A New Chapter for an Old Book
In July I an old book of mine was given a new chapter, in a way. This is a big deal for me because it was in honor of the 190th anniversary of the founding of Naperville and the fifteenth anniversary of my first published book. Also, the book is about Naperville, which will soon no longer be our hometown.
While all authors harbor tender feelings for their own books, I think self-published authors share a particularly intimate relationship. When one is traditionally published, the writer doesn’t really deal with boxes of books. They just show up at bookstores. Of course, if the books then languish on the shelves, the bookstore sends them back to the distributor. Or at least sends back the front cover for credit with the rest simply being recycled. For huge print runs, it makes economic sense for the publisher, although it doesn’t sound that great for the environment.
The earliest self-published authors found that it was just as expensive to print ten books as it was to print a hundred and by the time they paid for the printing, paid a cut to the distributor, and paid another to the bookstore, there were merely pennies left for the writer. Printing more copies brought the cost per book down, boosting the profit margin to dimes. Whoopie!
Of course, printing more copies also meant one had many boxes full of books in one’s garage that one now needed to schlep around and try to sell.
For my first self-published book, which was back in the self-publishing wild west days, we knew of a college textbook publisher within driving distance who could print a reasonable number of copies for a reasonable price. They even helped us save money by suggesting we lay out the book so that it could be used to print both soft- and hard-cover binding in the same run. Libraries prefer hard-cover bound and we wanted to provide that.
We sold out that first run, so we ordered more. My book was in several independent bookstores as well as in a couple of the chains because I had contact with a distributor who gave me access to the buyers. I had to ship boxes of books to the distributor’s warehouse in another state so that when my local buyers ordered them, they could be shipped back here to their stores. Guess who pays for all that shipping?
Around that time the bottom started really dropping out of the bookstore industry. As stores closed, my books were being sent back to the distributor’s warehouse, at my expense. When my local Walden Bookstore closed, I just went in and bought all the remaining copies of my own book – at a going-out-of-business discount! – because it was cheaper than shipping them back to the warehouse.
I like to keep some books around for taking to author fests and book readings, but, of course, COVID squelched events like that for a good long time. And this summer we’re moving out of our house of 30+ years, downsizing, which means we won’t have as much space to store things like books.
So together with my husband (who is also my publisher!), we decided to stock as many of the local Little Free Libraries as we could with copies of Ruth by Lake and Prairie which re-tells the founding of Naperville from the point of view of Joseph Naper’s niece, Ruth.
We tried to hit libraries all over town, which took a lot longer than we thought it would, but it was fun to go to neighborhoods we had never seen in the thirty years we lived here. We saw many beautiful gardens and some really creative Little Libraries, too! Now there are fewer books to move and hopefully more children and their parents who will learn a bit about their home town.
I can’t lie – it will be sad to leave this place. Our daughter was born at Edward Hospital here in town when our son wasn’t even two years old, so we have put in a lot of roots through schools, church, Scouts, and the Chamber of Commerce. I also became a bit of a local history buff which is what prompted the Ruth book. Now I’m working on a new book about another time in history in another place, so I guess it’s appropriate that we are adventuring to another time and place as well. It's a new chapter for a couple of old books.