Skip to main content

Doing it for yourself


When I started writing, some four years ago, I was the least likely person to be writing an article on self publishing my book. Now, I’m a hybrid author, happily published with one project, equally happily self-publishing a second. (Out today, and very excited I am, too.)

In the beginning, I wanted the dream. I’d worked with books for years, I knew a fair bit about the industry. For me, publishing meant being on bookshelves and I decided I’d hold on for the perfect trad-published dream. Inish Carraig, my second book, got me close - I nailed an agent with it. A good one, too. But to get the agent, I changed Inish from a crossover book to a YA book.

After some more work on it, we subbed it. The dream went off-piste. I didn’t get the great publishing deal. I didn’t get the six figure advance, and the holiday to Barbados. 

I did get left with the book. More and more I found my thoughts returning to the original cross over project I’d written. I wanted to go back to what I’d imagined the book to be. I wanted to decide for myself where it would go and what it would say. So, even though I had an offer on the mss, I turned it down.

Why? Well mainly that the market conditions publishers adhere to are not the same as the reading environment. In other words, if you have something that doesn’t just fit the box for a publisher, it might not be a lost cause for readers. Talk to EL James about that one.

Inish Carraig was never easy to market.

It’s not quite YA but it has a YA protagonist. It also has an adult protagonist and it’s not always an easy call to know who’s more important to the story.

It’s a science fiction book with a good dose of police thriller.

It’s based in Belfast, but wasn’t written to address Belfast themes.

In short, it’s a pig to know where, exactly, to pitch it to. That I have interest from readers in all sorts of genres, not just sf, tells me this isn’t a barrier. If they’re interested and have heard of it, readers don’t say no just because there are different elements to it.

There are loads of reasons why a book doesn’t fit into a publishers remit, from length of book (which can be a barrier in genre writing, when books can just grow and grow and grow), to what’s out in the market to piggy-back on promotion-wise, to what’s easy to promote, to cost of production. A 40,000 word story? There used to be barely anywhere to sell it. But a 70,000 one? Roll up, roll up. Even if it should, actually, have stopped at 40,000.

Which leaves a hard decision – forget about the project that has come to the writer, that has grown to be what it wants to be and should be, or try to mould it to the market needs. Or choose to self-publish.

 Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity, because self publishing was seen as vanity. I’d have had to shelve three years of work and hope that the next book would be better for the market. In short, one of the best books I’ve written, that readers tell me they love, would have been lost.

I can say, hand on heart, moulding to the market took the soul out of my book. I would never do it again – and I still tend to write books that straddle genres and ages. No dream is worth the loss of the identity of what you create.

For me, the answer lay in self-publishing. The only parameter which is any sort of barrier go sp is page length, because Print-on-Demand is costed by page number. But it makes no difference to the kindle book. Marketing is a moot argument - even if you're trad published, you'll be doing much of the marketing. I've spent six months marketing pretty much every day - I'll do exactly the same for Inish Carraig. 

Perhaps, it’s about changing dreams as well as the market. My book is on my bookshelf, listed on kindle, is on Goodreads. It’s out there, exactly as I intended it to be. That may be the ultimate dream – to create your world and words and have the freedom to issue it. Self-publishing gives that freedom. 

So, to everyone looking at trad as the only model, I’d say to ask the right questions, and to match the approach to the model that’s right for the project. And that may not be the dream deal. It might be the chance to do what makes the book shine.

I can be followed on twitter @joz1812, or on my website

This blog is one of a series, the next of which is posted on Friday 28th August by the amazing Teresa Edgerton. Check out the other blogs in the series:


Best of luck with your book! It is definitely not easy to be published with traditional markets.

Joanne Zebedee said…
Thank you! It definitely presents diffirent challenges!