Writing Fiction: Self-Publishing

The usual response of people who find out I have unpublished novels, is to say, ‘Have you thought of self-publishing?’ My standard reply is, ‘It’s not the game I’m playing.’ Which is sufficiently left-field to confuse them slightly. I then stun them with a hypnotic trick that I learnt in Delhi, pack them into a wicker basket, and ship them off in the hold of a slow cruise ship to the Polar Ice-Caps.

Do I hell. No. I stand there with a coat-hanger smile while they explain.

Any hey, it’s not their fault. I’d do the same. Lack of resolution causes panic.

But it has begun to bother me. To self-publish or not to self-publish? (One of many questions.) In the end I have done what many writers do when stuck with a problem: attend a day conference. I won’t summarise the whole thing, but these are some of the interesting things I learned.

• Self-published books are currently five percent of the overall market. But e-books, in particular, are one of the few growth areas in publishing.

• 69% of self-published e-books are bought by women between 35-55, particularly genre. Only 11% are bought by men under 45.

• A writer like Nick Spaulding has self-publishing sales of 450,000. He has now been signed by Simon and Schuster. Prove you can sell, and agents and publishers get interested.

• There are several platforms for ebooks include Kobo, Smashwords, Wattpad, Nook, and iBooks. The one most recommended by speakers was Amazon KDP Select. The downside is that you are exclusive to them for a renewable (by you) 120-day period. The advantage is a 70% royalty if you price under £2.49 (dropping to 30% over this price) and market reach. Other platforms allow you greater freedom to use other channels.

• The average selling price is £3.28. Most books sell at £1.00. £1.49 is a good standard. Note that you can tweak the price at any point.

• You will be asked to fill metadata, which is important. These are the details that allow readers to search for it. The Amazon tool is not as easy as the others.

• Consider Print-on-Demand.

• Use Wattpad to share writing in progress. It helps to promote your work and create interest

• Collaborate on editing and marketing. Hire someone to look at your contract. Do a book launch. Go to target market and campaign – features in newspapers, hospital radio. Invest in a cover that makes people want to read (this was mentioned by several speakers).

• The average cost for a novel published through a crowd-starter site like Unbound is £450.

• Polly Courtney is a writer who was signed by a large publisher, but returned to self-publishing because her books were being misrepresented. Look at pollycourtney.com for self-publishing course.

For anyone interested or within reach, Writers and Artists are holding another conference on self-publishing in London on 29 November. Nick Spaulding is one of the speakers. Find details at: https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/events/self-publishing-in-the-digital-age


8 thoughts on “Writing Fiction: Self-Publishing

  1. No not for me either, I am not ashamed to admit that I want to be part of the full set-up. However, I might feel differently about memoir but I would first work hard at my social media prescence which, at the moment remains at nil. I need to block out time when I can come to grips with facebook, twitter etc ….trouble is I cannot believe that David Cameron has sent me a tweet which is what I am told each time I have a quick look at my twitter page! As for my blog, don’t even look.
    Back to self publishing, I do think that non-fiction is different and there are people out there, Troubador being one, who only take what they think will sell. However, I have been asked by at least two elderly friends to comment on their memoirs. How do you tell someone that their life was not so different from others and that they need to go on an Arvon writing week. Which I am doing soon so maybe that will get me back to blogging.

  2. This is a quote from a discussion of this post currently taking place on FaceBook:
    ‘Paul Burston was talking about that yesterday at the Polari workshop in Soho – successful digital self-publishers are often picked up by agents/publishers, so increasingly this is seen as a valid route.’

      1. You seem to be inclined to pursue a traditional publishing contract. I cannot speak to the work involved with that endeavor, although I know it can be expensive with all the travel and such to find an agent and/or publisher. Based on my experience so far, I’m inclined to believe that self-publishing, although more affordable, is probably not any easier when it comes to getting sales. Achieving visibility (and thus sales) is proving to be impossible so far. I haven’t written in a month. I have spent all of my time reading about how to market my book and then doing stuff to market it. I don’t work full time, so I have more time to do this than most.

        None of it is working. Having a team with resources and industry knowledge backing you is probably a much more efficient process.

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