Self-publishing

The best advice is: don't.

Yet... there have been cases where writers have become so frustrated and despondent by endless rejections from publishers that they decided that self-publishing was the only way that they would ever see their work in print. Their self-published books then came to notice through word of mouth, and have been taken up by traditional publishers to great acclaim.

But such cases are very rare. Self-publication is best thought of as a private way to satisfy a dream – a solution of last resort.  It is unlikely to make you any money.

www.greenbay.co.uk has sound and sobering advice on self-publishing from Jill Paton Walsh whose Knowledge of Angels, originally self-published, ended up being short-listed for the Booker Prize.

Costs

Publishing your own book used to be expensive. The derogatory term "vanity publishing" arose because individuals, persuaded by the unappreciated excellence of their work, would part with several thousands of pounds to realise their dream of publication, producing expensive short-run edition (perhaps 1000–3000 copies) of their book, thereby satisfying their vanity – if nothing else.

Costs have now become much more affordable through print-on-demand (POD) technology. This means that printers, using your downloaded text, can run off copies according to your – or indeed the buying public's – needs in small qualities, even one by one. And at a reasonable price.

There are a number of companies offering POD services. One of the best known is Lulu: 

www.lulu.com

The website of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain has an enthusiastic review of Lulu at:

www.writersguild.org.uk

Publicity and distribution

This is the main problem with self-publishing. How do you get your books into the public eye? How do you get bookshops to order copies? You are competing for space with publishers who have massive publicity budgets and special deals with the major chain bookshops, and who can bring the price of their books right down by reducing the unit cost through large print-runs.

Unless you have a word-of-mouth runaway success with your self-published book, you will find it hard to shift copies beyond family and friends – who may themselves be reluctant to accept, let alone pay.

The traditional professional publishing route – imperfect though it is – holds all the advantages.

Publishing on the web

There is nothing to stop you publishing your work on the Internet, on your own site or on someone else's.

Unless there is a gatekeeper and a system of online payment, you won't get any money for this. But at least it is out there, for people to see and read, at next to no financial cost to you – and maybe it will get noticed. But don't count on it: your work will be competing for attention with millions of other pieces of text. The Internet is not a sympathetic forum in which to launch creative writing.

Also, you won't be able to protect your copyright effectively. Once posted on the web, copyright – although nominally yours – is very hard to control.

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