Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Archive for December 2009

At the end of 2008, after years of rejection letters from agents and publishers, I decided to publish my novel, ‘Tasting the Wind’ in a ‘Print on Demand’ (POD) format.

POD is not to be confused with self publishing. If I had self-published there would have been a lot more donkey work- buying my own ISBN, submitting the legally required copies to the relevant libraries and so on. It would also- and I have this on the authority of self- published authors- be far more expensive. With conventional self-publishing the author pays for a print run and ends up with a garage full of physical copies. POD books exist in cyberspace, and can be printed off… well on demand, as the term suggests.

So how was it for me?

The down side.

So you can have a nice, glossy covered version of your work without having to suffer another rejection. But what are the down sides?

These are probably in proportion to your expectations. If you think that a POD book is going to make you rich and famous, then think again. Some writers (including myself at one time) will point out the occasional author who has self or POD published and as a result has been ‘noticed’ by a major publisher. These are so few and far between that it can in no way be relied upon to get your book into the bestsellers list. Also, once you have gone down the POD route you have used up your first publishing rights.

 The fact that the technological revolution has enabled you to publish a book which has had no editorial input or proof reading means that anyone at all, regardless of talent or lack of it, can publish a book.  Even as a POD published author I have to admit that I am very careful about buying POD  work, and like to find out as much as I can, including reading a sample if possible. In order to give others a chance to decide before buying ‘Tasting the wind,’ and because I believe it will stand the test,  I have put the opening chapters on my website, www.allanmayer.com  and you can read a whole 25% of it on Smashwords, where it can be downloaded as an e-book.

Even after ten years of work, ‘Tasting the Wind’ admittedly has some typographic and grammatical weak spots. Despite careful readings by myself, family and friends, seeing your book in a published form for the first time will highlight some obvious errors previously unspotted. *

The company that I published with – www.youwriteon.com , have had their fair share of criticism. Their original plan to publish 5000 books by Christmas 2008 was never going to happen in reality. For £39.99 YWO printed my book, bought an ISBN number and placed it on several online book sellers sites including Amazon and Book Depository. YWO get 40% of everything I sell. I am aware that I could have gone down other routes which would have retained me more of the royalties, but as I knew that these would not be phenomenal figures I didn’t get over concerned about this.

I’m not sure if marketing should come under the downs or the ups, as it has provided an enjoyable learning experience. BUT it is hard work, and can consume a lot of your time. The best thing that can happen to a POD book is that it finds a niche audience or manages to get national press coverage (which to my knowledge two YWO books have done.) Talking of the down side, as I am, this brings me to my two greatest disappointments. Both ‘Community are Magazine’ and one of the Royal College of Nursing  journals showed interest then decided not to pursue the interview/ review. An appearance in either of these would have really boosted sales, but que sera sera… 

One last thing about  the downside: there were  frustrating delays in the publication of the book and the appearance for a short time of someone else’s cover with my information on some of the sites.  I don’t know if I’m particularly blessed with patience or just plain stupid, but at a time when people were panicking and withdrawing their work I decided to wait and see. The POD project was new to Ted Smith and the team, and they would be first to admit that there were teething troubles.

Then came the day when the first copy arrived, which leads me to…

The Up Side

I had heard all sorts of terrible things about the quality of POD books, including one of a writer doing a signing where the books were so poorly bound that they fell apart. No such problem with books published by YWO- I have handled several copies of ‘Tasting the Wind’ and books by other YWO authors and all have been sturdy and well produced.

I have made a lot of lovely contacts through developing my web presence. I received an e-mail from an Australian Speech Pathologist who was using parts of ‘Tasting the Wind’ in her lectures. The director of a company which specialises in workplace disability adjustments ordered signed copies for all of  his staff. I was also contacted by friends of David Heffer, a friend and colleague who was killed by the IRA and to whom ‘Tasting the Wind’ is dedicated.

Talking of web presence- I succeeded in what I set out to do by blitzing as many outlets as I could find. Google any combination of ‘Allan Mayer, Tasting the Wind and you will find pages and pages. Not that many people will Google those words, but I am pleased to say that if you also Google ‘Learning Disabilities novel’ I now appear on the first page.

Although, as I said, you will not earn fame and fortune through a POD novel, you may earn a small amount of local celebrity. I have appeared several times in local papers and have been approached by people who have seen the article and even bought the book. I am also pleased to have appeared twice in the magazine of  Derian House children’s hospice, to whom I was proud to give the first month’s royalties.

The critics of POD publishing say that only your friends and family will buy your book. This is patently untrue- living as we do in the world of the internet there is more potential than ever before for creating sales worldwide.

The most important thing is that my book is being read. It is not only being read, enjoyed, and not just sitting on my hard drive.

So how many people have read it?

Well, I once read that a POD book would do well to sell 100 copies. I was happy when I heard that I had sold 122 in the first six months. Fluctuations in my Amazon rankings (U.S. and UK) since then  indicate that it has continued to sell, and I know that some people have passed it on to friends. Having come to the conclusion that my book was not commercial and unlikely to attract a major publisher, I concluded that a small readership was better than none at all. At the end of the day it all comes down to why you write. Yes, fame and fortune as a writer is a highly desirable thing. But in this case so is the thrill of connection I have found when people have sent personal e-mails or written reviews which tell me that they get what I am saying.

I think that fame and fortune can wait until the next book…

(WATCH THIS SPACE)

*My purpose in writing this post is to give an honest account of my POD experience- not to put you off buying my book.  If you find this off putting please refer to my Amazon reviews, where people I have never met have taken the trouble to point out that despite these issues they would still recommend the book and have given no lower than 4/5 stars.


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