News and Views Blog

Self-publish and be damned or To 'e' or not to 'e'?

Friday 6 January 2012

These, apart from being misquotes, are issues I and many fellow writers, have been mulling over - a lot, in my case. Not so long ago, self-publishing was looked down upon by publishers, writers and even readers. With the advent of the e-book and sites like Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu, times have changed. Everyone in the industry has had to sit up and take notice and, as more and more authors are achieving healthy sales of both e-books and paperbacks, self-publishing has become a very attractive option.

Writers all around the world have discovered they no longer have to wait months and sometimes years, to see their beloved work published. Now, not only can they publish their own work, they can do so for free and with relative ease and it can be for sale in as little as one week. There are no agent's fees and the author receives between 35% and 70% of the retail price, depending on the price set by the author. So, why isn't everyone doing it? Well, I can't answer for anyone else but I can tell you what my thoughts are on the subject and why I'm considering taking this route myself.

After months of dithering, I've finally finished editing my first romantic novel, "The Stag Party". I gave myself a deadline of the 31st December and there's nothing like a deadline to concentrate the mind. It's now ready to put a coat on and head out into the world. It could have been ready months ago, if I'm going to be honest but the plain fact is, I didn't know what to do with it.

It was written for the RNA new writers' scheme and the critique, as I've told you before, was so wonderfully encouraging and full of praise for my writing ability and technique that it actually took me a little by surprise. Well, a lot to be honest - and that sort of threw me into a state of *what do I do now?* My reader 'loved' the story, as did my writing group, and it goes without saying my friends thought it was wonderful - some of them without even reading it! But was it good enough? I still wasn't sure, so I did what all good writers do - I procrastinated. (And that is something I do seem to be extremely good at).

It has since been read by a couple of people who don't actually know me but both of whom are avid romance readers, i.e. my "target readership" and they also loved it. One actually said that the only criticism she had was that she didn't want it to end! You can't pay for that sort of praise. Well, if what people seem to be saying about some shady authors "buying" good reviews, you obviously can, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, as lovely as all this praise is, I still don't know what to do with "The Stag Party". This is partly because, if you've been following my blog, you'll know that I really wasn't sure what type of romance it is. We'd settled on "women's fiction with a light touch" but I'm not 100% happy with that tag. It is definitely, emphatically, unequivocally a romance (well, more than one actually!) and it has some undeniably funny scenes but there is also, cheating, lying and a bit of drama all delivered with modern language (so, some swearing). I'm just not convinced that "women's fiction with a light touch" describes it.

So, the issue for me is, if I am going to send it out to agents/publishers and try to *sell it* to them, what am I going to say "The Stag Party" is? And this has been an ongoing dilemma ever since I wrote it! On the other hand, if I self-publish it as an e-book and possibly, print on demand, I don't have this problem. I can tell people what they'll be getting - lots of romance, some sex, a bit of bad language, a few surprises, several funny moments, a smattering of drama and a good story!

The other benefits of e-pubbing/self-pubbing are:

  • I don't have to wait weeks or months to hear back from agents/publishers
  • I can choose my own title
  • I can choose my own cover
  • I can set my own sales price
  • I can do my own marketing
  • I can decide where to go on sales tours (ever the optimist)
  • I won't have to wade through a pile of rejection letters/emails (and the postman will still like me)
  • I can join the Society of Authors (as an Associate member only but a member nonetheless)
  • I won't have to do any further edits/rewrites (and then be told it's not what they want-this happens a lot I've heard)
  • The Stag Party can be on sale within a matter of weeks (got to get the cover designed-I know what I want but art is a talent I don't possess)
  • I will be able to use the little kindle button on my website to take people who want to buy The Stag Party, directly to it
  • I can get on with writing my next novel (without leaping at the postman every day hoping for news of my first)

I'm sure there are other benefits that I haven't listed but for me, the most important one is this:-
We've all heard stories of (now) famous authors receiving piles of rejections before getting their first contract. Agents/publishers may know their business inside out but they can still get it wrong. I read several books last year (and some I couldn't even finish) which I personally, didn't enjoy. People are different and we all enjoy different things. Ultimately, it is the reader who will decide whether they like a book or not and you can't reach readers unless you get your book *out there*.

Every writer/author I've spoken to says that their writing has improved greatly since their first published book and many say that they now can't believe they wrote that first one! I want my writing to improve too but the only way I'll know whether readers like my work or not is to hear from those readers. It's readers I want to impress, not agents, publishers and critics. It's readers who will tell me what they like and don't like. It's readers who will - or won't - buy my book. Some people will love it, some people will hate it, some people won't give it the time of day, some people will ask when the next one is out. But, unless it IS out there for them to read, how will I know?

I believe we must all learn from our masters and hone our skills but ultimately, it is the reader buying my book who really counts and it's their opinion I want - even if I don't like what they have to say! (I hope they'll be kind). I've made The Stag Party as good as I can. It's been well received so far by those who've read it. It's time to move on.

So, have I decided to e-publish/self-publish The Stag Party? I think so .... and after a little more procrastination - I'll let you know. In the meantime, I'd be interested to hear what made you decide to self-publish, if you have - or just your comments on the subject, if you haven't. And in case you're interested, I'm going to be posting another extract on my work in progress page shortly.

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