The self-published

Why should we celebrate the self-published? What have they really done? Submitted a flawed, error ridden manuscript for a company to print out and bind together? Perhaps they've put years of work into the novel but haven't been able to secure a publisher or agent, so they've headed down the self-pub route. Should we talk about them in the same sentence as Marcel Proust or Fyodor Dostoyevsky?

Self-publishing really only used to be for those who wanted to write about themselves, bind memories into book form, or create a collection of short stories for a niche market or for their children to enjoy, but now, or so it seems, everyone's at it. It's really bucking the trend as the New York Times recently highlighted. The newspaper recently reported that four self-published authors had taken up seven slots on the New York Times e-book bestseller list. Furthermore, the article suggests that this trend will continue in the years to come. The authors include Colleen Hoover - Slammed and Point of Retreat, R.L. Mathewson with Playing For Keeps, Lyla Sinclair with Training Tessa and Bella Andre with If You Were Mine, Can't Help Falling In Love and I Only Have Eyes For You.

Are they any good?

Take our wannabee author, Arthur Reid for example - his book has been rejected by every agent and publisher this side of Texas, so he wants to proclaim to the world that he is 'an author.' So he self-publishes. He contacts the local newspaper, The Bugle, and he tells them he's a published author. The editor, not knowing the difference between mainstream and self-publishing, runs the story. Arthur enjoys a few Amazon sales and word gets around that 'Fifty Shapes of Stetson Hats' is actually really, really good. The cowboys all rush out and buy it.

Then there's 18-year-old Ann Books who secured a six figure sum via Riches and Tops Literary Agency, and ended up in all the papers. 'Bright young literary thing,' was the headline, except the hype died a slow death and she made a handful of sales. She put her tail in her pocket and became a recluse, penning Book Two. But...but...but...she has an agent and has been published by the big men.

Who's the author here? Arthur or Ann? Or both?

Are readers more intent in seeking out a good story, regardless of where it has been published? Do they gloss over the mistakes - there, they're, their etc - and shout about how wonderful the boy meets girl story is? Now that Arthur has self-published, becoming an overnight sensation, will he change his name, nationality and undergo plastic surgery to remove his moustache and re-invent himself as an author proper?

So many questions.



Deb said...

In my experience, Gillian, it's other writers and publishing companies that are the publishing snobs with regards to self-publishing. I don't know of any reader who scans a book to see if Hodder published it or if it was self-published. If written and marketed well, a book will sell well - regardless of who published it. Mainstream publishers are as in the dark as everyone else as to what will sell and what won't - hence why they think very carefully about taking a gamble with a new writer. I've noticed that many mainstream publishers are now taking on new writers on digital contract rights only, meaning they take less of a financial gamble with new writers and can see how a book is selling before they invest huge amounts of money for a print run.

Gillian McDade said...

Thanks for the comments, Deb. I must admit, if I see a cover that entices me, and if it's the sort of book I'd read, I do check out the spine. On a few, rare occasions, I've decided not to buy because it's been a very small publishing house, or one bordering on self-publishing. Which is very wrong.

DT said...

Just to add my two penn'orth...

I'm in the final stages of formatting a book for self-pubbing, initially as a paperback and then as an ebook. It's a timely question and one that I have asked myself frequently.

The one thing readers want to see is a quality read and it's fair to say that a conventional publisher will at least assign an editor - so there's a quality gate before it hits the presses.

I chose to self-pub Covenant after the last two trad publishers who expressed an interest wanted a four figure sum from me. It was too risky a venture for their money, though not for mine, evidently. The fact that they were both established (I researched carefully), and both interested, helped me decide to self-pub what is a niche fiction book. I'm not looking for a best-seller, just a readership and a reasonable rate of return. Oh, and the chance to cross one of my novels off my list!

I think there are as many reasons for self-pubbing as there are for writing in the first place.

JO said...

I self-published Over the Hill. Why - because it's a travel memoir (so a niche market) AND I had a mentor who told me that ten years ago it would have found a publisher, but not now. So I should do it myself.

And I still paid for a copy editor, had help with the cover etc, to make sure it was the best book it can possibly be.

Yes, the self-publishing opportunity opens the gates to some drivel, but it also makes it possible for those of us with books that are never going to sell in their thousands to see them on the shelves of our local bookshop. Which works for me.