Publishing, Writing

The Writer’s Dilemma…

I saw a question on a Facebook group recently asking if the members had read any self-published books. Most of us answered in the positive with varying degrees of opinion ranging from dire to excellent. My own response was that the stigma around self-publishing needs to “get in the bin”, as there are many self-published titles available that are as good as any you’d find published by the likes of Bloomsbury, Penguin, etc.

It made me think, that the elitist attitude towards self-publishing amongst those in the industry, also exists on a readership level. This is something that needs to be debunked.

Of course, there are some dreadful self-published titles out there. But the same can be said of some traditionally published books. Reading is a subjective pastime, so I’m not going to name authors or titles in this post, as there are people out there who would definitely disagree with me!

For example, I read a horror novel that was touted as a masterpiece. It really wasn’t. It was dreadful. The author has a dedicated fanbase, and the reviews were definitely divided; like Marmite, it was love or hate. (And no, it wasn’t a Stephen King novel!) It was traditionally published, which meant it came with the backing of a marketing team, PR, and all the buzz around a new novel. I bought it, as I was looking for something a bit different, and the premise sounded right up my street. My experience means I will not read anything else by the same author.

Last year, I read a self-published, fantasy novel which I have also reviewed here. It was an absolutely cracking read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel. I was able to be part of the author’s journey through Instagram, and really enjoyed how she shared her process, the highs, lows, frustrations and triumphs. When she was asking for ARC readers, I volunteered. I also bought the book. It was my way of showing support for a writer that deserves success.

Of course, it’s always going to be hit and miss. Self-publishing does allow for an awful lot of crud to be unleashed on the market, and without the fine tuning and polishing an editing team can provide, the onus is on the writer to ensure it’s as good as it can be. However, this is where I believe self-published authors can have a genuine advantage over their traditionally published peers.

A traditionally published writer benefits from a team of people available at the onset to bring their work to life, from the edits, to the cover design, and everything in between. They have an agent promoting them to publishers, and singing their praises from the rooftops. This is the dream most writers have, but there is a downside. Agents take a percentage from earnings (usually 10-15%), the teams involved need paying, and royalties don’t start paying out until the advance has been paid off. Ignore the J.K. Rowlings and Stephen Kings of the world, they’re rarities; most writers these days average a salary of less than £10k per year, and many have to keep working the nine-to-five to keep going.

The self-published author retains control over all those elements, the potential for a decent wage is higher, there’s no-one demanding major changes to the manuscript, they can choose who to work with when it comes to copy-edits, illustrations, cover designs etc. It can be a true cottage industry. It’s much harder to manage however, especially if still holding down a full-time job, or looking after a family, and there are a lot of charlatans out there ready to take advantage of someone’s inexperience or knowledge.

So, there is no definitive answer as to which option is best, as they both have their own merits. And I’d be lying if I said I don’t hanker for a traditionally published career where my own work is concerned. Self-publishing is definitely my next option as I’ve gone through the latest round of agent rejections, and can’t face doing it for a third time.

For a little encouragement, here is a small sample of famous authors who have all self-published at some stage of their careers:

  • Beatrix Potter
  • Jane Austen
  • John Grisham
  • Deepak Chopra
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Ernest Hemingway

There are hundreds more, and I remind myself that if these writers could do it, I can do it myself. Yes, it will take patience and more hard work, but at least I’m not beholden to a hierarchy that I will lose some element of control to.

Watch this space, it’s not the end for Horizon Skies just yet!