Your Collection’s Department

This is another one of those blogs where I blog about writing. Incidentally, all of those are categorized under the heading “writing” in my blog. Sometimes they are by way of advice, but much of the time, they are by way of venting. Maybe the English Language needs a new word for this? Adventing? No… I think Advent means something religious. Ventice? Advicenting? Hints? Comments? Suggestions? If you can come up with a better term for advice + venting, or if you want to vote for one of these fine terms, please leave a comment below. Now to the subject at hand.


Repo Men

Collecting payment for your book sales is far less brutal than Jude Law collecting human organs, or so we’re told.

This would be a lot more fun if I were writing a horror story about the subject of collections: you know, something along the lines of Stephen King’s “Quitters, Inc.” maybe? Or like Repo Men, but not the automobile reaping classic Repo Man with Emilio Estevez, no… instead, that really depressing dark comedy horror something or the other flick with Forest Whitaker and Jude Law. Collection seems like a great name for a short story along those lines, and frankly, writing short stories and novels is a lot more fun than actual collections. Unfortunately, if you are going to go the independent publishing route, there is a good chance that you will wind up being your own collections department.

Some writers it seems, are able to make all of their money off of Amazon or Lulu or Createspace or whatever they use to self-publish, and they are not, as I am, casually hawking books out of the trunk of their busted ass vehicle.

Too $hort

This is Oakland’s Too $hort

Once, when I was sitting around in Burger King with my fiance, eating my Whopper Jr. Meal, a local fellow over there around Jingletown (yes… that is the name of a neighborhood out here in Central East Oakland, and it’s somewhere around Fruitvale, which once did but no longer has fruiting trees in abundance, but I digress). This guy asked me about my books, because there are postcards all over Oakland and Berkeley in shops announcing my book Solitude… not to mention that newspaper ad in the SF Bayview. He asked me about my books, and I explained that while I do sell books online and in local bookstores, a good many are sold out of my trunk.

And he said “Oh, so you’re like the Too $hort of authors.”

I am repeating that in my blog, only because it’s pretty awesome, being called the Too $hort of authors here in my neighborhood. You know, I know Rappin 4Tay, and he opened up for Too $hort at the StreetLow Auto Show, way back in 2004, and I was the camera person. As a result, I met Too $hort for about the third time in this life, because I also met him back when I was 19 and he was doing volunteer work in a local program that helped young people to learn to do audio production, and I was the representative that the non-profit he was asking for money sent out to inspect said facility.

4Tay and Sumiko

This is me having coffee with Rappin 4Tay back in 2004, when I was videotaping his concerts.

These three meetings made me understand that when it came to getting funding for the non-profit, he was all business and community minded. Later, when I saw him performing and promoting “Married to the Game” while I was working for 4Tay (who was promoting “Gangsta Gumbo”) he was all entertainment.

Most of you are wondering “what does this have to do with books?”

Well, when you are selling out of your trunk, or your back back (mine is a Hello Kitty back back, and it’s pink) you have to make sure you get paid. In my case, I give people books and let them pay me later sometimes, because they live in my neighborhood or go to my school or work in my local businesses, go to my local churches, and eventually will pay me. If I remind them. So far, not one person has ripped me off.

But I still have to remind them.

Solitude Newspaper Advertisement

Excitedly holding a copy of the San Francisco Bayview Newspaper with an advertisement for my book “Solitude”.

So today I made a really neat discovery: called “invoicing” on PayPal. It seems that I can send people an invoice on PayPal and it will allow them to pay that way. The problem is, it charges me about 70 cents per sale. That means I will have to start charging people an extra 70 cents moving forward into the future if they get my book and pay me later. Because I have to make money.

You always have to price thing so that they earn you money. That means that I had to raise the price of my paperback books when I put them into stores, and stores started needing a cut. I had to raise it to cover marketing, because those postcards and newspaper ads do not pay for themselves. I have to make sure to cover the cost of gas. I’m no expert on these matters, but I have taken a few Small Business Administration Micro Business workshops explaining how you begin to make sure you aren’t losing money while pursuing your small business dreams.

Guess what self-publishing is? It’s a Small Business.


Me in front of my sales vehicle, with my clearly evil striped socks.

As a small business person, you have to ask for money. Further, you have to make sure that you are asking for enough to keep yourself in business. For me, that means I need enough extra money to purchase extra copies of my books to put in my trunk and/or backpack to sell to individuals and/or bookstores. I need to cover the cost of the gas to get back and forth to these bookstores to drop off books and pick up checks. This isn’t optional: if I want to keep doing this, it is 100% necessary. I don’t make enough money at anything else to “carry” this as a hobby, so I’m hungry. Hungry makes you work harder.

I hate having to ask for money. It makes me feel like Cruella Deville.

That’s a neurosis I have. It’s not really evil to ask for money for your hard work. But it feels evil at times.

Decidedly less evil, however, than reaping vital organs from the living or electrocuting smokers.

When you start out and until when – and if – and that’s a big if, you make enough money to have a staff, you are an independent who must man every department of your very small business (or in SBA speak, “Micro Enterprise”).


We’ll be having a couple of more interviews with other writers in Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy in June. Stay tuned for interviews with Serena Toxicat and Chantal Boudreau.

~ by Sumiko Saulson on June 6, 2012.

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