Innovating Through Artistry

Contestant #6 Amy Wachspress

In Entrepreneurial Artist Contest Contestants on January 24, 2009 at 10:58 pm

The Evolution of One Entrepreneurial Artist written by Amy Wachspress © 2009 Amy Wachspress
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I have been a writer for as long as I can remember. I spent years trying to get a publisher to discover me, until the day that I got wise. I researched self-publication and the world of independent publishing opened up before me like a door opening onto a field of daisies. In June 2006, my husband and I founded Woza Books to publish my children’s and young adult fantasy adventure The Call to Shakabaz, which we launched in 2007. During the first months after we founded Woza, I felt as if my learning curve was taking me straight up a cliff. I was astounded at how much work was required to simply get the word out to my prospective audience. To date, the book has sold about 1,200 copies, received four national and two regional book award honors, and was released as an audio book in September 2008. The audio book, which just received a Mom’s Choice Award Silver Medal (2009), was produced by Legacy Audio Books, Inc. in a joint venture with Woza. We will split the profits even though Legacy produced the audio book and will do most of the marketing.

A lot of things took me by surprise when I published Shakabaz, but none more than the enormity of the task of marketing and promoting a book, which astonished and overwhelmed me. At the beginning of my self-publishing adventure, I dedicated 90% of my energy and resources to producing the book. I was like a first-time pregnant mother for whom it was all about the birth. But after the baby was born, I had a child to raise. I had to completely shift gears and dedicate my energy and resources to running a publishing business, including the behemoth of marketing, publicity, and promotion. I swiftly realized that if you have a terrific book and you’re no good at marketing then you might as well crawl under a rock.

In my business plan, I should have budgeted ten times as much for marketing as for the production of the book. By the time I had the book in hand, I had spent most of the money I had set aside for my self-publishing adventure. If I ever have enough money to publish my next book, I will spend far less on the production end and budget far more for getting the word out about the book. Since I didn’t have the resources to mount a comprehensive marketing campaign, I relied on the internet and digital media avenues, which eat hours like candy. Marketing a book is a bottomless pit. No matter how much you invest, it’s never enough; you should always be investing more. Reminds me of parenthood.

I took six months off from my job to start Woza and to publish Shakabaz. I spent hours and days marketing and promoting the book, managing my paperwork, and running my small publishing company. I hate bookkeeping, processing invoices and checks, documenting inventory, talking to vendors, scheduling, selling, ordering mailers, and on and on, so forth and such not. All of this stuff is exhausting, overwhelming, time-consuming, and boring. I often wish I hadn’t published the damn book so I would have the time to write again. My stint as a fulltime publisher/author came to an abrupt end when I returned to my day job as a freelance grant writer attempting to put my three children through college, help my husband pay off the mortgage on our house, and earn enough money to pay our medical bills. In short, life picked up exactly where I had left off to publish my terrific, award-winning book. I enjoyed the taste of the literary life I bought with the publication of Shakabaz. More than anything, I enjoy talking with children who have read and loved the book. That is my deepest reward and makes my efforts worthwhile.

I recently published an article in the Independent Book Publisher’s Association (IBPA) trade journal entitled “Just Said No.” The article explains why I chose to say “no” when a bona fide small publisher approached me about publishing a sequel to Shakabaz. I discussed why I prefer to have my own indie publishing company and to self-publish. The gist of the article? I’m a control freak. I have received an extraordinary deluge of emails about that article, all cheering me on. But the truth is, I don’t have the money to publish another book. Even if I did have the money to publish a book, I don’t have the money to market it, and I certainly don’t have the time to market it without any money. So the thought of someone else picking up the tab for all these things has started to look more and more attractive. (Don’t tell my ”Just Said No” supporters.)

Some people are born entrepreneurs, some become entrepreneurs, and some have entrepreneurship thrust upon them. I am the last of these three. I had the time of my life starting Woza and publishing Shakabaz. I still do authorly things when I can spare the time. The book still sells, a couple copies a week, out of my garage. If I sold all the copies I have left, I still wouldn’t make back what I invested in Woza. But truth be told, I was never in this for the money. I think that when love supersedes the desire for profit in someone like myself who has very little business sense, then profit simply loses the arm wrestle. If I were in it for the money, I would have made some, right? I sure did make a lot of love, though.

Amy Wachspress
Woza Books

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