Learn from my mistakes when publishing your own book.

It is very exciting when your first real book is published and you have a stack of the books in front of you. Now you have time to reflect and you can get down to the publicity.

No one is perfect and the more I try to write, the more I appreciate criticism. I no longer see it as a personal slight, but rather a benefit for someone is taking the time and effort to read what I have written and is trying to help me overcome my mistakes to improve.  In a similar way, while I freely admit I have made mistakes this time, these mistakes are part of the learning process. Hopefully, as I continue my writing career, I will avoid making the same mistakes the next time I publish.

I knew that paying for someone to publish my book would be costly but I thought selling the book would be a doddle – after all I have SO many friends who have been asking about my writing. Then reality strikes.

The cost, for your info on this the 26th March 2010, for my short paperback was about £315 for copy-editing, £210 for the cover design and £400 for the 100 copies I rashly ordered. I estimated the cost would be about £9.23 per book.

Then, I did not take into account the freebies that were expected – 6 books to be sent to the copyright libraries, one to the publisher, the copy-editor, the cover designer, the voluntary publicity  officer, the friends who wanted to read it…. Now I have come to the conclusion that you are very unlikely to cover costs with you first book. However, the NEXT one should be another matter. (I can hear you say “You reckon?”)

Deadlines are another issue. I had created a deadline of about 4 months to have the book copy-edited and published – far too short. I was very lucky to have a copy-editor and publisher who could get the job done in time. Then I let myself down. I was given a first proof copy and being over excited about the whole thing and ever so keen to have the first completed copy in my hand I said everything should be fine, I did not need to read it through again and the books were printed.

The books arrived! How wonderful! How exciting! Then I read through one of the books, and I found, to my horror, there were mistakes, mistakes that had previously been spotted by the copy-editor that I thought I had corrected! I have no idea how it happened – perhaps I thought I had saved my corrections but I hadn’t. I am left with the certainty that next time, I will allow a year for the completion and I will check again and again during the process. However, I know that when I read proper, published books I find mistakes in them too so I hope that my readers will understand.

At the moment there is the problem of publicity. I have emailed my friends and attached the first few pages of the book. They have been very kind and positive. One friend who has just completed an MA in Creative Writing pointed out some errors and clichés. One of the errors he was right about – it was one of those I distinctly remember correcting. Otherwise, I explained that I had deliberately made ‘bad’ choices – like clichés because I wanted to show that I was a cliché kind of person. This is the joy of publishing the book yourself – you can deliberately stray from the narrow path of writing according to a plethora of principles for ‘correct’ writing. Fortunately for me, now, criticism is very welcome and I am determined that next time I will encourage as many different people as possible to read the book before I start the publishing process.

Now comes the embarrassment of trying to sell the idea of the book to possible purchasers. It is difficult trying to talk about your personal ‘baby’ in a way that does not sound like self aggrandisement. I think the best thing would be to get someone else to write your press release and I am very lucky this time for a kind friend has written it for me. Maybe I can use this as a model for the press release for my next book. It reads as follows:

“Lacking foreign language skills didn’t stop Witchford resident Dr
Rosemary Westwell from hopping on an aeroplane, introducing herself to
a stranger in a Spanish pub, and purchasing an apartment with her
credit card.
After realising owning property abroad may require her to have some
local linguistic skills, Rosemary, in her sensational silver years,
decided she was going to master the language – at any cost.
From her experience came Out of a Learner’s Mouth The Trials and
Tribulations of Learning Spanish
her first paperback novel on the
It is a hilarious account of the real challenges faced by anyone
attempting to negotiate another language – at any age.
Written in diary form, Rosemary documented her experience as part of
her PhD studies at London University.
Rosemary’s determination to acquire a foreign language was partly
driven by her interest in teaching English as a foreign language in the UK.
Despite having five university degrees, and a belief that she could
teach herself anything, Rosemary said learning a second language was a
surprising challenge.
“When I was actually trying to learn this language I was so fickle and
changed so quickly. There were a lot of things I learnt about
myself as a learner and that has helped me teach others,” she said.
“I used to expect far too much from my students in class.
“It certainly changed my attitude to teaching.”
Rosemary will present a seminar at the International Association of
Teachers of English as a Foreign Language conference in Harrogate
April 7 – 11, where she will talk about her experiences and officially
launch the book.
Out of a Learner’s Mouth will be available from April 7
For more information about the book contact Rosemary Westwell on

Now I am proposing to visit relevant bookshops to see if they will stock a copy or two. One local shop has kindly agreed to stock one, (yes, only one) and their reaction was so different to my friends’ – “It won’t sell” was the first reaction. “Why not?” I wanted to ask, for I reckon that it would suit no end of people – learners of Spanish, teachers of a language looking for a light read that gives ideas, people designing courses, anyone thinking of going to a Spanish-speaking country for a holiday, retired people who want to be inspired to learn a new language… no end of people. I try to reassure myself that the Beatles and JK Rowling had similar problems when they started.  I have even put the book on ebay (www.ebay.co.uk) and when I searched for my name (Rosemary Westwell) it came up immediately. I have only just put it on ebay, but you would think that someone at least would have looked at the entry and maybe one or two even bought it – but the list of visitors remains ‘nil’. .

I guess the main thing is to develop a thick skin, believe in what you are doing, accept that everyone is human (including yourself) and get on with it – remaining positive no matter what. After all, as they say, overcoming mistakes can be the making of someone – you agree?

I would be very interested in your comments (and I mean it!)


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4 Responses to “Learn from my mistakes when publishing your own book.”

  1. adrian Says:

    Saw your presentation on the HARROGATE SITE.
    Self-publishing would be cheaper. Have a look at putting your book into an e-format. I am helping a friend with his book, THE KNIGHTS OF BLACK CHAPTER – it is on smashwords.com and POD through lulu.com

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    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

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