So it's out. My biography of John Freeman "A Very Private Celebrity" was published by Robson Press two months ago (early July, 2015) so now I can sit back and count the cost. That's easy to do. So far, I have spent £8,000 - £9,000 or so of which £2,000 was for a research trip to the USA and £5,000 was for buying the first 500 copies of my own book from the publisher, though at a much reduced price. I don't resent this. I know the book will not be a best seller so Robson Press must recoup its costs. What of the rewards? It's too early to receive any sales royalties but I have received an extra-ordinary amount of publicity. From the time when the Daily Mail covered 3 pages with extracts at the end of June, I have been on a roll - Book of the Week in two national papers, 10 reviews or so in the national press and another 5 in weekly periodicals. That's the point. I paid for a good publisher but I got back the services of its promotion and marketing department. Thank you Jeremy, thank you Victoria. That means the book has made a splash, which I value as much as money (they are related of course). What I did not want to happen is what happens to most writers; that you spend years writing a book - and then no-one even notices.
Since publication I have learned a lot about publishing. I offer this advice to whoever may read this and be thinking of spending hours and hours and hours creating his/her masterpiece.
First, find a Literary PR. I expect, like me, you don't know the species exists. I only found out last week when I when on a one day course called Press My Book. Emma and Katy are of this profession - ex journalists, ghost writers, experienced publishers. They don't waste their time sitting round at expensive lunches listening to authors talking about their books, like we at the Biographer's Club do, but they are on the inter net working constantly at social media on behalf of their clients. This is how to promote your book. Your own www site, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Tumbler, Instagram, the lot. Already I have spent 3-4 hours registering on literaryfestivals.co.uk. How else am I going to get rid of 500 copies of "A Very Private Celebrity" unless its by filling my car trunk full when I speak at festivals?. And here I am on the first of my blogs. A friend is updating my www. Whether I get Twitting or Tumbling is another matter but I accept that any communicator today must use social media.
This is putting the cart before the horse. My other advice is to accept that you probably won't get an advance for your book and that Waterstones won't stock it in their branches, though they will order copies. Accept that most copies will sell on Amazon, many on kindle which is cheap. Accept that you will need to find and pay for your own photographs and do your own index or pay someone else to do it. But never volunteer to do your own proof reading; it's impossible.
Why write professionally at all, you may ask, if there's little money in it? The answer for me is to hold in my hand 120,000 words crafted, honed, polished into a book - a book probably professionally published, by the way, because book design is not something you can do WELL yourself, and it does make a difference - and say, yes, I wrote that!
Best of luck! Oh and while I'm on the subject, you can purchase a signed copy of my Freeman book at a discounted rate by clicking on the button below.