Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 13 February 2014

My Last Word on Self-Publishing...

For now.

I had a bit of a snark the other day about a self-publishing masters degree newly being offered by UCLAN. Don’t worry, I haven’t changed my mind about it, but it got me thinking about a post I wrote last October titled Self-Publishing: The Experiment.

I’ve written several of my own novels, by which I mean books that weren’t commissioned, and, as yet, none of them has been published. There are any number of reasons for this, and I take the rejection on the chin and move on.

One of those books is called Addled Kat and it won universal praise from all of my beta-readers, which, frankly is unheard of. One of those people is my brother’s partner, who loved the book so much she is desperate for me to write the sequel. The book was turned down by a plethora of publishers and, as a consequence, despite having a plot in mind, there is no plan to write the second in the series. No one’s going to pay for it, and I can earn every day from my writing, so... you know...

My lovely brother
While the book was with my agent, I did get quite a lot of interest, and, my brother being the loyal and wonderful man he is, boldly made a deal with me that if the book wasn’t traditionally published he’d take it on as a self-publishing project so that I’d write the sequel for his partner. He’s a bit of a dude, my brother.

I shook his hand. 

It all seemed like a bit of fun at the time.

We haven’t got around to doing it, of course, because we’re busy people, and, frankly, when the book didn’t sell I was more than a little reluctant to go the self-publishing route. I’d painted myself into a corner, because I’d shaken my brother’s hand and I didn’t see a way out of it. I do like to keep my promises. I always keep my promises. So, I decided to throw myself wholeheartedly behind the whole idea and approach it with my usual enthusiasm.

Turns out, on this occasion, I just might not have to.

When I wrote my last blog Self-Publishing part ii, I, naturally, did my research, and it was only then that I found out just how little self-publishers are actually likely to earn. It’s one thing spending a considerable amount of time writing a book, but at least, with traditional publishing, when it’s done I can hand it over and let other specialists get on with the hard work of editing, proofing and fixing the thing up with fonts, covers, blurbs, isbn numbers and all the other stuff required to make an actual book. Also, I get paid to write. I get an advance. I don’t have to wait for odds and sods of money to trickle in. I don’t have to wait for the damned thing to sell before I can pay my bills. Then the royalties are well royalties.

The research I did for my last blog included an article in the Guardian, which told me that the average earnings for a self-publisher was £6375 last year, and that fifty percent of writers made less than £250... £250! The vast majority of self-publishers sell multiple novels this way, not just the one book that I planned. That figure is not per novel it is per self-publisher!

Even if my one little book were to make the average earnings of any self-publisher in a year, I still have the financial and time outlay of making the book fit for publication, I still don’t get an advance, and it’s still all in the luck of the draw and the laps of the gods. I’ve also got to wait til those twelve months are up to reap all of those £6375, and who are we kidding here? It’s only ever going to get to that amount if I spend an inordinate amount of time plugging the damned thing through every social media network I can tap into, and time is money! It wouldn’t be hard to spend six grand’s worth of my time on social networks flogging the book over twelve months, would it?

When I said it turns out I might not have to keep my promise to my brother, I meant it, because when I show him these stats, I know exactly what he’ll say. He’ll tell me it’s a waste of time and effort, and he’ll tell me to pitch something I know will sell to one of my contacts in the real publishing World.

On the other hand, I might just take a little time out and write one of the other many ideas that just won’t leave me alone, because, who knows? One of these days I might just be able to sell one of my own books! 

BTW, if you have any interest in reading the first chapter of Addled Kat here's a link.


  1. If you really don't want to spend any money on it:

    (1) download a free image from somewhere and add the name and title in large Times New Roman

    (2) go to Smashwords: they will convert a Word file into the major formats for free, so upload the book and cover and you're done.

    (3) mention you have done it on Twitter

    (4) watch your followers start spreading the word and reviewing it.

    Unless your hourly rate is huge, you could cover your time costs almost immediately.

    If you don't think this would give you enough quality, outsource: there are many arts/graphic design students who would probably love to do a cover for free in exchange for having a proper design credit for their portfolio; other areas are coverable.

    As to hyping it on social media: you talk about this book anyway, so instead of talking about this great book people can't read because it is in your sock drawer, talk about this great book they can read because you decided it was worth publishing.

    1. See how persuasive you are? Smiles.

    2. Just showing you some options.

      Another I didn't mention was offering a share of the royalties instead of a fee; then you can combine skilled support with no up-front costs.

      If you don't want to author-publish because you think not trad-publishing is an insult to your book, then nothing will change that; if it is about the cost/benefit I am happy to make further suggestions.