Nicola Vincent-Abnett

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

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Self-Publishing: The Business Model

I’ve talked about self-publishing before, more than once. In fact, I even wrote a blog called My Last Word on Self-Publishing. It turns out that it wasn’t, because here I go again.

A week or so ago, a Twitter friend of mine asked my opinion on a publishing opportunity. The tweeter is a writer, who, so far, hasn’t been published. My friend feels strongly that the work is strong and should be published, but the right doors just never seem to be open.

I took a look at the deal that appeared to be on offer, and a whole new world of self-publishing opened up before my very eyes.

The company my friend had found was posing as a publishing company and was offering publishing deals to anyone and everyone. It looked like a surefire way for any writer to be published. When I dug deeper I found that a couple of people were working from home, using the same self-publishing tools that any writer can use to publish books. They weren’t marketing their so-called authors, either. The premise of the business was that authors submit chunks of work onto a website where visitors could read and rate them, and pay money for the books they wanted to continue to read, in advance of them being published. Only when a book reached viability would it then get a ‘publishing deal’.

Naming Names
The novel that will probably
never be published because
I won't self-publish
It was a clever money-spinning scheme: part kickstart, part self-publishing, and not unlike the internet writers’ club Authonomy. The authors would be doing all the work, writing the novels, editing and proofing them and uploading them to the site. Then they’d have to do all the necessary social networking to send enough people to the site as readers and backers to get that publishing deal. The site would use self-publishing tools to put out a book, but at no expense to the site-owners. And, of course, those two people at home, running the site would take a cut of the money.

Self-publishing has become a business.

I’ve never been in favour of writers exposing themselves in this way for all kinds of reasons that I’ve expressed and explained all over this blog, but it clearly was a way for writers who didn’t have an audience, who couldn’t break into traditional publishing to get their work in front of people and test the market.

Agents and publishers soon began to take advantage of that and of them, and started to use the self-publishing market as a kind of slush pile. I thought that was cynical, but any writer who made it out of self-publishing into traditional publishing was glad of the stepping stone. I suppose that’s fair enough. A lot of writers were exposed for what they were, which, frankly, wasn’t very good, and some were exploited. I suspect there were those who, with some patience, hard work and help might have been published one day, but who have thrown that chance away.

I think it’s particularly cynical of business types to see a niche to fill, and go for it. They’re working a business model in their favour. They’re scamming writers and skimming money, and I don’t like it. They’re playing to people’s vulnerabilities, calling themselves publishers or small press, and taking advantage and it’s pretty nasty.

Having said all of that, I do think there are exceptions, because I still believe there are idealists in the book world. There absolutely are business types working a model. There are also book lovers, who understand and/or have worked in or on the periphery of publishing, who have also seen the possibilities of this model. They are people with skills and good intentions, who genuinely are looking for new talent. The self-publishing model is a way for them to use their skills, invest in new writers they believe in, and, potentially, make a small living. These people will be hard working, engaged and very probably worth their weight in gold. It will be harder for them to succeed because of the parasites that are spending their time shovelling the shit that’s out there and sucking up to the talentless wannabes.

So, if you’re a writer and you want to be published, and if you find that doors aren’t opening for you, can I suggest a few things.

  • Self-publish  if you must. Do this solo, but very carefully. Start by finishing a piece of work. Have it professionally edited and proofread. Employ someone to work on formatting and cover design, and produce a proper product. Before you publish, set up a website with a blog and get yourself out into the world. Use Twitter and FaceBook and any other social network you like to connect with people who can help you, so that when you do publish your book will be reviewed and talked about.

  • Keep writing and keep working at it, and keep submitting work to all and any agency or publishing house that is accepting submissions. 

  • If you are tempted to submit directly to a small press or a new publishing house and in particular any company that makes big claims on the internet, for heaven’s sake check them out. It isn’t difficult to do this on the web. All companies are registered. It’s easy to find out the names of company directors and a company’s financial situation. If it’s two women working from home with no funding, you’ll soon know about it. Those women might just be hardworking, engaged book lovers who know a thing or two about writing, but if they are they won’t hide anonymously behind a website. If they are, they’ll want to have a relationship with their writers.

Self-publishing was always a minefield as far as I could see. Sadly, the bombs just started raining down.

My previous blogs on self-publishing:

1 comment:

  1. "Self-publishing has become a business."

    The model you describe isn't self-publishing. As is indicated by the author not doing the publishing. Not the sort of slapdash error I expect from someone of your calibre. ; )