When I gave my series of seminars to the Society of Authors (’How to sell more copies of your book’) self-publishers were considered, well, a little odd. They mocked up their own covers, couldn’t tell a recto from a verso, and thought that editing meant asking a friend to read their typescripts.
Today, the quality of self-published books has improved hugely, as authors take advantage of proliferating editorial and design services, while production standards continue to improve.
Self-publishing is now seen as a viable alternative to conventional publishing. Some may use it as a calling card for mainstream publishers – the bait, if you like. Others may consider it a way to piggyback off sales & marketing networks (whether terrestrial, digital or a mixture of both). Note that I haven’t used the word ‘Author Platform’ – something for a future post.
Is self-publishing suitable for all genres?
Although I’m an advocate of self-publishing, I’d argue that it isn’t. Just as a fiction editor wouldn’t be the best person to edit an academic text, different forms of publishing suit different genres of book.
If you’re a bestselling author, you’ll want your books to appear prominently in book chain displays, as well as Amazon promotions. For that, you’ll need a publisher with deep pockets.
If a book requires extensive illustration, mainstream publishing is again the best option. Colour reproduction is not for the amateur.
And if your book has the potential to sell around the world, conventional publishers will give you access to rights sales. The same applies to export sales or distribution to specialist outlets, such as schools.
However, if you’re able to market and/or sell your book through your own network, and are realistic about the level and timing of sales, self-publishing might be right for you.
You’d be able to control all aspects of the publishing process. You’d avoid the frustrations lower-ranking authors (and I’m sorry, but publishers do have a pecking order) experience, such as having an intern in charge of your publicity campaign, or a cover or jacket design you hate.
Occasionally, you might be able to have your cake and eat it, by self-publishing in hardback and, subsequently, selling paperback rights to a mainstream publisher. I achieved this with Don Shaw’s The Hike, and would love to do so again.
Image: © David Gifford www.inscriptdesign.com