As I write this blog post, I am forced yet again to accept that the literary industry has been taken over by useless ‘celebrities’ who think that being well known qualifies them to add the word ‘writer’ to the end of their job description and believe that everybody is desperate to read the rubbish they call their autobiography. Celebrity has been the death of the literary industry, giving publishers and literary agents safe bets when it comes to their ultimate goal of finding commercial authors. I don’t begrudge them it, it makes sense that if a person has an in-built fan base there is less effort for them to put in when it comes to marketing. But because of this, there is no longer any room for taking a punt on the new authors who may take a little more work before they get make it into the public eye and make a lot of money.
Hence the development of the indie scene. There are now so many authors who did what I did and struggled for years with the rejections and the ridicule from family members with the opinion that they should ‘get a proper job,’ that the internet is filled with authors who decided to go it alone. People are bored of never even hearing back from agents, people are bored of getting stock rejections on Christmas eve. Authors have taken the control back.
The problem with this of course is that there is now a large amount of rubbish on the internet, which leads certain communities to tar all self-published authors with the same brush. Groups of readers have decided that anything not vetted by a popular literary agent and one of the top publishers, must automatically be rubbish. It leaves independent authors with the dilemma that the traditional publishers require celebrity status first, and the reading community want the golden seal of approval of one of these publishers.
Being a writer is a difficult career choice. It isn’t as easy as just writing a book because a good book might never leave the comfort of your computer. As often said as it is, the key to a career as an author is patience. Every author who tries to become traditionally published has to learn to be rejected. It doesn’t always mean that your book isn’t any good, every person who reads it has a different opinion and your job is to cross your fingers and hope you get the right one. For example, my first print novel Cardboard Numbers was sent multiple times to the same literary agent. I got an email back from a different reader each time. One of them took my entire manuscript for further reading and I excitedly waited. For six months I checked my inbox every day until eventually I sent them an email back enquiring on the status of my submission. The person dealing with it had left and my book had ‘fallen through the cracks.’ The person at the company who saw something in my work had left and the next person who read it considered it ‘not commercially viable.’
There is as much luck in getting published traditionally as there is in becoming self-published, the only difference is creative control. Your book is yours, you spent six months to a year slaving over it, editing out every mistake and perfecting every stylistic flourish. You know your character; you know arbitrary things about them like how they hold their hands when they use a computer mouse and which items they look for first in a supermarket. Self-publishing allows you retain control over this.
Since I first self-published I have been ecstatically happy with the direction of my career. The entire project is a labour of love, something I wrote that Blip edited with a front cover taken by him and made professional looking by him. Rather than letting somebody else in on it, we have a book that people buy and everything on it was something that we chose ourselves.
The additional advantage to self-publishing is the amount of profit that you make per book. Once the print-on-demand publisher tells you how much they need per book, the amount that you charge on top is up to you giving you that extra element of control.
It isn’t all rosy; there is no quick route to success with self-publishing. My only advice is the same advice I gave earlier, to be patient. Marketing and badgering people doesn’t work, if you tell people over and over to buy your book they will only ever get stubborn and say no. The way to make sales is to wait, people who enjoy a book will tell their friends and that is the way that your sales will grow. You can’t speed it up by being popular on facebook or by shouting loudly wherever you can that you have a book.
The next problem is that people will look down on you. An inherent problem of selling your own product is that there is no outside voice proving you’re any good. You could sell 1 million copies and yet you will never be considered as seriously as a person who sold 10 through a publisher. Taking matters into your own hands takes as much confidence and self-belief as going through the years of rejections from people who don’t want to know a non-celebrity.
One final point I would like to make is that you should never pay for anything when it comes to being a writer other than the materials to write. A writer doesn’t need an English degree, a creative writing course, creative writing books or an expensive marketing budget. It is your talent and skill that sells your books, nothing else and that’s true whether published through Penguin or published by you. The Indie writing world should be supported for its variety and its vibrance; it should be appreciated for the uniqueness of its content and not ignored simply because there are some people within who give everyone else a bad name.
If I called all black people thieves because one person stole my hat, it would be obviously racist. Nobody cares if all self-published writers are judged as rubbish just because one guy has more spelling mistakes than actual words.
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