I have finally made the decision. I’m off the fence. I’m diving in. I’m … well, you get the idea. I have decided, after months of deliberation, uncertainty and umming and ahhing, to publish a book. (That noise you can hear in the background is The Boyfriend shouting, “Hooray!” It’s not because he’s a big fan of self-publishing, it’s more because he won’t have to listen to me weighing up the pros and cons for a minute longer!)
So, what made me finally decide to go down this particular route to publication?
Reason #1 – Having an audience is better than having no audience.
I wrote the first chapter of my manuscript for children, Diary of a Penguin-napper, back on a Sunday afternoon back in 2010. As I’m a teacher, I took it to school and read it to my Year 4 class (who appeared to enjoy it). So much so that they wanted to know what happened next. So I spent the subsequent two weeks of school holidays frantically writing and read the rest of the story to them the following term. They laughed in all the right places (bless their little hearts!) and I decided to put out a few query letters to see if any agents or publishers might be interested. Whilst there has been some great feedback (“Right, so I can see that you’re a talented writer and I would really like to read further work from you – I just can’t get behind this particular story 100% I’m afraid.”) and some requests to read the whole manuscript, it is still sitting on my bookshelf gathering dust bunnies. It has reached a point where I’ve decided that it would be better to be printed by me and to have some kind of audience, than to remain on my bookshelf forever and never be read again.
Reason #2 – There has never been a better time.
A few years ago, if you had asked me if I was interested in self-publishing, the answer would have been a resounding and resolute “No, thank you!” (I’m nothing if not polite.) This was because:
(a) There was a real stigma attached to self-publishing. You may as well have got a tattoo on your forehead that said, “No publisher will touch my book, but my Mum thinks it is brilliant” and tried to sell copies.
(b) Self-publishing seemed to rely more on vanity presses, which produced inferior quality books in offset printed loads (with awful looking covers) that seemed to find their home in the garage of their author, rather than actually being read.
(c) Social media as a means of promotion was only embryonic.
Now, it appears, things are changing. The current economy means that publishers are even less likely to take a chance on a new authors. Self-publishing has less of a stigma attached now that there are some writers out there actually using as a serious business tool, rather than just somewhere to upload hideously formatted, ill-edited word documents to. There has been a surge in the popularity of eBooks. And social media means that you can promote and sell your work on an international stage, all in the comfort of your pyjamas whilst nestled on the couch. It’s an exciting time for publishing and a great time for a writer to get involved.
Reason #3 – The Small Press
The final turning point for me deciding to go ahead and print my book myself occurred at the London Book Fair this year. I was lucky enough to get a 5 minute pitch with a publisher and, after presenting Diary of a Penguin-napper, I then had time to take a look around the fair before catching my train home. I decided to make it my mission to pitch my book to as many other publishers as possible in the hope that I’d meet someone who might be interested. One of the publishers I approached was a small press and, after I spent several minutes pitching my idea, the guy I was talking to said that they would be interested in reading my manuscript and he gave me a business card, with his name and some contact details. Underneath the name, his title read: ‘President/CEO/Illustrator’.
And that was when I realised. I just couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t hand over my manuscript to a (really) small press that I’d never heard of, run by someone who refers to himself as the ‘President’ of said press and who also does all of the illustrations himself. It was at that point that I decided that I would rather have a go at printing and selling it myself (and potentially fail) than just try and get a publishing house to take it for the sake of having it traditionally published.
Now that I’ve made the decision to go down the self-publishing route (or self-printing as I think I will come around to calling it), I feel very much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. It’s like I’m standing at the beginning of the yellow brick road, going into the unknown, full of hope and adventure. I suspect this might be an interesting process (in both good and bad ways), so I’m going to be blogging about it as I go. I suspect that just like Dorothy, I will end up wishing that I was back home in Kansas having never set foot on this road at all, but only time will tell! Whatever way this turns out, we will hopefully both come away with more brains, more heart and more courage from this whole experience (me from doing it, you reading about me doing it, then perhaps having a go yourself) than having never tried it at all.
Or we can always just comfort ourselves with some really blingy shoes.