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Self-Publishing: a Triathlon, not a Sprint by Alan Corcoran

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Alan Corcoran

Alan Corcoran

Ten months after self-publishing my debut Irish memoir – Marathon Man – I’ve become an award-winning author, fending off stiff international competition from books with over 1,000 Amazon reviews. After all the hard work, it feels incredible to have Marathon Man recognised with a first-place prize at the 26th annual Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book Awards. Here’s a little summary of my journey as an independent author and publisher.

My nonfiction book is about setting an arguably unrealistic goal to run 35 marathons (26.2 miles each) in 35 consecutive days just seven months after surpassing the half-marathon distance for the first time. My publishing journey was similar in that I knew it was something I wanted to accomplish but had no idea how.

I emailed my pitch to the traditional publishing houses like millions before me and began wearing out my keyboard as the story flowed onto the screen. Several months later, and without a response from most publishers and rejections from the rest, I thought, fine, I guess I’ll have to do it myself then.

With vast experience unsuccessfully applying for 1,000 jobs as a university graduate in recessionary Ireland, rejection is my wheelhouse. My entry to employment prepared me well for the endless nos and non-responses when trying to secure corporate sponsors to finance my attempts to become the first to run a lap of Ireland and swim the length of Ireland. When approaching book publishers in my late twenties, their rejections ricocheted off my calloused skin without so much as a flinch. Companies make their decision, and I trudge onwards regardless.

Left to figure the industry out, I hired the services of the fantastic inkwellwriters.ie to advise me. After consulting their helpful editors for two structural edits, copy edit and proofread edit, I was ready to reveal my candid story to the public. Working with a designer and photographer, I crafted my book’s appearance to fit a bookshop window display. After a few more days in the recording studio, my Audible audiobook was also ready for launch.

Marathon ManI initially published Marathon Man through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and then through IngramSpark to leave the door ajar for bookstores. Bookstores are allergic to Amazon, so publishing with KDP and IngramSpark covers your distribution bases, with stores able to order from standard wholesalers (e.g., Gardners).

A bookseller described the publishing process to me as being a triathlon. The swim is the writing; the bike is the editing, design and book assembly stage; and the final run leg is the marketing and selling of the finished product.

If you’ve completed a triathlon, you know the last leg can often be the most challenging, operating on wobbly legs. The final leg of publishing was the hardest for me too.

Although a time-consuming mission involving approximately one gazillion emails, it was a proud moment when I ensured all Irish Councils stocked Marathon Man in their libraries.

The next mountain to try to ascend was Amazon. I encouraged friends and family to buy, read and review my work since it increases your book’s visibility on the site. I made my e-book free for a limited time, and 300 Kindle customers downloaded it within days. The book has since reached beyond my inner circle, and I’m now up to 79 Amazon reviews and a 5-star rating using my social media, Amazon ads, and book promotions.

I was much less successful with achieving my bookstore expectations. I’d worked my butt off for eighteen months to produce a book I was proud of, examining every millimetre of the 300 pages more times than I’d like to admit. LoveReading, the UK’s leading book recommendations website, endorsed my story. They’d reviewed Marathon Man and awarded me their snazzy logo for my book’s cover, declaring it an indie book they love. A New York Times bestselling author and long-distance runner, Dean Karnazes, Eddie Jordan OBE and Trail Running Magazine all endorsed my book. Despite getting my pre-publication endorsement quotes in a row, discussions with bookstores were demoralising. Some didn’t respond, and some passed. Some asked for two copies on a sale or return basis; others stretched to five copies, but I needed a treasure map to find it at the back of the store.

I thought maybe if more critics reviewed my book and it got an award, bookstores might take it seriously and put it on display like a Penguin or Gill book. I submitted Marathon Man to reviewers and the Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book Awards, hoping for a response that might convince booksellers of its merits. Thankfully, the risk paid off…somewhat. Kirkus Reviews, Reedsy, Reader’s Favorite, IndieReader, BookLife Prize by Publisher’s Weekly and Literary Titan all had good things to say about my story. With the support of reviews and hefty persistence, almost all national papers featured. The icing on top is this month’s gold medal in the sports book category of the annual IPPY Book Awards.

I contacted my hometown’s independent bookshop to tell them the fantastic news.

‘We’ll take six copies.’

Well, you win some, you lose some, hey? I’m delighted to win an international award and get those favourable reviews for my first title. I’ll just have to be more convincing with my next title about swimming 500 kilometres from the north coast of Northern Ireland to the south of Ireland.

If you’d like to read about my lap of Ireland charity run, please visit Amazon, Audible, your local library or order Marathon Man through your favourite bookstore. Although the Unsinkable book isn’t ready just yet, my new 60-minute documentary film is touring festivals throughout 2022. Follow my social media pages to find out where and when you can watch our crowdfunded independent Irish movie production.

(c) Alan Corcoran

About Marathon Man:

Marathon ManMARATHON MAN is an uplifting story of an extraordinary achievement – all the more inspiring given that the author was an inexperienced long-distance runner and only 20 when embarking on his mission to run 35 marathons in 35 consecutive days. Alan Corcoran’s response to the shock of his dad’s stroke, was to get active, create positive from negative and raise money for charity. Alan faced many obstacles along the road – beyond the sheer physical endurance challenge of running 1,500 kilometres around Ireland’s coast. He candidly submerges the reader into his world with an endearingly light touch, showing how through sheer perseverance, you can achieve your objectives. Alan’s Irish humour, positivity and pure determination shine through this new sports memoir. Whatever your challenge, this motivational book will show you that you can succeed.

‘A must-read for 2022.’ – Irish Runner Magazine

‘An intimate and uplifting story of grit, tenacity and healing and one that is sure to stir the soul.’- Dean Karnazes, New York Times best-selling author and ultra-distance runner

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Alan Corcoran is a charity fundraising Irish adventure athlete. Competing as an Irish international track and field athlete as a juvenile, he switched to ultra-endurance at the age of 20, when his dad suffered a stroke. Alan has since fundraised €45,000 for stroke and cancer charities through his resilience challenges. Alan became the first person to run a lap of Ireland – 35 marathons in 35 consecutive days – and the first person to swim the length of Ireland – a 500-kilometre sea swim – on his second attempt. He’s written a book (‘Marathon Man’) and created a feature-length documentary film (‘Unsinkable’) about these two challenges.

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