On self-publishing and the perils thereof

Malarat has now come out on Smashwords, so it should be available for all the other formats, not just Kindle. It's harder to tell what the sales figures are with Smashwords, but there have been some sales through Amazon.

Stephen put the book into epub format and we had a slightly hairy time uploading it. Until recently, Smashwords only accepted Word documents, which they then put their 'Meatgrinder', an unlovely name for an unlovely process. Now it is possible to upload an epub file, and they also provide you with a link to a validator to ensure that the file is free from errors. After a few hitches and glitches, Smashwords accepted the file, and then added it to their 'premium' catalogue, which is the one that gives you access to the Apple Store, Barnes & Noble and suchlike.

And now we wait.

I have sent a few emails to review blogs and Amazon top reviewers, which is what you are advised to do. So far, no-one has yet replied to my initial exploratory email. I started just before the book came out on 1st May, so I suspect that some of the earlier recipients are not going to reply.

Immediately one is struck by one of the disadvantages of self-publishing. Many of the bloggers and reviewers, who write professional and well-judged reviews, discourage or refuse submissions from people who are self-published. One can understand why because the sheer volume of self-published ebooks must make it nearly impossible to read all or any of them.

I do wonder though how in the great morass of self-published books (some of which are very good) there is any reason why someone should choose mine. The issue of visibility is the main problem. One wants the book to be visible, but also desirable. Why should anyone buy this book? There are so many books out there, and lots of them are wonderful. And time is short!

This is a rhetorical question. We have managed the publishing part, thanks in large part to the fact that my husband is a book-designer himself and was able both to sub and format the manuscript. The next part requires one to be good at publicity and marketing, two skills that take many years to acquire. People devote acres of print and whole theses to this topic. And yet I am presuming to send a tweet to the general public (or whoever) saying - 'Buy my book! 'Cos it's jolly good! I know it's good, so it must be!!!1!'

You get the picture. Everyone's doing it. Many hundreds and even thousands of self-published writers are venturing forth, publishing their ebooks and then looking for readers, sometimes with an air of palpable desperation. I'm beginning to understand why. Without the 'imprimatur' of a publishing house, whether one of the big guys or one of the many excellent small presses - how is any average reader to judge which of theses myriad books is any good?

Footnote: that blurb in full:
Young Annat Vasilyevich is a youthful shaman and an outcast Wanderer. No longer her father's apprentice, she watches enviously as he sets out into enemy territory with his new pupil, Huldis of Ademar, and their companions.
War has come to Lefranu and while Annat remains to defend the merchant city of Yonar, her father has claimed the most dangerous mission for himself. None of them realise that their world of steam and machines is about to be shattered from an attack by the most deadly of enemies - the mediaeval Duc de Malarat and his ally, the twisted but beautiful Inquisitor, Valdes de Siccaria.
Someone has set loose an ancient demon known only to the Wanderers, and in order to defeat it and win the war, they will have to make a terrible sacrifice... 


  1. This is not unique to self-publishing. The vast majority of traditionally published books can't garner reviews either. The key is finding readers.

    To expect something to happen with one title is a bit naive. Even in traditional publishing it takes years and numerous titles.

  2. This is a very good point, Bob. I suppose what prompted my post was my experience when I was published in print in 2001 - at that time I did receive several reviews, as my publisher had sent out review copies to some magazines and web-sites.

    I think what you say in your first paragraph is correct - 'The key is finding readers.' And I am not sure how one goes about this. It is here that I am aware of my own inexperience in marketing, to put it at its most basic.

  3. Well, the fact that your blog post is very well-written might convince potential readers to buy the book :=)

  4. Thank you, John! It's so nice to get feedback. Did you know that Elaine Housby has a couple of excellent blogs on here? I must add a blog list!


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