The third and final part of the recent Ways with Words event, kindly organised by LitNet NI as part of the Belfast Book Festival, saw us enter the rather exciting world of self-publishing. I’ve spoken before on this blog about my hopes of getting published the traditional way, that is, via an agent and publishing deal, but more and more, my eyes are being opened to the adventure that is self-publishing.
In the past I shunned the idea, having laid eyes upon books which very obviously hadn’t graced the hands of an editor and had simply been written (revised? maybe?) and pushed out into the world without a second thought. Books like this, no matter how great the concept, are what give self-publishing a bad name. They play into the hands of the ‘literary elite’ who only deem traditionally published novels to be legitimate and worth the reading. It’s true that most people will still reach for the mainstream published book ahead of the self-published one but… times are a-changing.
People like to have things now, not in a week’s time; they read online every day; they download books for a pound or two for Kindle or other e-reading devices. In short – they are increasingly likely to take a chance on a self-published novel. They don’t have much to lose. The onus on the author then, is to make that book the best that it can be and help to grow the good reputation of an expanding industry.
Alison Baverstock, author of ‘The Naked Author – A Guide to Self-Publishing’, began by telling us that, in wanting others to read our work, “writers need strong egos.” She added that with self-publishing, more females opted for this and that, perhaps despite what some may think, 76% of self-published authors have a degree to their name.
“It’s not just for people who can’t find a publisher,” she stressed. “People are coming back for more – people who had traditional publishing deals and then decided to self-publish.”
Why is this? Well, most importantly, because it gives the author more control of the publishing process.
Meanwhile, 59% of those self-publishing, as backed up by Alison’s research, were using editors, whilst 21% took legal advice on the process. A further 26% used marketing support. So – self-publishing (SP) is taken quite as seriously by authors who are serious about their work as traditional publishing. The only difference is – here the author is in charge, not a publishing house.
Unsurprisingly, “uniformly, self-published satisfactions are very high,” added Alison. Her conclusions?
- SP is a segmented market – no one size fits all
- It’s a process, not a product
- SP brings contentment
- Far from ‘going it alone’, it’s very often team-based
Alison reiterated the point about knowing when to acknowledge that work was finished and suitable for showing to people. It can be too easy to send something off without waiting until it’s the best it can be. She added that the dangers of getting feedback too soon were:
- You can go viral for the wrong reasons
- You can damage your writing self
- Ideas can shrivel when explained to those who aren’t interested
Also – SP can help you get objectivity and most importantly – “It’s something to be proud of, not apologetic about.”
Next up was Catherine Ryan Howard from Cork and AGR Moore from Belfast – two SP authors who have seen success with their books and are passionate about the benefits of SP. Interesting points to note from them for potential SP writers:
- Lulu is a great SP service to use (Catherine has sold over 25,000 copies of her Mousetrapped book after SP using Lulu)
- Also, Createspace is good for paperback copies
- Amazon and Smashwords are SP staples and ebookpartnership.com is also worth checking out
- Employ the service of an editor and a good cover designer – skip these and, well, open the door to errors, dodgy covers and sullying the reputation of quality SP work
- Use Goodreads and Twitter competitions to promote your book
- Oh, and, in the words of Catherine – “everyone should self-publish. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it!”
AGR Moore, aka Andrew, author of The Unseen Chronicles of Amelia Black, advised that putting a short story onto somewhere like Smashwords (for free) with links to your SP books for sale, is a good way of directing the purchasing public to your work. Generally, the advice was that ebook sales for SP are higher than paperback sales, harking back to the fact that people are still a bit wary about investing heavily in SP books as opposed to traditionally published ones.
“They just want entertainment,” he said. “Ebooks are something disposable that will entertain them. As a SP author, you can raise up and meet this demand.”
As a children’s author, AGR also advised that getting endorsements from teachers (and parents) for your book would help sell it to parents, who, after all, are the ones who are going to be doing the buying.
What we all wanted to know however was – how much does this all cost? Well, the reality is – if you want to do something well, you have to give some to get some, and you’re really talking, after deploying an editor and cover designer, around the £1,000-£1,500 mark. It’s a business after all and if you want to succeed, it had better be good.
What’s more, when it comes to being an author – ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’