I am feeling constantly like I'm working, working, working, but nothing is getting done.
"Explain this to me," Blair said last night. "Give me an example."
Here's what I told him: On Thursday, I received an e-mail from a Colorado bookstore employee--one of the stores who had requested a review copy of Lessons In Stalking through the BookSense program. The person actually nominated my book for the BookSense award, which was immensely gratifying. They also wrote Spotlight Publishing to ask if they could order a copy of the book through a distributor.
And so it began. I don't have a distributor. I e-mailed my friend who is going to start working on behalf of Spotlight Publishing to land us a distributor. "What should I say," I asked. He e-mailed back, asking if I'd like him to correspond with the bookstore. Well, wouldn't that be weird, I e-mailed back. I had mailed the book to the store with a cover letter from Dena Harris (vs. Spotlight Publishing). So to suddenly have a new person come in might seem odd, yes? We e-mail a few more comments back and forth and now we're up to about 30 minutes worth of time.
Finally, I e-mail the bookstore to say we're a new, small press operating as our own distributor but I would be happy to send them out copies of the book.
The bookstore responds by asking what our shipping costs are. They would probably only order 2 copies and if our shipping costs are too high, it might not be worth it for them. And to let them know if/when Spotlight gets a distributor.
I forward this e-mail to my friend. He e-mails back, asking if I have a price schedule as set out in Dan Poynter's book on self-publishing that I've been following since this book publishing adventure again. Price schedule? Huh? So I drop everything and flip through Dan's book, finally finding what I need.
But this is new to me. So far, the stores I'm dealing with are on consignment. Which means I give them the book and they pay me when they sell one. Bookstores buy books outright, usually at a 40-55% discount. BUT, they are also allowed to return any unsold books. So there's just a whole slew of paperwork and documentation that needs to take place. I start to get a headache.
I e-mail my friend a sample price schedule for review but ask if it wouldn't just be easier to charge a 40% discount across the board? Yes, it may be more encouraging to say 25% discount for purchase of 1-5 books, and 30% discount for purchase of 6-10, etc. But that just seems a bigger headache. So a few e-mails go back and forth on that.
Finally, I decide to go with stacked price schedule. I e-mail the bookstore with the schedule and say I'll handle the shipping charges. (It's more important to me my book gets out than to hassle about $4 for shipping). I ask if they'd like to order copies and that's where it stands now.
So we're up to almost 2 hours spent now on this one task. Not a consecutive block of time, but still--it's time consuming and take note of what got accomplished: an e-mail was sent.
That's how the majority of my day goes. I'm digging through all these minute details and falling farther behind. So I finishing relaying this to Blair. He looks at me and says, "You need to prioritize. In the big picture, what was this? The sale of two books. Way too much time was spent on this."
And I agree. But my argument was that yes, this was a lot of effort to respond to one e-mail but the effects are more far reaching than that. The price schedule I sent to this bookstore was going to have to be the schedule I stick to for ALL stores. Also, this distributor issue is going to come up with any bookstore that contacts me. So I didn't feel I was doing it all for one e-mail, but rather to start to get a grip on future transactions.
I did identify a few key areas. One: I need to move past my phone phobia. I hate talking on the phone. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Given the choice, I'll always use e-mail. But that's not time effective. My 1 hour of e-mails back and forth with my friend could have been handled with a 10-minute phone call. I do that with a lot of work. Instead of calling and moving it off my plate, I e-mail and am stuck waiting for a response. So that's one thing to work on.
The other is to not be such a perfectionist. I want everything in my life and my publishing business to be in a straight row, lined up, with clearly defined rules for engagement and a handy checklist to make sure things get done. Life isn't like that. And I know that. But I keep trying to make MY life like that and getting frustrated when it doesn't happen.
Of course, that's asking to change a lifelong pattern of operation. It won't happen overnight. Small steps. Like using the phone. And moving away from e-mail. I have a writer friend who checks her e-mail once a day. If it's not in her inbox at check time, it gets left until tomorrow.
I admire the spirit.