Most writers hate this question. They reject the very idea of self-publishing because they think it is the final sign that they have abandoned their dream of becoming a published author.
I’d like to suggest that rather than surrendering your literary ambitions, deciding to self-publish is increasingly becoming an artistic choice; a move towards self-actualisation, that shows just how seriously you are taking your writing.
Times have changed from when self-publishing meant vanity publishing. There are now firms offering specific services on the path to a self-published book and the author chooses what they need from the publishing firm they hire (eg editorial, marketing advice, blurb writing, cover selection, production and distribution).
Print-on-demand means that a very short print run is cost effective, and in some cases this may be all the writer needs – if you are writing the story of your family before you forget it all, or to put your point of view without being interrupted, a limited number of copies may be sufficient.
For others, who continue to cherish the thought of gaining an external investor some day, putting your work in a finished format through self-publishing may allow you to circulate it yourself, gain feedback, subsequently offer it to an external publisher and see it professionally published – it does happen.
Meanwhile parking the finished manuscript in a pleasing and permanent form allows you some distance from the project – and the chance to move on with the rest of your life, including your writing. There is no disgrace in the process – Jane Austen’s first work was self-published, and her investment in the process was considerable – the cost of publication was more than a third of her household’s annual income.
It was revealed recently that in the US last year more titles were self-published than published (240,000: 230,000) – so given that this is no longer a marginal pursuit, perhaps it is time that we too moved on from the rather home-spun name. This process, in which the product is produced to the author’s specifications, and their involvement can be seen in every stage, from typeface to cover design is, in effect, a bespoke publishing service.
In a world where image is all, viewing alternative publishing routes as equally respectable is important if authors are to maintain pride in their craft.
Alison Baverstock is a former publisher, who now writes about publishing, how to get published, and marketing within the book trade.Alison has also written widely about how to write and get published – Is There a Book in You?and Marketing Your Book – An Author’s Guide (published by Bloomsbury) have been featured on Richard & Judy, BBC Breakfast, Open Book and Woman’s Hour. The Naked Author (also Bloomsbury) tackles the formerly vexed subject of self-publishing, which Alison believes is ripe for reappraisal.
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