Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Self Publishing - the good, the bad and the future

 I've always been slightly old fashioned when it comes to books, I like the real ones that come with covers and pages, that I can put on a bookshelf and stroke when I so choose but that's a personal reading choice. As a writer, self publishing is something I need to be aware of so I decided to find out what I could at the Children's Book Circle event last night in the Penguin Offices on The Strand.

 It is my intention to share what I learned with you all but there was so much interesting and important discussion that I've decided to split this post into two parts.

Part one will look at Self Publishing from the point of view of LAW Agent Phillippa Milnes Smith and author Karen Inglis.

Part Two will look at the perspective of CEO of Authoright, Gareth Howard and digital editor at Random House Emil Fortune.

Part One

Phillippa Milnes Smith from LAW agency was the first to speak. With a background in publishing and now working as an agent she thought that publishing at the moment was a very exciting world but also that it can be traumatic and disruptive and not somewhere that everyone currently writing will be comfortable with.

 She said that Children's digital publishing is slightly behind adult at the moment (except for YA) and that until devices become cheaper and stronger and perhaps a part of the education system it will remain that way.

 The Law agency is embracing the new but they think Publishers are still important, some of their authors like Stephen Leather and Kate Harrison are using both self publishing and traditional very successfully.

 She said that the best things about traditional publishing is the editorial work and the creativity that can occur  with the right partnership, the worst was that it can at times be slow, stale and untargeted.

 From an agent point of view she said their role had become both simpler and more complicated;

Simple because they are doing what they always did, representing clients in all media, responding to the market, finding new income and opportunities and most importantly managing their clients.

Complicated because authors now need certain technical skills, they need to be creative and yet savvy to marketing. For agents the contracts have become more complicated, the income strands and timescales have changed and they need new skills to help their authors compete in the current marketplace.

The second speaker was author Karen Inglis who has self published three books for children - The Lake House, Eeek the runaway alien and Ferdinand Fox's big sleep. Having written the books ten years ago and had them rejected for being too traditional or not marketable she put them away in a box.

 With the digital revolution however the next time she got them out she decided to self publish and get her stories out there for children to enjoy. She thinks that it's very empowering for authors but for serious S/P authors the importance of hard work, professionalism and quality cannot be denied.

 Karen spoke about the newly launched Alliance of independent authors which champions quality, is an excellent resource and a great community also.

After some serious editing Karen used Amazon Create Space and their free templates to design the layout of her books. She said it was very simple, fast and user friendly. The financial cost and risk of self publishing with print on demand is very low as you only pay for each book once it's been sold.

 She said uploading the finished book on to Amazon was easy and fast and up on the website within 48 hours. You can check sales and royalties plus control the pricing, adjusting it as often as you like to try and find the price bracket where your book sells best. You can also find out where your book is selling which is an interesting feature.

 Karen is a copywriter by day so she found it easy to do her own marketing for the book, getting features in her local papers and magazines and she said Waterstones love indie authors and she'd done several sell out signings there.

 She warned that there are many sharks out there who prey on authors desire to be published so do your research and be careful, but she finished with the belief that as the quality of self published books improves so too will people's attitude.

It's all fascinating stuff and Gareth and Emil have some great insights to share so come back for Part Two available to read next week!

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