores in Pawleys Island, and drop off a book in person.  As luck would have it, I found out one of my best friends from high school, Cindy, would be in Myrtle Beach the same week, so we decided to go out for breakfast and then she’d come with me to the book stores.

 

We arrived at the first one, and the bookseller was friendly until she realized I wasn’t a customer, but instead, an author.  Then a distinct coolness came over her face.  When I explained why I was giving her a book, she glanced at it and muttered something like, “Well, the last time I nominated a book, nothing happened with it.”  But then she thanked me and said she’d see what she could do.  I left the store, feeling like my book would probably end up in the Goodwill…if not the trash can.

 

Once outside, Cindy turned to me and said, “Wow!  How rude.”  I agreed.  We went on the next store just a few miles away.  As we got ready to enter, Cindy said, “Well…they can’t be any ruder than at the last place.”

 

We would laugh about that later.

 

We walked into Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, and a woman at the cash register greeted me.  As soon as I opened my mouth to say I was an author, she cut in, “You need to speak to him.”

 

She was referring to an elderly man standing nearby.  He greeted me coldly.  When I explained that I’d like to give him a copy of my latest novel and mentioned the possibility he could nominate it for a SIBA Award, he said, “Well, that’s quite a stretch, isn’t it?”

 

I was dumbfounded, literally speechless by his rudeness.  Then, his eyes full of disdain, he asked me where he could order the book.  Flustered, I stammered that he could get it through Amazon.

 

Well, that did it.  He went off on me about the evils of Amazon, and how it’s the enemy of all independent bookstores, and how dare I come in there and mention that horrible word!  My friend, Cindy, stood there watching, her mouth agape.  (Later, she would tell me that the two saleswomen at the register looked at us with embarrassment and sympathy.)  I didn’t notice; I was too busy being flayed by this bookseller and his anger.  When I was finally able to get a word in edgewise, I told him I didn’t necessarily want him to stock my book (because it seemed to me that was what he thought I was expecting) I just wanted him to nominate it for a SIBA Award.  And then he said something like, “Why would I read a book that I didn’t want to sell in my store? What would be the purpose of that?”

 

At this point, I realized that any more discussion with this man would be futile.  I thanked him for his time, took my book and left the store.  (And by the way, as far as I could tell, there were no customers in the store, so maybe he has reason to hate Amazon so maniacally.) 

 

Stupid me…I thought an independent book store just might be a little supportive of an independent author.  Cindy was horrified at my treatment.  “Do you have to deal with stuff like this a lot?” she asked, with pity in her eyes.

 

I was happy to say that this was the first time I’d been treated with such disrespect.  But now I know that as an indie author, this is something that I just might have to deal with from time to time.  But it makes me wonder…is it the same for other indies?  Indie film producers, indie songwriters and singers, indie artists?  We can’t all be stars, can we?  But isn’t it just possible that our work rivals—and sometimes, surpasses, work of “legitimate” big-label-blessed artists?  That’s the case with many indie films and musical artists. 

 

And that’s the case with me and my work.

 

I stand by the professionalism of my work.  You, as my fans, know that my books rival those of Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel and any number of best-selling authors out there.  They may not be blessed by a ranking on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and they may not be front and center in your local Barnes & Noble (or anywhere in your local Barnes & Noble) but if you read a Carole Bellacera book, you can be assured that you’ll be reading a story that draws you in and envelopes you in the life of my characters and leaves you sad to say goodbye when you’ve read the last page. 

 

And I’m content with that.  But a little respect wouldn’t hurt. 

 

Best,

 

Carole Bellacera

4 comments:

Jim Murdoch said...

In so many respects this really is the best of times and the worst of times to be an author. Unfortunately self-publishing has a long way to go before no one bats an eye how a book arrives in print. I was watching BBC Breakfast this morning and a musician was on talking about an album he had released on his own label and no one batted an eye. He had self-published but that’s okay if you’re a musician; it’s even a bit cool. There are simply too many books coming out at the moment and the traditional publishers aren’t helping matters by pressuring their authors to bring out more than one book a year. Just be grateful you’re not a self-published literary novelist. We get looked down on by everyone. At least that’s how I feel at the moment. My fellow Indies—the vast majority of which write genre novels (and only review genre novels)—think me snobby whereas the traditionally-published authors—who are happy for me to review their books at length—shy clear of me when I ask them nicely if they might be willing to return the favour. It’s a tough old life.

Stuart said...

I think that the indie bookstores will shortly wake up to the fact that indie authors and especially indie authors who are resident local or who set their stories in a local setting are what they want and need to bring people into their stores.

Jacqueline said...

Hi Carole,
Glad to see you back at it so hard and heavy; happy I could turn you on to this new self-publishing world when it seemed to me you had almost given up. That would have been sad as I loved Lily of the Springs and thrilled that I was one of the first to get to read it. I know a few other traditionally published authors who have lost their agents and publishers and still thumb their nose at self-publishing and won't even talk about it anywhere on line just in case a publisher they might in the future sign with sees it; they think that a public interview on someone's blog will shoot them self in the foot.

If I owned a bookstore, I'd definitely read and nominate it for a SIBA and I wish you luck and that it wins. You will have to keep posted. We've come a long way from our writing days in Hawaii and I'm glad we were able to get in touch again.

Jacque

Chicki said...

This is one of the many reasons I decided to e-publish only. I didn't want to deal with bookstores, but rather directly with readers.

The "paper people" are still entrenched in the old way of thinking.

Keep plugging away. Wishing you the best!