Self-publishing gave me a wonderful professional start. I’ll be forever grateful.

I’m going to have to post a response to this article  so that I can put it out of my head.

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You have to forget writing for a living. 

The assertion that self-published authors ‘are going to be marketing for a living’, the inference being that they’ll do this instead of writing, is one I must disagree with. As a self-published author, I spent 95% of my work time writing. It was, and remains, the absolute bulk of what I did. I am a writer – writers write. However, I appreciate this isn’t always the norm. Self-publishing, like traditional publishing, has authors of all different types. To play devil’s advocate, marketing is an essential part of all business. I have many writer friends who spend a greater portion of their time marketing themselves and their books than I do – the thing is, the traditionally published authors are just as active in this! Publishers expect their authors to do their bit to contribute to their success and this is definitely not just about writing a fabulous book.

Self-publishing can make you behave like a fool. 

Here, we are made to sound like the wheel-greasers of every pyramid scheme known to man. For the record, I’ve never touted my wares to friends or family. To this date, my own mother hasn’t bought a single one of my books. Not a single one of my friends knew that I had self-published until about a year into my journey, at which point I was already earning a tidy income. To suggest that the only people who will pressure their nearest and dearest to show their support financially are self-published authors is as silly as it is untrue.

Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego. 

I found this point hardest of all to stomach. The perception that there are no ‘gatekeepers’ for indies is utterly absurd and just shows a complete lack of comprehension of the entire industry. Readers are the gatekeepers. They are discerning and brilliant and incisive and they do not suffer fools lightly. I have never received a rejection from a publisher as damning as a bad review on Amazon. Believe me, there is plenty of ego-bashing that occurs to those authors who self-publish sub-par products, however, those who write good books that appeal to their audience will rise to the top, as with any free-market mechanism.

Good writers become good because they undertake an apprenticeship. Serving your apprenticeship is important. 

‘My first novel was my fourth novel’. Well, congratulations.  *facepalm* This is not at all unusual, whether traditionally or independently published. My first novel (self-published) was my tenth, and I published it more than a decade after finishing my first full MS. I have no statistical information to back this up – I doubt any such research has been conducted – but I would say most people who self-publish do not do so to their very first manuscript. Those that do? Well, it’s more than likely the free-market thing I mentioned above will take care of that. But who knows? Every now and again someone might write a first-novel that is an absolute gem. Crying about the injustice of their not having served their time smacks of jealousy (let’s face it, I could say the whole article does too).

You can forget Hay festival and the Booker. 

Boo hoo. That’s simply not why I write. I write to entertain and, FYI, so did Shakespeare, who was seen as the populist version of ‘literary’ playwrights like Ben Jonson and Robert Greene.

You risk looking like an amateur. 

Sure. Going into anything blind runs this risk. And I should know – I did go in blind (though I think I managed to avoid this fate). But here the author extolls further ‘insight’  about what an indie author should spend to avoid looking amateurish. And here-in lies one of the fallacies that angers me most (and I hear it a lot).

The Italian Billionaire's Betrayal
My first cover. 

I think all authors should be mindful of producing the best product they can. Make sure it’s edited tightly, design a gorgeous cover, research your market, write a fantastic blurb. If you go into self-publishing you are acting as a sort of publishing house. So you either need to up-skill or engage professionals who will help you.

But, for the record, I was an Amazon All-Star in America (top 100 exclusive author) and the UK (top 15 exclusive author) within six months of publishing my first book and I paid $0 for covers, editing, marketing or reviews.

70% of nothing is nothing. 

Here the author cites the experience of an author who made 100GBP profit in four years of self publishing, across seven books. And the same author says they make little as a trad-pubbed writer. So no matter how you’re published, there’s no guarantee of high financial gains.

There are a great many of us who earn well from indie publishing.

And the summation of the piece:

…It isn’t a route to financial security. For those who prefer orchestrated backing to blowing their own trumpet, who’d privilege running a narrative scenario over running a small business, who’d rather write adventure than adverts, self-publishing is not the answer. 

For the last three years, I have found self-publishing incredibly financially rewarding despite the fact I’ve spent less than an hour a week doing any kind of marketing of my books or myself. I have the orchestrated backing of myself and the hundreds of thousands of people who have found their way to my books, and loved them (Whoops! I did blow my own trumpet there, didn’t I? Guilty as charged!). My business skills are non-existent (ask my accountant).

For those of you who love to write, who live to create people and worlds and stories and dreams, who find their minds wandering and their fingers running over the keys, who have stories they burn to tell, then I would simply say this: BACK YOURSELF. I don’t care if you write and write and write and submit to publishers and agents and continue writing, or if you write and write and take the self-publishing plunge, what I care about is that you listen to yourself and your own heart rather than articles like this.

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3 Replies to “Self-publishing gave me a wonderful professional start. I’ll be forever grateful.”

  1. I think this a wonderful rebuttal Clare. I am thrilled for you, and that you have come out the other side with a good experience in self publishing is a credit to all your hard work. I know you are now a self published AND a traditionally published author, so you are able to have an opinion on both. You are a beautiful, creative, and entertaining writer, and you have many, many fans to prove it. Long may you continue to spread joy with your books.

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