Self-publishing's hidden success stories

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
This article, from today's Guardian, is encouraging for those considering the self-publishing route, but raises as many questions as it answers:

Buying houses in cash and selling millions: meet self-publishing's 'hidden' authors

I agree with what Danuta Kean, the writer of the article, says about what's involved with self-promotion:

'To be a self-published bestseller demands authors become more hustler than ink slinger.'

I think, that one of the reasons that writers avoid self-publishing is that it requires a colossal ego to throw oneself into the self-promotion necessary to make a success of your book. It's not just the time-consuming schmoozing on YouTwitFace social media sites, a writer going it alone needs to really have faith that their novel is worthy of readers' attention.

It's impossible to be sufficiently objective about the quality of what one's written, which is why we seek validation in various ways. Sensibly, via the Colony, where erudite and friendly folk offer helpful advice. :)
Or, we do it through chasing elusive literary agents and stand-offish book publishers—if they're interested in your manuscript, then it must be half-decent.

Their interest is always more on the commercial potential of your story, rather than in making you feel like you're a literary talent that should be nurtured. Just because you've been offered representation by an agent, who's gone on to secure an offer of publication, it doesn't mean to say that either company will do all that they can to promote you as an author.

A writer, on the verge of signing a three-year contract, should look at the success rate of their agent and publisher in furthering the careers of their existing roster of clients. Many an author has regretted achieving the 'respectability' of being traditionally published, as their work wasn't sufficiently supported. They served their contract out or bought back the rights to their books, embarking on self-publishing.

There's still a chance of failure, but a self-published author has the freedom to learn and do something about it to improve things.
Some people say that self-publishing is vanity, but what's the point of trad-pub if nothing sells? All that's left then is vanity - 'well, I didn't make any money but at least I'm a published author'. The point has been made many times that even trad-pub authors have to do the marketing. I invented an alter-ego so that I could retain my sanity whilst trying to do the hustling, but it doesn't make it any easier.
Yeah. I'm struggling right now with all the marketing stuff. Not just actually struggling to do it, but struggling with the mental and emotional side of it all. I'm the first person to say my books are nothing spectacular, which is exactly the WRONG way to be. And, of course, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy--you think you must be no good because your book isn't selling, so you don't want to go out and blow your own horn (because you must be no good), so no one hears about your book...

Still, I feel better about the self-publishing roller coaster ride, if only because I'm in control. I know that, if I fail to sell books, it's my own damned fault and I can do something about it. Sitting around waiting for some agent or publisher to reject my books is truly painful for me because I feel, in that situation, like it's all out of my control.
As I contemplate returning to self-publishing, the thought of marketing myself and my novels fills me with dread. I'm confident and enjoy entertaining people (while making them think about things in a different way), but I am hopeless at crawling—and that's what schmoozing feels like to me!

The BUSINESS of publishing has made me understand the jaded looks of various artists, be they rock musicians, film actors, painters at exhibitions or writers being interviewed for the umpteenth time about their latest work. They don't want to be there, talking about what they last did—they'd much rather be taking time out to recharge their creative batteries, or back in their workplace making something new.

The notion that a piece of art should speak for itself is a lovely idea, but completely unrealisable these days. Increasingly, it seems to me, that people spend their money on books, music or movies because they like the artist as a person—or, at the very least, they want to find out more about them through their work. Life as a writer really is a popularity contest!
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