The desire to write books is natural among intellectuals. We want to share what we know and think. But ability to publish a book (to secure a contract with a traditional publisher), is often limited. My book, published in 2009, was produced by a nontraditional publisher. The manuscript, in the form of a MSWORD file, was sent to him, and a box with 75 paperback books (115 pages each) was delivered to me, several weeks later. The cost was $650. That covered several services, such as making the book available at amazon.com. The task of finding buyers was left essentially to me. Only a few books were sold via amazon.com during the first three months, according to the publisher.
How much better would the book do on the marketplace if it were available in major bookstores? It is difficult to answer this question. One thing is certain--only a very small fraction of books seen in bookstores are self-published. Neither Borders nor Barnes and Noble was interested in ordering my books. Fortunately, the book was not written to generate income; it was produced as a possible service to society.
Once aware of the poor marketing performance of my book I decided to make it freely available on-line. As a retired professor I was able to produce the electronic version of the book myself, and to place it on our university website. Then I started promoting it, a complicated task consisting of finding websites populated with potential readers and posting carefully worded announcements. A typical promotional announcement is shown below. "Carefully worded" means explaining that my activity does not consist of "commercial advertising."
The book, from my perspective, is a free gift to society. Promoting it is part of the gift; how else would potential readers know that my book is available? No one makes money by producing and promoting my virtual book. So far I've encountered only two rejections, out of about twenty attempts. To be honest; a typical announcement (shown below) may be promotional, but it's not commercial. Some readers of this article might be interested in my free offer. The main purpose of submitting it, however, is to describe a problem and to generate discussion. Are free on-line books desirable? If so, then how should we promote them?
A TYPICAL ANNOUNCEMENT
1) I want you to know about my new book. Anyone can read it ONLINE. And it is FREE.
2) Please share this URL with all who might be interested. Thank you in advance.
The title is: "Diary of a Former Communist: Thoughts, Feelings, Reality."
This 2010 book is my autobiography. It is based on a diary I kept between 1946 and 2004 (in the USSR, Poland, France and the USA).
3) Comments, as always, will be appreciated. I expect my book to be readable by all browsers and under all operating systems. (Please send me a private message immediately if the content is not clearly displayed on your computer screen.)