Sooo now the fun begins. I have slightly (!) gone about this the wrong way round insomuch as the whole process started with an idea that’s been floating around in my head for ages, and then I suddenly decided to get on with it. Most advice seems to revolve around getting your fans and followers geed up at the start of your project so that by completion they are full of enthusiasm and ready/willing to buy.
Not all of us have that luxury however, so it’s now time to get the books out and in to the wider world. I have no sales background, and the books are completely mine so I have the double-edged sword of being immensely proud of them (and myself) and also deeply fearful of rejection and criticism for something that is so fundamentally mine. The advantage of self-publishing means I don’t have an editor or publishing company telling me what to do and I am free to pursue the avenues I choose. The disadvantage is I don’t have an editor or publishing company telling me what will work, and I have the responsibility of deciding what may or may not be successful.
The main thing in my favour at this point is that I love the books, and I could not have done a better job with them so in a way, I put all the thought and effort in to constructing them to the very best of my ability, and now they have to do the work. They have to sell themselves.
I am fortunate that I have a good friend who is helping me out, and we are both learning about the publishing arena we are entering. Our basic strategy is to stay local and contact places we have found via email with a covering letter explaining the books, and who I am – this website was really useful. Some websites only have contact forms but with emails I am sending some photos of the books too, but as with everything it’s judging the right amount of information, and sending the right images. I have to trust that if someone is keen, they will not be too swayed by my agonising over whether to include 2, 3, or 4 photos…
We are also showing the books to people, and I have sent off samples of Town & Country and Coast & Cliff to Gardners, the book distribution company who are actually based in my nearest town. Any big bookshop will use a distributor and having that rubber stamp of approval by a large and well-regarded book company would be a massive coup, not just for the potential reach it would give me, but also the fact that if Gardners think it will sell, that’ll be good enough for most people. I am not holding out a lot of hope though: retail outlets take a dim view of booklets as they are spineless so don’t sit tidily on shelves…although as the logbooks are pretty I am hoping I might be able to win people over. So, Gardners would be good but I am not losing sleep over it, and besides, I am very niche so not expecting to have mass appeal.
I am trialling other things like TikTok, for which you really need an 18 year old on hand to show you what to do; thankfully I have one (much appreciated, Rose!). I have been using Instagram for a while and that’s a great place to showcase the visuals, but contacting shops and people though direct messages is a bit fraught as unless people see your requests it’s hard to get noticed, and I prefer to use Instagram for photos of the illustrations and contacting photographers about using their images as references.
I am still painting, and working on the next 5 books, although conscious that I need to get sales/reach up significantly before I print the next ones. Here is an Egyptian goose I painted, in readiness for Birds of Westminster: