How Self-Publishing Will Affect Writers

14 November 2012

Jack Pulman-Slater investigates the phenomenon’s impact upon the modern novelist

Self-publishing is changing the entire process of how characters and plots make the transition from authors’ heads to books. Budding authors and our choices of what to read are no-longer bound by the decisions of the literati in London offices. Thanks to online publishers such as Lulu and Amazon, anyone can publish a book.

It takes a lot of time as you not only have to write the book, but also do the editing and a great deal of the marketing yourself. But provided you have time, anyone can do it. What’s more you can publish anything you want to, with no publishers or editors to reject your work. The floor is open for anyone, and the book market and selection out there is increasing exponentially. There is a faction of readers who reject eReaders, sticking faithfully by their paper books like captains of sinking ships. There are also a few who despair at the sheer volume of ‘Indie Books’ and the success of people like E.L. James.

But opening up the book market and business to others has got to be a good thing; whatever the medium, whatever the genre, self-publishing is providing a platform for ideas and stories which might have been lost in the in-trays of publishers. The National Write a Novel in a Month Competition (known as NaNoWriMo), which starts today, presents the challenge of writing a minimum of 50,000 words in 30 days to any would-be-authors. The winners will hope that their herculean literary task will deliver them a prosperous publishing deal.

But why bother with the competition at all? It costs next to nothing to have your work self-published and propelled onto the online shelves of Amazon. Websites such as Lulu allow authors to create ISBN numbers and select different marketing and advertising programmes. You can get a physical copy of your book within 2 weeks. E.L. James, Amanda Hockling and John Locke are some familiar success stories.

However, you’re not guaranteed to become the next J.K. Rowling via self-publishing- half of self-published authors earn less than £300 a year. But that’s £300 more than they’d have had they left that idea for a story or even that collection of facts about Yorkshire railway stations lying next to an old shopping list in their desk draws. And there are of course the occasional few who manage to make millions through self-publishing. Self-publishing websites and the NaNoWriMo Competition are giving rise to a new class of authors and increasing our options as readers.

One success story from the competition is Elizabeth Haynes, whose NaNoWriMo entry ‘Into the Darkest Corner’ managed to claim 2011Amazon Best Book of the Year. As we head into the teens of the 2000s, the face of publishing is very different to the situation a few years previously. It’s fresher, more competitive and more easily accessible thanks to self-publishing.

Whether we like it or not, online self-publishing is a force sweeping the world of books here and is here to stay.