The idiot in question being yours truly! Having researched the subject, I’ve discovered that self-publishing takes a lot of work, time, effort, and can involve spending what to most of us is a significant amount of money. And all with no guarantee of actually selling any copies of your book, and generating some income. So am I an idiot?
I’ve been submitting my second novel to agents and publishers for some time now, but despite getting some positive feedback, I’ve not found any that are prepared to take it, and me, on. I could give up, put it down to experience, and concentrate on making novel three even better than novel two (and in particular, make sure it has mass appeal).
I’ve made a good start on novel three, and I do think it will be easier to sell than the last, because it’s very topical (sorry, I can’t say anymore than that at the moment – it’s top secret!) But I’m not prepared to give up on novel two just yet. I’m confident of its quality. So why didn’t any publishers or agents want it? It could be because they don’t pay enough attention to unsolicited manuscripts. Or it could be because most of them are too busy publishing so called ‘genre’ titles, many of which may be very good, but which are often formulaic and un-original. Or maybe their judgement on what makes a good read is often somewhat wanting.
Of course, it could just be that my novel two isn’t good enough. I know it’s a subjective viewpoint, but I don’t think so. Which is why I’m going to publish it myself.
Self-publishing has often been considered as something you do if you can’t get a publisher. But in recent years, with the increasing move to digital formats, as well improvements in printing technology (and particularly POD – Print On Demand), for more and more writers, self-publishing is becoming their preferred choice. So it must have something going for it. It certainly seems to be (potentially) a lot cheaper than it used to be, depending on how you go about it. You can publish your book as an ‘e-book’ at no cost at all. But unless you have strong marketing skills, and plenty of time to put them to good use, your book is likely to be nothing more than a single drop that gets lost in an ocean of e-books. And in any case, it would only be available to people who use e-readers. Call me old-fashioned, but what I want is a solid, tangible object – a proper book – that I can hold in my hand. So I’m going to take a chance. There’s a lot to think about.
The first stage is to get your book ready for publication. For that, I’ve been giving my manuscript a final edit. Most commentators tell you it’s best to get a professional editor to do this. But then, most commentators are professional editors. The idea is that a professional can tell you what’s required to make your book saleable. For me, there are more reasons not to employ a professional, even without considering the substantial cost it adds to the process. The first is the problem of finding someone who knows what they’re doing. Unless you know the business, and can get a reliable recommendation, I suspect this will be difficult.
The second is that there’s no correct answer. I’d give you 10-1 on that if you have your manuscript edited by a professional, and then pass the revised version on to a different professional, they would want to make extensive changes. It comes down to individual taste.
And then, of course, there’s the question of integrity. If you bag yourself a publisher, they will pay for the editing. You can guarantee they will insist on significant re-writes. But if I self-publish, I’ll be paying. It’ll be my book – the director’s cut. I don’t want my novel cut to shreds by an over-zealous, self-assured editor who wants to turn my book into their book. And even if they make it more saleable, they’ll be homogenising it. Most will follow the absurd fashion for removing any text that doesn’t ‘move the story forward’, forgetting that prose can have beauty enough to justify its presence without being enslaved to a narrative. Most will insist on ‘showing not telling’, mistaking books for films. Most will turn my book into a formulaic, light-weight quick-read for the short attention span generation. I know I’m not going to make the best-sellers list with this book, so I want it to at least have integrity – something I think will be appreciated by the few people who do get to read it.
So that’s the final version of the manuscript almost done. The next stage is to find the right self-publishing company. By all accounts, this is a metaphorical minefield…
Text & Images © Graham Wright 2018