Nov 302017

At TEDx TN, with other speakers

In October, I have finally finished writing the manuscript of The Outsider–the second book I plan to publish. I headed to, searching a proofreader. I ended up working with a writer from Ireland, Riona, who did a wonderful job with the manuscript, and really took it to a new level.

My original plan was to self-publish the book right after the proofread. But the co-operation with Riona, what she said about the book, as well as the feedback I got from other editors, who tried to co-operate with me, and who proofread a sample from the book in the process of their application, made me rethink the plan.

I got a great feedback on the manuscript, and some editors even said I was a very talented writer (perhaps they said it just becasue they hoped I would award them with the project 🙂). Anyway, I thought about everything once again….


English book market, the self-publish odyssey

A quick flashback: I have done so many things with the University of Solitude, trying to promote the book. Internet marketing experiments, advertising campaigns, traditional SEO, some black hat stuff…. I do not want to count how much time I have invested into marketing my first book–I prefer not to know :).

Money wise, however I have invested at least $1,500 into various marketing experiments (and more than $4,500 into translating the book, and in other stuff that had to be done before we could publish it).

I do not care about money, but I shared the numbers to give you an idea that I have seriously tried.  At the end of the day, I am still selling just a few copies of the book each month, while ten thousand new titles are added to the book listings of Amazon each month (check here to read the article that discusses the phenomenon). The authors of these titles are also trying hard to leave their mark on the book market, and in the hearts of some readers. Just like I have tried to do….


You learn by experience

The only way to understand how the market works is getting involved, trying to break through. I did that, and I found that self-publishing is pretty hard. Unless you already have an audience (and a BIG audience, that means thousands of people who follow you, with a decent degree of loyalty and interest in your work), you’re not gonna break through with your book.

You will sell a few copies each month like I do, or you will sell nothing, like most self-published authors do on Amazon. And if you’re not native and your book is a translation, the situation gets only tougher.

Soon enough, your title will be one year old, and there will be 100,000 more competitors on the virtual book shelves of Amazon.

At the end of the day, there is only one winner – the online retail giant, their name starts with A, and it has six letters. The giant doesn’t care if they sell only one copy in average every month, from each of their ten million book titles. Because selling one copy from ten millions titles still means selling ten millions book every month 🙂


Trying to find the literary agent (how traditional publishing works in the UK)

The provisional cover of my second book

Publishing business in UK does not work the same way it does in Slovakia. Publishing houses do not accept direct submissions anymore. You need to find a literary agent who will represent your work. The agent will utilize their connections with the publishers, trying to securer a publishing deal for you. If they succeed, they typically take 20% of money.

Sounds easy? There’s just a little catch…. Not many literary agents work in the UK (let’s say 100), each of them receives more than 1000 new submissions each year, and will pick only 3-5 new writers to represent. What is more, they consider the work from both literary and business point of view. Nothing wrong with that, it’s their way of making money….

Anyway, I researched the market, read the pages of the agencies and agents, and picked seven people I would send my submission to. And I submitted my work to these seven people already, at the end of October. The typical response time is six to eight weeks, so I still have to wait for an answer from them.


On the book shelves

My goal is to get the second book, The Outsider, on the bookshelves in the UK.

As I concluded in this post, it is the visibility of your book that decides whether you succeed on a book market.

Whether you sell many books or not has absolutely nothing to do with the topic you write about, and it has just very little to do with the quality of your work.

Visibility can be achieved online as well. But you need a huge and loyal audience, and I do not have such an audience. So I am trying offline.


What are my chances?

Mathematically, they are slim. But you never know unless you try. And I have nothing to lose. If I fail to attract one of the agents with my work, I will try one more time, with another seven agents (perhaps the second time I will approach literary agents living in the US).

If neither the first nor the second round results in a publishing deal, I will simply self-publish the book on Amazon. Whether I publish it in December 2017, or in June 2018, makes really no difference.


Speaking invitations

University of Solitude is still alive in Slovakia.

I spoke about freedom on a local TEDx conference. The fifteen minutes long talk was called “Searching Freedom in Solitary Confinement in Iranian Prison”, and I will share the video with you on the blog, as soon as it is available on official TEDx YouTube channel.

I also got a chance to speak at a local grammar school, in front of about sixty-seventy students, and in ten days time I will speak in one nice hotel in the mountains, for about forty people in the age group 35-50.

I am grateful for this opportunity to share my story and philosophy, and for the reception I get. The feedback from the people, and the number of books I sell on the events, convinces me that my suffering in Iranian prison, and all I have gone through, happened for a good reason.


End of the documentary project, the break

Picture from the initial shooting of the documentary

Lately I’ve been writing about the documentary we were trying to shoot with an Iranian film director, and with a small team of local enthusiasts. The Iranian director (living in exile in Prague) read my book, and he found the story interesting. He approached me with an idea of shooting the documentary movie.

However, after the initial shootings, and some work that has been done from his side, such as making a promotional video that we planned to use to raise funds for the documentary, or writing the script, I decided to end the cooperation, and to not play in the movie.

Though a nice person with an honest interest in my story, the Iranian director did not meet my expectations on skills, work ethics, and quality of work. After seeing the things he has done for the documentary, and how much time it took him to do them on a level he did them, I came to a firm conclusion that we would end up with an amateurish document.

And that is the last thing I wanted…. If I am to appear in the documentary, and speak about the games of international espionage and my time Iranian prison, mentioning also things that aren’t in the book, it will happen one time only.

And if it is to happen, I must be 100% sure that the documentary meets the highest quality standards, and has a real potential to attract an audience. Regretfully, it would never happen with the Iranian director leading the project….


Working while waiting

Ending the cooperation on the documentary movie, waiting for the feedback from the UK literary agents, and not doing any active promotion of the University of Solitude at the moment, I have a clear mind and can focus on other work.

The last five weeks I have been spending countless hours in front of my laptop. I have been redesigning the network of content rich websites that brings me passive income, and that has allowed me to focus nearly exclusively on non-profit work during the last three years.

But many things have changed recently with Google, and unless I manage to redesign the network and adapt to the changes, I am risking losing the passive income. That would mean that I had to focus on earning money again, instead of focusing on creating value, and helping people. And that is the last thing I want to happen.

The redesigning and re-engineering of the network will take at least another two or three months, and until then I am OK with the fact that nothing significant happens in my writing career. 🙂

I will probably publish only one more post in 2017. We will again donate all money we have received this year, from the sales of the University of Solitude, to the Red Cross. I will write the post about the donation, probably a few days before Christmas.

That’s it for now friends. Thank you for reading, and for your support. If anyone of you has a good connection with some literary agent living in the UK, or in the US, please let me know ;).

Enjoy the holidays, enjoy every day!



Written by Matej Valuch

Matej Valuch

Having succeeded in building residual income from the network of content-rich websites, Matej currently devotes nearly all his time to non-profit projects, mostly in the spheres of philosophy, start-up, and writing. Sharing real marketing studies and experiments with his audience, Matej tries to help other writers and marketers to succeed with their projects.

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