Prometheus Bound Books

Self publishing – Getting out from under the Radar

by Sue Williams
18 March 2010

It is very hard to get a book published. Stories abound of authors who never made it and of authors who took months or even years to find an agent or publisher prepared to give them shelf space; it can be a dispiriting and wearying journey of hope and rejection and the hurdles to acceptance are legion. Not only does one have to engage the attention of an agent or publisher in style and content but also (unless one has an awful lot of luck) one has to fit a genre perceived to be of interest to the reading public. It is not, therefore, surprising that self publication has become a viable, acceptable and increasingly popular alternative.

Paul Roberts, author of Kharapu (a political thriller set in Sri Lanka) and of Two Wheels Good (a comedy), tried 16 different agents before turning to self publishing as “a convenient and available option”. On the advice of a friend, he approached a local publisher in Oxford and, taking the cheapest deal available, went for a production run of 50 copies of his first novel; the deal included cover design, entry on Amazon and one book fair. The initial goal was, as Paul puts it, to entertain his friends and gratify his “childish but irresistible” desire to see his book in print. With no publishing house support, Paul embarked on his own marketing effort – selling a few copies to local bookshops, an interview with his local paper, appearances in local book groups, and comments from friends on his entry in Amazon. All very hard work. A very far cry from the national press coverage, advertising opportunities, major retailer endorsement and launch parties of authors taken on by agents and publishers.

Paul is writing his third novel now; he says that he will get it published “properly” or bust. His advice to would be authors is that writing of any quality is only possible with someone else alongside the writer – a trusted editor who can review the book as it is produced – and that it is important to go for the best self publishing package one can afford. But however good the writing (and Paul writes very good books) the hurdles of marketing and publicity remain high. Paul says that he is a stealth bomber – not on any radar – but that since the whole business of getting published is a lottery then self publication makes sense. A lucky break is always out there on the horizon: an Amazon entry may lead to mainstream publisher interest, an influential reader may chance upon a novel, a website entry might lead to public popularity…

Paul is in good company. J.K. Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson, Roald Dahl and Rose Tremain all had difficult journeys to success. A good book will out? Booker, Costa ahead? We hope so.

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