Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Starting your own publishing house.

November 16, 2010

Starting your own publishing house.

The last post concerned the problem of getting published and turning to self-publishing. (Suggest you read that first)
Here I am telling the story of how Magpies Nest Publishing was set up as a channel to get my books into the market place. Plus various problems to do with marketing your book.

Magpies Nest Publishing ( was set up by my son. This is completely different to using the ‘ready to use’ blogs that are simple to set up but restrict in other ways. Magpies Nest Publishing is not a blog, but a showcase and a means to order books over the web. I have no knowledge of computer language and my son does all the changes needed from time to time. I can’t even get at the programme to do any changes because it is on my son’s computer, not mine. He does not want me to fiddle with it anyway — can’t blame him as I would only mess things up. (Being an old biddie, relatively new to computers, that is one thing that I really am good at!) PayPal, complete with shopping basket, is really needed but I have to wait until it can be done. Hopefully by the time most people read this it will be set up.

I did not set out with the intention of starting a publishing house. But I had already written a number of novels, and submitting to agents or publishers that objected to the author submitting to other firms at the same time, was indeed tedious, especially when a reply could take months. Knowing that agents only take on one or two new authors a year (and those not necessarily from submissions) out of the thousands of hopefuls, was not encouraging. But, as you may have gathered from my last post, I continued as I looked into alternatives. The false agent was a huge blow. I’m just thankful I did not broadcast the mythical coming contract. The showcase venture collapsing was also a blow as all this meant that I had not submitted my work to genuine firms for quite a while. Back to square one!

But even before then, I received a letter from a friend’s son who was climbing Kilimanjaro along with a group of students from Durham University. He was looking for sponsorship. Having very little cash at the time I offered to write a small book about my childhood. I had been encouraged to write a book by someone who enjoyed the occasional funny references to my youth. Here was an opportunity. I had no great plans, just thought a booklet something like a Church Magazine — printed, put together and stapled by myself, at a place where I knew it could be done. However, it grew. Someone offered to sell it on their website, the man who did my Manuscript Appraisals offered to proofread it, and so I just had to do a decent job of printing it. I enlisted a cartoonist to help with illustrations to go with my line drawings. and I began looking up local printers. The local printer could not do perfect binding I required and suggested a firm in Kendal. A good quality book was produced by the traditional method. Someone suggested 1,000 copies as being the cheapest way to buy them, I already thought 500 would be far too many. But I decided on 750 and wondered where on earth I was going to sell them! However, my son said we should get an ISBN and bar code, or they could not be sold in shops. (You have to get a minimum of ten ISBNs All this information can be found on the Internet) He saw to all that, and he formatted the book. Quite a job with having to fit in so many drawings — some having to be shrunk or adjusted, and occasionally the text wrapped around an illustration.

We got a lot of publicity from the local paper because of the Kilimanjaro expedition as well as the uniqueness of the book. This carried on to illustrate an article about wartime labeling — Utility! Photos of my young friend actually standing on the mountain also gave another occasion for the book’s mention. My son’s firm sold many books through their on site gift shop and fellow employees bought the book. A visiting rep for the Lakeland glossy magazine read the book and put a brief review in the next publication. A reviewer for Westmorland Gazette wrote a nice piece too. Some people bought multiple copies for Christmas and birthday presents too. I was stopped in the street and supermarket to be complimented on the memoirs and was told how much it brought back memories. Buyers passed it around family and friends — some abroad. I even got letters saying how much it was enjoyed. Delightful, amusing, hilarious, entertaining — praise abounded! Even so, sales were mostly local. I sold a good batch to a book warehouse but at 50% discount not much left for charity. Others took 30% 35% or 40% but quite a few were sold with every penny profit given to the cause. Hence we eventually handed over all profit plus a few donations to the charity — over £1,500. (Some through the sponsoring but most afterwards direct to the charity). Recently, due to requests we could not fulfill, we produced a second edition with 40 extra pages and more illustrations. I could not risk another traditional plates production as I did not expect to repeat previous sales, so I went Print On Demand. Their new site is in preparation but I am very pleased with the service I get from them:
Another new site, which appears to be excellent for fulfillment services and generally helpful for self-publishers is
Apart from getting a free copy of ’10 Big Mistakes that cost Authors Money’ it claims to be a creative community of writers, authors, journalists, bloggers,designers, illustrators, editors, proofreaders, programmers, web designers… visit there to find what else. I have joined the community, it might well raise my enthusiasm, and who knows — sales?

Having successfully formatted Red Boxes (When Phones were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes) and got it registered (which puts the book into a catalogue and onto Amazon etc. and also requires six books to be deposited in British deposit Libraries) my son suggested we use up the spare ISBNs on publishing my novels.

A novel is much larger than my memoirs. To buy more than 200 maximum seemed risky (as well as requiring storage space) and traditional printing would be far too expensive so I turned to digital POD. I looked on the Internet and received a variety of estimates. I chose a firm in Derby and they did my first two novels. But they closed their book printing side of the business – or sold it. If the above fulfillment company, with its connection to the above mentioned POD printer had been around then I would likely have enlisted their services. As it turned out, I found novels incredibly difficult to sell. Even after getting awards and local newspaper publicity. There are so many cheap books around and this is an area of low population. And I guess , being an oldie who had to give up driving years ago, it difficult to get around and get my talents known. Posting books to book warehouses got me nowhere (except the more local one, which is not taking more due to present financial restrictions.) Posting books elsewhere just meant loss of books with seldom a confirmation of receipt. Same with trying for reviews in nationals. I had it confirmed by the Telegraph that they only review books freely available to purchase in any bookstore. Of course, bookstores won’t buy books unless they are certain of selling them.

However, after the first two novels, we published a delightful poetry book called The Primrose Path. The poet is an ex-Yorkshire miner, Bob Taylor. We met through a group formed after the false agent debacle. I loved his poetry and persuaded him to let us publish it. I illustrated it for him. But he, like me, had written a few short stories. So I invited submissions from other members of the group with a Northern connection and we published an illustrated book called Northern Lights. All the contributors bought copies at the cost of printing and could sell or give them away as they wished. 50 copies were bought by a warehouse bookseller. I had a second print run done and we are now out of stock again. Of course, we would do another run if needed. Unlikely, since our sales are almost entirely local with only a few Internet orders, as with novels.

Having had short stories printed in Internet journals, two years ago I decided to publish my own anthology — Still Waters Run Deep, stories of hidden depths. (Mainly stories — humour, mystery, crime, semi-erotic, with a local setting.) It went in the local paper and the next day customers were queuing outside the bookshop waiting for it to open! I had tried to get it published but the publisher who enjoyed reading the submission said it was not what they published (they only published regional) and suggested where I might try. It did not suit them either but they sent information on what they do publish. Why go on trying when we can do it ourselves?
But no matter what kind of books, readers have to be really keen to pay more than the cheapest books on the market. We live in a small market town in Cumbria. When I asked a market bookstall if he would like 10 of my books at a promotional price of 10 for £5, he would not even look at them. He waved his hand over the stall and said, ‘This is what people buy. This is what they want. Known authors and known books.’ Then he turned away and ignored me. However I have given copies to the local Oxfam and they sell out there. Again, books are cheap! At least the money goes to charity so that is okay.

I have set up an account with Gardner’s so I can sell through Waterstone’s. BUT I have to contact each manager personally to ask if he will take a copy. The local, Barrow branch, of Waterstone’s (ten miles away) will take orders but will not stock. (Daft really! All that postage – me to Gardner’s, Gardners’ to Waterstone’s when I could just deliver it myself, but they have their reasons). I either break even or lose on every book. Waterstone’s in Barrow used to be Ottakar’s. That manager was great. He not only took my books (sold 30 of Red Boxes) but actually read my When Angels Lie and said it was good. He was moved to Kendal and bought some books there too. All these helpful bookstores have been swept away by big business. The local bookstore (keen to help local authors) closed one of its shops then sold the other. The new owner gave up but it has been opened by a new owner who is quite friendly. He has accepted some of each of my trilogy.

The trilogy, like my other novels, is also published in the USA and will shortly be published in India. Also as an ebook in Australia for worldwide distribution.

I do not pay to have my books published anywhere, but I have paid a great deal for editing, proofreading and appraising by professionals. Even the books of top authors get many edits before books are released. Recently, one best selling author got the wrong draft of his book printed in thousands by mistake, and they all had to be pulped! I managed about four typos in one of my books and worse in another — a small paragraph got left in that should have been taken out. But no one seems to have noticed. Most books on sale manage to get a few typos but unedited books give a bad impression of an author’s work.

However, without great marketing skills, it is difficult to get books into stores countrywide. But to get books cheap enough you need to print in thousands. Some regional publishers get grants, but not publishers like Magpies Nest. But without expensive promotion and publicity a publisher can be left with a load of books destined for pulping. A rather small book publisher (Snowbooks) states it takes them £10,000 and six months of their time just to launch a book, and that is without the publicity big publishing houses use. But Snowbooks have the experience of which books sell and the know-how to get them into the shops. Quite possibly my books, as they are, would not sell even if published by Random House! Well, I guess I will never know the answer to that.

It only takes something extraordinary about a book to attract a grapevine of twitters and it does occasionally happen. Word of mouth does sell books but they have to be in the market place attractively on display to get noticed. Otherwise why do publishers pay out huge sums to get even top authors’ books in windows and on display, complete with posters, leaflets and special offers, and in glossy magazines, and on posters on station platforms and so on?

Having one’s own publishing label is really little different from other forms of self-publishing. Unless you have a firm doing fulfillment for you it is just more hard work. Even so, it can get books into big stores if there is a will to do so. An ISBN and barcode is essential. Your own label gives you complete control over your book but you may have more work to do. But then, all publishers, large and small, demand a lot from their authors. Likely, if you pay someone to self-publish for you it could cost far more and the results be less satisfactory. Those who provide services are the ones most likely to make money out of your book. But then, DIY publishing without the necessary skills, can produce very poor books. I could not run Magpies Nest Publishing alone, but younger people with the necessary skills certainly could. And of course, you can get books printed cheaper, even if you have to buy in batches rather than singly. But there is always the option of fulfilment services.

What a Difference Promotion Can Make!

February 20, 2009

Today I had my book Awakening Love (Stonehedge Publishing Ebook version) showcased at by author Ernie Johnson.
There is a picture of the book cover and another of the author, plus a good snappy synopsis and one of the places to buy. 
The synopsis reveals why the locket on the cover picture is highly relevant. 
Visit to find out more about this remarkable Ernie Johnson with his vast range of activities.

Not only that, but When Angels Lie (AG Press) is featured on Carol, Author 101, is another remarkable author. She has showcased a great assortment of books by lesser known authors which are available on Amazon. It is worth taking a look. if you are an author in need of a good bit of publicity how about joining us?

Here is the synopsis for Awakening Love:
A tale of love, lust and passionate desire, authentically set in late 1940’s class-conscious Britain. Innocent, naive teenager, June Armstrong is determined to rise above her working class roots and succeed as a top dress designer. Her sexuality is dramatically awakened by war hero, and socially advantaged, Major Arthur Rogers (retired), twenty years her senior. The relationship, sealed by a gift of a locket containing a diamond for an engagement ring, is to be kept secret until June is eighteen. Various events, involving his family, job prospects and unforeseen factors to do with affairs of the heart, prove to be a challenge to their relationship.
Arthur’s ‘ladies man’ brother, Charles, is also in love with June but ruins his chances when he sexually assaults her. June becomes the catalyst for his remarkable redemption. She finds herself falling in love with the “new Charlie” when Arthur is abroad on business. Out of love for his brother and June, Charles withdraws from the blossoming relationship and returns to the Royal Navy.
But first Charles helps June gain employment as a trainee designer. Her boss and mentor — dynamic, sexy entrepreneur, Robert Watson — realises June’s potential and sweeps her along on a tidal wave of ambition. He has plans for a totally new business and she is to be his lynch pin. June is mesmerised by both Watson’s charisma and his renowned erotic sexuality (which she inadvertently witnesses in the stock room). 
Robert Watson’s ability to draw out June’s creative genius eventually creates a bond, dangerous but thrilling, which he ruthlessly exploits — to the full!

Awakening Love is twice award winner!


December 30, 2008

I am now set up to supply Waterstone’s via the wholesaler Gardners Books, and am free to write to their stores to see if they would like to stock my titles. A store directory has been sent to me.

My first reaction?


My second reaction?

Phew! More work!

The truth is, I am weary of the whole business. All I want to do is write, not market books. But without a publisher for printed versions, I have no choice but to go it alone.

I can only hope that e-book versions will sell.

But how to package books to give them ‘reader appeal’? I seem to have made a bad job of that so far. Yes, I have good reviews and those who read my books thoroughly enjoy them (no doubt about that), but competition is fierce and attracting new readers difficult. The Richard and Judy book list (and others with publicity clout) that takes a huge chunk of the market makes it hard for the rest to survive.

But then came this lovely reader review by Andrew O’Hara (Powell’s books Awakening Love reader review) to cheer me up :

“Few are able to write romantic fiction with the skill, ardor and sensitivity of Gladys Hobson. Gladys lays out her characters in such vivid color and her plots with such perfect timing that one can’t help but be swept up and carried along in her delightful tales. This is the third book I have read by this author, and she never disappoints.”

How far do I want to go? Time is precious.

December 2, 2008

I’m talking to myself really as I have a decision to make. But I am sharing it with anyone interested in this publishing game. The policy for Waterstones handling books of self-publishers is now clear. I have all the information, instructions and application form. It is true they only buy books through Gardner’s. I’m told that it is because it is not viable dealing with thousands of accounts. Waterstones do not have a central depot of stock and all managers order from Gardner’s what they think they can sell. So even if the manager would like to sell my (or your) book he can only order it through Gardner’s. Gardners will only stock a book if there is an on-going demand for it, otherwise they order from the publisher just the books requested. But for Waterstone’s to deal with self-publishers (like my Magpies Nest Publishing) it is necessary to apply for a Waterstone’s Trading Agreement with Gardner’s Books Ltd. You can get this from: Peter North Independent Publisher Co-Ordinator Waterstone’s, Capital Court, Capital Interchange Way, Brentford, Middlesex. TW8 0EX. Tel. 0208 9964388

You would think that local stores would have discretion about buying from local authors (as Ottakar’s did) but no, if the local store wanted a book or books, they would have to go through Gardners, I would get an order come to dispatch requested books to Gardner’s at East Sussex and they would send it to the store (likely with other books).

So I have this form and am wondering whether to fill it in or not! If accepted, I would get sent a list of all their stores so I could contact each individual manager/buyer. Maybe I could persuade one or two to try out a book or two and perhaps a book signing? But there is also a returns policy to consider and huge discounts as well as all the packing and posting, account keeping etc etc. should I be successful. If enough books were to be ordered then maybe Gardner’s would buy in bulk for stock. In which case I could get my books printed cheaper and maybe not lose out!

 Amazon and most booksellers automatically advertise a book that comes up on the Nielson list. And I do get a few orders from Gardner’s but I don’t know where the books go to from there. So I am looking at this form. Do I really want the bother? The local bookshop rang yesterday and asked for two more copies of Northern Lights. A customer had just bought the last one but wanted two more. Maybe better to relish being a little fish swimming around in my own little pond? Mmm… a lot to consider for an old biddie of a writer!

WELL it is now some time later and I decided to go ahead. But, unlike some keen types, I did not ring the managers of the stores. I found a web site with their Emails and used that method. The next day I received a couple of orders for each book I mentioned. Would I have done better by ringing? I do not have a gift for ‘selling’ so maybe not, and it would have cost quite a bit. Just might have a stab at it when I have nothing urgent to do. Or if I get a few more awards for Awakening Love or one of the others.

Chester at night

November 18, 2008


Christmas lights in Chester

Christmas lights in Chester

Not a good photograph but it gives an idea of the Christmas lights in the shopping areas of Chester.

It is rather lovely that at a rather dull and wet time of the year we have the brightness of special lighting to cheer us. Something that is free to look at even if shopping may reduce the contents of one’s purse.

We were in Chester partly to go to our friend Geoff Nelder’s book signing at Borders, Cheshire Oaks. What a huge bookstore! I strongly suspect that most book sales are of those piled up on the tables where their covers are clearly visible and you can’t help but notice them as you walk around the shop. Do I sound envious? You bet!

There are so many unsung authors, but that is inevitable in a world of big business and cheap books – so unlike the days when prices for books were fixed by the publisher. Do we read more now that books are cheaper? I guess with the growth of so many other diversions — TV, videos, games etc etc that is not an easy question to answer. Surveys may be done on book sales and reading habits but they do not tell us a whole storyl. What does speak volumes is the closing of independent book shops. We are almost directed by the big boys, celebrities and promotional techniques, as to what we buy — actually reading the books is another matter.


Chatting with Geoff at Borders

Chatting with Geoff at Borders

Writers, Publishers and DIY Publishing

August 11, 2008

It is a well known fact that there are far more writers — good, bad and indifferent — than traditional publishers can even contemplate selecting from by glancing at their submissions. So most publishers work through agents and rely on them to produce the writers suitable for their particular list of titles. So agents filter through the thousands of submissions they get inundated with, that is IF they are accepting submissions from unknown authors. If they are, then it is likely only one or two new writers will be taken on in a year. Thousands of manuscripts but which one or two will be chosen? It stands to reason that many excellent authors are turned down year on year. A few writers make it through the self-publishing route. It takes money, hard work, dedication, good promotional and marketing skills and maybe friends in the right places to get anywhere. If books are sold in the right numbers a known publisher may well take over the title. It seems to me that the chances of ‘making it’ are getting more and more remote.
Frankly, most bookshops don’t ‘want to know.’ If the book has a lot of appeal and is already being ‘asked for’ then the book might do well, at least locally. (As did my ‘When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes’ — out of a 750 run, 600 were sold locally.) But national booksellers go through the national office. Our local W.H.Smith’s manager was interested in stocking two of my books but the head office did not even reply to the letter I was asked to send in!
Okay, our book will appear on Amazon and a dozen other bookstores may also advertise it on their website — yes, along with thousands of others! They don’t have to stock or buy the book to advertise it.
I know of authors who travel all over the country trying to flog books one way or another, some with a modicum of success. Is it worth it? Well, you have to believe in your book, and yourself, to pay in time and money for what is involved. With cheap books for sale everywhere, it is hard to compete. How many unknown author books do YOU buy, and how much would YOU pay for them?
When we take the self-publishing route it is as well to have all this in mind. If services are being paid for, you may not get a penny back and that could run into thousands. If you are doing your own publishing (complete with ISBN and bar code) you can get books printed in smallish numbers and, if your book does not sell, all you will end up with is a box of books to give to friends or offer to libraries. At least your ‘baby’ has been born and smiling for all to see!
If I recall correctly, Michael Allen of Grumpy Old Bookman fame, once wrote that the average sales for a self published POD book were 80 copies. He also has a great deal of advice to give about the whole subject and of DIY publishing through LULU in particular.
Before starting on your publishing project it might help if you first visited:

What’s novel about a novel?

February 28, 2008

Apparently, according to the book buying public, very little!  Since I am doing second editions of Blazing Embers and When Angels Lie, wanting to shift the first editions, I took samples down to a market stall this morning.  The stall-holder simply said he would not be able to sell them. “They only buy novels.”  “These are novels,” I told him, “and they have good reviews. Second editions are being printed shortly. You can have them very cheap and they are signed.”   “I couldn’t sell them. They only want Cookson and all the popular ones like you see here.”   A glance at the many book covers told me that they were all second-hand ‘bargain basement’ soft-covers of the ones often sold NEW for 3 for a fiver!  I have an idea the customers take back ones they have read and get another for a smallish charge.  Hence, his stock is constantly replenished and he has no books to buy.  So I took my books over to the Oxfam shop where they have an excellent well laid-out book section — the whole of the ground floor. They usually sell them pretty quick there. I was pleased to see they only had one book left of the four I took on Saturday. So I went home smiling! I guess at that place my books are novel compared with the mass-market paperbacks!