Self Publishing – Another Wonder of the Internet Age

I have discovered another wonder of the Internet Age – self publishing or, as it used to be called, ‘vanity publishing’.  Now you really can DIY.

In order to keep myself sane, I have for many years been doing some work on Roman military history.  This centres on the conquest of Northern Britain under the governorship of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, 77 – 83AD, which culminated in the decisive defeat of the Caledones at the Battle of Mons Graupius.

There are two mysteries about this event: first, the site of the Battle has never been decisively identified.  Secondly, shortly afterwards – having almost completed the conquest of the whole of Britain – the Roman High Command under the Emperor Domitian pulled back, and withdrew a whole legion and accompanying auxiliaries to prop up the German Frontier, then under pressure of collapse.  Thus the Roman Army threw away their best and last chance of total conquest of Britain, necessitating the construction of Hadrian’s Wall some 40+ years later.

I was attracted to the period by the combination of literary sources (Agricola’s son-in-law was, fortunately for him, Tacitus the premier historian of the age), the excellence of the archaeological record of Roman forts now excavated in northern England and Scotland, and the opportunity to use a ground-breaking database of Roman forts I had devised.  All three of these resources could be combined to reconstruct Agricola’s seven years of campaigning in a detail never achieved before.  At least, that’s what I believed.

Suffice it to say that I wrote all of this up and tried to publish it.  I tried the academic route first. I made approaches to publishers through any academics I knew. No success. Then I re-wrote it in a populist format, based on the craze for military history.  But, alas, I still could not get my “Agricola” published.

Then I heard about self-publishing and in particular.  All you have to do is to prepare an Adobe file for upload, choose your paper size, decide whether you need colour printing, set your price point for hard copy and downloads, and then design a cover, using the ‘lulu wizard’.

The business model is based on the modern ability to produce high-quality printing and binding on demand, combined with the capability of dispatch through the post to customers.

So I have been able to self-publish “Agricola and the Conquest of Northern Britain”.  I confess that not many people have bought it or downloaded it – but they never were, given the limited audience for such a subject.

I must confess, however, that publishing it has given me enormous pleasure. I had spent a lot of time and effort on researching the subject.  I believe it matters – at least, it matters to me.  Publishing it draws a line under all that work.

If anyone has also been stimulated by it or enjoyed it, well, that’s a nice bonus.  I am certainly never going to get rich on the proceeds: I may, if I am lucky, eventually be able to finance a visit to the local Thai Restaurant.

So it’s not money and it’s not fame that is the spur.  But I do recommend to anyone with a book in them to try self publishing, for the cost of a small cut to Lulu or another provider.  It’s easy, it’s cheap and it’s remarkably satisfying.

Furthermore, Lulu have now made “Agricola” available on, like a ‘real book’.   And they are just about to make it available as a download on iBooks too, so I can show it to you on my iPad. Watch out!

In the unlikely event that your are interested, you can find it at:

Or on Amazon at:

(You will also find on Lulu my booklet on ’50 Things I wish I’d know before I became a CIO’ – about which more shortly…)

About paulcoby
I am CIO at the John Lewis Partnership in the UK. I was Chair of SITA - the airline solutions company owned by the Air Transport Community - for 11 years. I am also on the Boards of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank and Pets at Home. Previously I was Head of BA Services and for 10 years CIO at British Airways. I am interested in Roman and Military History. The views expressed are entirely my own not my employers.

3 Responses to Self Publishing – Another Wonder of the Internet Age

  1. Now you’re going to think I’m stalking you as I do keep replying on your blog, but its so consistently useful or interesting… I just thought you’d be pleased to know that you’ve helped me out with a question on how to get an eBook self-published which I can now happily pass on your suggestion, thanks!

  2. Regarding your interest in Roman Britain. I have to say I share your fascination.

    I once presented a paper titled ‘Julius Caesar and the Art of Process Improvement’ at the European SEPG Conference in Amsterdam… and was then asked to repeat it at the IFPUG conference in the USA. This referenced the Triumvirate and drew management lessons from Crassus’ catastrophe in Parthia, and Caesar’s struggle with Pompeii. As well as organisational and team leadership lessons from the structure and practices of the Roman Army.

    The Roman Army’s use of the ‘marching camp’ provides, IMO, an excellent model for rolling out (say) an organisational transformation. It certainly worked for Caesar during the conquest of Gaul… and Northern Britain. We have used this over the years with some success in performance improvement programmes.

    I was also amused to see you refer to Lord Admiral Nelson. The way he trained his ‘Band of Brothers’ and how that followed through into the way each Captain developed their own crews during their sojourn in the Mediterranean is, I think, an excellent example of ‘developing capability’. It demonstrates, in action, entrepreneurial leadership, responsibility-based planning, evidence-based problem-solving, and set-based thinking. All elements that organisations that want to achieve lean & agile value streams need to excel at.

    Of course, in Nelson’s case, it led not only to the successes at the Battle of the Nile, but eventually, to Trafalgar.

    More recently, I’ve traced the use of some of the principles of lean systems thinking back to c. 240BC, the Carthaginian Navy and the ship-building programmes of Carthage and Rome. Fascinating stuff (IMO).

    I’m very pleased to find I’m not alone in this attempt to identify the management lessons of ancient times and apply them to the organisations of today.

    I’ve added your book on Agricola to my Wish List on Amazon. Hope to get it soon.

    Best regards,
    Grant (PG) Rule

    • paulcoby says:

      I also – as a Norfolkman – very much agree with you about Admiral Lord Nelson.
      Great parallels and nice to find someone else applying the “lessons of history”.
      Thanks for the post!

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