Written by Catharine Bramkamp
Burnita Bluitt’s debut novel, Quiver of the Pure Heart was not only a labor of love, but one of, well, labor.
Her road to publication is one many of us have traveled, and if you have not, Burnita’s experience may help with your own publishing decisions.
“I decided to self-publish my novel and being a novice, I thought hiring a vanity press publisher was the only way to go. After spending what I felt was an adequate amount of time making an informed decision, doing a cross comparative analysis, and seeking Oprah’s advice, my mind was made up.
“Around the time of my decision, O Magazine published an article on self-publishing and recommended four subsidy publishers (where authors pay to have their book printed and distributed). I was so excited when I saw that one of the subsidy publishers I’d been considering was on that short list. It was as if an oracle had spoken directly to me, because if you can’t trust Oprah . . . well, you know.
“Unfortunately, my relationship with the publisher was a disaster and I should have abandoned ship at the first hint of trouble. I was lucky that my contract allowed me to cancel at will because:
- Publisher would not provide ARCs
- No pre-order option (so I could promote the book)
- First release date passed by—with no book
- Second release day came, but the book was listed as Out of Print on Amazon
- When I called the company’s offices to speak directly with the CEO, the operator told me that no one worked there by that name.
- When copies were made available, it was a version that had inconsistent formatting, typos etc. I almost needed medication when I realized my book’s condition.
- When I finally did talk with someone in charge—I fired him.
“While wrestling with all this, I created the marketing campaign: I had a press release distributed by fax, email, and enclosed with direct mail. It was through one of these methods that the NAACP became aware of my novel.
The same day I fired the publisher, I was invited by the NAACP to submit fifteen copies of my book to their Los Angeles office within ten days. Great! Except I didn’t have any way to order fifteen copies of my book. I called Ingram with hopes to order books, but they said they would only talk to a publisher. That’s when I jumped up from my fetal position and decided the publisher would need to be me.
“It took a couple days of intense work, including learning how to upload my book and cover to CreateSpace, but I made the deadline. I was not nominated for the award, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I know now that self-publishing is not rocket-science, and at the end of the day had control over the process and control over my product.
“I have been very happy with my decision to self-publish. I love the control factor, and the timeliness of self-publishing, plus the higher royalty rates. However, I can also see the benefits of traditional publishing. It is difficult trying to match the marketing machine of a traditional publisher, and that is probably the biggest drawback to self-publishing.
“Attracting a national audience creates a lot of heavy lifting for the writer. You have to be very eager and energetic to get the novel into bookstores and libraries. One bookstore refused to carry my book because I also offered it on Amazon. The bookseller told me that ‘Amazon is trying to destroy the independent bookstore and she had to draw the line.’
Self-published authors have a lot to do. For her own promotions schedule, Burnita calls Microsoft Excel her best friend. “When it comes to promotion and plans for my book, Excel brings organization into my life. I track my promotion schedule spreadsheet to see what is working and what isn’t. Since this is my debut novel, I’m throwing it all against the wall, and my spreadsheet tells me what is sticking. Columns include: planned promotion, beginning / end dates, projected versus actual costs, and effectiveness.
“After the Quiver of the Pure Heart release, I found it very difficult to balance marketing and writing diligently. I’m better at it now and I am very excited about the new novel I am working on.”
Quiver of the Pure Heart is a romantic suspense novel set in San Francisco, 1989 that looks back at the displacement of the “Harlem of the West” during the ’50s & ‘60s urban redevelopment. To learn more, visit Burnita’s website: http://burzonline.com/