My Saga of Self-Publishing

Some people might regard this as a shameless attempt to market my own books. They are probably right, I do market my books at every opportunity but its not shameful. Sharing with other writers the experiences I have encountered may be of help to them. I began my first book “Lily & Me” in the year 2000. Four years later it was completed and ready for publishing. That was when the really hard work began, completing the book had been easy by comparison. I was green, I had little or no idea of where to begin. A fellow writer suggested I purchase a copy of “The International Writers Digest”. It was a huge book listing just about every publisher in the Western World. It was easy to follow as all the publishers were listed in their chosen fields, example-fiction, history, children,romance and so on. I began listing the ones most likely to find my book of interest. Next I purchased a book describing how one should write query letters to the various publishers. I produced the very best letter my limited knowledge allowed. One of the requirements of a query letter, is to include a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope). Not a big issue right, wrong, most letters were going to the US, UK and Ireland. In order to add a stamp to the return envelope it needed to be a stamp from the country where it was being mail. A Canadian stamp didn’t work. I bought rolls of the necessary stamps from the three Countries I was mailing to. I can’t remember how many letters I sent out, certainly hundreds. Then I waited impatiently for the offers to roll in. I waited and waited. The few replies I eventually received were very disappointing, most merely jotted a note to my query letter, “sorry can’t use” or”not taking new works at this time”. I was depressed but undaunted and continued sending letters. One day a thicker than usual letter arrived in one of my SAS Envelopes. My fingers trembled as I tore the flap open. It was indeed a publisher interested in my book. They asked me to send a copy of the manuscript so they could read the complete story. It was in the mail the same day. The name of this publisher was “Vanguard Books located in London and their literature and letter heads were very impressive. Alas, this turned out to be a vanity press. A company who will publish anything for a price, a big price. They do not market or promote, merely print the book and the ones the author doesn’t purchase probably sit on a shelf gathering dust.. It took a while but I did eventually get the message, I was wasting my time and money. In the meantime I had joined the PEI Writers Guild and attended a few meetings. It was here I learned of self pubs, there were several to choose from and the prices varied. The average basic cost at that time was approximately $500. I could pay much more if I wanted photos, fancy covers, editing services etc etc. I decided to try Booksurge Inc, located in North Carolina USA. They produced my book in quick time and I was pleased with the promo copy they sent to me. I placed an order for 100 copies at approx $5 ea, however the cost was closer to $10 once I paid the shipping. Later I learned that Booksurge often offered specials, buying in bulk the shipping was pre paid or the price of the books reduced. So far so good, I had a book in print, all I had to do now was sell them. Booksurge had listed me with Amazon and a few other outlets. But if I was going to sell any number of books I’d have to do it myself. I began visiting the local book stores and placing copies on consignment. I arranged book signings and managed a few reviews in the local papers and on the radio. That was okay for a short while but sales soon dried up. My first hundred copies sold fast and I was encouraged to order more. I didn’t realize the first books were sold mainly to family and friends. It didn’t take long to run out of them. Now I had a couple of hundred books under my bed, and if they were going to sell I was the one who had to do it. I did a few things in setting up my marketing strategy. I set up a blog advertizing the book, I had a decal made up for my car advertizing the blog “” I’m not sure how much benefit it has been , I did sell one copy that way that I know of. Nevertheless, I believe any and all advertizing is good. This was not nearly enough, I sold an odd book here and there but the pile under the bed was still too large. I came up with the idea of trying a speaking circuit. I put my name forward to several seniors groups, adult schools, Women’s institutes, church and others. I was busy all winter, just about ever group struggles to find interesting guest speakers. This turned out to be a successful venture. At any given meeting I never failed to sell books, the lowest number being six and a high of over twenty. The pile under the bed was disappearing fast. I was in demand and receiving phone calls to come and speak at a variety of places. I even spoke at a Mason’s Lodge and sold books. About this time I had completed my second book “The Royal Navy & Me”. This allowed me to re visit the same groups with a different story. I think its important to mention when I began one question I was always asked was, is your book any good??? I don’t like to brag or boast and felt if I said yes it was good I was boasting. It didn’t take me long to get over that, my books are good why would I be ashamed not to say so. Heck! my books are brilliant. I have received many great reviews, for example one lady said my book was as good as “Angela’s Ashes” high praise indeed. I wont mention more, you might think I’m bragging!!!. Sadly today sales have dried up. Marketing any product requires a continuing progress and hard work. I have two problems in that regard, the island where I live is small we have a population of 130 thousand. My health has slowed me down in the last few years, double hip replacement and quadruple bypass surgery has taken a toll. I’m still writing and still selling a few books, I have discovered the EBook market. This fits me to a tee. Once a book is available as an E Book you just sit back and await the sales to roll in. Hmm, maybe trickle in is more descriptive. Speaking to groups about my books was easy they are both autobiography, perhaps a fiction would be a more difficult subject. I’m not sure but I will find out my latest book is fiction!. Another factor as a speaker is the age of the audience. Does your presentation it fit with the age group, seniors are good, however, children might find it boring. For example “Lily & Me” takes place beginning in 1939 but also describes the social life in Northern Ireland at the beginning of 20th century. It covers two world wars, my birth in 1939 and my mothers death the same year. I talk about my adoption by my eldest sister. The close calls living in England during the Blitz, how we lost everything but our lives in one of the first V1 flying bomb attacks. My struggle as I grow older to return home to my family and to regain my name. The book covers the first 15 years of my life. “The Royal Navy & Me” follows on as I join the Navy at age 15,and relates my adventures/misadventures until I reach the age of thirty. These are subjects I have lived so are not difficult to talk about and to make interesting. That’s my story in a nut shell. I hope and perhaps it will help some new aspiring author. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions, being Irish I love to talk,
Erin go Bragh.
Cheers and keep reading

About irishroverpei

Author of "Lily & Me", "The Royal Navy & Me" and Chapter XXl Armageddon. Writer, blogger and RN Submariner, antique automobile enthusiast.
This entry was posted in author of lily & Me, Belfast Blitz, Belfast Social History, family, The Royal Navy & Me, veterans and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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