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There are a myriad of options for authors these days, and the pros and cons of each must be weighed up against the individual's goals and expectations. I met Alison Baverstock at the Publishing Innovation conference and I was impressed by her balanced views on the traditional as well as independent possibilities. In today's guest post, she outlines some fascinating findings. [ I am still away in New Zealand but returning to the usual blogging schedule in the next few days with some gorgeous pictures to share with you all!]
Why self-publishing can make you happy…
Whereas there are few joys to compare with holding the first copy of your freshly printed book, or seeing the figures stack up as your new ebook whizzes around the world, the process of getting to ‘Go’ can be much more problematic. Of course when the writing is going well, it’s sublime. But the route to publication is seldom linear.
As a pastime, the process of writing has a poor reputation for delivering happiness.
It’s lonely, isolating and fattening (all that unrestricted access to the biscuit tin). At their most candid, most writers will confess to an obsession with their work that can border on paranoia, to being jealous – or just plain difficult (often because they feel unappreciated) – and there is a well established link between writing and depression. Those who spend too much time alone risk compromising their social skills, although this process is not helped by the generally good manners of publishers and agents. It’s so easy to miss/misread the signals they put out, and the time frame in which they say they will respond, or actually do, is never quite the same as our urgent need to know.
I began my working life as a publisher, and am now an author and an academic – Course Leader for MA Publishing at Kingston University. Over the years, my research and writing has focused on the publishing industry, and process of writing, and I have attended many gatherings of writers – from Society of Authors’ parties to green rooms at literary festivals, from industry conferences to informal writing groups.
Looking back, if there is a common theme to this experience it is probably the prevailing atmosphere of anxiety: authors watching what others are receiving (book deals/marketing attention/number of kisses); experiencing guilt – they should be at home writing rather than out talking; pondering the implied meaning/level of hostility from the last person who posed a question (most of us go away and dwell on such things for far longer than is helpful).
All of which made engaging with the world of self-publishing a very interesting experience. I recently embarked on close examination of the self-publishing sector, having become aware just how fast it was developing.
My findings are published as The Naked Author by Bloomsbury. But I am using this blog to share just one of my discoveries, which (true researcher style) I would respectfully commend for further investigation. It is this.
It seems to me that writers who self-publish are happier than those going through the conventional route.
Maybe it’s the motivation that comes from finally doing something – and being liberated from waiting for calls/emails that don’t come. Maybe it’s the anticipation of knowing a long-cherished project is within sight. Or perhaps they are just enjoying being the client of one of the highly professional self-publishing firms that today offer expert guidance through the options available, and whose attention they can confidently claim because they are paying.
Building on this, and to my great surprise, their contentment levels were not necessarily tied to the beauty of the finished product. Industry professionals have long assumed that only products that closely resembled their own output – content blended with appropriate format for optimum presentation – could offer any degree of satisfaction.
Try explaining that to a self-published author who has finally typed up the story of her family, as heard from her mother, had it bound and made available through a community history website – and in the process been found by long-lost second-cousins in Canada.
A view of writing as only valid if it can be sold through bookshops shows little understanding that self- publishing is a process, not a single product. Overall, the self-publisher’s motivation is vastly more complicated than has previously been assumed. Reasons for getting involved may include the creation of:
- An experimental ebook that allows an unsuspecting world to try your work, and if they like it helps builds a platform for wider sharing – with or without professional help in future (this is now an established route to finding a publisher)
- A working copy of a novel in progress; allowing you to gain objectivity about the writing and see how it feels in the hand
- A memoir that holds all you would like to pass on – whenever your family are mature enough to decide they want to know
- A photograph book of a special holiday or to celebrate a particular anniversary
Writers are creative people; their minds tend to move quickly.
Self-publishing offers a method of ensuring material survives – whether to the next stage of the creative process, or for all time. And knowing your work has been preserved for later discovery allows you to move on with your life – or whatever you want to create next.
Ultimately, perhaps it’s the taking responsibility that really motivates the self-published writer. In the process you acknowledge to yourself, if not to others, that your work really matters – and that self-acceptance is truly precious.
Alison Baverstock is the author of The Naked Author, a guide to self-publishing, published by Bloomsbury and described by Boyd Tonkin in The Independent as a ‘richly detailed and enormously useful guide to the process’. With Mark Coker of www.smashwords.com (who wrote the foreword) she will be attending uPublishu and Book Expo America to launch the US edition.
Top image Flickr CC honor the gift