Be a self-publisher: no one likes you, but you don’t care

Part of the team: Mike Calvin celebrates at the League 1 play-off with Millwall keeper David Forde. Picture reproduced courtesy Kent Gavin/Sunday Mirror

The slump in the book publishing business has seen leading journalist, MICHAEL CALVIN, a former SJA Sportswriter of the Year, turn himself in to a self-publisher for his latest book, after spending a year with Millwall. As Calvin says, Norman Giller has a lot to answer for

Fifteen sleeps till Santa comes.

“Santa” will be a courier with 3,000 copies of Family: Life, Death and Football.

It will have taken three working weeks for the printer to produce my first self-published book. It’s been an interesting process, and it is time to name The Guilty Man.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve met the right people, in the right place, at the right time. Reg Hayter, of sainted memory, saved me from reporting bowls club dinner and dances for the Watford Observer.

Donald Saunders, the fabled Saunders of the liver, eased me through his retirement, and into his role as chief sportswriter on the Daily Telegraph.

Ian Wooldridge, the ultimate travelling companion, atomised the theory it is best never to meet your heroes.

And now, I give you Norman Giller.

Norman’s weekly columns on the SJA site crystallised my thoughts, eased my frustrations. Self-publish and be doomed, he said. So I did (or, to be strictly accurate, I will).

I knew I had the makings of a good read, provided I knew my way around the alphabet. I’d been given unprecedented access to Millwall during their promotion season.

You’ll understand the gig – gritty realism a la Eamon Dunphy, Hunter Davies and John Feinstein.

So I’d turned up for the first day of pre-season training and I was on the substitutes’ bench at Wembley, 333 days later.

In that time, I’d found that Millwall operate in a parallel universe to the Premier League. There are no huge budgets, no hyper-inflated egos. The players are family men, close to their roots. They understand who they are playing for, and why it matters.

I thought that the book might remind us of the humanity football is in danger of losing, as it worships empty celebrity and the quick buck.

The mainstream publishers gushed, and then did nothing. They’d spent their marketing budgets on the likes of Cheryl Cole…sports books stink the store out… the proles in south-east London don’t buy enough books……


I followed Norman’s advice and liaised with Antony Rowe/CPI. Their go-to-guy Geoff Fisher put up with my ignorance, and ushered me through the process with the minimum of fuss.

Their online sales operation fits into my promotional website,, which hopefully has a longer shelf life. I set-up distribution deals through Gardners Books, who liaise with the likes of Waterstones. Beware Amazon, though. A bureaucratic nightmare.

The book will be out in mid-October. All reviews, good or bad, welcome.

Millwall players and staff will be helping out with special signing sessions, staged in the dressing room. Thanks to my son, I have also marketed the book through social media and fans’ websites.

I’ve had several hundred pre-orders. I’ve replied to each one, personally. You know it makes sense.

If anyone needs advice, or contacts, drop me a line at

Thanks Norman. I owe you one.

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2 thoughts on “Be a self-publisher: no one likes you, but you don’t care


    I am writing on behalf of my client Norma Giller.

    You have laid the blame for your journey into the minefield of self-publishing squarely in his lap.

    This is to place officially on record that my client distances himself from any consequences you may suffer following his well-intentioned advice

    Seriously, Michael, I wish you luck with your project. It makes no sense that one of the mainstream publishers would not take it on, what with your incredible track record and contacts.

    If you had ghosted it in the name of Katie Price you would have got a considerable advance.

    Don’t forget Bertrams as an outlet. They have won the WHSmiths contract from Gardners.

    The contact there is Manager Tim Stone, telephone 0871 803 6842

    They are based in Norwich. Leave it a while before making contact. Tim is off on a caravan holiday at the moment.

    Worrying yet exciting times. Enjoy!

    Kindest regards

    Uncle Norman

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