A Cautionary Publishing Experience

This discouraged author recounts his publishing and promotional experiences:

The distribution and sales for the book have been disappointing. Maybe it had something to do with the subject matter or the title. Everyone has found the book easy to read, very informative and thought provoking.

I have more useful hints about what not to do than what to do. I tried many ways to get the book into the market place. After my publisher's unsuccessful attempt to get the major distributors interested, I followed the rest of their advice almost exactly as they had suggested with the exception that I did not do a book launch. From my attendance at a number of book launches and with trying to set one up for myself I concluded that they are simply not worth the time, effort or expense. They seem to be more of an ego trip for the author and the publisher without any chance of getting to the mass market. In my experience, very few books seem to get sold as the result of a launch – maybe 100 at most without any follow on sales.

I emailed everyone on my email list with a basic blurb and the link to Amazon. This was a real embarrassment. I found that people had difficulty buying my book through Amazon firstly because the print-on-demand system was not effective and secondly because of a feud between Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk . I also followed through with the Amazon.com process of having the page opening facility on my book. This also does not seem to have had any effect on sales. I also posted copies of the cover of the book with a personal note to everyone I could think of. I am pretty sure that this did not result in many sales.

I sent copies of my book to as many libraries, radio announcers and non-aligned bookshops as possible. I only had one response from an announcer who said thanks but it would go onto the pile beside his bed. The Theosophical Book shop in Russell Street took 10 copies and a few months later returned 9. The franchiser at Dymocks bookshop in Camberwell bought 10 copies from his distributor but I don’t know whether or not he sold any. I visited a number of other unaligned bookshops in Melbourne that were recommended by my publisher, but only placed one copy. None of the other bookshops would deal directly with me so I contacted their distributors personally. Once their purchasers had rejected the book from my publisher's distributor they were simply not interested.

I followed my publisher's advice and contacted a number of libraries in the greater Melbourne area to see if I could do some book talks. All of them seemed to be booked up for at least a year. They were happy to have copies of the book posted to them but showed no particular interest that would result in sales of any kind.

I also took up my publisher's advice to employ a PR company, but I worked out very quickly that all I would be doing is keeping them in business with no guarantee of success. I had already spent too much money in getting to where I was and that was nowhere.

Following all this disappointment I feel that the only possible way of getting mass sales is by having Amazon.com include my book in their sales procedure. When one buys a book from Amazon they come back with a statement like, “people who bought the book you bought also bought...” and they give you the covers and blurbs of books of similar interest. I tried to find out how to do this but was unsuccessful. It seems to be a closed shop.

 I was tempted to try Facebook as a result of prompting from my publisher. However I have been very concerned about Facebook from a personal privacy point of view. It seems to be insidious. I don’t trust it. Rightly or wrongly I became convinced that the trade-off between loss of privacy and possible sales would not be in my best interests.

It is not a happy story. I still have about 400 copies unsold and I suspect that my publisher is holding 500 copies in storage. There must be some effective way to get the books into the mass market place. I feel that Amazon or similar could be the most effective way to go if the procedure blockage can be cracked.