Thursday, 27 September 2012

Why I will never self-publish

A time-slip story. It is 1962 and in a studios in London a band are auditioning for Decca records. It is The Beatles, a combo popular in Liverpool and in Hamburg but unknown nearly everywhere else (though bizarrely, they have just done a one off gig in Stroud). This audition does not go well. The band are disconsolate until somebody (probably Paul - it would be Paul) says 'Never mind, guys. Let's put it out ourselves.'

And so they do. Because this is my story and not a true story, my version of the 1962 Beatles are able to convene around a lap-top in Paul's bedroom and record their first album. No George Martin producing and with Pete Best on drums. It's a more or less faithful rendition of their live set, only not as good because they don't yet know much about capturing sound in the studio. Also Pete Best is very, ah, limited as a drummer so the time-keeping is erratic.

But the album comes out, their friends and family all love it. Fans buy it at gigs and it sits there in this strange 1960s internet I've just invented, available to everyone to download at will. Which is a shame, because all four members of the Beatles will have cause to regret rushing out their first album. A producer called George Martin hears it and decides he'll pass on what sounds to him like just another rough and ready beat group. Eventually Paul gets a day job in PR, George goes back to the electricians apprenticeship. Pete gets that civil service post working in a Liverpool job centre, where he regularly sees John. Because John is actually unemployable and so is always in the Job Centre.

And now back in the real world... the thing is, the Beatles needed rejection in order to get good. It was as vital to their development as the hours spent playing to drunken sailors as the warm up acts for the strippers in Hamburg. And even when they were ready for greatness they needed the special midwifery of a producer, plus the distribution of EMI, the PR guy, Brian Epstein.They needed a team of people that loved them, would fight for them and would also challenge them. They needed talent yes, but they also needed resilience.

Knock-backs are part of the process. Who was it said 'if you don't get rejections, it just means you're not trying hard enough'. Someone smart anyway.

We, of course are unluckier than the Beatles. We are unlucky because we live in a place where it is possible to have a rejection free artistic life. Because it's emphatically not a good thing. Musicians, writers, we can - if the knockbacks get too bruising - just stick our stuff out there. We can skip the whole tedious business of rewriting, reworking, redrafting, reshaping, arguing about plot decisions and character. We don't need agents or editors. we don't even need copy-editors - who wants to argue about commas, when they could be having fun, fun, fun. We can do it all ourselves and put it up on the internet and sell our work for 10p. Because anyway what is the point of trying to get published the old-fashioned way, everyone knows the traditional publishers only want nubile women or their mates from Oxbridge don't they?

Well, no. The rest of us, can with talent, luck and perseverance can still get proper deals. And I say that as a balding, greying middle-aged man living in the North who only ever went to Cambridge to see my dad, who was a porter in one of the colleges there.

Publishers often get it wrong. Maybe they even usually get it wrong, but at least you know the gateway was tough to get through. For a book to arrive in a bookshop it has been pretty thoroughly road-tested and interrogated. As a reader I find that comforting, even if it's annoying as a writer.

And if your book is too edgy for the mainstream? Well, there are dozens of eager indies putting out good stuff. And making a success of it. Sandstone, And Other Stories, Cargo, Bluemoose, Peepal Tree, Tindal Street, Cinnamon... and those just the ones I've thought of off the top of my head this second. And they accept unagented manuscripts too.

And the other thing that puts me off self-publishing? It's the zealots who advocate it. They are so angry. It's like publishing is a girl who inexplicably rejects their advances while blatantly flirting with some less worthy bloke from down the road. She likes someone else. Get over it. Maybe she'll see your worth another day after the pointless affair with the lesser writer burns itself out.

And it's not like the self publishing ebook authors are at the vanguard of some youthful revolution, because you know who really values the printed artefact? Young people that's who. In a world where anything can be 'published' on the net, then it has no real value. But if someone has invested time and money in making a real Thing, and then that Thing is transported from printers, to warehouse, to shop. Where people have browsed and chosen your Thing over all the other shiny Things they could buy. Well, that is really worth something...

So if you're considering self-publishing on the internet or anywhere else I would say wait. Ask yourself if you are really a skilled enough editor, copy-editor, publicist, designer and marketeer to do it all yourself. And even if the answer to those questions is yes. Then still wait, because maybe you are The Beatles in early 1962. Maybe you are just not quite ready. You need to get rid of the inner Pete Best that is holding you back. And you need to find your George Martin. Of course you can BUY the services of editors, designers, marketeers etc but actually that's my other big beef with the self-publishing industry...

Self-publishing, indie publishing whatever you call it, is one of those things that sounds democratic but is actually anything but. Is the opposite of that. It sounds like it is one of those games anyone can play but actually the indie authors who are most visible are generally the ones with the deepest pockets. If you're skint how will you afford all the help you need to publish properly? If indie publishing were ever to become the norm (and it won't) then how will the marginalised voices ever find a way to be heard?


  1. Agree, agree, agree.

    Times a million.

    We all know the market's really rough right now, and we all know that even published writers *coughs* may one day face this decision. My feeling is (you can hold me to this, should it come to pass) that if my only route is self-pub, I'll go back to teaching, or selling wine or whatever, write for my own pleasure, and see what comes.

  2. Loads of good points here. I listened hard - and that doesn't come naturally!

  3. I like your analogy (and also the importance you assign to rejection).

    What I don't see is how self-publishing is rejection-free just because anyone can put anything out there at the drop of a mouse mat.

    Anything written can bomb and one advantage of self publishing is that you can witness the explosion far sooner than if you went trad.

    Your 60s internet Beatles are a funny lot also. They have the web but clearly don't know how to use it. Maybe my Beatles are a savvier bunch of scousers than yours, I don't know. They have informed allies.

    Aware that you're not too keen on self-pub zealots (which I'm not, btw), and hoping not to sound overly negative about a positively thoughtful post, what I think is important to bear in mind is the timing of all this. You're right: it's 1962. The relationship between writers and the various forms of publishing has not yet run its course and because everyone can bandwagondulate that's precisely what they're doing. I can't dip in to my Smashwords or Amazon pages without encountering the very worst shriekingly bad prose, and every time I come across books entitled Dr Cocks Love Feast (always for $2.99) I genuinely wonder if I've done the right thing. But all the bad writers will be swept away eventually. Enthusiasm for trotting out the memoirs of elderly relatives will dim with each zero sale. Alternatively, we'll figure a way of filtering this stuff out and it'll earn its zero that way.

    (In his book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett quotes one of the founders of artificial intelligence, John McCarthy, on precisely this filtering point. not bad for the 90s...

    "...the memes for editing and criticism will find niches in any environment in the infosphere; they flourish because of the short supply and limited capacity of minds, whatever the transmission media between minds."

    Great post, but I just think it's too early to pronounce the imaginary Beatles dead just yet.

  4. Very interesting. As someone who has been self-publishing for over three years, during which time the self-publishing world has changed beyond recognition and become a place where I no longer feel at home but like exactly the kind of outsider I felt like when I looked at publishing (where I now see, in those small press - though I believe you may be referring to Stefan at And *Other* Stories, not Rudyard Kipling's unsuccessful attempt at setting up a print house - a place with the excitement and vigour I am looking for), I share your frustration with the self-publishing zealots.

    And most of all with the fact that they seem to be equated with self-publishing as a whole, as is shown by some of the assumptions you make:
    - first and foremost, that self-publishing means ebooks. This just isn't true. Yes, what the "young and trendy" like is paper, and they find it by the brilliant bucketload in zines. And the best self-published work I have seen in years is Andy Harod's Living Room Stories, a beautifully handcrafted collection of flash fiction singles and photographs
    - the assumption that writing for the internet should be carried out in accordance with the same rules as writing for the page. The insistence on "professional editing standards" drives me stark staring nuts. I wrote a piece for the Guardian earlier this month about the alt lit movement in which I explain why (, but the long and short is that writing for and on the internet (as opposed to just disseminating your written words there) both reflects and engages with a whole new syntactical cadence that is engulfing modern lives and thoughts, and which traditional literature is leaving unexamined at more than a superficial, not because it is not interested in it but because it is still wedded to rules that mean it can never do more than look in through the bars of the zoo cage.
    - the assumption that all self-publishers are lazy or that anyone who does things different is lazy. Yes, lots of people are. And yes, even more are not lazy but throw their hard work at marketing not writing, meaning once they've got book one into readers' hands they've pretty much guaranteed no one will be back for book two. But that's not the case with everyone, and certainly not with most of the writers I know

    By and large, we're not an angry bunch. At least not the self-publishers I mix with. We're passionate about great literature, just like writers with publishers are.

    1. Hmm - I need to reflect on this I think. Thanks for taking the time to write such a considered comment...

  5. Can you imagine how the world would be different without the Beetles....

    You're missing a whole section of your point, though. MANY self-published authors have been rejected--multiple times.

    I had TWO agents try to sell my books. I have a stack of rejections--mostly that they don't fit the market. In April 2011, I self-published the first two books in my sweet historical Western romance series. A year later, the first one, Wild Montana Sky, made the USA Today Bestseller list. In that time, I also self-published some other books. I sold almost 100,000 books in my first year.

    I think you do a disservice to writers by not encouraging self-publishing. I do agree that some rejections are good--they help you see your strengths and weaknesses. However, it's very easy to pay a quality developmental editor and copy editor so you can turn out a quality product.

    I you never self-publish, you never will know what wonderful things could have happened. I make a very good living on my self-published books--two and three times what I make as a psychotherapist. The income has enabled me to cut back on my work and has changed my lifestyle. (As I write this, I'm on a dream vacation, paid for with my royalties. Also a write off, for I'm researching a book.)

    I now also have a traditional publisher who read one of my self-published books, loved it, and acquired the series. I'm going to continue to write for both traditional publishers and self-publish--the best of both worlds. :)

    1. Hi Debra - Okay things HAVE happened... and I don't really need dream holidays. My books are out and I can at least feel assured they have merit because people I respect had the faith to invest time (and money) in them and want to champion them. If I published myself I would never quite know if they were any good at all... and sales don't give you that confidence... Lots of terrible things SELL (50 shades? I rest my case...)

  6. Great post Stephen. I have seen a lot of very average self published works, and many strike me as the sort of stuff people churn out when they are learning to write well. Unfortunately, I wonder if some writing groups are in part to blame, those made up of well-meaning but not rigorous learner writers who have no idea how to give solid feedback. To whom 'good critique' is the same as 'Wow that's reeeeeally good!'
    I suspect that for every success story following self publishing as a newbie writer there are thousands we never hear of because they slink away and, demoralised, stop writing.
    Having said all that, maybe when you have a track record of publication through traditional outlets, and know the importance of quality editing, layout, and so forth - self publishing something that won't fit in the usual categories can be an interesting experience. I hope so - have plans to do just that with a colleague in due course. But it does not mean I would not put the traditional route way above the rest if given a choice.
    If SP is so good, brings in so much cash - why then do a few successful writers turn the work over to publishers who will just pay a small percentage in royalties? Would love someone to answer that one!

  7. Fascinating and high quality debate! ;-)
    But here's a thought/question/spanner in the works: isn't blogging a form of self-publishing?
    Chambers English Dictionary definition (first bit) of 'publish': to make public: to divulge: to announce: to proclaim: to send forth to the public...

    OK - so - bloggers:
    1) You write what you like. There's no editor correcting facts, grammar, punctuation.
    2) You're not paid for your work. You blog for the joy of announcing, divulging, making public your thoughts....
    3) Your blog appears on the web. It can be found by anyone interested in you, or the subject on which you're writing. Therefore - you've published it. Haven't you?

    I don't blog but my bloggy friends will often admit, (sometimes sober), that they are frustrated would-be (or indeed actual) journalists - they'd dearly love a newspaper column, but no-one offered and so, because they consider that what they have to say is important, they blog about it. Hooray for free speech, say I. But their blogs aren't commissioned and so, as far as I can see, they are self-publishing.

    Steve, you kindly gave us a 'sneak preview' of your next lovely novel, right here, on your website. I know you have a 'proper' publisher who is going to bring it out....but even so - haven't you very slightly self-published?

    In summary - is blogging a form of self-publishing? If not, what is it?

    1. Hi Catherine, good points - well made. BUT I see the blog as a diary page left open. And I aint trying to sell it. Neither is it offered up as the equal of journalism, it's a different thing. My letter to some mates who are free to respond or not as they choose...

      My feeling is that writers do themselves a disservice if they publish too early and that self-publishing in the end will make paupers of us all. All of us sat in a souk trying to sell our wares before an increasingly disinterested crowd...

      See you at Ty Newydd (if not before!)

    2. I agree that there is a huge danger in publishing too early, but I don't agree with the implication that self-publishers are unaware of the pitfalls here.

      Think about it. A publisher can get away with publishing a few duds a year (and they all do). However, for a self-publisher, their name is their brand. If I put out something sub-standard, something half-cooked, that reader will never buy anything from me again - and will likely respond with a scathing one star review. That will sink me far quicker than any publisher, and it's something I'm continually aware of.

      Readers only get my best work, and I don't know a single self-publisher who doesn't have the same attitude.

  8. Hi,

    I'm a self-publisher, and I'm not a very angry man - although the parade of straw men above did make me twitch a little.

    The idea that self-publishers haven't experienced rejection is patently false. The idea that self-publishers don't put an equal amount of time into rewriting, reworking, and reshaping is demonstrably untrue. The idea that self-publishers don't use a copy editor is laughable. And the idea that we all sell for 10p is a joke.

    You advise writers to wait - that they should ask themseleves if they really are a "skilled enough editor, copy-editor, publicist, designer and marketeer to do it all yourself."

    This is another straw man. I don't edit my own books, I send them to a story/developmental/content editor, and, when I've incorporated the necessary changes (and possibly gone yet another round with my betas), I send it off to my copy editor. Then it goes to the proofer(s). I don't design my covers - I outsource that. Just like publishers do (that's right, they outsource cover design and editing these days too - using the same pool of freelancers that I have access to).

    You also seem to be laboring under the misconception that a publisher will promote and market your books for you. I'm sorry to say that this doesn't hold true except for a tiny fraction of authors - those with the largest advances (which the publishers need to recoup). Most traditionally published authors will be expected to bear the overwhelming majority of the promotional burden. That's a fact. Publishers will do little to market your work. They will send out a few ARCs to reviewers, and they'll stick you in their catalogue, but that's about it. The rest is down to you.

    And if you're going to be doing all the work to market the book anyway, why not self-publish and make four times the money?

    What good reason is there for a writer to wait? Why do you assume that writers aren't smart enough to decide when their work is ready for publication? Shouldn't writers be out there building an audience with self-published work? Haven't there been enough successful self-publishers to show you this is a viable path?

    Personally, I think all writers should self-publish *something* - if only to get a better understanding of the publication process - to see how relatively unchallenging is, and to realize what publishers do for the 52.5% royalties they keep for themselves (triple the author's share, btw).

    I always find it amusing when people are against more choice. Self-publishing is another option. Why are you against more options for writers? More choice is good! What are you afraid of?


    1. I'm in favour of choice. But everyone publishing their own stuff is NOT real choice. It simply means readers have to rummage in a giant jumble sale of words looking for the good stuff buried amid the stale and the badly put together and the unwashed. I know as a reader I'd pretty soon give up

    2. This is what I call "The Myth of the Segregated Marketplace" which I debunked here:

      In short, self-published work shares the exact same virtual shelves as work from traditional publishers. As writers, you face the same level of competition whichever avenue of publication you choose.

      As readers, well, the process you describe bears no relation to the reality of how readers actually search for (and find) books online.

      It's quite similar to how readers find books offline: they recommend them to each other. The only difference with online is that it's easier (and more efficient) to share those recommendations (via Twitter or Facebook or email or whatever).

  9. Blogger is threatening to rob me of my ID, so this is Isabel Costello with my two cents worth.

    Very interesting piece - written with your customary fearlessness and a very enjoyable alternative Beatles story. I don't have strong views one way or the other on self-publishing, but I'm commenting because I'm still thinking about what you said days after reading it. Getting traditionally published is an ambition I won't give up on in a hurry, for many of the reasons you advocate, but it's early days for me as yet (submitting first novel and writing a second.) Sometimes I'm asked if I would consider self-publishing, and where I once would have categorically said 'No', that's not my answer any more.

    I think this is a different issue for a traditionally published author compared to a writer who has never been published at all. At the York Festival of Writing recently, I was struck by the sheer number of clearly talented writers chasing an ever-diminishing number of book deals. I've read several manuscripts, some of them agented, which are struggling to get anywhere despite being (in my opinion) extremely good. As you say, a lot of self-published novels (OK, most) are nowhere near the standard of those from prestigious publishing houses, but that doesn't mean that there won't be some which are - written by people who take their writing very seriously and who have paid for professional editing, formatting, etc.

    So,hypothetically, if several years from now and having given it a shot with two novels I haven't got a traditional book deal, if the alternative was not being read at all, I wouldn't rule it out.

    BTW the Oxbridge thing(which I've heard a lot recently for some reason) always makes me laugh. The talentless posh tw*ts pulling rank stereotype gets old!

  10. Great post and wonderful debate. I loved the Beatles analogy and say hear! hear! to the idea that one person cannot possibly produce their very best book if they fling out their first draft and undertake the entire process alone without ever having responded to feedback. Everyone needs readers: how else do we know if our words jump off the page in the way we intend? And everyone needs an editor: all writers are word blind, it goes with the territory of spending hours on your own, just you, your imagination and your words - gremlins creep in when you're least expecting them.
    However, I agree with an earlier commentator that we, alas, don't live in the 1960's world of music production and publishing and so do have to look at this phenomenon in the 21st century context. Good self-publishers use/ pay for good editors, proof readers sometimes marketeers and the production techniques available to them for self-pubbing are the stuff of Tomorrow's World to our friends from a generation or two ago. So good self-publishers aren't actually working very differently from their trad published counterparts and are able to produce books/ebooks which are not only well-produced but also a quality read.
    The trouble is that some self-publishing writers, of whom there are many, aren't using the editing and promotional resources available to them and they give the industry a bad name.
    There's another factor at work here. Never say never but currently I'm not budging from my fervent desire to find a traditional publisher for my work. There are many reasons for this but one is because I am a character who needs the support of knowing some person or company I respect decided my book was worth taking a punt on. If/when sales were stalling, I'd take comfort from the fact that my book was a team effort and thus the best it could be and step up the promotion rather than cower in a corner embarrassed that I ever thought my book was readable. So you see, I do think the self-publishing v traditional publishing question is as much about personality and choice as best and worst. I'd be lying if I said I was happy that writers can now self-publish - when traditional publishing was the only route, there was a bigger pool available for us traditional fish to swim in - however I do think it's producing some quality literature so can't really be dismissed.
    Phew! Now off to do some writing...

  11. Very interesting post but I think you do many professional self-publishers a disservice. That's such a sweeping generalisation about them all being angry and posting up unedited work. Yes, that does happen but there are also writers out there, like David Gaughran who commented earlier, who work through the same process as traditional publishers do to get a book as good as it can be before publishing. I'm also not convinced by your statement that because a book has gone through the traditional route you can be guaranteed of quality, I can think of several cases where that just isn't true!
    As a writer whose dream has always been to get a book deal through the trad route,I am not giving up on that dream but after seeing the quality and professionalism of the self-publishers at the Festival of Writing in York last month, I am now longer feeling like self-publishing is the poor relation. Surely if it gives more quality writers a chance to get published in such difficult times for the industry, it has to be a good thing.

    1. Hi Amanda, thoughtful points well made - but really I think no one has the right to be published. Even if they have talent. Even if their book is good. My point is that if everyone self-publishes audiences quickly tire of looking for the good stuff amid all the mountains of junk. I can, right now, pu my album out on the internet - and I can tell you that even if I hired a good producer, a smart arranger, a good band, my album will not be worth hearing and yet a music fan might waste precious time giving it a listen, being attracted by my slick web-site, the reviews written in tiny journals (written by me and my friends). All I will have done is to undermine their faith in the music industry... I think my article doesn't go far enough. i would actually outlaw self-publishing... (this is - almost - a joke)

    2. No, you're right. That is a joke...

      Your assumption that publishers only produce quality books is deeply flawed - one can make a mockery of that notion by listing all the dreck they turn out each year.

      Your assumption that publishers are the sole producers of quality books is equally flawed - there are plenty of excellent self-published books out there getting wonderful reviews, winning awards, and selling by the bucketload.

      As I mentioned above, you seem to have no idea how readers actually search for books on Amazon. They don't click through all 1 million e-books hoping for something to catch their eye - just like readers don't flick through the tens of thousands of books in a Waterstones before making a purchase.

      Readers winnow the field by filtering out books based on genre, price, reviews, and plenty of other metrics.

      And what about all that crap you are concerned about? Fear not, it's invisible. Nobody sees a book that is way down at 800,000 or so in the rankings. Nobody stumbles across it. It might as well not exist. It's not clogging up or obscuring anything.

      You might be afraid of all this change that's happening. Don't be. Good books have a better chance than ever of being discovered by readers - whether self-published or not - and that's something we should all celebrate.

      Owners of e-readers are reading more than ever - and that's something we should all celebrate.

      These (false) battle-lines might obscure those two facts, but we should remember them

  12. This is very interesting. I agree with much of what you say about the need for rejection - and for good editors. Too many self-publishers come across as angry/needy/unable to accept that they might currently just be a bit shit. Not all of them though.

    There are also a few fun things you can do with self publishing that you can't with conventional publishing. At the risk of this post turning into an advert for my own nonsense (and with the caveat that I don't really consider myself a self-publisher, this was just playing around), here's something I tried a few months ago: It didn't work all that well. Made a few pounds (and I mean few very literally), but no one guessed the story. Not so far anyway. I'm sure, however, that if someone could finesse the idea, it might work...

    1. I realise I didn't finish this par! Hadn't had my coffee then. Durr.... And now the comment has no point. What I meant to write was: my nonsense isn't that impressive, but it's an example something you can do with self-publishing and could never do conventionally. There's lots of scope for such experimentation and interesting new avenues. It's going to be fascinating.... Although that doesn't necessarily mean the end product will be any better - or wouldn't be improved by years of rejection and editing and co.

      Profuse apologies for not making any sense at all...

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. (comment was only removed cos I put it in wrong place...) Yes, big difference between 'playing around' (which this blog is - a kind of diary page left open, or a letter to my mates without having to write to the all individually) and attempting to publish and sell and pass your work off as equal to something properly worked on by a team...

  14. Great debate here, Stephen.
    Self publishing has been around a long time, though. And self published authors include TS Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Percy Bysshe Shelley,Margaret Atwood, Proust.....not exactly obscure under-achivers! ;-)
    see www.selfpublishinghalloffame (or similar). It opened my eyes to the fact that this isn't a new phenomenon - and that, for many writers, it was an empowering and happy experience.
    And I hope you'll carry on blogging, your posts/essays/thoughts-for-the-day, whatever you call them, are always thought-provoking and convince me that, despite its faults and time-chomping tendencie,the internet is indeed a marvellous thing.

  15. ..... some of the authors who have chosen to self-publish: Margaret Atwood, L. Frank Baum, William Blake, Ken Blanchard, Robert Bly, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lord Byron, Willa Cather, Pat Conroy, Stephen Crane, e.e. cummings, W.E.B. DuBois, Alexander Dumas, T.S. Eliot, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Benjamin Franklin, Zane Grey, Thomas Hardy, E. Lynn Harris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Robinson Jeffers, Spencer Johnson, Stephen King, Rudyard Kipling, Louis L'Amour, D.H. Lawrence, Rod McKuen, Marlo Morgan, John Muir, Anais Nin, Thomas Paine, Tom Peters, Edgar Allen Poe, Alexander Pope, Beatrix Potter, Ezra Pound, Marcel Proust, Irma Rombauer, Carl Sandburg, Robert Service, George Bernard Shaw, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Upton Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, William Strunk, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoi, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Virginia Woolf.


  16. Ha! An interesting intellectual argument, well developed, but I think it has a fundamental flaw: your very narrow definition of what it means to be self-published - and the assumption that all those who term themselves self-published do absolutely everything themselves bar the printing process.

    Yes, there ARE some who do this very badly - launching onto the world unedited, badly written, badly presented books. We've all seen those - they are pretty easy to spot.

    But there are very many more who,though self-published in principle, in that they pay for their publication, who engage skilled third parties as required to deliver a flawless, professional-looking end product.

    These self-publishers buy in the services of designers, editors, proofreaders, marketeers - or all of those, and more, via a reputable publishing services consultancy such as SilverWood Books ( can provide all of these services from under one roof.

    The self-published books produced in this way look right at home on any high street book shop.

    Hmmm, wait a minute, isn't that really just the same that conventional commerical publishers do, only giving the author the managerial control? I think it is. And that's why an increasing number of highly successful, mainstream published authors are ditching their contracts and turning to self-publishing, unhappy with the management decisions made by their previous publishers.

    As your previous commenter pointed out, there is a long history of fantastic precedents who have taken this route. If, in some time-slip fantasy of my own creation, these writers had read your blog and taken your advice, world culture, and every avid reader, would be very much the poorer.

    Me, I prefer to live in my real world. :)

  17. Thanks for taking such trouble to write a comment, Michelle. I accept that writers can always hire others to edit, copy-edit, design etc... but that only ensures a professional looking product. It can't be the badge of writing quality that can come from other people taking a business risk on your work, from others investing their time because they love the writing and want to make sure as many people as possible discover it. Or even because they think there's an audience for it.
    And if publishing becomes the province of those who can pay for it, then a whole range of voices will be excluded. In that respect self-publishing is profoundly undemocratic. I know that others have published good work privately, I know too that some (not many) successful authors are self-publishing... often this latter group are exploiting the brand built by their publisher in order to maximise profits - cutting the publisher out of the loop once they've reached a stature where their name alone sells books. This doesn't seem very honourable to me. On the other hand they are often formerly successful authors who have actually been ditched by the mainstream... (it can be a brutal profession writing..)
    I know that my books are better for the care and attention of an editor working on them not because I've paid her - but because she loves them and wants them to be the best they can. I know I have more confidence in those books because Bloomsbury are prepared to risk their time, money and reputation on getting them into shops...