I recently read this article from the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-gough/selfpublishing-an-insult-_b_13606682.html
It didn’t make me so angry that I kicked my cat over next door’s fence, far from it. But it did cause a few disgruntled snorts.
In case you can’t be bothered to read it completely (and I don’t blame you) I’ll summarise it: In essence what this author is saying is that self-publishing shouldn’t be allowed. Or at the very least, self-published books should come with a label stating that they’re self-published in order to warn potential readers that their head may explode should they chose to read something which has not had the all-knowing quality control of ‘agents’ and ‘publishers’.
Gatekeepers and key-masters (oh wait, that was Ghostbusters)
My journey, like many others, started after I managed to put eighty-six thousand words, in order I might add, into a single Word document, gave it a title, some chapters and, hey-presto, I had “written a book”. Was it any good? According to the stock answers I received back from literary agents (well, the half who responded) that “whilst it stood out” and had “much to be admired” it wasn’t quite what they were looking for.
Does that, therefore, categorically put a stamp on my story stating “Certified No Good”? This article would say it does. Because thy mystical gatekeepers (her words, not mine) hath not let mine work of drivel pass. Or does it mean that, although the work could be the single greatest piece of fiction ever to be committed to paper, it simply should not be read by mere mortals because the Book Gods decided against publishing it?
Clearly, the 780 responses to the article indicate otherwise. The technically brilliant guitarist busking in the tube station is not an ‘insult to music’ simply because he is not another manufactured pop band created and signed by Simon Cowell purely to make hard cold cash, any more than this lady is in the same league as Nobel Laureates Patrick Modiano or Doris Lessing by virtue of the fact that she ‘has a deal’.
The route to self-publishing a novel has become simple – write a story in Word, upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing, give it a spangly cover using their designer and you have a book on Amazon. That’s it in its simplest form. You can also do what I did, which is to go the whole hog and have it professionally edited, proof-read (see previous blog!!), cover-designed, typeset and even marketed. I also set up a limited company to act as publisher, acquired ISBNs, set up author pages on social media, write a blog of my journey… the actual list is somewhat endless.
More to the point, it is very hard. I read, during my research, that self-publishing is more or less about building a following one reader at a time. And that is exactly how it is, to the extent that my awesome wife hangs around the book section of Tesco (when she happens to be in there already I mean) thrusting a card with my details on into the hand of anyone showing the faintest interest in buying a book.
But this article is wrong on so many more levels. I have no idea how many books she has actually sold, but from looking at both the US and UK pages on Amazon, it is at least seventy-one because that is how many reviews she has (although that figure may be slightly exaggerated as some people may have left a review on both sites). I’m not going to lie, I haven’t sold many more than that in the six weeks that my book has been available. But then I’m only just getting going. Perhaps this is the crux of her disdain for self-publishing. That some writers who do not have the ‘Seal of Approval’ of a publisher actually do better as an author that she does.
Up, up, up the ziggurat…
Recently, I (ahem) had dinner with a well-established author (books, movies, screenplays etc.), who was very complimentary of my efforts in self-publishing. He likened it to a pyramid – at the bottom you have everyone who says they would like to write a book, next you have those who start but don’t finish, then it’s those who finish but don’t do anything with it. Finally at the top, you have the people who have written a book and put it out for people to read. It requires the same amount of time and energy at the start and very few people manage it. Those that do deserve credit for even trying, let alone finishing, regardless of whether that work ends up in the public domain.
Having become so easy, there will of course be rubbish churned out. But self-publishing is not an insult to the written word. It should be embraced and nurtured in the way that behemoths such as Amazon and Ingram are.
People have a choice what to read and, let’s be honest, there is a lot of traditionally published work that is utterly terrible but marketed well. I’ve written a book, which is currently sitting on some people’s bookshelves and Kindles, and I hope that it sells a lot. At least to recoup what it has cost me to publish. It’ll be a slow, hard slog, and reading articles like this makes me all the more determined not to give up.
I’m sure that lots of far better qualified personages have already slammed this article down, but I would hate for this kind of snobbery to discourage anyone from dipping their creative toes in the already frightening world of self-publishing.
Thanks for reading. See you next time.