Working without an agent

Publishing three mystery novels with The Mercury Press out of Toronto has given me a few insights into the world of small press publishing.

It’s a wonderful experience to work on a book with an editor like Beverley Daurio at Mercury. Sometimes she seems to understand my manuscripts better than I do.

On the business side, there are some things a writer working with a small press needs to keep in mind. You are working without an agent, and there are no advances against future sales.

1. Be prepared to sell as many books as you can yourself. You will receive the 40% bookseller fee as well as your royalties at a future date. Essentially, you are buying the books at wholesale and reselling them.

2. The best time to sell books is at the launch of a new novel. My launch for SNOW CANDY was the week of March 24 in St. Thomas, Ontario, and I sold 65 books.

3. It sounds pretty low-key, but the next best opportunity to sell books is at family picnics or meetings of community groups where you are a member.

4. Bookstores will not automatically stock your books. But if you arrange for a signing event at a bookstore, this will get your book on their shelves after you leave. You will be paid royalties on these the next year.

5. Library and book clubs are good places for reading and signing events as well as developing a fan base or staying in touch with fans.

6. Look for non-traditional outlets to sell books on a local basis, e.g., retail outlets with tourist traffic. Certain stores will carry your books on consignment and keep 30% of the list price. Again, you are buying the book wholesale, so you may make 10% of cover price and 10% royalty later. Not a lot of bucks per book, but as Tony Soprano says, what are ya gonna do? It all helps get your books and your name out there.