Over the last ten years, the publishing industry has gone through many changes. Discontented with poor royalty payments and sometimes faced with having to part with thousands of pounds, authors are now turning to publishing DIY, better known as self-publishing, in order to experience the thrill of seeing their book available for people to buy.
Being an author has been a dream of mine for many years. One of my novels, Heartbound, was completed during my second year of university. Like authors the world over, I had a decision to make; go through an agent and/or publisher, or go it alone. In the first instance, I went for the former option and I did receive an offer. Unfortunately, there was a fee to pay…
And, being a university student, that sort of money was something I simply could not afford. I was desperate to release Heartbound and experience the thrill of seeing my novel ready for purchase.
Self-publishing was looking more attractive.
So that’s what I did. I spoke to author, David Court, about how he chose his publication route. Read what he had to say below.
An Interview with an Author - David Court
Growing up surrounded by the works of Stephen King and Douglas Adams, author David Court is now venturing into the publishing wilderness. David is much more comfortable writing short stories, but hopes that he will one day find an agent for his full-length novel.
Could you explain a little about your works?
"I’ve always been interested in writing. I used to be a keen role-player back in the early eighties, and always seemed to end up in the role of games-master (or dungeon master, or whatever it was called - dependent on the role-playing game being played). I’d love writing back stories for the characters, and I have always enjoyed telling stories."
Did you self-publish your work or go the mainstream route?
"I never intended to go down the self-publishing route – I’d always previously thought of self-published books as nothing more than vanity works. But then again, I wasn’t confident enough in my writing – despite the praise – to dare subject myself to the criticism of an agent or a publisher. Self-publishing just seemed like a cheap and easy way to get my stuff out there in a format that could be read by my friends. Didn’t cost me a penny, so why not?
I’ll be honest in that I’m my own worst critic and am absolutely terrible at receiving praise. Because my short stories are just throwaway things that I enjoyed writing for myself as much as anything, I don’t see much value in them no matter how many people tell me otherwise. The novel, however, had a lot of invested effort and I’d like to see this properly released – although now I’m getting more involved with other people (and other media, such as comics) through small press. I could change my mind completely tomorrow! I can now see there is potential for the novel being a comic series – it was written as a riff on superheroes in the first place, so I’m surprised I’d never considered that option until recently."
Would you say that self-publishing is a viable alternative to mainstream publishing? If so, where did you think this became true?
"When we live on a planet where Twilight fan-fiction can be written as BDSM fantasies for middle-aged women, and teens can buy a million pound house for releasing a ghost-written book of lifestyle tips, anything is possible. See, there’s the cynicism again. I think self-publishing will always have the stigma that there isn’t the quality control. No matter how many of your friends proofread it, it always feels – although this is by no means always true - that people have gone that route because it wasn’t good enough for a publisher. Although the harsh financial reality is that publishers aren’t buying that many books any more, and very few agents or publishers will go for a new unproven writer. It’s too much of a risk."
What difficulties have you faced as an author?
"Recognition. You’re a tiny fish in a big pond and surrounded by loads of other tiny fish who are shouting louder than you are. I’m aware that fish don’t really shout, but that’s the best analogy I’ve got. You’re always guaranteed to sell books to your friends and provided you haven’t really upset any of them, they might even give you good reviews – but that’s not enough. You have to go out on a limb and really promote yourself. As I said, I’m terrible at self-promotion but luckily I have a wife who is very good at encouraging me."
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about going down the self-publishing route?
"You have to get into the habit of selling yourself. You haven’t got the benefit of an agent or a publisher looking out for you and doing your promotional material or organising bookshop signings, so you have to do all of this yourself. Sticking your self-published masterpiece on Amazon is all very well and good but you’re one book amongst millions, meaning that it might well be the best book in the world, but nobody is going to be able to find it. If your promotion is only going to extend to your circle of friends, you won’t shift many copies. Ring around local bookshops asking if you can do a signing there, look out for literary events, write to authors you like – or ones who you think you have a similar style to – and ask them to give you some blurb to put on the sleeve. The worst they can do – other than tracking you down to murder you, which I hear never happens these days – is to say no."
How do you see the self-publishing industry developing in the future?
"I think we’ve hit a bit of a crisis. There are simply too many books out there. It’s so easy to get hold of shelves' worth of free stuff, that the good stuff is being smothered. We can’t even trust reviews anymore because in these days of social media, any author worth his salt can find a handful of people to skew the figures upwards, regardless of how good the material is. I think we’ve gone as far as we can go – ebook sales are beginning to drop now, as people are seeing there isn’t really any advantage to them other than portability. They’re not considerably cheaper because of tax laws, so why wouldn’t you prefer a physical copy of something? And if you want a physical copy, you want something of good quality – so will tend to go for something from a proper publisher. I think self-publishing is a snake eating its own tail – it had its (limited) success, but has hit its limits."
Disclaimer: This was part of a Coventry University Journalism and Media module