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Why I Have Returned To Self-Publishing

Still on the late night edits. But at last The End is in sight!

There are many reasons why I chose to self-publish There Are Other Rivers. It may be interesting to share some of them here.

I self-published my first book. I didn’t do that through choice. I did it because no agents or publishers were interested in my story about cycling round the world. I wasn’t famous, I hadn’t broken a record, my trip had no novel twist (full rant here). It’s a book that is now rated as 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon. (If you have read it please, please leave a review.) Anyway, back to the point…

Trying to get my self-published book stocked in bookshops on a meaningful scale was futile and frustrating. Eventually though I found a publisher and began selling books in the traditional way. I will continue to do this where I deem it appropriate.

Fast-forward five years and five books and I am choosing to return to self-publishing. Why?

I love bookshops but they account for a tiny percentage of my book sales. Almost all my sales are online or at my talks. This book will not be for sale in any bookshops. What I lose by that I make up with the freedom I gain. Self-publishing gives me total control. I can share the story however I want. This is a linear, chronological journey but I wanted to share it in a non-linear way. That might not be sensible. It probably won’t appeal to a mainstream audience. It may not even be a good idea. But it was my idea and I am willing to stand by it. I have produced this book as a Foldedsheet “mappazine” (25 second video explanation here), as a book of photography (also on the iPad here), a Kindle version, a PDF download, an audio book and even as a good old fashioned “normal” book. The schedule for getting all of this work done was determined solely by how hard I chose to work, how much coffee I drank and how little sleep I could survive on.

I wrote this book myself. I edited it and proof red it two. I will do all of the sales and marketing on my own. I acknowledge that the book would definitely have been better with the help of an editor, a proofreader and well-chosen test readers. But my walk through India was alone. I accepted that out there I would stand or fall by myself. This project is the same. It is risky. It is a bit stupid. But there are no excuses to hide behind and I like that. Self-publishing is an opportunity for simplicity, hard work and personal responsibility. Exactly like the journey I am writing about.

Another important aspect of self-publishing is that it can provide value for money, cutting out all sorts of middle men. Buy Ten Lessons from the Road in a bookshop and you’ll be giving me 50p of the £10 price. I have priced all the versions of There Are Other Rivers as reasonably as possible. I am aware that this is only a short story and that I am not Shakespeare. But I hope that you feel it is value for money. Get in touch if you don’t and I will send you a refund.

The internet makes self-publishing so simple. This returns a degree of power to normal people. I can never compete for the publishers’ penny against celebrity travel authors or people who have had their trips on the telly and then dashed off a hasty book [full rant here again]. Self-publishing gives a voice to people who have an interesting story, though perhaps one that will only appeal to a small niche. I am not a famous author hidden away behind PA’s and PR teams. Send me an email or get in touch on Twitter. Tell me what you think of the book. I’ll reply in person.

On the subject of the internet and social media, one of the hardest parts of self-publishing is informing a wide audience about the book. I would be extremely grateful if you could help spread the word about There Are Other Rivers: tell your friends or mention it online. Pop it on Facebook, mention it on Twitter, write a review, interview me… Most helpful of all would be if you were willing to leave a quick rating and review on Amazon (do it here) for any of my books (There Are Other Rivers is there in Kindle form already). I’m not looking for fake feedback – leave your honest opinion! If you already have an Amazon account this will take you less than a minute. Just click here.

I hope you enjoy There Are Other Rivers. Read it quickly and you might be the first person to read it: nobody but me has read it yet.

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  1. “I edited it and proof red it two” – very good!

    Seriously, though, this is a really resonant and reassuring set of thoughts, although I can’t deny that self-publishing my debut book is a scary thought. But then the field is far more fluid, so a failed experiment is by no means the end of the world…

  2. Am in the process of trying to self publish myself. The story I have is pretty niche and will probably not appeal to a massive audience, but I’m determined to get the thing out as I won’t feel the journey has been fully completed until it is. It will cost me a fortune to do it, but that’s all part of the challenge.

    Are you going to try and flog any copies at the talk tomorrow night Al? If you bring at least one then I’ll hand you the cash for it myself!

    Now – I must go and read your full rant.

  3. Simon Giles Posted

    So glad to hear that you are going to return to self-publishing. There are so many ways to make the experience of participating in your adventures more engaging and the books will become merely one way to experience the narrative.

    But my main question stems from the blog post you linked to on hasty publication: Does it mean that you are now a ‘millionaire adventurer’!

  4. You beat me to it Simon

    Interesting to hear that you’ve not shown the text to anyone. Bold!

  5. Its on my xmas list.

  6. Joe Atkins Posted

    Interesting article! I had no idea how much book shops seem to rip off the author! Its such a shame for any aspiring authors. I’ll be sure to order this from your site. I’d be interested to know how it turns out to self publish – good luck!

    • just visiting Posted

      Trust me Joe, book shops are not the ones ripping off authors. No one is. A 5-10% royalty on traditionally published book is normal because a typical book costs about a third of the rrp to produce, covering the author’s cut, all publisher’s expenses (editing, promo, etc) and printing. The other two thirds used to go to the distributor and the seller, but since the end of the Net Book Agreement (no more full rrp), indi bookshops can’t compete with amazon etc who will sell a book at 40% off rrp. A big publisher might even have their arm twisted to supply amazon directly so indi distribs are struggling too. But in most cases an author’s royalty is fixed to the rrp.
      Authors are as well off as ever, and now they can self-publish, as long as they’re motivated to produce and promote a quality product, they have little to complain about. There is no better time to publish your book. Not getting it edited is a gamble and can be a false economy for a beginner, but as mentioned, Kindle can a fun way to experiment, especially as you can discretely upload v1.1 at a click.

  7. Sage advice. I really do think more writers will follow this path in the future, creating diverse author portfolios that include both traditional and self publishing… it’s all about diversity and balancing the commercial and artistic. Good on you!

  8. Totally agree with your decision Alistair. I’ve just finished the new Lands End to John o’Groats cycling guidebook and the authors commission is tiny. I was warned though the first time I met the publisher he said ‘you won’t make any money out of writing’.

    Good luck with the mappazine. I ordered a copy a week ago.

  9. I can emphathise with the article! And being in control is good. Many traditional publishers have ditched smaller authors.
    Which ever way you publish you need tomarket,marketand marketand it’sfun!
    Good Luck. Rosalie
    Rosalie’s Chatter

  10. Reading your thoughts on publishing, I thought you might appreciate this note, written by a frustrated author a few years ago and describing his unorthodox attempts to get his book into the hands of readers:

    I look forward to seeing my copy of your bookmapablumstory.


  11. Hi Alastair

    Do you have any plans to release moods of future joy part 2 on kindle edition? I loved your first book and found your journey extremely fascinating and inspirational.



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