I don’t know what I expected when I self-published this blog as a book. I said to people I might sell a couple of dozen if I was lucky, so obviously I wasn’t setting my sights high, but I think I must have been secretly hoping for at least a tiny flurry of interest – a little ‘Oh, I like this’ or something of that nature, and there hasn’t been much of that. Perhaps it’s early days yet. People don’t always read a book as soon as they buy it – I don’t, anyway – and it’s the sort of book you dip into rather than read from cover to cover, so I don’t suppose the responses, if there are any, will be quick. One friend has already said, very kindly, that she was enjoying it, so I can’t complain it’s disappeared from view completely. And if people do want to comment on it, it’s a pretty mixed bag, to say the least. You wouldn’t expect to find reflections on death and impermanence between the same covers as the thoughts of a muddled aardvark or a story about magical porridge (no, I’m not going to explain). I decided first of all that it didn’t fit into any of the categories Amazon had to offer, but then I changed my mind and have categorised it as a ‘literary collection: essays’, which seems not too wide of the mark. It hasn’t made any difference to sales.
To date I’ve sold fifteen copies, nine on Amazon and six directly to friends, so in theory the book could still make it to 24 or so. In the meantime I’ve already produced a ‘second edition’. I made the mistake of not getting a printed proof of the first edition and found, to my chagrin, that most of the print was dark grey and not black and there were various other formatting errors which jumped out at me as soon as I opened it, not to mention typos that I know haven’t all been corrected. The second edition isn’t perfect either, though I think it looks better, but I’ve got to a point now where I can tell myself that it’s only a piece of fun and isn’t going to affect the way I’m viewed as a writer. Nevertheless I didn’t want it to look amateurish, and on the whole I think it does at least resemble a proper professional book. An editor friend of mine didn’t see too much wrong with it, at any rate. And although I’ve been so obsessed with the look of it, when I read through it I find most of the content polished enough and substantial enough for a book of that kind. My editor friend thought the pieces she read seemed ‘quite finished’, which was good to know. (Ah, how I need my external locus of evaluation.)
One thing I haven’t mentioned so far is what Adelina calls ‘Royalty’. In case you thought you might make some money from self-publishing (though I’m sure you weren’t so naive), I can tell you that the amount per book seems amazingly little – though it’s probably not much less than a commercially published author would get. For the first edition, priced at £5.99, I got a royalty of 35p per copy. For the second edition, which I put up to £6.99 because the royalty had gone down to something like 24p, I now get as much as 85p per copy – though I haven’t sold any at that price yet. But then doing it the Amazon way means you don’t have to pay anything up front, unlike a lot of self-publishing where there is an initial outlay. You can buy your own copies at a reduced price and sell them at full price, but the cost of postage means the profit is still relatively low. However, if you’ve got a book that you want to self-publish I’m sure that won’t deter you. If I did more marketing I might of course sell more copies, but I’m not sure I’d want to give it the time and energy. I’d rather save my promotional efforts for the poetry collection, when it comes out.
So this, in my experience, is the reality of self-publishing. I certainly wouldn’t not have done it and it’s wonderful to have a proper book with my name on the cover, but if I thought it was going to make any kind of impact ‘out there’ I’ve soon been disabused of the notion. To which the response is, I suppose, ‘onward and upward’. Isn’t it annoying when people say that?