About the author

Tim Moss

Tim Moss has supported over 100 expeditions across all seven continents. He has climbed new mountains, crossed a desert on foot and recently cycled 13,000 miles around the world. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society London and a Guinness World Record Holder. He aims to encourage more people to live adventurously. Read more...

10 Comments

  1. 1

    Grace

    I agree with your point that a book from a publisher is “a stamp of approval or a guarantee of basic quality.” Unfortunately there are so many poorly written self published cycle travelogues available on Amazon that receive 4 and 5 star reviews. (the phrase “sock puppet review” comes to mind…)

    As a reader – I don’t check to see if a book has been self-published or brought out via a publishing house. Nowadays there are so many good writers self publishing for precisely the reasons you mentioned in your article.

    What I personally check for in a book is a professional looking front cover. If the cover looks a bit amateuristic – then you can bet that the writer hasn’t bothered to get their book edited / proofread.

    Then after that – I go to the author’s website to read the quality of writing on their blog. If that’s also good – then I’ll be interested in reading their book.

    It’s more the coffee table photo book / guides that really benefit from being published professionally. Two examples come to mind, https://www.amazon.com/One-Year-Bike-Amsterdam-Singapore/dp/3899559061/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1523281941&sr=1-4-fkmr0&keywords=martijn+doolerd and https://www.amazon.com/Escape-Bike-Adventure-Bikepacking-Off-Road/dp/0500293503/ref=sr_1_129?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1523278188&sr=1-129&keywords=bicycle+touring To put such a book together you need the help of a professional book designer. Plus these are the types of books that non-cyclists stumble across in bookshops and then decide to give them as a present to a cycling friend.

    And something else; what I was surprised to read is that you are having so many books printed. Friedel Grant of the Bike Touring Survival Guide told me that the vast majority of her book sales comes from e-books (95% digital and 5% paper – if I remember correctly.) For her second edition – she has yet to bring out a paper version of the guide.

    Reply
    1. 1.1

      Tim Moss

      Hi Grace,

      Thanks for the thoughtful response.

      I agree about the poorly written books on Amazon getting 4 and 5 star reviews (often more and higher than, say, Bill Bryson or a Booker winner). It’s led me to conclude that Amazon reviews are not a good measure of quality.

      That’s really interesting that you judge books by their covers. It makes me even more glad that I followed advice and paid a designer to make mine.

      As for hard vs soft copy, my guide books sales are 94% ebooks and 6% paperback. But they lend themselves to being read on a computer and my customers are typically people who have Googled ‘north pole expedition’ or ‘ocean rowing book’. I imagine Friedel’s book is similar (e.g. searching ‘bike touring guide’).

      In contrast, this book is a story and lots of the ‘customers’ will be friends and family, who I guessed would be more keen on having a physical copy. I will also sell it at events and after talks, which is easier with a hard copy.

      Based on pre-orders received so far, the ratio is 30% ebooks, 70% paperbacks.

      Reply
  2. 2

    Andrew P. Sykes

    I don’t disagree with anything that you have said above. It’s a shame that the publishing industry have not responded to the ability of authors to cost-effectively self-publish both electronically and via the traditional physical product and improved their terms. I learnt how to self-publish the hard way, by making the mistakes that you outline – not forensically proof-reading the text and not dedicating (initially at least) sufficient time and money to the design of the books – but when offered the chance to be ‘properly’ published, it was too tempting an offer to turn down. And the book that came out of the process was a much improved product albeit much less lucrative. Would I turn down the offer to be published again? Probably not because in the back of my mind lurks that tantalising carrot that one day I might be the next Bill Bryson or Tim Moore. Unlike my detractors, I never dismissed the possibility of selling thousands of books (it happened) or being accepted by a publisher (it happened). I haven’t yet dismissed the possibility of hitting the big time and becoming a full-time author who makes his living from doing just that. It might happen…
    As for reviews… I think the world is now very wary of how the online system of feedback can be used and abused and Amazon (for example) does make efforts to police this. I have never entered the murky world of fake reviews but it’s inevitable that some reviewers will be kinder than others simply because they have a personal connection with the author. I have never gone further than suggesting to people, if they have given me feedback via social media or in an email, that they might like to put their thoughts in an online review (does that illegitimise it?).
    I am contacted from time to time by people wanting to know ‘how to get published’. When replying to them I always make a point of stating that the tricky thing is not in getting published; the biggest challenge by far, is in writing something that people might want to read in the first place. Spend 90% of your time and effort doing that and the ‘how to get published’ question will be far easier to answer.
    Good luck with the new book. Look forward to picking up a copy at the festival in May.
    Cheers
    Andrew

    Reply
    1. 2.1

      Tim Moss

      Thanks Andrew. That’s a really thoughtful, interesting response.

      Good on you for ignoring the naysayers. From talking to you, it certainly sounded like the editing process was really valuable. And I can see why, if becoming a full-time author is the goal, working with a publisher holds a greater attraction.

      See you in May.

      Reply
  3. 3

    Tom Allen

    Hi Tim

    I’m glad you included a section on the benefits of working with a publisher – I was worried this was going to be too polemic! Having self-published four books (two printed and two digital) and currently working with a publisher on my fifth, I agree fully with you that it’s far from black and white which way is ‘best’. There are pros and cons to each, and it has a lot to do with what the book is about, what kind of profile you have, who the publisher is, and what your ambitions are as an author.

    Also, It’s very, very easy to look at the numbers (ie: 5% vs 60% royalty on the cover price) and assume that publishing companies are taking the piss. They generally aren’t, and it doesn’t take much to find out how narrow the margins are (no pun intended). Most published books make a loss and most printed books get pulped. Sad but true.

    Another point is that the time cost and the cash cost of producing a book are shared disproportionately between author and publisher. You might spend two years writing a book for little more than the cost of the electricity your laptop consumed. A small publisher on the other hand might spend a few weeks critiquing, copy-editing, typesetting, cover-designing, proofreading, printing, shipping, distributing, marketing and publicising a book (not to mention paying your advance) at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds. With a financial picture like that it’s suddenly a bit easier to understand why publishers need to recoup through sales….

    Looking forward to reading your book in any case!

    Tom

    Reply
    1. 3.1

      Tim Moss

      Hey Tom,

      Thanks for the comment. Great to hear that you’ve got a publisher lined up for your new book.

      As for the article, there’s nothing polemic in there. I’ve not put anything against traditional publishing (only positives) and not put anything in favour of self-publishing (only numbers).

      Similarly, I’ve not taken a view on whether the publishers’ percentages are ‘taking the piss’ or reasonable. I’m just stating the numbers.

      I’m glad you mentioned all of the other things that publishers do (designing, distributing, marketing etc). Given the faff I’m going through at the moment doing those very things, I should have mentioned that as a big plus for traditional publishing. I suppose it’s for the author to decide if those jobs are worth the ‘tens of thousands of pounds’ they cost the publisher (and thus, indirectly, the author). In my case, I decided not, but I am sure it will be worth it for others.

      I don’t think it’s true that most published books run at a loss. I am sure it happens in some cases but companies wouldn’t take on a book, or any other product, if they thought it would make a loss. Indeed, the crucial point for a publisher in deciding whether or not to take on a book is surely whether they think it will make a profit.

      Best of luck with writing book number five!

      Tim.

      Reply
  4. 4

    Pauli

    Hi Tim. I’m no author (and barely a reader!) but these are my thoughts on your survey questions.
    I’m no less likely to buy a book just because it’s self published. In fact, I may not even realise one way or the other. I would get frustrated by poor editing and proof reading, and I’m not sure working with a publisher necessarily fixes that.
    If I have a “personal” link to the book (like I’ve discovered it by a bit of effort and not from a long list, or I’ve read the author’s blog) then I’d actually seek out the author’s website to try and ensure the author gets best returns. I do the same thing with music. But if I was browsing books on Amazon, or in a book shop, I’d probably just buy it there from convenience.
    I’m probably just a bit weird! But I hope that’s of interest. I’m off to order a paperback copy of your round the world book, within which I’m particularly interested in how you managed your depression. Very impressive!
    Pauli

    Reply
    1. 4.1

      Tim Moss

      Thanks Pauli. That’s really helpful, and exactly what I hoped!

      Reply
  5. 5

    Kelly Diggle

    Hey Tim,

    Thanks for the useful information. It is still an aim in my life to write a book! Interestingly I’ve always leaned towards self-publishing (when the time comes) rather than using a publisher. When it comes to purchasing books myself, I much prefer buying directly from the author than a high street shop. A self-published book tells me that the author has most likely made a lot more effort with their book, and I’m happier knowing a larger sum of the profit ends up in their pocket.

    Some of the best travel books I’ve read are self-published. Let’s see if your new one will fit the bill – I’m starting it today!

    Reply
    1. 5.1

      Tim Moss

      Thanks Kelly. That’s an interesting perspective and I am sure those self-published authors appreciate you going to them directly. I do!

      Good luck with that life aim.

      Tim.

      Reply

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