While everyone else parties it up at bars or eats pumpkin pie yogurt at a fro-yo shop, writers are laboring over their stories. Then, after hours of labor, the masterpiece is finally finished. Now what?
C.B. Shiepe, a USC alumnus and the author of the novel Cliff Falls — a current bestseller at Vroman’s in Pasadena and Book Soup in West Hollywood — knows this story all too well. His novel is a revealing tale about “being comfortable with who you are when everyone else wants you to be someone else” Shiepe said.
Shiepe’s own tale of self-publishing his novel and its continued success through word-of-mouth is itself an inspiration and encouragement to any aspiring writer.
Cliff Falls tells the story of Clay Grant, a former child star of the fictional ’80s sitcom Little Guy Mike. The project first started out as a screenplay, then a television pilot and finally a novel. The process spanned nearly a decade, but for Shiepe, it was all worth it.
As any reader or writer knows, a hit book is not made by the story alone. Even what might seem a mere triviality has a huge impact on the quality of a book.
“The cover alone took six months,” Shiepe said.
Staying with his idea of a local book, he went to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and used the artwork of one of the school’s graduates for his cover.
“You would think typesetting is as easy as cut and paste,” he said. “But I have discovered it is an art unto itself.”
This art included learning everything about different publishing options, including offset printing, print on demand, distribution and promotion.
“The learning curve is steep,” he said. “You can’t imagine what goes into a book.”
For writers looking to sell their novels online there are two choices. One option is selling it on Amazon.com.
Shiepe considered that but decided it was “not very profitable until you’re selling large quantities.”
This led to another option — selling the book on his own website.
Although that method could potentially turn a profit, it would have left Shiepe with the problem of either filling the orders himself or hiring someone to do it.
The last option was to sell his book in chain stores such as Borders and Barnes & Noble. While these types of stores reach a wider venue, they can end in a huge loss of money.
“They could place an order of 2-3,000 books and send them back eight to 12 weeks later,” Shiepe said.
This means you just paid to print all those books, but wind up with them back in your basement as damaged inventory.
Shiepe ultimately took his manuscript to Vroman’s, southern California’s oldest and largest independent bookstore, which promptly put it on consignment.
When independent bookstores sell a book on “consignment,” it means they order a certain quantity of the books, and split the profit with the author.
The most economically sound way to publish a novel seems to be the way Shiepe is doing it. He likes to call it “a long-term, organic approach.”
And it is working. He has been asked to do three book signings at three chain stores even though his book wasn’t selling there.
So what’s C.B. Shiepe’s advice to all the aspiring writers?
“Don’t waste time wondering if you’re talented,” he said. “Just stay with it. Get solid feedback, but stay true to the vision you have and move on.”