Self-publishing, Personal publishing or Private publishing – or as I call it, selfpub – hasn’t yet taken over from conventional publishing as far as the book trade is concerned, but for most writers, it very definitely has. It’s no longer possible to get one’s work in front of a commissioning editor, and even a sure-fire bestseller will languish unread, because nobody in the business will see it. The normal route for a postal submission these days is “author > publishing house > recycling bin”, while email submissions are clicked off by the email deletion clerk as soon as they arrive.
Agents can help, but they are fully occupied with what they already have on their plates. However, if a blog, a selfpub print or ebook takes off, human nature being what it is, some bright spark of a commissioning editor will spot it and pounce on it – as famously happened in the case of “Fifty Shades”. Then the author has the choice of leaving things as they are, or giving the book to a conventional publisher. Not all authors choose to do the latter.
A selfpub print book and/or ebook is now the only guaranteed route to getting your work “out there”. Whether it becomes a bestseller, an average seller or a not-very-good seller is in the lap of the gods, but at least it will see the light of day, so why not do it? Nowadays, Jan and I don’t produce the number of traditionally-published books that we did just a few years ago; there isn’t the market; the amount of non-fiction information on the Internet makes many paper books superfluous; and in any event, it’s common to find that a paper book is out of date the day it’s released!
So – as your normal, average independent traditional publisher (a dying breed…), we now find that we can produce a selfpub ebook for the same amount of money that one spends on a supermarket trolley’s worth of food, as long as the book doesn’t require any fancy layout or styling; for example, a novel. The addition of a printed book obviously adds to the cost – but hardly a fortune, because we only use digital (print-on-demand) for all the books we publish, whether conventional or selfpub.
Now, what about vanity publishing? Well that largely disappeared some time ago. In the old days, print machines could only – viably – produce large quantities of printed material at one time, so once the manuscript had been edited and typeset, the publisher would ask the printer to run off ten thousand copies and deliver them to the author. This was such an unusual thing for any writer to do, that in all my years as a writer and editor, I never met anybody who had done it, although I suppose there were people who may have been taken in by a smart-talking con man. Even though we’ve had no direct contact with anyone who has been taken for a ride by a vanity publisher, there are many negative reviews about some publishers. I guess the answer is, first check out reviews of whoever you intend dealing with, whether it’s about a book or buying a second-hand car.
The selfpub scene is so different now. The plain fact is that the vast majority of the information books that Jan and I buy for business use for this new and fast-moving world, are self-published. That’s how far the scales have tipped!
Selfpub has always been respectable – as you will see in my next blog (My Introduction to Self-publishing) – and now it is positively commonplace. If you fancy a good fiction read, why not treat yourself to Kim Farnell’s book “Rosie Crucial”. It’s a clever and tongue-in-cheek story, it’s selfpub and she’s done a very nice job of it. No, we didn’t publish it, and no, I’m not getting a commission for selling it, either! She does happen to write for us occasionally, that’s how I know about her novel.