I self published two books in the last year, two collections of poetry. Swannui and Cygnus was a huge learning experience in terms of what it takes to produce a book. Advertising was difficult and actually getting local businesses to sell or even put a poster in their window was both embarrassing and frustrating.
My business model of selling the book for £4, £3 of which would go to myself and £1 would go to the store, seemed reasonable to me. I didn’t ask for stores to buy up stock. With my model they earn a few quid and look good by promoting local endeavors. Despite this I was told quite a few times that “poetry doesn’t sell” and that “we need the space”, which apparently meant that a 210mm x 148mm book would crowd the place out. The town council office even told me that they wouldn’t put up my small poster as they don’t advertise businesses, despite the massive garish poster advertising a carnival 20 miles away. The staff seemed to take issue when I pointed out the irony of this.
In spite of this I managed to get my press release into a couple of local papers (of the 6 I messaged, 2 used the article and 4 entirely ignored my email). It was all a little disheartening but I sold 30% of my stock and took the whole thing as a learning experience. It was my first book and many of the hurdles I had overcame would serve me well when releasing a further one.
With that in mind, at the end of last year I released my second collection; Be All; End All. This time, I only ordered half the quantity of Swannui and Cygnus. I promoted it across my Facebook, Twitter and on here. I went around with posters to every local book shop I could think of. Across five towns I only managed to convince the public libraries of each to stock it (the library of my hometown, Beccles, even returned the books to me).
Other interesting comments I had this time round included
“Frankly, it won’t sell at all so I’d rather not”
“The trustees don’t want any clutter”
“Is it about Norwich, are the poems about the area?” to which I replied that, as a resident of the area, there is no doubt that the location has influenced me. Apparently that wasn’t enough. So for Hell Yeah; Part Three I will produce an alternate version with every third word replaced by “Norfolk” “Suffolk” “Norwich” or “Waveney”.
I appreciate thatthis can all sound a little despondent. I guess it is. Staying positive can be tough sometimes.