Burnita Bluitt’s debut novel, Quiver of the Pure Heart, began as a love-letter to San Francisco’s painted ladies. However, after uncovering the Western Addition Victorian’s dark history, she felt compelled to shine a light on their tragic past, and on the forces that left an indelible impact on the Fillmore community which is still felt today.
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 publishers. I was so excited when I saw that one of the 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:
- • The publisher would not provide ARCs
- • There was no pre-order option (so I could promote the book)
- • The first release date passed by – with no book
- • The 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 books condition.
- • When I finally did talk with someone in charge – I fired him.
“While wrestling with all this, I had 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 15 copies of my book to their Los Angeles office within 10 days. Great! Except I didn’t have any way to get 15 copies of my book. books. 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 days of work including learning how to upload my book and cover into 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 I loved having 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 there are 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 they have to draw the line.”
“I would never discourage anyone from self-publishing. With a lot of work you may be another Bella Andre, Amanda Hocking or E.L. James. With that said, I feel that if you are serious about writing as a career, it might be more advantageous to try and publish traditionally first.
“When it comes to promotion, I’m still looking for the “magic bullet.” I have seen sales from pay promotion programs such as Bookdaily.com, Riffle, and Bookbub.com. This creates a temporary spike and I constantly have to remind myself that selling books is a marathon, not a sprint.