Self publishing; a straightforward enough phrase, not complicated, and yet the very words generate confusion. I tried to explore what it means in my last post, along with definitions of Traditional, Hybrid,Vanity and a couple of other types of publisher.
The Passive Voice posts a blog post from The Creative Penn on Happiness and the Self Published Author, and the comments generated an interesting level of discussion around the meaning of self publishing and the continued blurring of the distance between vanity and true self publishing.
The line meanders along between vanity and self publishing and frequently from some writer's perspective the two blend into one.
The question posed at The Creative Penn was "are self published authors happier than traditionally published?"
The answer must vary from individual to individual, and traditional to self-published. On this blog self-published means what it says; self; me, by myself.
The writing page at cheekyseagull.co.uk explores my personal choices about publishing, but the gist of it is this. The Internet has given me, and thousands like me the opportunity to reach a global audience with the stories we love to write and often at a relatively low cost.
Self-publishing puts me at the helm, to steer my own course and weather the storms. To idle in the Doldrums, or catch the wave when it comes and ride it.
Copy editors, proof-readers, cover designers, finding, commissioning and paying, all my responsibility...and when it goes wrong?
Think up your own reasons why I chose self-publishing (and blur the lines with the self/vanity angle if you want). Fear of rejection, lack of faith in my own work, I'll give you those two for a start, and you'll be heading the wrong way.
A few years ago Macmillan tried a different angle, they opened New Macmillan Writing, and the idea was simple. Submit a manuscript as a doc. file, Times New Roman. 12 point double spaced adult fiction. It had to be full length (50,000 - 150,000 words), effectively a completed novel, no synopsis or first three chapters.
The Guardian described it as the "Ryanair of Publishing", offering 20% Royalties and an option on the second novel by an accepted author.
The project had a green light in February 2005 and pulled in over 200 submissions a month with the plan to publish six novels in April 2006 followed by one or two per month after that. The submissions topped 4000 in the first year and by 2007 had reached 7000. On the 20th May 2011 it was announced that Macmillan New Writing was closing to submissions for the foreseeable future.
Over four years later the site remains closed. The "Ryanair" description was coined by Hari Kunzru, author of "The Impressionist" who added "I'd publish on the net or think about a writer led co-operative before going down this road.
Whatever the travelling conditions may have turned out to be, that road is now firmly closed and the aspiring author has to explore other avenues, and the information superhighway of the world wide web has been the choice of thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of authors.
Whatever the merits or otherwise of Macmillan's idea as discussed by the media and the literary world it revealed the extent of creativity across the globe and the desire to reach a wider audience!
Look at the commercial system and the way forward is fraught, tens of thousands of authors vying for the attention of a limited number of agents, and beyond them the editors. A limited number of publishers accepting direct submissions, and when Macmillan tried their new way the deluge was overwhelming. Is there any wonder that the circling predators of Vanity have such rich pickings?
For so long the alternative to the commercial publishers; the Big Publishing House, was the Vanity Press masquerading as a legit publisher.
Then along came the Internet and things began to change. The old fashioned snobbery towards the self-published lingers on, but the wave of creativity that unleashed itself on the world gave a voice to thousands of writers who would never have got beyond the slush pile because they weren't commercial enough. Not that they lacked the literacy or quality to be published but because the commercial return on the publisher's investment would not be good enough.
I chose the self-publishing route because it was possible, I took on the role of author and publisher. My books go out under my name primarily through smashwords' distribution channels as ebooks.
There is still an element of chance, the wealth of literature being created is vast, but the difference is quite simple and fundamental.
Lost in a slush pile or returned to sender with yet another rejection slip the story is going nowhere. Self-published on the net, fed out through the ebook retailers, either as free download or a paid sale, some one will find it and read it, and that's why it was written, for you.. out there, the reader. The result; I'm happy about it!
On the way it's caused no end of disruption for the traditional way, but that's the beauty of tradition. Not what you receive from the past, but what you hand on to the future...