Thursday, 7 August 2008

The Lure Of Self-Publishing

If you publish your own work then you are self-published. Whether your book is hand-engraved onto individual sheets of steel as was the original Book of Dave, or printed on paper in a more conventional book form, so long as you put it out there yourself and it bears the name of your own imprint on the copyright page it is self-published.

True self-publishing ensures that everything to do with the book remains firmly in the control of the writer. The self-published writer can, therefore, dictate his or her own jacket design, title, blurb and layout without interference, and instigate all sorts of innovative promotion plans without having to consult his publisher first. What seems to draw most people to self publishing, though, is the lure of keeping the bulk of the profits from the book for themselves. This does have the side-effect of turning the writer into a sales person rather than a writer, but some people are happy with that.

However: if the writer is not a talented designer or a meticulous editor, then the book is not going to be good. And regardless of how good the book is, if the writer has no sales expertise, and no sales platform for the book, then the book will not sell, and there will be no profits to be made.


Sally Zigmond said...

Self-publishing non-fiction can be worthwhile, especially if it's something that will sell well in a local area such as local history, biography of a local character or visitors guide or similar. However, when it comes to self-publishing one's novel, writers who opt for self-publication may tell you their reason is to keep all the profits for themselves or to keep control of the whole process, the sad truth is the reason is more likely (although none will admit it) because their precious manuscript has been rejected by a host of agents and publishers.

It is tempting, of course, but, as you so rightly say, if these people writer have no experience of design, copy-editing, distribution and/or selling, then I'd advise them to forget it, especially if the standard of writing is not of the highest standard. (Which it often isn't.)

I've recently written about such a situation on my book blog.

I know it's demoralising to receive rejection after rejection (been there; done that) but I still maintain it's far better to keep trying than going it alone - or even worse, opting for vanity/POD outfits just because they'll accept anything and quickly too. (Don't be flattered or fooled. They want your money.)

DOT said...

A friend has recently had her semi-fictionalised autobiography published as a POD.

This she has distributed to her friends - I have yet to read it but people tell me it is surprisingly good. (A back-handed compliment in that it sounds as though, at first, they'd assumed it would be terrible.)

She told me it cost £10.00 a copy, which sounds reasonable for a family & friends sort of publishing effort - though she didn't say how many she had to commit to.

Sally Zigmond said...

My only question is, if it's for friends and family only, why pay all that money?

DOT said...

Ego,Sally, ego. :)

The Self-Publishing Review said...

And delusion. Don't forget that one.

I've looked at several self-published books this year, and not one has been good enough to keep me turning the pages. I doubt if even family members would have felt their money well-spent with most of them. I'd love to be proved wrong, but haven't been yet.

Anonymous said...

We self published a book and sold all 250 copies and made several thousand pounds profit. However, the book was of specialist interest and most certainly most of it was not a good read, consisting of rows of figures, although some people found the intro interesting. We marketed to universities and collectors, by using carefully aimed mailshots. The BBC asked us to make a radio programme about it.

I think the reason it worked was because we had something to say that certain people really wanted to read.

Sorry I have to post anonymously. Whatever I do, I can't get Blogger to accept my username and password. Goodness knows what I am doing wrong. For anyone who wants to know who I am, I'm Jenny Woolf and my site is

Jane Smith said...

Apologies for the comment-spam which appeared here just now: I've deleted it, and have switched on the comment moderation feature in an attempt to stop it happening again.