Self-publishing’s hidden success stories

This article, from today’s Guardian, is encouraging for those considering the self-publishing route, but raises as many questions as it answers:

Buying houses in cash and selling millions: meet self-publishing’s ‘hidden’ authors

I agree with what Danuta Kean, the writer of the article, says about what’s involved with self-promotion:

‘To be a self-published bestseller demands authors become more hustler than ink slinger.’

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I think, that one of the reasons that writers avoid self-publishing is that it requires a colossal ego to throw oneself into the self-promotion necessary to make a success of your book. It’s not just the time-consuming schmoozing on YouTwitFace social media sites, a writer going it alone needs to really have faith that their novel is worthy of readers’ attention.

It’s impossible to be sufficiently objective about the quality of what one’s written, which is why we seek validation in various ways. Sensibly, via my writers’ forum The Colony, where erudite and friendly folk offer helpful advice. 

Or, we do it through chasing elusive literary agents and stand-offish book publishers—if they’re interested in your manuscript, then it must be half-decent.

Their interest is always more on the commercial potential of your story, rather than in making you feel like you’re a literary talent that should be nurtured. Just because you’ve been offered representation by an agent, who’s gone on to secure an offer of publication, it doesn’t mean to say that either company will do all that they can to promote you as an author.

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A writer, on the verge of signing a three-year contract, should look at the success rate of their agent and publisher in furthering the careers of their existing roster of clients. Many an author has regretted achieving the ‘respectability’ of being traditionally published, as their work wasn’t sufficiently supported. They served their contract out or bought back the rights to their books, embarking on self-publishing.

There’s still a chance of failure, but a self-published author has the freedom to learn and do something about it to improve things.

As I contemplate returning to self-publishing, the thought of marketing myself and my novels fills me with dread. I’m confident and enjoy entertaining people (while making them think about things differently), but I am hopeless at crawling—and that’s what schmoozing feels like to me!

The BUSINESS of publishing has made me understand the jaded looks of various artists, be they rock musicians, film actors, painters at exhibitions or writers being interviewed for the umpteenth time about their latest work. They don’t want to be there, talking about what they last did—they’d much rather be taking time out to recharge their creative batteries, or back in their workplace making something new.

The notion that a piece of art should speak for itself is a lovely idea, but completely unrealisable these days. Increasingly, it seems to me, that people spend their money on books, music or movies because they like the artist as a person—or, at the very least, they want to find out more about them through their work.

Life as a writer really is a popularity contest!

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