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What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s the proverbial question asked of every little kid and like many, Crystal Lacey Winslow figured responding “a lawyer” was a real crowd pleaser. “The first reason I wanted to go [to law school] was to please my family,” says Winslow, 24, who majored in legal studies at New York City Technical College and had interned at a law firm. “The second reason…was because law seems challenging. I felt like I had something to offer.”
As she toiled under night lights, studying court cases and legal propaganda, the thought hit her: “Am I really doing the right thing?” Winslow’s instincts prompted her to change course three years ago to pursue her dream of becoming an author.
Writing was a lifelong passion that made her truly happy, so she decided to forego law school to write and start a publishing company. “Once I’d made the decision, it was like a weight had been lifted,” says Winslow, “The very next day, I sat down at my computer and decided to complete a novel I had started in high school.” The result: Life, Love, and Loneliness, a contemporary work about an aspiring actress who has an affair with the mayor of New York City.
Although she was averaging three hours of sleep from working two full-time jobs over the course of about 15 months, Winslow never lost focus of her dream. “I used to always say I can’t do it anymore but then I didn’t have enough capital so that’s what kept me going,” she says. “The fear, uncertainty… came from [my] jumping out as a full-fledged businesswoman and I hadn’t taken one business class.”
But she pushed past the fear and in 2001 founded her company, Melodrama Publishing L.L.C., investing $50,000 of her earnings into the business. Shortly after, she printed 10,000 copies of her novel at $15 each. “That was a huge chance I took [as] an unknown author. I didn’t have any distributors whatsoever,” says Winslow, whose publishing expenses included $19,000 on printing, about $5,000 for promotional items like posters and bookmarks, more than $2,000 for her company’s limited liability status, and more than $1,000 in ads.
About three months after the book was printed, she found a distribution company. She quickly sold all 10,000 copies and printed another run of the same size. She oversaw all aspects of marketing, such as booking all of her own book signings and formulating a book tour schedule. At the end of 2002, Melodrama Publishing’s net profits were more than $75,000. To date, she has sold more than 60,000 books and has grossed about $240,000. As a result of her success, Winslow expanded her business success by opening Melodrama Books and Things in Far Rockaway, Queens, in August 2003.
Getting Your Book to Market
Today, there are more options than ever to get your book published. You can self-publish; try the traditional route and submit your manuscript to a publishing house; or try e-publishing, especially for writers who want