Self-publishing – although terrific fun – was not my first choice. I wanted a “proper” publisher to snap up my book, mainly because that means that it’s worth publishing. But after several publishers had said the same thing – in essence, “good story, well told, not commercial” – I had two options: stuff it in a drawer and forget about it, or self-publish. And now that I’m on the path to self-publication, I see that the thing I miss most is not the stamp of approval of the publisher – after all, the book will sink or swim on its own merits – but their marketing clout. Marketing a book – particularly one on a niche subject by an unknown author – is at least a full-time job, and I already have one of those.
So instead I have a list, and occasionally my husband will say across the breakfast table, “What about police chat forums?” or some such cryptic comment, and on the list it goes. (If you have any such suggestions yourself, please do comment. I’d be very grateful.) As Cambridge is a small and bookish community, I thought the “local author” aspect was worth exploring – and things have worked out better than I could have hoped.
I write a weekly column for the local newspaper – called “Susan in the City”, it’s about life in Cambridge from my perspective – and so I asked whether they would be interested in a piece about their columnist’s forthcoming literary launch. And they would. Fired with optimism, I then went into our really independent local bookshop, David’s, and asked if they would be willing to consider selling my book. The manager and I commiserated for a while on the shocking state of modern publishing and book-selling; he explained that the sale-or-return terms would be awful; and then he gestured to his window – the window! – and said that he would take three signed copies. If I can take a photo of my book in a bookshop window, I’ll be able to die happy.