Back in July, I published my book, “Mud, Sweat and Tears – An Irish Woman’s Journey of Self-Discovery”. And what a journey it’s been.
Writing it was the easy part. I had just been laid off from my job in Ireland in 2009 and had moved to Vietnam with my other half. I lived off my savings, which was made all the easier given Vietnam’s dirt cheapness.
I spent two whole months, sitting at my desk for 4 to 6 hours a day, putting down all the words.
I read online that a typical novel is 80,000 words. I wrote 85,000 just to be sure. My partner did the editing, a job that was badly needed. After staring at the paragraphs for so long, I needed someone else to do the chopping. I got friends and family to read the draft version, getting feedback on everything from style, content, and typos.
I sent out book proposals to prospective publishers whilst still writing the actual text. That was another job, writing a concise punchy overview, biography, doing a market analysis, and giving a list of chapters as well as 3 completed sample chapters.
Unfortunately the publisher route didn’t work. Eventually I found an agent who was willing to take on the book and market it on my behalf. “Bingo!” I thought, because that’s how most people succeed in getting themselves published.
By 2011, two years after finishing the book, my agent had failed to find a taker. And, due to personal commitments, she decided to fold her business.
It was then, in June 2011, a friend suggested self-publishing. I found out its free to release an e-book, so figured I had nothing to lose. The best place I found was Smashwords. They have a clear system for uploading and formatting books and lots of clear downloadable guidelines. They also deliver the book in a range of e-formats. And, even better, they give you nearly 80% of the sale fee.
I self-published my e-book for Kindle on Amazon.com a few days later. It is a more popular place than Smashwords in terms of people looking and finding my book. It is again free to publish, but the uploading system is a little complicated in comparison with Smashwords, so it took a week before it was properly formatted. Depending on the country where the book is bought, Amazon only give you 35% to 70% royalties.
That was the simple part. Next, people asked for paperbacks. Publishing paperbacks back in Ireland is ridiculously expensive. You need to be selling tens of thousands to make it break even at all. The quote I was given was 1,595 Euros for 150 copies, with each additional one costing 4.50 Euros. At that rate I’d need to sell books at well over 10 Euros to cover the printing costs.
I live in Cambodia. So I decided to print my books here. Though cheaper at the price, the quality has proved somewhat haphazard. I got 1,000 copies made up in total. I bought the barcode and ISBN number myself. The cover design was a snip at 60 USD. John Shiels from Action Photography was generous enough to donate the shot for free, and Nicky Cinnamond was great at agreeing to use her photo on the front cover.
The next dilemma was sending the books back to Ireland for sales. Posting them from Cambodia worked out at 10 Euros each in stamps alone. So I’m now sending them home in suitcases with friends and colleagues who’re making the journey back. Their weight is such they can only bring 20 to 40 books back at a time. And then my dear friend Mel (check her out in chapter 5) has been sending the books out when orders come in. Basecamp and Great Outdoors have stocked a few. I’ve sold others via my blog and through a paypal invoicing system. Most paperback sales are however via Amazon.co.uk. This is not ideal. They keep 60% of the cost, and then they’ve put a 10% discount on the book without even asking me. They also only ask for 4 to 5 books at a time, which mean postal costs are substantial. But, in the end, Amazon is where people look for and buy books, so it’s a necessary evil.
Marketing the book was a whole other issue. I’ve done announcements via my twitter account and my blog. Friends have been great at re-tweeting and liking my blog updates. I’ve sent out email newsletters via MailChimp to advertise the book. And I’ve encouraged those who’ve read it to blog about it, and Roger Henke, Paul O’Connor, and Niamh Griffin have been stars to feature it on their sites. Niamh has even gone one step further and sent it to local Irish newspapers to spread the word. Gags has run a competition with it on his Art O’Neill Challenge site.
Now I’m trying to get the book mentioned in magazines. Ireland’s Outsider and Cara, Aer Lingus’ in-flight magazine, have both written a few words. Matt from Mud, Sweat and Tears has also given me some contacts from Trail Running Magazine, Fellrunner, Go Trail, and Athletic Weekly. They’ll be all giving it a plug in the coming months.
Eventually, I hope the book will get sold via word of mouth and that copies will also get passed around. Ultimately I didn’t write it to make my fortune. I wrote it to get the story out. The Wicklow Round will always be there. And I hope that, by documenting what it is and how I did it, that others will be inspired also to give it a go.
And if anyone feels inspired to write a book, I’d heavily recommend doing it. I have immensely enjoyed the learning curve, finding out what it takes to become a proper author.