Lewes Forum thread

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Self publishing

On 27 Aug 2015 at 10:05am Jeff wrote:
A mate is thinking of self publishing a book and I was wondering if anyone on here had had any experience of doing that
On 27 Aug 2015 at 11:26am Earl of Lewes wrote:
I've worked in bookselling for 26 years and my experience of self-publishing has been largely negative.
In most cases, the books I've been shown just aren't good enough, because they haven't been vetted by the usual process of going to an agent and having an editor point out how the book can be improved. Someone might have an interesting story to tell, but if they're not a professional writer, they often lack the ability to tell it.
Also, without the backing of a professional marketing and publicity machine, it's very hard to get people interested in your book. Even a new novel published and promoted by Penguin might only sell three or four copies in a shop.
'Vanity publishing', as it's often called, is expensive for the writer and trying to get people interested in your book can be a pretty soul-destroying process. No-one's going to be welcoming the book with open arms.
I tried to support local authors when I managed shops, but after years of having to throw unsold self-published books in the bin, I became more wary. Self-published poetry was particularly impossible to sell.
There are, of course, the odd exceptions, which go on to become bestellers, but they really are exceptions.
If your mate wants to try his hand at publishing, the cheapest way is to publish an e-book and sell it on Amazon. The next step is to try and get people to review it on Amazon and see if he can arrange local radio and newspaper interviews. If the book's any good, then social media is a really good way of speeding up the word of mouth process.
If your mate thinks he has a good idea for a book, then he should always try and get an literary agent interested in it - if they like the book, they'll approach a proper publisher. Self-publishing is a last resort, when no-one else is interested.
I'd also advise paying a professional reader to look through the manuscript and give an honest opinion of the book's strengths and weaknesses. NEVER ask a friend to read through your book.
I hope this is helpful. I'm sorry to be so negative, but it's an honest, realistic assessement. In my last job, I dealt with books that people had thrown out and the skips were full of multiple copies of unsold, self-published books.
On 27 Aug 2015 at 12:43pm HeathClifford wrote:
I know a few people who have done it and it has made them very happy, but no money. It depends what he wants from it. If he wants it to be a bestseller and is doing it for the money, the odds are stacked against him. But if he loves writing, has a story to tell and wants the fun of seeing his words in print, why not?
On 27 Aug 2015 at 1:02pm Editor wrote:
And please suggest he/she gets it professionally copy-edited. I cannot tell you as a publisher how many self-published books are obviously unedited. It immediately cheapens the whole thing and does nothing to increase the reader's experience.
I wish him/her good luck with the venture!
On 27 Aug 2015 at 1:06pm Earl of Lewes wrote:
Good point. If you go into it with realistic expectations, that's the key. The problems arise when people's egos are bigger than their talent.
On 27 Aug 2015 at 3:03pm Woody wrote:
Try www.lulu.com
Easy and fairly cheap if you want copies for family and friends.
You may even sell a few if you are lucky.
On 28 Aug 2015 at 9:19am John Stockdale wrote:
@Jeff, as others have said, it depends what you want to get out of this. I've done a lulu.com edition of family letters just to ensure that they get on the record (copies in the British Library and the copyright libraries etc). 40 plus copies produced at 8.50 each for a well produced 400 page A5 book printed one copy at a time. If this is what you are after give me a call on 476151 and I can pass on a few tips.
On 28 Aug 2015 at 10:45am Jeff wrote:
Thanks everyone that's really helpful.
I'll pass it all along to my mate and he may give you a call John
On 29 Aug 2015 at 9:54am JillG wrote:
Have a look at my friend Steve's page about this (link below). He lives in Burgess Hill and works in Brighton, and he's a nice guy.

Check it out here »
On 29 Aug 2015 at 4:41pm Vain Bob wrote:
I believe its called Vanity Publishing and personally I don't think there's anything wrong with it..
On 29 Aug 2015 at 11:37pm Earl of Lewes wrote:
There's nothing wrong with it, as long as you don't expect your book to be given the same treatment as one from a publisher. If it's just for family and friends, the lulu.com idea sounds an excellent one.
Don't forget that if your friend wants to write, a book isn't the only option. If it's non-fiction, he'll probably get more readers from setting up a blog and will enjoy a worldwide audience.
The expensive vanity publishing is fine if that's what you want, but as I said earlier, I used to see vast quantities of self-published books being thrown in skips. It was quite upsetting seeing an old person's life story - usually written for their children and grandchildren - being casually chucked out. At least they probably never found out.
On 30 Aug 2015 at 1:10am Vain Bob wrote:
Earhole of Lewes it sounds as though you have gone through the route of vanity publishing your own book without much success.
I can't say I'm surprised it was a flop by all your negativity!
Jef your friend ought to give it a try.
On 3 Sep 2015 at 7:57am Earl of Lewes wrote:
@Vain Bob - Please don't try to be clever. It doesn't suit you. It doesn't sound like that at all, unless you go through life assuming that people are lying. Everything I said was true and the 'negativity' is called realism. Ask anyone who's run a bookshop for a long time. Most self-published books aren't very good and very few people want to buy them. The reason we have people called editors is so that all the bad bits of books can be removed or changed. Without an editor, even the best ideas usually fall flat.
And no, I'm not an editor either.

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