‘Keeping My Work Safe From Aliens’ – a blog by Peter Smith

Peter Smith, author of “A Procurement Compendium”, reveals insight into his book and the publishing process.

I ran a website (Spend Matters Europe) for eight years, writing around 10 articles every week, all about the absolutely fascinating topic of “procurement”. Now my wife and daughter might question my use of the word “fascinating” there, but I have spent over 30 years in procurement, or “buying” as many people would call it, working for large organisations and government departments to manage how they spend their money with suppliers of goods and services. That ranged from deciding on huge billion pound IT or property contracts for the Department of Social Security, to buying butter and eggs to make Mars Bars!

Anyway, as I stepped down from my website at the end of 2018, I worked out that I had written some 3 million words about every aspect of procurement over those years. Now in theory, those words are all captured digitally, on the website, and sitting somewhere in my various desktop and laptop computers at home. But I worry about the permanence of this ethereal record of my hard work. What if aliens land and use their special gamma-magneto ray-guns to wipe every digital record on Earth? (Yes, I read too many science-fiction stories in my teenage years). More prosaically, what if the website gets withdrawn at some point, and my computer bursts into flames?

It may sound counter-intuitive, but it seemed to me that a book would be in some ways a more permanent and certainly a more solid record of my work than just the digital data. Clearly, I wasn’t going to put all 3 million words into a huge tome, but I could choose my best articles, those that have some lasting interest and values and turn them into that tangible reminder of my work. (In fact, I may well do a second volume as I found more than enough decent material for two or maybe even three 80,000 word volumes).

So, A Procurement Compendium was born. I selected about 100 of my published articles, wrote some short section introductions and linking paragraphs, an Introduction and an Index. And with the help of the Self-Publishing Partnership (SPP), the book was put together in the Spring of 2019 and published in September 2019.

My favourite comment came from my wife, usually my number-one critic, who when the books arrived said, “gosh, they look like real books”! They certainly do, with a simple but effective cover design (thanks to the SPP designer and my wife’s good colour-sense) and just a very professional look and feel. The SPP editor and proof-reader were both very helpful, and frankly the whole process was absolutely painless.

We’ve printed 300 books in the first run, and I think we will reprint fairly soon. The economics very much depend on how many I give away to good friends and business contacts – the book is also a bit of a marketing tool for the consulting, speaking and writing work I do in the industry – and how many I sell personally as opposed to through Amazon. But I reckon actually selling 300 with a blend of those two routes will take me to about break-even, although money wasn’t my prime motivation here, as I explained earlier. I’ll be interested to see how many we sell in e-book form too. But I’ve learn that self-publishing is not going to cost a fortune unless you want it to!

I’ve also completed the first draft of a book of new material, which I’m pleased to say will be published in 2020 through a very large publishing house, so in a year’s time I will be able to give you the comparison of the two experiences. I’ve started working on the next book too, and then there is Procurement Compendium Vol. 2 to think about. So I’d be amazed if I don’t go down the self-publishing and SPP route again; I can thoroughly recommend the whole experience, and SPP itself.

There is something very satisfying about seeing your real, physical, finished book in front of you, an experience that is much more satisfying than when your work is just sitting on a screen. And of course, my best work is now safe from the aliens. Unless of course they are paper-eating aliens…

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