In this series I am taking a look at books from the back catalogue and sharing how they came to be, how they did and what I learnt from the experience.
Each account is divided into 2 sections: Before and After. You can read the Before section here.
It’s always a nervous moment when the books arrive. Did you miss anything? Was something about the finishing or binding not communicated properly? Thankfully, as usual, Crossing Over arrived in perfect condition. It was great to flip through the book and to see what we had created. But at the same looking at a freshly printed book is also sort of an anti-climax; there is nothing that you haven’t seen before in those pages!
The next step was to prepare the website and the mailing list. Back in those days I was still coding my own website and every new page took a while to create and attach to all the other pages. It also meant I had to decide the price, which is never something I enjoy doing. Pricing is really important. Over-price it and many people will steer clear. Under-price it and you will undermine it and have basically the same effect.
I decided on a price of 12 GBP. When I launched the book via the mailing list, website and social media I was initially convinced that I had made a pricing mistake. Sales were slow! This can be a very disappointing moment; all those months talking over the book, designing it, planning it, printing it and then….silence!
At the same time as this I was doing other things to push the book. I was writing to bloggers and reviews and introducing the project to them; I was writing to bookshops and telling them about the book; and I sent actual copies (as samples) with hand-written letters to over 25 bookshops that might be interested in stocking them.
Thankfully, after a week the sales really picked up. People seemed to really be enjoying the concept of the book and the essay was well received too. It was really great to see the positive comments and the new sales come in. Packing books into envelopes and carting them down to the local Taiwanese post office on my scooter became a daily event before going to work.
Unfortunately the feedback from the stores wasn’t as positive. Many shops said it was ‘too thin’ to sell (!) while others said they would try to sell them but I never heard from them again.
Within 3 or 4 months the book was sold out, mainly through online sales. It was a completely reaffirming experience with indie publishing. The sales and the feedback demonstrated to me that people were interested in this genre that I wanted to focus on publishing, and that they were interested in zine-esque photobooks of this nature. Furthermore, I was delighted that people saw the saw the essay in a positive light which gave a new context to the photos, without taking away the opportunity to interpret the photos in the viewer’s own way.