Special Report by William Kowalski:
Does the future of publishing lie in readers deciding what gets published? Given how difficult it can be to sell books these days, maybe this is an approach that can work. And crowdfunding might be the way it happens.
Recently, I decided to take the unusual step of launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of what will be my fourteenth novel, THE BEST POLISH RESTAURANT IN BUFFALO. Here’s why I asked for help: self-publishing a book is cheap, maybe even free, but self-publishing properly is expensive. I’ve seen a lot of authors make a lot of mistakes, and I am determined to avoid them. My years around publishing have also taught me most of the basics of the industry. I know what needs to be done to make a book really fly.
The campaign is to raise funding for professional editing, proofreading, manuscript layout, custom cover design, and advertising. In other words, all the things a traditional publisher would be spending money on, had I chosen to approach one about this book.
One of the biggest attractions to self-publishing is that it can be done for very little money. But I feel that authors who don’t at least hire an editor are making a mistake. And I’m not just talking about asking your best friend’s aunt who is a retired English teacher to skim over your pages, looking for misplaced commas. I mean a deep read by a highly-qualified substantive editor who can take a run-of-the-mill story and shape it into something special. Editors like this are artists in their own right, and they’re not cheap, but they’re worth their weight in literary awards.
Why didn’t I just go with a traditional publisher, if these are my goals? You might think an author like me, with nearly a dozen traditionally-published books under his belt, would find that a breeze. But I’m in what is fondly called “mid-list hell,” which is where authors with good critical reputations but small sales records find themselves. It could still take years for my manuscript to make the rounds of the big publishers, and it is still very likely to be rejected by most of them. I don’t want to wait years, but I also don’t want to skip over any crucial steps of the publishing process.
All of my books are close to my heart, of course, but this one especially so. Although it’s fiction, it’s inspired by the life of my great-grandmother, who immigrated to the United States from Poland when she was 16. Born in 1892, she lived to be nearly one hundred years old, and she experienced all that you might expect from someone whose life began in the horse and buggy era and ended in the Atomic Age.
It’s important to me that this book gets published, but more than that, I want it to find a wide audience. And that’s not going to happen without putting significant resources into it. For that, I need support from would-be readers. That means promoting the book to them before it’s even available. This might be a new concept for some. They aren’t used to buying a book months before getting to read it. But I’m betting that the satisfaction of helping to publish it will make up for having to wait.
If you’d like to see how I’ve structured my campaign, please visit my page at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1754449570/the-best-polish-restaurant-in-buffalo-help-publish and check it out. Naturally, I’d be delighted if you chose to contribute. For less than $8.00, you can support me, and get an ebook sent to you when it’s ready in 2017. You’ll also be supporting other publishing professionals at the same time. And who knows? You might actually be playing a role in shaping the publishing industry into whatever incarnation it’s going to take on next.