I recently removed the purchase option for my book, The Ghillie Girls: Irish Dance Pals. Not because I no longer wanted to make this book available, but because I'd almost run out of printed copies, and wasn't sure if I wanted to print more. Why? It's kind of a long story.
The Ghillie Girls was a personal experiment in self-publishing. I've always wanted to write books, and when I finally had my first finished product, I did a lot of reading about publishing options, and it seemed like my book was a good fit for self-publishing. It had a niche audience and my graphic design training gave me the various skills necessary to pull the book together, from writing to illustrating to layout to cover design. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process, and am thankful for my husband's support as I poured a lot of time into completing the endless details (there was always just one more thing to do!).
I learned a lot through The Ghillie Girls--including a lot about the joys and difficulties of self-publishing. Putting together a good book is only the beginning. Even once you've found a good printer -- and I had a great experience with InstantPublisher.com, who I highly recommend; they are affordable and great to work with -- you've only just begun the arduous process. Then you have to find people to buy your book! And that wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. You have to be willing to put a LOT of time and effort into marketing your book and seeking distributors. Quite honestly I ran out of steam after several months of failed (expensive) marketing attempts, and then as life just kept getting busier with the addition of a child, etc., I found I didn't have the time needed to adequately promote the book.
That isn't to say that The Ghillie Girls hasn't been successful -- it has sold almost 600 copies, which, while far less than I'd dreamed of, is actually a pretty decent showing for a niche self-published children's book. But I measure its success not in the number of copies sold, but in the emails I receive from parents and teachers and grandparents telling me the impact that the book has had on the little Irish dancers in their lives. Knowing that my book has touched a young life is such an amazing feeling!
Unfortunately, I can't find a place to input "feelings" in the spreadsheet I use to track income versus expenses for this little experiment of mine that is now almost five years old. Which is why I was seriously considering letting The Ghillie Girls die a natural death when I ran out of printed copies.
However, I've received a few emails encouraging me to keep the book in print, and some orders to financially justify the investment. So I am happy to report that I will be placing another print order with InstantPublisher.com and will soon be returning the purchase option for The Ghillie Girls!
I suppose that the lesson I've learned with this book is very similar to the message of the book -- it's not about selling tons of copies (winning lots of medals) but about the lives touched (relationships/memories formed) -- that's what makes it worth doing!