I’ve been hesitating on whether to write a blog about my experiences of self-publishing. It’s not that I don’t want to share all that the process has taught me only that I was unsure whether readers would be interested to know the nuts and bolts – or the few nuts and bolts that I understand – of how it’s done.
Firstly, I’d like to say that today’s writer faces a kind of dilemma of sorts. Do you set your book down the path of traditional publishing or do you tuck it under your arm and carry it through the publishing process yourself. When a writer finishes editing their work they begin the repetitive and stressful submission process. The cover letter and synopses writing is enough to make one doubt their ability as a writer. What is it about these couple of pages of information that immediately makes a writer forget how to string sentences together in a confident manner?
The responsible writer will then research their chosen agents before packing up printed manuscript after printed manuscript, chewing through a few fingernails, paying double price for postage so that they can receive a reply from their chosen agent or agents, pulling out a few hair strands, churning through so many ink cartridges that they are sure they have actively contributed to the death of the planet, then sending their novel out on a wing and a prayer only to face the knowledge that they will likely wait months for a reply and by the time that reply comes they are so grateful that someone has answered that they are uncaring that it’s a rejection. Then…they begin the whole process again.
I do want to say that although the publishing industry is changing and all tiers are still grappling with finding their roles, I think there are benefits to having an agent and a traditional publisher. My experience is still growing on the subject however these people and institutions are industry professionals and they offer a solid sounding board of support to the isolated writer – on marketing, on legal advice and they provide a link between big retailers and the author. But…this does not mean that a writer needs a publisher to reach the reader. Why not get the best of both worlds? The term ‘hybrid author’ is fast becoming the moniker to describe the number of authors that self-publish and have traditional book deals. So why do some writers still shy away?
Perhaps, they avoid self-publishing because they have heard that it is costly, or they hope that an agent or a traditional publisher can somehow take their novel and make it sell, make it beautiful, make their idea original, give them prestige and success. Such an idea is a lot of pressure to put on one’s agent/publisher, is it not? A publisher cannot sell a work that does not already have the capability to be beautiful, or an idea that does not appeal to readers. A publisher cannot guarantee that a writer will be a success. The only person that can make writing good, that can make a book beautiful, or can create an idea that appeals to readers is the writer. A well-written novel, or an engaging story, or an original idea does not become less so because it has been self-published. The novel is what it is and for the reader that is all that matters.
So let me take you through a few common misconceptions:
If I self-publish, agents or publishers won’t want my manuscript: I have found this belief to be unfounded. Agents that I have spoken to are happy to look at self-published manuscripts, as long as the rights remain your own. And there have been many self-published authors snapped up by big publishing houses in the last few years. To self-publish shows initiative, imagination and a willingness to help reach out to readers, surely this should be considered a gift to a publishing house.
Self-publishing is costly: Publishing your novel through Amazon does not cost a penny. I don’t want to mislead, in that, of course writing a novel is time consuming and therein lies a cost but the publication of your novel does not need to cost anything.
Preparing a manuscript for self-publishing is very difficult and I might need to hire someone who knows about techy stuff to do it: Most writers I know are surprisingly untalented when it comes to using and understanding computers and I readily put myself in that box. But converting your word document into a mobi or html file is easy! The only drawback is that it is time consuming. It took me two weeks of solid work to go through my manuscript so that it was ready for conversion. If you scroll to the bottom of your Amazon page and click on ‘Independently publish with us’ you will be taken to a haven of self-publishing advice, even a step by step video tutorial on how to prepare your document. If that still seems too daunting, Amazon’s sister company ‘Createspace’ will convert the files for about fifty quid.
I have just gone through the more lengthy process of creating the paperback version of Dawn Solstice on Createspace, but maybe that blog post can wait for another day and I should look forward to sharing it with you. In the meantime, happy reading and to the writers out there – happy publishing!