Something happened recently on social media that both annoyed and saddened me. The details aren’t important, but the message is: that a stigma still attaches to self-published books as opposed to those published by small or traditional publishers. But are self-pubbed books really so terrible?
Book publishing revolution
The self-publishing revolution took off more than a decade ago when Amazon, followed by other platforms, made it much easier to publish a book. The tools for producing e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks came within the reach of even the least techie authors, like me.
At the time, the standard opinion was, “Self-publishing is only for those who can’t get published by other means.” In other words, those authors whose books weren’t good enough. Of course, there are books that fall into that category. But mainstream publishers are not entirely innocent of publishing books of questionable quality, either.
A number of successful authors now choose only to self-publish, having realised that being in control of the process is well worth it. Other authors have opted for a hybrid route: some of their books are mainstream published, others are self-published.
Are too many books published today? That’s a big question to which there isn’t a clear-cut answer. Who is the arbiter, anyway? I will duck that one and focus instead on what I know.
Choosing to self-publish
I have been published by a small publisher, and I’m eternally grateful to them for giving me that opportunity. I am now self-published, for several reasons:
- First (sigh) I’m not getting any younger. The process of submitting to agents and publishers can take years. Some very good books fail to get published that way if they don’t hit the market criteria or the right person at the right time.
- Second, as I mentioned above, being in control of the process is important to me.
- Third, yes, money rears its ugly head here. After Amazon and other sales platforms take their cut, all the royalties come to me. There is no middleman (or woman).
What about quality? I can only speak for myself and from what I know of other independent authors. Let me take you through my quality control process:
- Sharing sections of the novel while I’m writing it with critiquing partners and the writing groups I belong to.
- Asking Beta readers (writers and non-writers; all of them are readers) to critique the whole manuscript, and then revising it accordingly. No less than nine people read my latest novel and provided invaluable feedback.
- For my previous novel, commissioning a literary consultancy to give me a critique.
- Employing a professional editor to edit the final draft.
- Commissioning a cover design from a professional designer.
- The formatting and uploading of the finished files I do myself, having scaled a steep learning curve to acquire the necessary skills. No complaints from readers so far.
Also, I’m now a member of an author collective, Ocelot Press. We pool our writing, editing and book production expertise in order to help each other publish our books to the highest possible standards under the Ocelot Press imprint. So we retain individual autonomy while benefiting from the experience of fellow authors.
I make a significant upfront investment, not only in the production but also in the marketing and promotion of my books. The production of each book costs me more than €1,000, and that’s before I’ve even begun to spend anything on marketing and promotion.
Proof of the pudding?
What do readers of my books think? Well, you’d have to ask them, but judging by the reviews and the private comments I receive, they are satisfied. All of my single-authored novels have an average of 4+ stars on Amazon and Goodreads.
I get the impression that most of my readers don’t mind if a book is self-published provided they enjoy it and it’s well-written and produced. And these should be the criteria we apply to all books, regardless of their route to publication.
You might also like:
Copyright © Vanessa Couchman 2019. All rights reserved.