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Ashburton Stories: Eight things I’ve learnt selling my self-published book

The book has settled into my cupboard nicely

It’s been two weeks since the first of my books arrived. Now all the book copies are here and shoved into my cupboard. There’s a lot of ‘em! But I needed to get rid of all my old PhD papers anyway – is what I am now telling myself.


The pile is gradually diminishing but I am learning this whole book-selling gig is a marathon, not a sprint.

After two weeks, here are a few other things I’ve learned:


The self-promotion has got to be done


The book for sale at the Ashburton Community Centre

You really have to back yourself when you self-publish a book. There is no publisher to buffer between you and the reader. I’m glad I spent last year putting myself out there and seeking more recognition for my writing about Ashburton. It makes me more confident selling this thing. It is easier to tell people about the book and persuade them to buy it if you can Google me and find I’ve written other stuff about Ashburton.


To keep the ball rolling, I try to do one little thing a day to promote the book. It can be an Instagram post, an author talk, work on an article, this blog post, anything that will help make the enormous pile of books in my cupboard get smaller.


In the meantime, I can’t buy any new sheets as I’ve nowhere to put them.


You have to wait awhile for people to read it


Every day I remind myself that even though I’ve read it so many times myself and think it can just be read in an afternoon, other people have lives. My book is not the most important thing to them. It may be 10th or even 20th or not at all. In fact, I should just be grateful they bought it in the first place.


Whoever said “Patience is when you’re supposed to get mad but you choose to understand” was on to something.


Word of mouth is everything

I felt quietly confident in the writing after the positive feedback I received from my manuscript assessor. Early customer feedback has also been very encouraging. Someone even told me it was one of the most interesting books they’d ever read! High praise indeed. Now they just need to tell all their friends to buy a copy. Or tell everyone on Facebook, that would work too.


And I didn't even pay him!

Social media is a handy tool for getting the word out


I’ve got myself onto a few of the community Facebook Groups over the years and this has been helpful for driving sales. I can’t post on some because they don’t allow promotions so I have to hope someone else mentions it as a recommendation.  


Some people bought it straight away. One guy even drove to the Ashburton Community Centre from Ringwood to buy his copy. Others are not interested. Yet more may be waiting to find out if it’s any good/they’re in it/whether I included the details they remember, like the name of the man who ran the milk bar at 157 High Street between 1952 and 1975. Spoiler alert – I didn’t.


It’s a history book, not a recitation of random facts. This means it provides the context of why business owners stayed on High Street as long as they did and the challenges they faced, not the minutiae of who owned what shop when.

Those people with the amazing memory for details tend to email me them. I’ve started saving them up for the next edition!


Didn't pay him either!


My first author talk was a great way to fine tune my messages

I was asked to give an author talk as a last-minute replacement for a sick author at a monthly book club meeting.


I did that thing where you say “Sure!” and then work out the details later. This means I Googled “how to give an author talk”.

As a historian, most of my talks are about the research I’ve done or the content in the book. I’m not the greatest public speaker but I don’t find it too terrifying. According to a nice lady on the internet who wrote a blog post about author talks, they are about me and my ‘writer’s journey’. I hadn’t really thought about the book as a writer’s journey before. It was a great exercise.


I sold a few books and someone asked if I’d come and speak at their club meeting so I think I did OK.


People still use cash and you need to accommodate them

 

As a person who barely remembers what cash looks like, I am surprised at how many people will pay me with it. Someone even gave me a $100 note. I haven’t seen one of them in years.

 

People want me to put a dedication in and I forgot how awful my handwriting is now

 

Total strangers tell me they will buy a copy if I write a dedication in it. I don’t know what to write. I’m starting to settle on “thanks for your support” after deciding “best wishes” sounds too dismissive. But this is more words and increases the likelihood my handwriting will fail. You can’t make a mistake in a dedication, it’s quite stressful.

 

If I know the person, I try and write something unique that shows our connection while also sounding witty and charming. I think I’m at about a 50% success rate on that one.

 

I've never been to the Post Office so often in my life

 

The Ashburton Post Office people have known me by sight for years and have started asking what I’m doing there all the time. I told them I’ve written a book about Ashburton and I’m sending it out to people. Then their eyes are drawn to the enormous queue behind me and I quickly get out of their way.

 

Ashburton Bookfest

 I’m speaking at 11 am at the Ashburton Community Centre on Saturday, 13 July 2024. Do come down if you’d like a chat! I will be selling the book there too. I can accept cash, bank transfer and Paypal. I can’t accept credit cards as the Community Centre needs the machine for the book sale.

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