Self Publishing in the U.K.

by Tracey Morait
(United Kingdom)

Epiworld (2010)

Epiworld (2010)

Epiworld (2010)
Abbie's Rival (2008)
Goalden Girl (2007)

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.



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Apr 27, 2011
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monitoring Google response
by: Steve B. (webmaster)

I know that if you add a little tracking code to the link that brings in AdWords visitors, at a minimum you'll be able to track--with Analytics--their time on the site, how many pages they visit, etc. (I've done it myself.) And likely someone with more knowledge than I could say how to track sales from such visitors as well.

Apr 25, 2011
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Self Publishing in the U.K.
by: Anonymous

Thank you for your submission. I have learned some things from it. I am a children's book writer too, but you're very much ahead of me in that you already have books that you've published. I am trying to publish my first book and I AM WORRYING ABOUT MARKETING, AS WELL.

Thank you, Steve, for your input.


Apr 25, 2011
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Sales from Ads
by: Anonymous

To be honest, Steve, I don't think there is any way to monitor sales from Google Ads. It's just a case of getting traffic to your site and pure pot luck.

Apr 24, 2011
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AdWords
by: Steve B. (webmaster)

Tracey, thanks so much for chiming back in.

That is some pricey advertising! Is there any telling what percentage of your AdWords visitors you're able to convert to sales?

Apr 22, 2011
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U.K. Marketing
by: Tracey Morait

Hi Steve

Thanks for your comment. I'm rating myself 5 stars, too (although I think the article needed one more proof read!).

Yes, that cynical tone is present in my work, but it translates into Liverpool raciness and humour (you have to be English to appreciate that, really, but young American readers have liked my work. See my reviews on ReaderViewsKids).

Adwords gets traffic to my site, but to be honest, certain keywords only get more exposure if I increase the cost per click, so "books" or "novels" go to the top of the heap if I increase to say, £1.00. It gets pricey then, so if I see the billing get too high I pause the ad. Another writer has advised me to do the same for the Facebook ad once I set it up. He says the ad got more "likes" to his page.

I did have Adsense, but I couldn't get paid due to the fact I'm in the UK!

I don't know whether it helps to sell the books, but I have a live traffic feed on my site and people all over the world have looked at it.

I think there are two major issues with SP/POD books:

1. They're a long way off from being taken seriously, because readers assume the author hasn't taken the time and the trouble to have their work properly edited or proofread. This isn't true in a lot of cases, but I will own up that I edit and proofread my own work. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but this is mainly due to cost issues for me, as, although I am working (I'm a librarian by profession and I do contract work and other work on the side) I can't afford to pay professionals. I do have strategies in place where I "fish" for typos and grammatical errors, and I do have a damn good dictionary to hand! I'm a perfectionist so I wouldn't like to produce shoddy work, anyway. That process has made me realise why people say the English language is so hard to learn. Being English, it's something I've always taken for granted, of course. Take variations in spelling, for instance. See "realize" above, an acceptable variation of "realize" in the UK, which everyone else on the planet considers to be a misspelling, and technically it is, but it's in our dictionaries here because we use it a lot, and I hold my hands up, I'm an "ise" speller! It's correct, and it's more pleasing on the eye!

2. Effective marketing really costs money and time. A lot of SP/POD publishers wouldn't make a mint out of their writing, so most of us have to hold down a job. How many of us have the time to go to book fairs or festivals? I haven't. I'm trying to balance work, writing and marketing, and it's a tough juggling job.

We're in a tough business, and I've chosen the toughest genre of the lot, but I make no apologies. It's what I want to write.

Apr 22, 2011
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Advertising as a self publisher
by: Steve B. (webmaster)

Tracey, I hope that delightfully cynical voice of yours finds its way into your novels somehow!

I for one would love to hear more about your online advertising efforts. Are you having any success with Google AdWords? As a Google AdSense publisher, mine is the kind of site where your ads might show up, unless you're limiting your ads to search engine results.

AdWords and AdSense, for folks who don't know, are mirror images of the same thing. Advertisers use AdWords to bid on keywords and put their ads beside Google search results and on webpages related to their keywords. AdSense is what it's called when you're the owner of a website where AdWords ads appear. Google places them there and gives us webmasters most of the revenue. We just provide the "real estate." Scroll up and you'll see some examples!

(I also offer private placement advertising for authors who want to eliminate the middle man.)

Anything you might want to tell us about what keywords you're bidding for and what your ads look/read like would be of great interest!

My sense of it is that a book is a hard thing to sell online with advertising (though I'd love to hear that I'm wrong).

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