Commercial Publishers: A Moveable Feast?


Self-published author Tim Keogh [Nothing But Blue Skies] reminds me of my newly self-published self just a few years ago.

‘I have managed to place my book with Waterstone’s,’ he writes exuberantly. ‘When I told the lady at the till another branch of theirs was stocking it, she immediately replied that she would take five copies.’

The good news was reported to me thus subsequent to Tim having previously reported to me that he had suffered an earlier rejection at the same branch, Waterstone’s being his first port of call. This eventuality prompted remembrance of my personal first ports of call with my first self-published book in tow, only to be rejected, as I told Tim, by the only male member of Waterstone’s staff suffering from terminal PMT and (elsewhere) by a Waterstone’s bruiser in a frock.

So far Tim has shifted all of 400 copies.

How well I recall my own ambition for my first book Every Street in Manchester at that stage. A 1,000 copies sold was my absolute be-all and end-all at the time. Because a 1,000 copies were bound to arouse interest with a commercial publisher. Just as a 1,000 copies sold, had seen Billy Hopkins and his originally self-published debut novel Our Kid whisked away to best-sellerdom by a commercial publisher who had initially knee-jerk rejected him.

Briefly though, what had happened in Billy’s case was that film producer, John Sherlock, had read his self-published book on holiday – and heartily recommended it to a personal friend in the publishing game. The rest is history.

Sadly, I had no such luck with any publisher’s personal friend, despite my debut novel’s being shortlisted for the Portico Literary Prize alongside works by authors of national renown (Howard Jacobson and Val McDermid), Bad luck which seems also to be Tim Keogh’s experience so far.

‘I received a rejection note from a commercial publisher who says this,’ says Tim: ‘If you have sold 400 copies, you don’t need our help. Some of our people have struggled to sell 300 – even established authors . . .’

Now what the heck is that all about?

(28 September 2016)

See Amazon Kindle books recently published by Bill Keeth: Every Street in Manchester, Manchester 9, Write It Self-Publish It Sell It, Boost Your Pocket Money and Pension

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