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Self-publishing struggles. My book Us and Them a failure?


How are you? 

Hope it will be a great year for you. If not, fake it until you believe it. 

How did the sales go for Us & Them? Was it a success? Will there be another book in future?



The possibility of future books depended upon the success of Us & Them.

I spent a fortune on the cover ($1200), as opposed to the usual $700. It was released late October. I pushed it hard as I could in the lead up for Christmas. If people weren’t interested for themselves, surely a family member or friend would be.

I made two trailers. One of them I promoted (paid) on YouTube.

I made many posts on Facebook and Instagram about it. I paid for two lots of advertising on Facebook. One for the cover and another for the trailer. The cover received over 100 likes but no one went to the website (which was put into the post).

Nothing either from the YouTube promotion.

I made multiple posts on LinkedIn. Not the best venue for it but I am connected to many authors and publishers so perhaps it was actually better than social media. It was basically ignored. A few likes. No comments. No visits.

I paid for an Ad on Amazon which is still running. The advertising there is really complex. I don’t see any revenue from books sales unless it reaches over $100 US and they wire me the money. I’ve never seen a cent from them. I can only assume that no one is buying either. (I do know a few people who have bought via Amazon but again, unless I make over $100 in profit, as Amazon takes a big chunk, then I won’t see it).

If I was wealthy, I could pump in a lot of money into advertising and eventually someone would buy it and perhaps word of mouth might make it grow that way. I see a lot of that with YouTubers. Those with money get the followers. Yet, I’m not wealthy. I’m a single working dad with a mortgage. I probably spent about $500 on promotion. Not one sale.

I posted on Blogger about it too. I send those posts to my mailing list which has approximately 100 people. Only a small number ever reply so I assume the others aren’t looking.

I also did a small letterbox drop and left a few business cards at a couple of public street libraries.

I rang a library (plus my local) to do an author talk but they are only organised through councils now (unlike when I did a talk at a library a decade ago). The council person who emailed back said "poetry events don't attract people." I said it was mostly fiction and based on true stories but they did not reply. I figure because I'm a no name they're just skirting me. 

The pen is mightier than the sword.
Around 2009, when I had lots of enthusiasm (and a lot more ribcage) 😄


I’ve been through this many times before. Book stores won’t deal directly with authors. Only the little independents and even most of them say no.

Gleebooks has been great and stocked my books. That’s because I physically go in there and it’s a lot harder to say no.

Better Read than Dead in Newtown have also been great but they wouldn’t stock Us & Them before Christmas as they are too busy. They will stock it in the New Year. Remember you are competing with all the world’s biggest names so even if you get in, most are only going for those they know anyway.

And therein lies the problem I believe. Even if it gets into people’s faces somehow, they are risk adverse. They go for names. They go for books they have seen reviewed in a newspaper or on TV etc. Everyone will buy a book that others are reading. It’s group mentality. Bookstores also have publishing companies paying for visible spots, so if your book is spine facing on the shelf, you have no chance. Only twice has a bookstore put my book cover out. Again that was due to face to face interaction. I guess they liked me. At Gleebooks it's spine out and on the top shelf so I'm fairly certain no one will buy it. Christmas has passed and they didn't. 


The end result and the future

What does this mean going forward?

It means I have failed to garner any new readers. And lost a lot of money. The only places I’m getting traction with people is those I already engage with either via email or on my Facebook Author Page. It’s the same few people who keep returning. I would name them because they are so wonderful. Without them I wouldn’t have made it this far. And perhaps I should simply be grateful with what I have put out already. Eight books. Four via Gininderra Press (they dropped me through lack of sales) and four by myself.

2011 - In the midst of a peak writing frenzy that lasted about 10 years

I suppose the disappointing this is that I’ve saved my best novels because I had always hoped that they would be legitimately published. I must have sent those books out 700 times over the years. They are almost never looked at. The more I hear about how new authors get published, the more I realise is that they had a connection somewhere. Occasionally someone gets a lucky break but they are very rare indeed. 1 in 10,000. Something huge like that. I just didn’t get that break. It’s the norm. I’m not hard done by. 

Though being a straight, white male in the 'identity era' didn't help. I was at the bottom of the pecking order. If I'd been the opposite I would have gotten a look in. I guess somewhere back in the day I missed out on all that supposed privilege. (As if working class people ever had any).

What it does mean is that many thousands of books that are probably brilliant were never published, or like mine, lost in the online oceans of self-publishing. Sure there are many crap ones and a lot of average works but I also think some of the best works ever written have never seen the light of day. Certainly, before the internet. Those books could be out there now and we just don’t know it.

It’s not as though people read one of my books and never came back again. Most do come back. If not always, at least another time or two. And the regulars prove to me that the work has merit. Most of those readers I’ve never met in real life. Such wonderful people. I wish I could hug them.

It means that Joe Public is risk adverse and doesn’t investigate new authors. It means that a lot of people, family, friends and networks included don’t support the artist. This is what upsets me most of all. There are people I’m already connected with who could have made all the difference. They just didn’t. It’s infuriating. And really upsetting. 


Do I publish any more books?


I honestly don't know. I think I need to take a break. I feel like I have already asked too much of those few who support me. It’s not just the money and time involved. Or the effort. But it certainly does cost me a lot of all of those things. I’ve never broken even for example. Not even close.

It’s the disappointment I feel each and every time a book fails to do anything. I am an emotional person. And if you’ve read my work, you know that. I think this is a strength in my writing. That it emotionally engages with people. I pour my heart out. Yet, it also takes a big personal toll.

So, I need to stop for a while. Maybe that’s it now. I don’t know. If I go again I can’t expect the outcome to be any different. Only a fool repeats themselves and hopes for a different outcome.

I have six unpublished novels. One of them I wouldn’t publish. (I may give it away as a free eBook). But the rest are my best works. If I put them out and no one reads them it would break me. So, I need to regroup and reconsider.

A mock cover I made for my unpublished YA dystopian novel

I’m not writing anymore. Not fiction anyway. I have mentioned the drug issue I have (here) and so that has prevented me from being able to concentrate like I need to. I feel like my best writing period is behind me. We shall see what happens when I’m off the drug but every artist (certainly songwriters) has their peak period.

Sorry for sounding like a whiner. You have to understand that I’ve been dreaming of being a writer since I was 8 years old. Over 45 years is a long time to harness a dream. And though my peak writing period has been over the past 15 years, before that I was making short films, writing screenplays and I wrote prolifically as a teenager. Many of those stories are unfortunately lost. But I have always worked towards this goal.

Short film from 2004 that cost 5 years worth of savings
(My partner also put in 50%)

It got into two festivals, otherwise it didn't lead to a directing career or something in production, which is what I had hoped.

However after this, I decided to give away the film game and became serious about writing books. Perhaps it was a necessary journey.

Anyway, I’ll shut the fuck up now. Thank you for reading this much. And if you’ve read my books, I more than appreciate it. I fucking love you.



ps Any suggestions etc welcomed.

A.J. Langford Books

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