Why self-publish?

Posted by Paul Samael on Monday, September 26, 2011 Under: Self-publishing


This blog is supposed to be about my attempts to self-publish my novel and so far, I’ve been a little coy about how exactly I plan to tackle this Herculean task (I do have a plan, honest – more on this in later posts).  But I suppose the first question is why self-publish – why not try to get a “proper”, professional publisher to take me on?

Well, my experience of publishers is not good – admittedly, it relates to non-fiction rather than fiction, but in both cases the publishers did virtually nothing to promote the book.  This appears to be a pretty common experience for authors, but I didn’t know that at the time.  I was young and naïve and believed that publishers had carefully selected my book because they genuinely thought it would be successful – when in fact their approach seems to have more in common with throwing quite a lot of mud at a wall and hoping some of it sticks (in my case, unfortunately, they missed the wall completely). 

Both my non-fiction books were about law (written under my real name - Paul Samael is a pen name).  The first was aimed at helping small businesses to draft their own contracts (which they probably hate doing).  The second was aimed at undergraduates on courses like business studies, who are usually forced to do a law module (and probably hate it too).  I hoped that my books would make these subjects a bit less hateful for both groups.

The first book got some pretty good reviews, including a five star one on Amazon, but none of this seemed to persuade my publisher that it was worth promoting.  For example, the publisher had various other books on setting up a business – so, I ventured, why not try to cross-promote these titles (e.g. “if you liked this, maybe you should think about getting this other book over here….”).  But they weren’t interested in this or any other suggestions and the book’s sales have dwindled to the point where I have now asked for the rights back.

The second book did quite well in its first year, selling just over 1000 copies – a moderately respectable performance for a university textbook in the UK, in its first year.  In year two, however, the publisher of a competing textbook – having noticed that it had lost sales - revamped its offering, adopting many of the ideas that I and my co-author had introduced (which was flattering, I suppose, but we could have done without it).  Meanwhile our own publisher refused to do any promotion in year two – so no attempt was made to counteract the “hard sell” from its main competitor. Needless to say, all this meant that sales in year two were well down and have stayed that way ever since.

If I were doing those books now, I would have no hesitation about the self-publishing route – my publishers did such a non-job on promotion that I feel that I can hardly do any worse myself.  It makes me really cross that so much effort went into writing them and so little effort into their promotion.  With fiction, I would concede that there are certain advantages to being taken on by a publisher – in particular, it gives you instant credibility vis-à-vis anything that’s self-published.  But I doubt that the publisher’s attitude to promotion would be any different, so there is every prospect that my novel would follow my two non-fiction books into oblivion.

Now, it may be that self-publishing will take me down the same path – but at least I will only have myself to blame.  So far, I’ve quite enjoyed having control of the whole process.  I fully expect it to be a long hard slog, with a high probability of failure – but that’s not really any different from the alternative, which is spending hours and hours making submissions to publishers, with an equally high probability of rejection (and very little prospect of promotional activity even if you are fortunate enough to get published).  

In : Self-publishing 

Tags: publishers promotion 
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About Me

Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
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