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The Joy of Self publishing

February 26, 2013

There has been much controversy lately over the self-publishing vs traditional or legacy publishing, with some surprising moves by best selling authors into the self-pub world.  Of course, Stephen King and JK Rowling are not perhaps as groundbreaking as one would think.  Mark Twain and many other distinguished authors chose to self publish. One wonders why.

I greatly enjoy research and I write and self publish popular local history books and also historical fiction novels.  A  major Irish publishing house was unable to take on a book about my Titanic shipwright great grandfather in time for last year’s centenary commemorations as, they explained, these days they can only publish 6 books a year and have a 2 year lead-in period. I would therefore have missed the boat, so to speak. I was amazed, since I personally have researched, wrtten and self published 4 books in the past 12 months. One wonders what these fully-staffed publishing houses actually do in their working day to achieve so much less than a busy working (as I then was) housewife and mother can.

I ran my 2nd novel past another major publishing house, whose recent publicity had proclaimed: ‘you should go with us rather than self publishing as we have the connections to get your book OUT THERE’.  They seemed to like my work and sent me a questionnaire asking such questions as: ‘Do you have any press contacts who could publicise your book for you?’ and ‘Do you know of any events at which you might promote your book?’  Was it really necessary for me to remind them of the annual literary festival which takes place just a few hundred yards from their offices?  Apparently so.

The real joy of self publishing is the feeling of total control over one’s project. I control the timing and the appearance of my work.  I control how, where and when it is presented to the world.  I have a great cover designer who shares my vision and produces exactly what I want.  I choose and pursue the venues I like for author events and I go out there and ‘sell’ a product in which I have total faith and confidence. Nobody else could promote my work as well as I do, since nobody else knows it as well as I.

Yes, it is disheartening to have book reviewing journalists tell you they work only on commission from editors of major publishing houses.  However, only a fool or an optimist would fail to realise it is the piper who calls the tune and that such reviews are unlikely to be wholly honest ones. When I achieve a good review, whether from a journal, an historical society or an Amazon reader, I can rejoice in the knowledge that it has been earned and not bought.

I could tell you sad tales of a writing chum who had such an inappropriate cover image forced on him by a publisher that he received abusive feedback, or of another whose publisher failed to launch his book in time for the major national event it was intended to target, or of yet another who was offered  payment for film rights but had to wait several years until his contract with his publisher expired or the fee would have gone to the publisher. However, I would rather tell you of the enormous sense of achievement and self satisfaction one feels on gazing at one’s own book in a bookshop window and thinking ‘I did that – all of that’.

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2 Comments
  1. Excellent post! As a still small fish in a very big pond trying to get my book out there it is a frustrating experience. I can, however, agree as to the satisfaction of seeing my book available to the public knowing I went through the whole process myself. A short while into the promoting stage I realised that there is no level playing field here either in electronic or traditional paper publishing. They know how hungry writers are, both emotionally and physically sometimes, and they prey on that. We only get to call the shots after the weight of public opinion is outside of their control through sales. Getting a book on sale is easier than it has ever been with the advent of e-books. I first tried to publish on the Internet over 20 years ago and no one was interested. I waited too long to get back into it as now we writers are competing against 400,000 books in Kindle alone and they take a percentage off every book that is sold. They have no real interest in whether you succeed or fail as their income is guaranteed. Therefore the publishers attitude seems to be ‘You play ball with me and I’ll ram the bat up you’re a**!’

  2. So true Ned. I see Amazon have removed the ‘tag’ words facility as well now, which hitherto meant you could tag key words against your book, ensuring your book came up when potential readers searched for those words. I cannot see any legitimate reason for them to have done this, unless it is because they want to kettle us into using one of their chargeable services.

    Today though I discovered the value of using foreign or little used ‘key words’ in one’s blogs and book titles etc. I was googling the phrase Cogadh na Saoirse (the Irish term for the ‘Irish War of Independence’), to see if it should have accents on it, and to my surprise and delight the search brought up Google images, including this blog plus links to my latest novel!

    All I can say therefore is Cogadh na Saoirse, Cogadh na Saoirse, Cogadh na Saoirse – and possibly Black & Tan, Black & Tan, Black & Tan!

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