Self Publishing – Realistic Expectations Part 2 – Finding a Solution

I will briefly set up the situation for those of you who may not have seen yesterday’s Realistic Expectations blog post.

I was meeting a writer yesterday called Tony to see how I could help him self publish. He has been working on his manuscript for 10 years. It is a mammoth project. He has approached everyone for help and been given all the usual self publishing advice. He is now confused and bewildered. He fully expected someone, an individual or organisation, to agree to finance his book through direct funding or sponsorship…….read on.

First off Tony is a nice chap. Bright, witty, intelligent, and he knows his subject and how to write. The manuscript is about horseracing – 0ne race in particular, the St Leger. It’s the oldest classic horse race in the world held every year in September at Doncaster in West Yorkshire (North of England for non UK readers).

I looked at the manuscript on his laptop. It is an incredibly long and detailed and dare I say it passionate book (750 pages A4 at present). It’s well written. Extremely well written. Amusing, entertaining, informative, and crafted with love and affection, inspired by his father, a miner who lived and worked all his life in Doncaster.

I only had to read half a dozen paragraphs from the manuscript to recognise this as something special. This is no ordinary cobbled-together work of ‘fluff’. Tony would love the book to be hardback, full colour, in other words what they used to call a ‘coffee table’ book.

So the manuscript is excellent. He also has over 500 images, colour and black and white, that he has collected over the years from various sources. He has the copyright on most. He has a staggering assortment of beautiful old images, photographs, postcards, illustrations that would certainly look terrific in a large glossy book.

It took less than ten minutes to make up my mind about the manuscript. Yep, it is very good.

So I told Tony to switch off his laptop and put away the double-sided colour ‘brochure‘ one of his former students produced for him a couple of years ago that was okay, but in terms of showcasing his book was totally hopeless. The font in the leaflet was one of those dreadful flowery copperplate ones….you know the kind of thing…totally un-readable. I think you get the picture. And this brochure and his laptop are his only promotional tools currently at his disposal. So far he has relied on just chatting to potential backers and I’m sure, like me, they saw that he was passionate about the subject. But a financial proposition?

So to sum up……Tony’s idea of finding sponsorship has fallen flat. The current sponsors of the St Leger are the bookmakers Ladbrokes, but they have showed little interest. Who can blame them? Books cost money to produce and promote. Ladbrokes make money from gambling. They are not in the business of publishing coffee table books.

Other organisations Tony has approached have all applauded the project, and in many cases have offered support, advice, and mentoring but no hard cash. You can understand why. Tony by the way is not a known ‘name’ in the horseracing world.

And Tony’s budget for the project? In two words, hardly anything. So, what did I say? (By the way Tony agreed to let me explain the situation and share it with you)

Without financial backing his glossy 750 page book is a non-starter. He knows that, but he is reluctant to let go of the dream. So I have to take that on board.

Suggestions to ‘Publish on Kindle’ were considered but you could see his heart wasn’t in it.

The possibility of producing a short run of digitally printed books was discussed but we still come up against the lack of a budget.

He accepted all my advice but I could sense I was probably only telling him what he’d heard many times over the years, but he did concede that my ideas were a lot more ‘modern and up to the minute’ than the traditional advice many had served up.

The advice I suggested was this…….in the first instance, as a short term solution, to let me set up a website for him with a blog page on which he could promote and showcase his book and chat about it. Also show him how to set up and run his own WordPress blog to try to build some kind of following and interest. These two simple, inexpensive, short term solutions would also allow him to continue to contact potential sponsors/backers and direct them to the website and blog so that they could recognise there was a potential market for the book and sample some of the text and images. This would keep his dream alive for a while longer and give him at least an outside chance of finding funding.

If the website and blogs fail to find the elusive financial backing then I suggested publishing it for him as an eBook. This is far from what he originally wanted but at least it gets the book out there and could make him some money. It also still keeps alive the prospect of having print books done at a later date.

I did offer other solutions, all of which he took on board, and also promised to help him as much as possible….which is more or less what I do for all the writers I work with. I will have to wait and see what happens now. You have to remember I’m now just one of the many people he has received advice from over the years and so in the end he may well choose someone else to work with. But that’s the name of the game. If you’ve any thoughts I’d be interested to read them.




Tags: , , , , , , , ,

About writegoodbooks

I help new writers become published authors through self-publishing. I also offer writers the chance to have their work converted into Kindle eBooks and publish them on the Amazon Kindle store.

12 responses to “Self Publishing – Realistic Expectations Part 2 – Finding a Solution”

  1. MishaBurnett says :

    Local historical societies can be excellent fundraising resources. Even if no one organization has funds to spare (and they are usually shoestring operations) they usually know how to solicit donations and have mailing lists. You might consider contacting them for permission to send letters requesting donations to their donors.

    I do agree that for any campaign to succeed a top notch website is a must. This sounds like the sort of project that could attract private donors, but they need to see that the work is professional and the finished project will be something that they will be proud to have a part in. Perhaps you could post sample chapters with the illustrations?

    • writegoodbooks says :

      You are absolutely right Misha. All good, solid, constructive advice.

      The production of a couple of sample chapters is one of the options I floated which he did seem quite encouraged by…and designing and laying out the pages in a really classy, professional manner would definitely have a big bearing on whether potential backers agreed to get on board. It wouldn’t cost that much to do either….I gave him a ballpark figure which he seemed to recognise was far lower than anything he’d previously been quoted.

      For my part I thought suggesting the website and blog would be a good way to work with him in the first instance….it gives him a positive outlook for once, and he can see things moving forward, plus it does keep his ‘dream’ alive…..something he needs desperately to cling on to for the present. It means a lot to him.

  2. writeonthebeach says :

    I mentioned it in yesterday’s post, but now you’ve seen the guy and the mss is there any possibility of splitting it into volumes.

    My other thought is to do what folk did in the 19c. for books – seek subscriptions/donations from individuals via publicity and the racing world. Just a thought.

    • writegoodbooks says :

      The idea of splitting the book into volumes does not seem to appeal to him at all. I suspect this opinion comes too from one of the major UK book publishers who originally some years ago showed interest in publishing the book and they were adamant that it had to be one single book.

      I also mentioned the subscriptions idea. This is why having a simple website is so important for him. As I said in the post the only way he is showcasing his wonderful work is on a very slow laptop and a badly designed ‘brochure’….

  3. olivertidy says :

    I don’t pretend to understand too much of how this would work, if indeed it would, especially for your client, but how about putting the whole thing online in a DB website as a comprehensive reference work and trying to make money out of it – although that surely cannot be the main realistic concern here – through having advertising on the site. I would expect online betting agencies might be interested in that, especially as those who would be naturally drawn to the site would more than likely not be averse to a flutter. Even if he has the ‘coffee table’ books printed, it is hard to see how many of those he could shift.

    • writegoodbooks says :

      Okay Oliver….I take your point. I guess something along the lines of what you are suggesting might be worth considering down the line but I also fear it might have completely baffled him yesterday.

      I totally agree that the ‘coffee table’ book would not sell in sufficient numbers to justify a decent print run, no matter how fantastic it looked or how superbly written and researched it was. I have this vision of a huge pile of them for sale in The Works in the UK for £4. I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer that fate.

      I’ve also been involved in the wonderful world of horse racing and from my experience the majority of those I’ve met or heard of would not pay hard cash for a book like that. They would appreciate it, sure, who wouldn’t, but keep their hands in their pockets.

      The only person I can imagine being interested and having enough cash to splash would be Dr Marwan Koukash (and I did mention this to Tony).

      Marwan has only been in horse racing as an owner for 6 or 7 years but in that time has established himself as one of the leading racehorse owners and patrons of the industry in the UK. He has also bought himself a rugby league club in Salford, (near Manchester for those reading this outside the UK)……

      Note to Marwan: “If you’re reading this could you please get in touch with me too.”

  4. robakers says :

    I have been pondering the question of where to find money to help this gentleman publish his book. I have some suggestions, they are all variants from what has been mentioned so far and I assume that you have thought of them as well.

    Contact the track itself. They may be willing to help with the publishing costs. They can display the book in their museum, bookstore and offer it to the winners of the large races.

    Contact the families of the early patrons of the track. Family money usually doesn’t dry up and they may want to help in preserving the family name and legacy.

    Contact large horseracing families around the world. Horse racing is a worldwide event and it lends itself to those with large amounts of disposable funds.

    I don’t know if there is a horseracing hall of fame, museum or association that would like to help with the costs.

    If there is a Royal connection to the track or a history of Royals in the book, you could contact them and the government as well.

    Good Luck, I think this is a history that needs to be preserved and documented. Thank you for highlighting this issue. It is an important aspect of writing that all writers need to know about.

    • writegoodbooks says :

      Really appreciate the time you have taken to post a comment…thanks a million.

      You are correct in assuming Tony, the writer, has taken most of these steps. He is very methodical in his research and writing, that is obvious, and in total I must have chatted with him in person and on the phone for over three hours.

      In that time he listed the contacts he had followed up and I was quite amazed at the people and organisations he has spoken to or written to about the project.

      It’s fair to say that despite not having the perfect promotional tools at his disposal he has obviously made an impact on these people, his passion for his subject making up for any other shortcomings. But finding someone, anyone, with the kind of financial backing it would take to produce such a book has been a thankless task.

      Doncaster Racecourse is owned by a large company who also manage other courses in the country and they declined to be involved. You can’t blame them. They have enough demands on their money.

      The other avenues you suggest I would imagine Tony has explored. The book, if ever it is produced, would certainly not look out of place in a museum or at the course itself, but Tony has set his sights so high that it is difficult to even try to convince him that perhaps he should have something less than ‘perfect’ produced….I’m talking here about a paperback book or published online as an eBook.

      I believe one publisher was quite interested at one time but the cost of printing the book, even in China where this type of book is normally printed, would be a risk as there is as yet no identifiable market. This is why I suggested that Tony should let me design a website for him from where he could spread the word about it and try and build up a list of those willing to buy the book if it were to be in print.

      We will have to wait and see what Tony thinks is the next move. I have offered to help and he has all my contact numbers.

      • robakers says :

        I love your website and have learned several things from you. I thank you for that and I appreciate everything you are doing to help Tony and others like him.

        I believe that good actions are returned to you with good fortune. I am sure that you reap the benefits of your generosity daily.

  5. writegoodbooks says :

    I’m pleased that I have been of some help and thank you for your kind remarks.

  6. secretsdaughter says :

    Hmm.. an interesting one and even though I’ve little interest in horseracing, I was intrigued! Has he considered crowd funding the book through or similar websites which are specific to book publishing, coupled with the website, blog etc. that you and others are suggesting?


  7. terrytrekker says :

    Good article! I need to follow up on this, thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: