Monday 26 June 2017

Self-Publishing Stigma vs Inspiring Author Entrepreneurs

There are two main podcasts I listen to when I'm doing chores.

An inspirational and info-packed podcast with over 300 interviews with successful author entrepreneurs. It's been so influential I felt compelled to include host, Joanna Penn, in my acknowledgements for The Hen Party even though I've never met her.

Friendly host Paul Teague interviews self-published authors at different stages of their writing journeys  and also updates listeners on his own personal journey. A lot of what I hear really resonates with me.  

Yesterday my hero, Joanna Penn, tweeted a post I'd written for the Alliance of Independent Authors on Why I Swapped the Traditional Dream to Self-Publish. Half of me felt chuffed, the other half a little apprehensive that I had been outed as having self-published. Not long after the tweet, Paul Teague, host of my other favourite podcast said he had been meaning to write to me to see if I wanted to be on his show. Again, very pleased, and also slightly anxious.

The truth is I'm a hybrid author who is open to and has been published both traditionally and independently. Deciding to self-publish The Hen Party was not a second choice, as I point out in the article; it was a case of wanting to feel empowered.

The word entrepreneur has a lot of positive connotations. An entrepreneur sounds like someone who is driven, creative, has get-up and go. 

Unfortunately self-publishing entrepreneurs aren't always met with the same admiration in the writing world!

Self-publishing still has a lot of stigma - and I get why. People want the credibility of a big publisher. They assume if a big publisher didn't print it, then it can't be good. In reality, a traditional publisher might like the book but may not have space for it on their list. They may well have a similar author writing in the same genre. 

I didn't wait until the very end to find out if a publisher wanted my book. It takes months and months for replies and the first so-called 'rave rejections' convinced me the novel was good enough for public consumption. They went like this:  

Rejection 1: Emily’s novel is so much fun and full of heart. Kate in particular stood out as an interesting and well-rounded character and I think the author does a terrific job of moving the story along at just the right pace and making sure all the different storylines don’t become too confused.'

Reason: Bad timing. Publisher already has three writers in similar genre.

Rejection 2: 'I really liked the writing and I think Emily is definitely a very interesting author with bags of potential.' 

Reason: Not sure about theme. Reality TV isn't as popular as before.

Rejection 3:'I really, really enjoyed reading it. It’s just so much fun! And Emily’s voice is fab – light but shrewd, I absolutely raced through this.'

Reason: not sure about Kate (see first rejection reason - if anything, it proves how subjective it all is.)

The book took me over a year with two massive edits so I wasn't going to just discard it because three people liked it but weren't sure they'd be able to sell it. I didn't just hit publish once I'd made up my mind. It was important to me that it would be produced with the same care as a traditionally published book.

Next, it went through a professional editor. After that, a proof reader. Self-publishing can sound like: I wrote a book, my mummy liked it, so I printed it out! But though this might be the case for some people, it certainly isn't my take on independent publishing. 

For me, it's about being proactive about your career, treating it like a business and taking the wishful thinking out of it.  It's about taking creative control of your project, getting fair royalties and being able to adjust prices and book covers if at first it doesn't succeed. 

Perhaps knowing The Hen Party has been produced independently will put you off buying it, but I hope not. If it helps, I've been published traditionally three times, and if anything my writing should be getting better. Personally, I'm proud of the book and thrilled with the reviews starting to come in. I've been told it's my best book yet... but I'll let you be the judge of that!    


Lindsay said...

Some excellent points here. I have read several self-published books that have ranged from It Really Should Not Have Been Let Loose On The Unsuspecting Public to Totally Professional. I think the former is why self-publishing has developed a poor reputation, which is now frequently unjustified. Fortunately the second category is gathering speed and I think it's a burgeoning market with excellent books. Getting a decent editor, proof reader and cover artist on board also sorts the wheat from the chaff.

Don't worry, Emily. Yours is in the Totally Professional category!

Emily Benet said...

Thank you! It is tricky the first time and it might not be for everyone. There is a myth that if you''re traditionally published you'll automatically sell books because you'll get lots of publicity, which just isn't true. Either way you have to work hard at marketing if you want a royalty check which will pay for more than a box of coffee and a notebook. At least, with self publishing there's a chance of a 70% royalty, rather than 10%-25% of traditional. Anyway, it's early days, so I don't know what best suits me yet, but I have enjoyed being the creative director :)