According to Ros Barber, self-publishing is a terrible idea for serious novelists. Put simply, if you self-publish, you can forget about writing because you’re now going to be marketing for a living instead, i.e. marketing your book.
Ros also points out that traditional publishing is the only way to go for someone who writes literary fiction and (possibly even more important), you risk looking like an amateur if you don’t take this route. She talks of the embarrassment of self-publishers ‘blowing their own trumpet’ at every opportunity.
I self-published The Stranger In My Life with my co-author, Janet Holt. Our book is not a work of fiction, although it does at times read like one. (They do say truth is stranger that fiction.) But I felt very strongly that here was a story that needed to be told. I’d previously only written journalistic articles for newspapers and magazines so there wasn’t much chance of a mainstream publisher taking us on, although I did try. I was a jobbing journalist, nothing more. But the person who approached me with this story was looking to write a book and it was very liberating to realise that we could publish on Amazon if we wanted to.
Self-publishing a non-fiction book is a way to make your voice heard, even if it’s only to a few eager listeners: think of it is a long-form blog post, a way to connect with people and explore the topic much more fully than in a magazine article or a page on your website.
And then there’s the feedback. I would like to share some of it here: not because we’re blowing a trumpet, but because we’re sounding a gong: we felt strongly about the subject matter – and so did an awful lot of other people.
‘Controversial but fascinating’
‘Courageous, controversial and genuine…’
‘A must-read memoir’
‘A haunting autobiography’
‘A really compelling true story.’
Looking back at Ros’ criteria for successful – or otherwise – self-publishers, she notes that we have to become marketers rather than writers in order to promote our work -but Janet and I don’t market The Stranger in My Life for a living simply because we have other jobs: I’m still a freelance communicator and Janet builds drystone walls for a living (yes, really!)
But it is so satisfying to know that our story has been told. The process has been quite empowering and if that’s not an advert for self-publishing, I don’t know what is!