Guest Post: Ken Preston: Paths To Self-Publishing 2007 and Now
May 27, 2014
The path to publishing success, one book at a time.
I published my first book, in paperback, in the summer of 2007, four months before Amazon released the first generation Kindle in the US.
The publishing world has changed a hell of a lot since then.
Caxton Tempest at the End of the Worldhas been out of print for a few years now, but you can still buy a copy from a private seller on Amazon, for £80! If he ever does manage to shift one of those books, he will have made more money than I ever did out of Tempest.
Was my first venture into publishing a success? Well, that depends on how you define success. If the goal had been to make myself rich, then no, it was an abysmal failure. If the goal had been to just to scrape a profit out of it, well, no, it was still a failure.
Looking back on those frantic days (I was juggling writing with a job, a three year old boy, a one year old, and we were having major building works done on our house) I can see now that I had no clearly defined goals in mind. I had some vague ideas about being an ‘author’, maybe one day hitting that elusive seam of monetary riches, and I was excited at seeing my story in print.
It took a lot of hard work and determination to publish a book pre-Kindle. Seven years and several generations of e-readers later, the publishing industry has gone through a major upheaval, and anyone with access to a computer and an internet connection can publish their novel, manifesto, sex guide, or history of Scandinavian sewage treatment plants in the 1950s, with just a click or two of a mouse.
So, it’s easy to publish now, right?
Well, yes, it is.
But why? What is the major difference between publishing now, in 2014, and publishing in 2007?
The removal of the most significant barrier between the author and her audience, that’s what. The means of distribution.
Writing Caxton Tempest was sometimes fun, often sheer hell. Having it copy edited was expensive, and formatting it for paperback was a nightmare. I sweat blood and pulled my hair out designing my book’s cover and website to showcase it, and screamed with frustration when dealing with the cryptic emails from my publisher. I spent endless hours promoting myself on Myspace (remember that?) and then on Facebook, holding competitions and trying to drum up attention for my book.(Social networking hasn’t changed much, it’s Twitter now.)
But all of that paled into insignificance when attempting to solve the problem of how to get my books into the hands of potential readers.
With boxes full of paperbacks cluttering up our house, the only chance I had of selling them was by travelling up and down the country, visiting bookshops and doing my best to persuade the managers to stock my book. At least for a week or maybe two, until they decided to remove it to make way for something that actually might sell. This was going to take time and money, neither of which I had much of. Even Amazon was a minefield of confusion to be navigated before they finally stocked my book.
But in the years since 2007, the barriers to worldwide distribution have been removed. You can now publish that manifesto of yours, and within twenty-four hours it will be available in North America, Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan and India, and any other country you might imagine through Amazon.
Do I regret publishing Caxton Tempest, considering I lost money on it? Not one bit. Tempest showed me that I had more ambition and drive than I realised, and that nobody was going to laugh at me for daring to think I could write a book. My favourite moment came a few months after publishing, when I was food shopping in our local supermarket. I was stopped by a stranger, who told me he had read my book, and how much he enjoyed it.
I learnt a lot from writing and publishing Caxton Tempest, but the most valuable lesson of all didn’t sink in for a few more years. (I can be terribly stupid sometimes.)
This is the secret to publishing success.
In fact, this is the secret to success of any kind.
Do it all again.
You write your book. You publish it.
Then you write another book, and you publish that.
And on and on.
I know, you’ve heard that advice before, and it’s not exactly exciting or earth shattering, as words of wisdom go. In fact, you may well have read a whole book based around that one piece of advice. But you need to listen to it, and take it on board. I need to listen to it.
Because a portfolio of books on your Amazon author page, or your website, will do your reputation more good than any amount of promotional efforts on a website and various social media platforms.
So, write those books, publish them, learn from them, and then go ahead and do it all again.
That’s what I should have done, back in 2007.
Ken Preston is the author of zombie cowboy novella Population:DEAD!,
and YA pirate adventure, The Devil and Edward Teach, as well as stories about time travelling dinosaurs and an Upside Down world. He likes giving books away, so sign up to his newsletter for freebies and updates on new books, including his forthcoming major new horror series Joe Coffin. Find him on twitter @KenPreston100
And yes, there will be a new edition of Caxton Tempest at the End of the World, due for publication in 2015