Self publishing is an exciting journey. It has been a thrill to have control over my book, to get so much positive feedback and to see the sales grow on the web and at home.
That said, let me share mistakes I have made, which budding authors need to be aware of.
The first of these, which might be unique to South Africa (but then again, maybe not), is the reluctance of the larger bookstores to stock self-published books. Before deciding to self-publish, I was assured that they would. I should have made absolutely sure; it seems I was misinformed. I have had numerous inquiries from people who want God in the ICU and don’t know where to get it because it is not in the major bookstores. There are many places from which my book can be bought online, but, it seems, South Africans are traditionalists by and large and like to buy from a bookstore. Also, if it is visible, they can be reminded of that interview or remark when they see it.
I would suggest, for your first book, decide whether to self-publish by:
- · researching well which bookstores will stock your book.
- · assessing your social networking skills. Virtual sales world wide can compensate for sales on the ground.
- · be prepared to market fairly aggressively. Talks, I find, are great. Radio interviews help to spread the word, but haven’t engendered too many direct sales. Personal talks to, for example, women’s groups, Christian businessmen etc. have been great. Your personality is allowed to come through more and sales are immediate, made attractive by the author’s signature. Also, publicise your book in the stores that stock it. Every time I take in a handful of publicity bookmarks which I have made, more books sell.
How many books to print? I had such an enthusiastic response to my drafts, including from people well versed in writing (pardon the pun) that I went overboard with this, not anticipating the problem I would have with marketing.
I would suggest biting the bullet, accepting higher per copy costs and printing a few (approx. 150) copies, or investigating the firms that print on demand.
Postage and packaging. It adds to the cost of the book, is a hassle to work out for different countries and is often prohibitively expensive and insecure across African borders. I have an enthusiastic bookseller in Zimbabwe, and inquiries from Botswana, but no way to deliver my book at reasonable cost.
Ordering from Amazon doesn’t help. Shipping costs more than my book to have it delivered to me in South Africa.
I haven’t solved this one yet. If anyone has suggestions I’d love to hear them. I am investigating a print on demand company here who, I hear, will deliver my book anywhere in the world for less than R2.00 ($0.20). I presume they have contacts with firms in that country who use similar equipment to whom they deliver the file. If the price per copy is O.K., their quality is good and there are no hidden snags, I will use them and keep you posted on the outcome. It would be worthwhile investigating this possibility before considering self publishing.
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Often the maintenance stuff I do around the house is once off and I always think, “If I had to do this again, it would be so much easier.” Same with my book. Hopefully, this will make it a little easier for anyone contemplating the amazing experience of publishing your own book.