Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Self Publishing is Publishing - Part 1

I have never wanted to be a publisher because I always felt it would take me away from writing. Having to think in terms of content creation (writing), content management (editing) and disintermediation (getting rid of the middle man), and seeing books as products rather than my babies (!) was never on the agenda. But, having failed to meet market requirements and find a traditional publisher willing to take a chance on me, an unknown, publishing my books, myself, is becoming an increasingly likely prospect. Frankly, I am getting tired of hanging around waiting for someone else to take me on.

"The sounds of freedom. Tap tap she wrote.
Snip snip she cut out the middle man. Kerching she published. And she was happy."
And then last week, I was lucky enough to win a place at the Writers & Artists Yearbook Conference, Self Publishing in the Digital Age. I won it with a piece of Twitter flash fiction; see picture caption. It was a day in London, and a day which gave me lots to think about.
Effective self-publishing, like all publishing, is most evident when absent. You only notice when things go wrong or are done badly. If I was under any illusions that this would be an easy route to literary success, this conference put me right. But what it also put me right on is that taking control can be intensely rewarding, and self-published authors are generally happier than those published by others.
The first speaker to talk about self-publishing was Alison Baverstock. She gave a very interesting overview of the changing industry and has published  The Naked Author - A Guide to Self Publishing  bursting with very relevant information and advice which covers everything from what to write about to marketing the final product. She mentioned two very useful resources for authors who go it alone - The Society for Editors and Proofreaders and The Alliance of Independent Authors. Have a look at their websites if you are interested in self publishing but need a little encouragement; you will see that help is out there!
The next speaker was the very lovely and entertaining editor, Cressida Downing,  who described editing as making something beautiful out of something raw. Amongst her many pearls of wisdom, she suggested that professional editing can increase sales by 35%. Professional formatting apparently makes little difference to sales, but cover design makes the most difference. She quoted as her source, Taleist’s survey of self-published authors which noted demographics, how long respondents had been writing, how many books they’d self-published, where they got outside help, and how much they were earning, along with a multitude of other information. If you want to look at this, go to the Taleist Blog for more information.
So, once you have written and edited your book, you need to find a service provider. Kindle, Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space are the Amazon biggies, (more on KDP and Create Space in Part 2) but also at the conference were representatives of Kobo Writing Life, Blurb, Troubadour/Matador and Acorn who offer either e-publishing or print on demand platforms for your book. There are many more, of course, and each one will offer something slightly different. But the general advice is to do your research, and then think about your reasons for self-publishing, what kind of help you need, what kind of marketing you want and where your readers are most likely to be found. Your answers should help narrow down your search. As a golden rule, avoid anyone who showers you with praise, tells you your work is amazing and then charges you a small fortune. If you are in any doubt or want further help, Mick Rooney’s excellent website, The Independent Publishing Magazine , will give you plenty of information about service providers, as well as a treasure chest of other useful knowledge.
All this information, and it wasn't even lunchtime... 
By this point, my interest in self publishing was becoming more a goal, and less a fall-back position. But I'll write about that in part 2 ...


  1. Really informative, Wendy. Well done on winning the competition. Reading about your progress on the road to publication is great fun!

    1. Thank you. I came away from the conference with a tremendous feeling of empowerment, and although I haven't jumped into the self publishing boat yet, it edges ever closer!

  2. Thanks for sharing, Wendy. Great links!

  3. Very generous of you to give us all this info Wendy - will be powering through your links. I think you may be beginning to convince me...

    1. I see it as my public duty to spread the word... I'm looking forward to seeing you on Liberation Road xxx


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