Self Publishing in the U.K.
by Tracey Morait
U.K. self publishing:
For years I submitted my manuscripts to traditional publishers and literary agents in the U.K. While some were interested - or so they said - I was rejected time and time again.
I was given various reasons for this: my word count was too high (forget the fact that now children's books can go to 300 pages!), they couldn't see a market (no market for a book about a girl's football team), I had too many characters (how many characters do the Harry Potter books have?).
Soapbox alert: yet at the same time I had the insult of seeing people like Madonna having a children's book published. Why? Simple; she's Madonna, she's already marketable, end of story. I'm a nobody. Overall, that's all traditional publishers seem to care about anyway: marketing celebrity writers - or, correction - what their ghost writers write for them. There are very few books you see advertised on the telly written by John Author when it's Katie Price, the model, people care about.
Webmaster's note: Ms. Price indeed has a book, and it looks like the worst book ever!
Anyway, I got fed up with the whole process of sending out manuscripts and waiting and waiting, and so, thinking I might die before my books would ever see the light of day in print, I stuck two fingers up at the establishment and discovered Lulu.com.
Self publishing in the U.K.
I opted for Lulu's global distribution package in order to get my books into as many online stores in the U.K. and elsewhere as possible, and it has worked. For my first book I used a Lulu ISBN; since then I've gone with my own small press ISBNs. This has enabled me to register with Nielsen as a publisher.
In the U.K. as elsewhere, self publishing and POD have some advantages over traditional publishing: I retain control over my books, and they'll stay in print until I decide to pull them. Not only that, self publishing has allowed people like me to get our work into print when otherwise we'd have no chance.
I've sold copies of all my titles on the major sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones and so on, but have I sold millions of copies?
No, I haven't, but I've sold some. I've had favourable reviews from people I don't know who have been kind enough to like my work (whilst at the same time they've been critical, which I appreciate), but these reviews have mostly been because I've asked for them from sites like ReaderViewsKids. The general public doesn't seem to leave reviews for some reason. That's a pity.
Publishing vs. self publishing in the U.K.
Have I marketed?
Yes, I have, and I absolutely loathe it, really, because I don't think I'm much good at it! But, no market, no sales! At first I thought wistfully that a traditional publisher would take all that hassle away, but I've since found out that most publishers leave the marketing to the author - unless they're Madonna! So, what's the difference between SP/POD and traditional publishing when it comes down to marketing? None, from all accounts!
I've got my own site - OK, so it's a Blogger site, but what the heck: it's designed to my specifications, and it's free. I'm on Twitter, I have a Facebook page, I advertise on Google Adwords, I'm about to set up a Facebook ad, I've produced bookmarks (which I dish out free), I've sent out postcards advertising my new book to bookshops and libraries - I even let the media know, not that they gave a monkey's... but I did get mentions in two specialist magazines for my last book.
It's a science fiction/fantasy novel about a boy with epilepsy who time travels. I have epilepsy, so I used my own experience to write the book. I passed the information onto Epilepsy Action in the UK, who weren't interested, but a snippet appeared in an Australian epilepsy organisation's newsletter.
Self publishing in the U.K.
But have I done school visits? Have I been interviewed on the radio? Have I gone into a shop and asked to do a book signing? No, because I have a handicap: I'm simply too embarrassed to go that far!
Some people have the gumption and the thick skin to do it, but I haven't! Nor have I had the nerve to go as far as media kits, or sending out advance copies to the likes of Publisher's Weekly, partly out of fear of rejection. Would Publisher's Weekly look at a POD book twice? I doubt it.
(I'm going to do a media kit for my next book out in 2011, though, and I'm going to start free book giveaways for my old titles soon.)
I've stuck with Lulu, because their process of publishing is simple, but I think the retail prices they set on the books are way too high. I don't think this helps when it comes to sales, although I've done my best to keep my prices as low as possible.
I've put my first title onto Kindle now. I did look at Createspace, but they don't offer global distribution for UK authors. Self-publishing and POD publishing are mainly U.S. concepts; there are few opportunities in the U.K. to affordably print your own book.
I'm not even sure going direct with Lightning Source, who prints Lulu's books, will be of any use, either, although they do have a UK site now.
Self publishing in the U.K. with Lightning Source.
So, that's it. It isn't much. I'm not J.K. Rowling, never likely to be, but I can't knock it. It's all I've got.
Visit Tracey Morait.