You tried, you tried, you tried. You sent your book off to twenty publishers and got five rejection slips and nothing at all from the others. You approached a dozen agents and none of them felt you were right for them. It’s not like you’ve written the oddest book in the world either. It’s not called ‘Trainspotting for cats’ or ‘Aliens abducted my aunt and now she’s a tree.’ It’s a thriller. One that you spent time plotting, you did your research, took a year writing it and getting friends to give you feedback on the finished work. They all agreed it had merit and that a publisher, somewhere, would want to take it on. Six months on from the completion of the book you are dejected and downhearted.

You have a good long think, then take the plunge and contact a couple of self-publishing companies. You’re surprised at the variation in prices, but having spoken to them on the phone you decide there is one you prefer. You visit them. Nice office, nice people, very helpful. You’ve already researched their prices, decided your book is worth the investment and go ahead with it. Four months later your books arrive. They look amazing. You couldn’t be happier. Six weeks pass and from the three boxes of books you had, two are still in the spare room. You’ve sold a grand total of thirty books and invested a fair chunk of your savings. All you’ve got from the process is the thrill of seeing your name in print and seventy books that no-one is buying. So much for self-publishing. In fact, so much for being an author. You won’t be doing that again.

If you feel like this or have felt like this, you won’t be alone. There will be many authors who have gone through exactly the same process and on a wet Wednesday in the spring, they look out the window and watch all their dreams run down the gutter and into the nearest drain. You feel talentless and hopeless. Why does it happen to so many aspirational authors and is it the fault of the self-publishing industry? Do they take advantage of those with little talent and deep pockets? In some cases, they do. The first stage then, is to know how to avoid them and find the good ones.

Simple detective work should sort that. Study their website, look for video testimonials and call them. Ask any questions you have including what you get for your money, what support you will get and what marketing they offer. With the background done then at least you know what you’re letting yourself in for.

As this is an article about why self-publishing doesn’t work then we have to address the elephant in the room. An odd expression if ever there was one. It’s simple really. Most authors are not realistic in their ambitions. They expect to release their book to the world and wait for the readers to find it. There are eight million books listed on Amazon and one thousand books a week are published in the UK. That’s 143 books a day. That’s the level of competition. It’s fair to say that many of those will be technical manuals and educational books but you are still up against a wall of other titles.

This makes it seem an impossible task. That your book has no chance of ever selling, but that isn’t true either. The book buying public love a new book. The UK market alone is worth £3.6 billion (2016 figures – the Publishers Association) which means people love books and that could mean your book! There lies your challenge then. A £3.6 billion marketplace waiting to buy your £7.99 book, but they can’t buy it if you don’t tell the world it exists. In a nutshell this is why self-publishing doesn’t work. A complete lack of understanding of marketing or an unwillingness to partake in it. The number of authors I have spoken to that have said they only want to write and don’t want to do the marketing is just about as many authors as I have ever spoken to. My job is to persuade them otherwise. All authors have to take part in the marketing and that goes for the traditionally published as well.

This makes your choice of self-publisher even more important. If they don’t have marketing packages or the marketing they have on offer does not look effective, move on. There are three elements to having a successful book: one, the product. The book must be well-written, well-edited and well-produced. Two, a marketing strategy that gets your book in front of your readers. Three, as many outlets as possible to sell your book. Amazon may be king, but it isn’t the only kid on the block. Your own website, a shop on your publisher’s site, social media pages, bookshops and other internet sellers should all be selling your book.

So why doesn’t self-publishing work? Because authors don’t take the business of selling the book seriously. Becoming an author is about being a self-contained business. Joint ventures i.e. self-publishing companies should take away the bulk of the hard work but the author still has to be involved.

As always if this has inspired more questions contact us at 3P Publishing on 01536 560410 or email We look forward to hearing from you.

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