Self-publishing, an option?

December 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

In October, I was invited to attend the Self Publishing Summit in King’s College, London. My name was on their records, I think, because I had unsuccessfully entered a novel competition that had been organised by Legend Press. (Its managing director, Tom Chalmers, spoke at the Summit.) I did not jump at the chance to go: it cost £45.00. And, in any case, did I want to self-publish? I, like Mr Elton in Emma—when it was suggested to him that he had been wooing Harriet Smith—was “not quite so much at a loss”.

Any fool can self-publish: all it takes is money. But if a publishing house publishes a novel, it endorses the novel; and risks losing money on it.

I could imagine people’s response to my announcement that I had self-published a book. “The work was so bad that no genuine publishing house would touch it.” Is self-publication, like self-praise, no publication at all?

I want to be able to say that I am a writer. We can be philosophical about what ‘being a writer’ means. To me it means this: my work has been published by an independent publishing house; I have passed a test of literary competency. What test would I pass if I self-published?

However, after listening to the speakers at the Summit, last Saturday,  my attitude changed. Self-publishing can be a foolish undertaking but, on the other hand, it can be an empowering one. Self-publishing, like anything else, has advantages and disadvantages.

By and large, I have relied on information from publishing houses and literary agents to find a route to publication. Have I been looking in the right place? Publishing houses fell behind times by being slow to incorporate technological changes such as, online sales and ebooks. Literary agents and publishing houses, far from being the best guides to those trying to navigate the world of publishing, may well be at sea themselves.


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