Self-publish and be damned.

I never was intending to self-publish. I was adamant that I would not. I really was not even considering ‘vanity-publishing’. I was going to hang out for as long as it took until I could get a literary agent who would recognise the possibilities in my writing and launch me. Then I experienced a dose of reality.

I wrote my first book and liked it well enough.  Even after giving it a few months locked away in the darkness of my desk drawer I liked it. Two of my friends read it and they liked it. My mum liked it, too. I tried a few literary agents. They didn’t like it. Or rather they didn’t even bother to read it. That was the genuine impression that I got from my rejection emails. But I still liked it.

I wrote another book and liked that too. So did my mum. I tried a few literary agents – some different ones. Guess what? They didn’t like it, or rather…you know what.

I don’t live in the UK. The number of literary agents who will accept submissions by email – I really can’t afford to keep sending out the first three chapters in hard copy at international postage rates – is surprisingly small, I found. Coupled with this was the impression that I was getting that they weren’t even reading my submissions. And, from my research of literary agents, I was getting the picture that getting published – actually make that just generating some interest in the submission – was next to impossible. Typically, agents’ submissions pages mention that they receive hundreds of submissions every week from which, perhaps, they might actually take on two or three new authors a year. Not great odds. Certainly not odds that I was prepared to settle for. Maybe mum knew what she was talking about after all.

I looked into self-publishing an e-book through Amazon’s Kindle. The idea appealed to me. Still does. I read stories of authors who had gone the Kindle route and done well. The more that I read the more I understood that even this route is not as simple as convert your text to an acceptable format, download it and sit back and wait to get rich and famous. The successful e-book authors who had come from obscurity had often had long-games that they were playing. This was a business and like every successful business it needed a business plan. So, I thought about it some more and continued to write and formed a business plan.

When I finished my fourth book (two in one series and two in another) I was beginning to feel that I should start doing something pro-active about kick-starting and furthering my ambitions. Above everything – even the fame and fortune – I really just want people to read my stuff and let me know what they think.

Having looked into e-publishing more deeply and put my I-must-get-published-in-the-proper-way-vanity aside, I can see that self-publishing through the internet as an e-book isn’t really vanity publishing in the traditional sense of the term. I’m not going to invest thousands of pounds getting a few dozen copies of my book(s) published only to have them sit in my garage (if I had one) sprouting mould. It’s not like that at all. Depending on one’s motives it can be a form of literary entrepreneurship; a shot at a small business and like all small businesses it would need a good business plan and a good product.

One argument from the self-interested traditionalists of publishing that will never go away is that because e-publishing has no gate-keepers and is unpoliced it is therefore an unworthy mode of publishing. But, be that as it may, that doesn’t automatically mean that everything that is self-e-published is rubbish. Some of it is. I’ve wasted some of my valuable reading time on stuff that was e-published and was, in my humble opinion, dire. And some of it is very good.

So, I set my sights on e-publishing and I etched out a long-game plan – I don’t really like the term business plan for this, even if that is, essentially, what it is. One of the fundamental requirements – other than that my writing must convince me that it’s good enough to make a positive impression on readers of the genres that I’m writing in – was that I have three books in one of my series all finished to varying degrees. This was stage one and is now completed. The first two are just awaiting final, final, proof-readings and then formatting, jacket-designs and downloading to Kindle and the third has been completed in a first draft. No rush on that one.

There is still much to do, but for the purposes of my – what to call it? – literary adventure? the back of it is broken. The books are written. It’s exciting. It’s interesting. It’s going to be a lot of learning and work – a labour of love. But I’m looking forward to the journey with relish and enthusiasm. Whatever happens, my writing will not sit slowly evaporating off the pages trapped in my desk and on my hard-drive only to be incinerated and wiped when I’m dead. And at least I’ll have tried. I’ll know.

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