At a recent gathering of friends, someone announced she was having a book published in 2019. During questions re content and date of publication, it emerged the book was a memoir. I volunteered that I, too, was having a memoir published in the coming year but that mine was a self-publishing project. All discussion stopped as if a tap had been turned off.
Have I made a mistake to admit to self-publishing my book? That afternoon, I certainly felt I had. So why am I doing this? It is an undeniable fact that traditional publishing is based on best-sellers. My memoir will not attract millions of readers. I am not a celebrity, my face is not known world-wide. My book is aimed at a niche market but it is a piece of social history as well as a story I want to put on record.
There are positive advantages of self-publishing. I found a copy-editor who knew my writing style, with whom I could happily work. I chose the layout for the book, the typeface, the print run and the designer of the cover. I agreed the price of the book and will contribute to the marketing plan. Most importantly, I retain full copyright and can sell my books while meeting readers as well as through bookshops, wholesalers and Amazon.
With self-publishing, what you see is what you get. It should not be confused with vanity publishing, the writer receiving, for example, 50 copies, however much money he was asked to ‘contribute’. Often that is it. No marketing, no sales, nothing else. Working with a publisher of my choice, I have an order form listing their services and prices. I tick boxes, I receive an invoice at each stage of production. I pay the bill, the company work for me. It’s that open and that simple. So why is self-publishing still regarded by some as less than ideal?
Maybe it is felt that ‘anything’ can be self-published. Maybe it can be. Does that matter? This is my book not anyone else’s. I’m in good company. John Galsworthy, Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence, Anais Nin and Beatrix Potter all self-published at one point in their career. Look upon it as a hobby, a way forward in the writing life, an indulgence or a serious publishing project.
Three suggestions to avoid blundering in. Research the available companies, follow their websites, visit their offices if you can, get several quotes, and buy at least one of their books to check quality of writing and production. Always read the company’s contract before you do anything else. If, when asked to send you a copy, their reply is evasive, give them a miss. Send the contract to The Society of Authors for comment. If you are not a member, either join or pay the one-off fee. It is worth every penny.
Finally, be assured by the fact that the 2018 Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book published 8 articles on the subject, reflecting that self-publishing is enjoying a revolution.
Next week I will share the name of my publisher and begin to chart the fascinating journey I began at the beginning of 2018. All best wishes for your writer’s life in 2019.