Self-Publishing: It’s Not For Christmas

Fairies reading a humantale

There’s a reason that the ‘airport novel’ or ‘airport paperback’ was defined as category of books all by itself. It’s the same reason that there are large bookshops in airports, and why newspapers publish pathetically useless holiday reading lists.

It’s because on holidays, everyone reads more than usual: regular, occasional and infrequent readers alike. And e-Reader users will cram as many books as they dare onto their devices before they set off, be it caravanning in Siberia, skiing in the Sahara, or yachting around Switzerland. It’s the self-publisher’s big chance to make it on to the traditional readers’ list.

However, one set of major holidays is an exception: Christmas.

At Christmas, people give each other books as presents. And as yet, I haven’t yet found a way of giving someone an e-book as a present.

I only know around 3 people who had a self-published book I deliberately chose (or indeed had the opportunity) to buy in paperback form, rather than digital.

I also know very few people with an e-reader of some description, and nobody I know wants to get a gift delivered to an electronic device without any wrapping on it. It’s like one of those gifts you get which is actually a donation to charity. (It takes a certain sort of person to give you that. And we all know who they are.)

So my deduction is that Christmas is no good to the self-publisher at all.

Santa E-Books

Mrs Claus had an unbeatable distribution deal

Picture the scene.

Self-Published Author: Why hello, gentle reader! How do you fare, forsooth?

Me: I’m grand, thanks. I very much liked your book, by the way. I thought it was really different.

Self-Published Author: *faints

Me: Ah Jaysus. I’m sorry. I never meant –

Self-Published Author: [sobbing] No, no – it’s just that – that’s the first kind thing anyone has said to me in six months – I was overcome. And you know, it’s only three weeks since they stopped the beatings.

Me: Fair enough. Anyway, I was wondering if you could sell me another 6 copies, I want to give them as presents.

Self-Published Author: *faints again

Me: Er –

Self-Published Author: [opening eyes painfully] It only comes in e-book format, I’m afraid.

Me: Well, this is awkward.

Whilst I’m sure that 92% of self-publishers already know this, I didn’t spot any noticeably intense summer marketing efforts crossing my path in 2014, just around the time I started to think “Now, what am I going to read on my jollidays?”

What I will spot quite soon, I’m sure, is a lot of self-publishers releasing books between now and Christmas. And this is all very well for those who already have a distribution deal for their paperback versions with a major retailer. However, the majority of self-publishers do not get distribution deals until they have already sold a certain amount, which will be difficult – if not impossible – in the 3.2 months between now and December 25th.

Anyway, I hope to be able to post something in January 2015, refuting everything I say here, and telling of how the Christmas season was the driving force behind the arrival of another 15 self-published books in my household. But as of now, that seems unlikely.

For those of you who are self-published authors – has Christmas worked for you? If so, how? And in which medium?


[P.S. I have been final-listed! I am very happy about this!! It has resulted in very many exclamation points!!! But anyway, I’ve made the finals in the Blog Awards Ireland 2014 in 2 whole categories – Best Newcomer, and Best Humour Blog. I am a very delighted person indeedy and will be celebrating the achievement of Finalist status with vigour, whatever the outcome. Results will be announced at a Big Do on October 4th, and I will be there to meet fellow Irish bloggers and toast to our collective success. I LOVE toast.]

  50 comments for “Self-Publishing: It’s Not For Christmas

  1. September 23, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    It’s why I also took the paperback option… Most of my fam and friends would want to hold my book in their hands. Now I bed to get it into other hands 😉 Congrats on getting to the final x


    • September 23, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      eh I do not ‘bed’ to get it into other hands!!!!
      I ‘need’ to get it into other hands


      • September 23, 2014 at 3:25 pm

        Well, that’s a distribution channel I hadn’t considered, Aunty. Now you have me thinking about a whole new post…

        And thanks!!


        • September 23, 2014 at 4:57 pm

          Lowering the tone of blog posts with innocent typos – it’s becoming my speciality 😉


          • September 23, 2014 at 5:01 pm

            But you couldn’t lower the tone of this blog. It already lives in the gutter.


  2. Ali Isaac
    September 23, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Congratulations Tara! Enjoy the do and let us know how you get on! I’ll be keeping everything crossed for you!


    • September 23, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      Thank you, Ali! I’m really happy either way… never thought I’d make the final!


  3. BRMaycock
    September 23, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    As someone who missed the mad summer holiday rush, and whose chick lit book has a hint of Summer in it, albeit not too prominent, can I ask what you’d do in my position?I am on final edit and have most of the leg work done and have an itch to get it out there. Given the above article I could hold off until next year or go with this year with a big extra plug next year. I have a child due in November and this was a box to be ticked, I love my book, am extremely proud of it and do feel it’s nearly there, my goal was always to get a book out that people would enjoy, I can tell you now I’m not the next big thing but I am pretty proud…?

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 23, 2014 at 3:32 pm

      I have to be honest with you – I would hold off, unless you are going to be printing it too. The Christmas market is busier, brasher and more cut-throat than the rest of the year, and you’re pitching yourself into the ring at a time when the traditionally published heavy-hitters are at their strongest. Why do that to your pride and joy?

      The launch of a book is often the biggest (and only) push it gets – so if you launch now and try to plug it next year, it may not work. Also, the marketing is where the work really starts, and you have a rather bigger release to take care of first. I understand the itch to get it out, but whereas a baby can’t wait, a book most certainly can!


      • BRMaycock
        September 23, 2014 at 7:46 pm

        Beyond appreciated, thanks, Tara. I’ll just work on finishing edits and getting everything else ready to go and see what happens then. Possibly then may consider some additional work on synopsis as am in two minds re:going all out agent hunting(have been re-assessing doing it all on my own lately…) Very thought provoking and timely post(just IN time for me, actually!!!)Best of luck with the awards, hopefully they see the value your blog adds to people’s days:)

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 23, 2014 at 8:00 pm

          If you publish through Createspace at Amazon, it can be available as POD within days. Then your only job is marketing!

          Liked by 1 person

          • BRMaycock
            September 25, 2014 at 5:14 pm

            Thanks for that, have since exhaled the large amount of air I’ve been holding in for the last few months as I stay up nightly to work on my book so will definately look at POD but possibly not for this year.I’ll say it now…I’m wrecked!

            Liked by 1 person

    • September 23, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      I would agree with Tara. If you’re going with a POD, you can print a few “proof” copies to give as gifts (won’t the recipients feel lucky, to be on the pre-publication end of it!), but I’d hold off on the launch. Publishing a book is like having a demanding toddler attached to your leg and wiping his nose on your skirt. As a mother of four (one of whom was born during the holiday season), I’d wait for the dust to settle. You can use the downtime during breastfeeding to polish up your advance publicity.


  4. September 23, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Well done for the nominations!

    As for ebooks, most of my friends bought the paperback version of my book last Christmas, so I’m with you. I think that Christmas is a good time for people to download ebooks for themselves, rather than give them as gifts. At least that’s how I perceive it.


    • September 23, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      Thanks, Nicholas. And well done on the paperback tactic. Although, even as a voracious reader, I don’t buy books for Christmas. There’s too much going on, too many people around, and I really don’t get to read.

      In fact, it’s the one time of the year I don’t get to read, so if I weren’t buying books as gifts, I wouldn’t buy any at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. September 23, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Congrats on the “short-listing”!


    • September 23, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Thank you, Les! I’ve been doing a happy dance. Which is somewhat unfortunate, as I work in a bank…

      Liked by 1 person

      • September 23, 2014 at 4:45 pm

        If I were a customer in your bank, I would laugh out loud to see you “happy dance” at work! People like you make everything better – especially if the lines are long.


  6. September 23, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Yup, I’ve discovered that too; that despite the industrial surge and preference of ereaders, there are still tons of folks who prefer a book in their hands. Meaning, it’s a wise move for any self-published author to also run a paperback version of their book. Particularly for gift-giving amongst family and friends, when someone is bound to request the writer autograph a copy or two at “the cookie party” or so “cousin Barb can give one to her daughter.” All good points.

    In fact, I better go order some more so I can get them in gift bags post haste!

    [Btw, LOVED the line: “Self-Published Author: [sobbing] No, no – it’s just that – that’s the first kind thing anyone has said to me in six months – I was overcome. And you know, it’s only three weeks since they stopped the beatings.” Hilarious! You might have seen my piece on getting (or not) respect as a self-pubbed writer… :)]


    • September 23, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      The poor old self-published writers, they get such a kicking! Although when they don’t think they need editors, I don the hob-nailed boots myself, I’ll stoutly defend them everywhere else!

      And that’s such a good point, about cousin Barb’s daughter. Christmas is a time when there’s a new market of people who would never normally buy your book for themselves – but the only way to tap this market is on paper.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. September 23, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    I am in an awkward spot because my novel was “finished” until my novel workshop told me to split it in two and add more to the first two parts. I am marketing already on my blog, author page at FB and elsewhere, and I hope to have my edited self-pub book available by Thanksgiving (fourth weekend in November for those across the world). It will be an ebook and a trade paperback POD on Amazon. I am hopeful that my ebook readers will read it, love it, and give it to their friends and relatives for Christmas in a beautiful trade paperback. I can dream, can’t I?


    • September 23, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      My fingers will be crossed for you thoroughly to the extent that they will probably hurt a little 🙂 In the meantime, dream and dream big! Make sure you squeeze every last drop of goodwill out of your launch. That’s what they’re for.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. September 23, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Sage advice again Tara. Also, the nominations are well deserved. I look forward to sharing a slice to two with you on the evening.


    • September 23, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      I am most definitely looking forward to that, Conor. Although it would be even better if you were providing the food I’m thinking.


      • September 23, 2014 at 9:31 pm

        PS where are my manners? I forgot to say congratulations yourself on your own final-listing. In fact, I’m relieved you’re not in my category!!


      • September 23, 2014 at 9:31 pm

        Eldest daughter is chauffeur for the evening. I can have as much toasting as I like. That will make the food less important.

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 23, 2014 at 9:34 pm

          That is a fine and cunning plan. I am taking a husband with me to facilitate the multitudinous toasting. He’s my favourite.


  9. September 24, 2014 at 12:11 am

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.


  10. September 24, 2014 at 7:38 am

    Happy early Chrimbo, Tara, a big congrats on the shortlisting and best of luck with those fickle judges.

    – Mel


    • September 24, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Thanks, Detective! I will hope for the best and prepare for the bizarre 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  11. September 24, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Fantastic news about the award. How’s the book coming on?


    • September 24, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks Elaine. Do you know, not too bad these days now that I’ve nailed my backside to the computer. It’s an odd way to get a synopsis done, I admit, but I’ve managed some actual chapter writing too. How are you getting on?


      • September 24, 2014 at 4:17 pm

        Mmmmmmm. Well…I’ve been thinking about it. I need to nail my backside to a chair. Trouble is I can always think of some reason not to be sitting in front of the computer.


        • September 24, 2014 at 4:19 pm

          I know this is no help, but sometimes that’s because you’re not ready to stop thinking about it yet, so there’s no point in wasting your time. I find that when it’s ready to be written, I get excited. But anyway, how about I give you that reassurance, along with an impossible and completely unnecessary deadline, and see how you get on?!


          • September 24, 2014 at 4:20 pm

            Ok. Give me a deadline. Eek.


            • September 24, 2014 at 4:46 pm

              Here ’tis! Impossible deadline: This Friday, for 2 units (chapters/scenes): one that you’ve been putting off forever, and one which comes to you on the spot out of nowhere and doesn’t necessarily have to fit in, but does help you with character development. (Alternative deadline will be supplied only in cases of food poisoning, a lottery win, or freak hurricanes)


              • September 24, 2014 at 5:08 pm

                i’ve just fainted. Monday. make it Monday. Pleeease.


                • September 24, 2014 at 5:10 pm

                  I’m sorry. You wanted me to be lenient and give you possible deadlines and a glimmer of hope? We have met, right?


                  • September 24, 2014 at 6:03 pm

                    Please Tara, think of my little skinny children and me having to peel them grapes by the dozen. Ah, come on now…


                    • September 24, 2014 at 7:50 pm

                      I couldn’t possibly. I had my kindness gene surgically removed during the great depression of ’09… but if you pay me, I’ll make it Saturday.


                    • September 24, 2014 at 7:51 pm

                      I’ll give you one of them IOUs that you keep sprinkling me with. That way we’ll be even.

                      Liked by 1 person

  12. September 24, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Congratulations on the finals-listing. After Christmas I shall be able to give you some info about self-publishing in December. I had planned for January, but family are coming from afar for the Christmas fortnight, so I bought it all forward. I have 320 print copies piled up, the ebook will be ready in a few days, launch party November 8 and official publication December 12. We shall see.


    • September 25, 2014 at 12:05 am

      Sounds like you’re very well prepared. My very best wishes for luck and success – keep us posted on how it goes for you. It’s a very exciting time (and make sure that none of your family members are allowed to leave with any less than 20 [pre-paid] copies!!)


  13. September 26, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    I’ve never tried marketing around Christmas, so I can’t say! But it’s definitely a major gift-giving time, so I should probably try it out, lol. I definitely agree with you about gifting ebooks — very tricky, and not nearly as fun as physically handing someone a gift-wrapped book. My advice to self-pubbed authors would be to whip up a print version via Createspace — then you have lots of print books, and they’re pretty darn cheap to buy!


    • September 26, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      Great advice, Michelle – it’s all about the paper at Christmas. The words which go onto it and the wrapping around it!


  14. September 28, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Just came across your blog, lots of interesting advice there, I’ll definitely be back 🙂 And congrats on making the final of the blog awards!


    • September 28, 2014 at 1:40 pm

      Thank you very much, Nearly Irish! I hope you will come back for more. Although first, you have me very intrigued. Which part of you isn’t Irish, pray tell?!


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