Tricia Gilbey is a teacher from Suffolk. She writes for children and Young Adults. She asked some perceptive questions about self-publishing. I thought might be useful to share.
Why did you decide to self publish?
Because I wanted to be in control. Like so many others, I had the fantasy of a Fairy God-Editor who would take my book, make it sparkle and magically waft it into the Litosphere, while I lazed about in a hammock, eating Twiglets. Then I read stories of authors who were forced to change their content, who had no say over covers or marketing, who bitterly regretted giving away their rights and I reconsidered. I’m bossy, stroppy, opinionated and stubborn, so going the independent route meant I would only have myself to blame. That hammock must wait.
What were your main misgivings about self publishing and which of them do you still hold?
There are some astounding, audacious self-published works which batter down barriers and raise the bar. There are some dreary, unreadable pieces which should never have made it into print. I believe independent publishing can achieve a different image – getting damn good writing to discerning readers. I was also scared of the marketing angle. Still am. But working as part of a writers’ collective has made that so much easier.
Do you think self publishing only suits a particular personality type or can anyone do it?
Self-publishing isn’t difficult, whereas expectations are. Anyone can get a book out there. But you need to think very carefully about why you’re choosing it, what you hope to achieve, whether you are ready and how you’ll handle future choices.
What do you think you lose by not having an agent, and what do you gain?
Some authors tend to dismiss agents as unnecessary parasites. I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t have an agent, but in my role as columnist for Words with JAM, I’ve interviewed many. Every one impressed me with passion, commitment, intelligence and a fierce devotion to their clients. That’s what I lose. What do I gain? Give me a year and I’ll let you know.
Is self publishing more suited to genre fiction?
A curious question which depends on perspective. If you see self publishing as a way of connecting readers to writing, genre is immaterial. And I might even suggest, has an advantage for the avant-garde. If the question refers to potential sales, I suspect the playing-field is even. Literary fiction is harder to sell, as huge publisher or tiny individual. I believe self publishing is best suited to the authors who know it’s the right route for their work. Not through frustration, bitterness, panic or impatience, but a considered assessment of how best to match writing and readers.
Once you have an edited manuscript – what are the steps involved in publishing your own book, and how long does it take?
Edit manuscript. Share with beta-readers. Edit again. Send to copyeditor. Edit again. Send to typesetter. Print results. Edit again. Read changes. Edit again. Send to sister. Edit again. Research e-book options, enquire as to print, discuss with designer, finalise edits and commit. (Change mind more than six times at least.) BCD took about eight months, but then again, I am an absolute idiot.
How essential was it to you to have your book in print as well as publishing it as an ebook?
I always wanted both. I could plead practical reasons, but if I’m honest, the driving force was emotional. I wanted to hold my book, caress its cover and sniff its (cream) pages. I wanted something my 97-year-old Nan would appreciate. She still struggles with the wonders of telephony, so an e-reader might push her over the edge.
Approximately how much would I need to budget for in total?
Totally depends on what you want. You can get an e-book out there for free. Or you can put thousands into presentation, design and promotion and get yourself a glossy hardback. Middle ground is probably e-book and paperback. Depends which company you use but as a guideline, you’ll need to budget for ISBN numbers, set-up costs and inclusion in the Nielsen catalogue, cover design, typesetting and a proof-reader/copyeditor – not much change out of £500.
I am worried about the promotion angle. How much, how often… in fact, just how?? Some friends of mine recently got into a row about trading reviews – somebody accused them of not giving genuine reviews. Is there any way of avoiding looking as if you are only reading others books/joining sites in the hope they will read your book or promote your work?
This is a hot topic at the moment, and one on which many writers disagree. I’ve just left a group because of the vitriol surrounding the subject. An excellent solution arose only today via The Alliance of Independent Authors. On their site, you are not allowed to promote your own book, but you may promote those of others.
How do you get your book reviewed in places which will give you the best boost to sales – ie, sites readers go to find books in your genre? Are there any central sites which pull this information together for different genres?
Again, depends on the book, but I’d suggest places like Goodreads, Shelfari, Library Thing and Lovereading, all of which have sections, groups and author support. However, I’m only just starting out on this path, so I’ll get back to you when I’m better informed.
What has been the best thing about self publishing?
Doing it my way and working with brilliantly talented individuals who helped me bring my vision to life. Designer Jane Dixon-Smith, artist James Lane and my Triskele partners. Getting excited reviews from strangers and requests for Book Two.
Do you think being self published gives you more chance to attract an agent, or less? Would that still be your ideal, or are you happier without an agent?
At the moment, I have no idea. The market is changing so rapidly and no one can predict what the next twist will be. And although I’m harassed, frequently confused and at the bottom of a very steep learning curve, I’m currently happy doing it alone. What I will say is that I do need time to write, so I can see a point where I’d rather let the pros do their jobs and let me get on with eating Twiglets.
Self publishing is contributing to a landslide of change in the publishing landscape. Do you think that the reading experience on an e-reader is going to change the content of books eventually, and make readers demand new things from their authors? For example – do you think there will be more interactivity, shorter chapters, more short story collections etc? What effect do you think this will have on a) books b)readers c) authors? As a self published author do you feel any responsibility for hastening this change?
That’s an almighty question! I think publishing is in the process of re-forming/reforming itself. I personally don’t believe that the fundamentals of great storytelling will change all that much. I think interactivity will be a niche market, and I see a greater appetite for short stories or serialisations as a result of the way material is delivered to the reader. The landscape is changing and as a writer and book lover, I feel a sense of responsibility to helping shape that. Yet I see independent publishing as a force for diversity, accessibility and (Pretentious Alert!) artistic integrity over market trends. As for threats to the future of reading, I’m far more concerned about the loss of British libraries than the emergence of the e-reader.