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Self-Publishing: the International Challenge

post # 439 — September 27, 2007 — a Strategy and the Fat Smoker post

As someone resident in the US, I will confess that when I first thought about self-publishing I was mostly concerned with my own home market. I also assumed that, if the book was good enough, requests for translation rights would come in (and that’s started.)

However, I hadn’t given much thought to countries like Australia, which I visited recently, and which doesn’t translate books from English to “Strine” (The jokey term for Australian English.)

I had assumed (silly me) that, since my books had always done very well in Australia, I would be able to approach the main bookstore chain and discuss arrangements for them to stock a self-published book.

It turned out to be harder than I thought. I tried doing it directly and with the assistance of the Australian Institute of Management (AIM). Nobody has yet returned my calls, emails (or those of the AIM.)

I don’t know what’s going on, and I still have hope that it’s either an oversight or part of the problem with self-publishing. I don’t know how well bookstores are set up to deal with authors who self-publish their books. It woudn’t surprise me if the “filtering system” just blocks things out.

As someone pointed out in an earlier blogpost in this series, when you self-publish, you are not just going outside the regular channel of the publishers, but of the entire “supply chain” reviewers, bookstores, etc. which has been built around dealing with established publishers.

It’s early days, and I’ll keep you posted, but I thought it only fair to report the hiccups as well as the virtues of self-publishing.


Suzanne Lowe said:

David, I’m considering self-publishing my next book also, so I’m quite interested in your journey. But I have to wonder: why work so hard at placing your book in bookstores? Is there really THAT much buying traffic in those venues? Why wouldn’t you spend more time advertising your book’s availability and then do the fulfillment through your website? (And wouldn’t this make international selling easier?)

posted on September 27, 2007

david (maister) said:

Suzanne, you may yet be proven to be right. I don’t yet know.

It’s just that Australia is one of a handful of countries where you CAN reliably find my books regulalrly stocked in the business section of the major chain(s), – who also run the major Australian online domestic competitor to Amazon – so i’m reluctant to write them off without at least trying to establish a cooperative relationship.

I suspect that some “foreign” buyers will not be happy being forced to buy through Amazon in the US or UK, and would like a local option. If (and it may be a big “if”) I can make that happen, I will.

posted on September 27, 2007

Gordon said:

Hi David,

Missed your time in Sydney unfortunately. However as an Aussie can I offer to write (as a customer) to one or more of the chains you have contacted asking why they are not handling your book. A customer’s complaint often goes further than an author’s as far as the bookseller is concerned. And I’m sure there are other Aussies who could do likewise.


posted on September 27, 2007

David (Maister) said:

Thanks, Gordon. I apreciate the support. I don’t know if I’m yet at the point of “complaint”, but I will say that if you would plan to buy the book anyway, then placing a pre-order with the bookchain will help the cause – I suspect an order would get their attention more!

posted on September 28, 2007

Charles H. Green said:


Like Suzanne, I’m very much self-interested in this journey of yours. I think she may be right; as you know, it’s extremely hard to identify the channels of sales based on the statements you get as an author from publishers, so it’s hard to say. But Amazon is a very high growth company, and I don’t believe it’s all non-book growth.

Corporate sales, your-own-site sales, and some personal sellingto channels like you’re doing–well, you’re blazing trails here. Not that many people with big publisher experience and true sales volume have tested the concept. I wish you the best of luck! I think it is an industry that needs such testing.

posted on October 8, 2007