In this chapter I revisit 6 months of actively using self-publishing implements in order to describe just how good, bad, or plain interesting they were to me and will be to you should you chose to use them. I also lugged around a writers manual with names of agents and publishers in hope of sending a piece of work off. I never got round to it, all this self-publishing was supremely intriguing and when done very well, exceptional.
“As part of my adventure looking into the world of art and self-publishing, I got to meet some very peculiar individuals; a swearing chef with a taste for art, a break dancing fox, a secret society I happen to stumble across which turned out to be a humble writers group, a class of super eager creative writing third year university students, an evil ‘Artificial Intelligence’ which builds websites, an Avengers type group of writers working on a seasonal magazine, New Amazon – a multitude of probably 8 million fan girls and I embark upon a challenging league of writers scribbling to the death.”
My Art and Self-Publishing Adventure: Chapter 3
Self-Publishing – A love Story: Bridging the gap or rending the rift?
Once upon a time, I wanted to write a book.
Little did I know I hungered for a jewel many have sought to attain and did not obtain,
blood sweat and tears in vain.
Yet, after an unexpected journey,
I arrived at a treasure trove full of sites and services that fulfilled my heart’s desire,
kept me believing, and working, and not tire.
Read on reader, a romantic tale awaits,
of the publishing world, the authors in them and their fates.
Smashwords.com, Jukepopserials.com, Lulu.com, Amazon.com, and Wattpad.com. On the surface they sound like 8 bit computer gaming sites and at least one of them sounds like a rain forest but on closer inspection they are prime examples of the websites that are springing up from the fertile ground of the internet to change the face of the publishing world as we know it for better or for worse.
We all know who authors are, they write novels, plays, they playwright for theatre and almost all of them compose poetry (even I do) – but how, oh how – do they get on the publishing ladder on the first place to present their works of art to the general public in every WHSmith, Foyle’s and Waterstone’s that blesses the high street with their presence?
Yes, You Need An Agent
Once you’ve written your book or literary work of art, it’s more than important, it’s practically mandatory, that you acquire an agent. Without an agent you aren’t going anywhere. These are the guys and gals who will be pitching the idea of your book to every Tom, Dick and Harry in publishing. Unsolicited pieces of work just don’t get a look in. Editors won’t look at your work without an agent.
So how do you go about getting an agent? You have to write a letter pitching yourself and your work in what shouldn’t be more than two pages and there are various guidelines that an aspiring published author must stick to, in order to even be taken seriously. Think UCAS for writers. It’s a personal statement of sorts with a sales twist for good measure. One thing these agents don’t want to hear is “It’s going to be the next Harry Potter” along with a whole laundry list of offensive abominations that can switch them right off and trash your pitch into their shredder. Covering that list will take too long but what won’t is telling you what many aspiring authors turned fully fledged authors have decided to do in the face of the saturated market and the deflating reality of probably becoming famous after you are dead. They’ve discovered the internet.
Publishing Sites Galore
In what feel like some sort of Capitalist dues ex machina, these self-publishing options have rescued ailing authors-to-be and got them onto the ladder … for a fee of course. Self Publishing sites are many and growing. Why? Because it’s good economics. People will never stop wanting to become authors, and let’s face it, Fifty Shades Of Grey was no piece de resistance of modern literary works, but its getting its own film. Self Publishing sites such as Xlibrispublishing.co.uk for a measly fee of Pounds 400 minimum will publish your works via a print on demand service. Not only that, your work is put into the library of congress in America, and is featured on online vendors, such as Amazon, Banes and Noble, Kindle, Google books and so on.
If Lulu.com publish your work, you have full control of designing the cover if you wish, as well as the size of the book, even down to the quality of paper and whether you want it in hardback or not. With the laws of supply and demand working here, I don’t see a downside unless we’re talking about quality of books being published, in which case you’d have a point. They aren’t all great books being published. Then again, not everyone is trying to be a Shakespeare, some people just want to see their idea and hold it in their hands – with self publishing they finally can. However, this is only the story of print on demand versus traditional publishing. We have a chapter yet to speak of – the giants of the internet that are taking the publishing underground by storm and are making a ‘killing’ if you will. The plot thickens.
It was an irritating day on LinkedIn, and I questioned its usefulness until I stumbled across a remark someone left about book publishing. Smashwords.com was a website that I had discovered that night. A humongous world of publishing is taking place online like some parallel universe, ever present but seemingly undiscovered until now. Smashwords is like a Tesco self-service, if you know what you’re buying, you can check in and check out in a matter of minutes.
Getting The Format Right
Your Microsoft document can be converted into nine different eBook formats that will satisfy your phone, kindle, tablet or computer. What’s more, they make your book available to online vendors such as amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith, etc, and you even get to upload your own book cover. There’s never been a more DIY publishing service. For a more rigorous approach but without the publishing options that allow Smashwords to sell their books or give them away for free, Jukepopserials.com is basically the premier league for budding authors. You submit your story, and wait 6 weeks for a panel to deny or accept you into the little leagues of “aspiring author.” Once in this category (if you’re successful, of course) you have to rake up the approval of five different “Juke Pop authors” and get their stamp of approval via “endorsement” (think LinkedIn endorse button, but with higher stakes).
Once you’ve achieved these five endorsements, you are promoted to Juke Pop Author. You even get a sticker to prove it, no lie. This sticker can be put on your website or blog as a testament to your clout, a fully-fledged warrior o’ the pen. That’s not all though. The real challenge begins when you are in the league. Every chapter you write gets votes from readers. These votes determine your position in a league of thousands. The top thirty get cash rewards along with a following that can be wielded to sell books on other sites like Blurb.co.uk, Smashwords or Lulu.com if they have their book published on a demand service. Amazon have a similar DIY grotto running and they have a stamp of approval from Penguin who have taken the initiative and began buying self-publishing upstarts left right and centre. If self-publishing does take over the world of traditional publishing, it’ll most likely have a penguin behind it.
An Example From Bethnal Green
A vivid example of this success is the book “A Faithful Look At Bethnal Green.” The book is an ode to the area of Bethnal Green showing off all its beauty and diversity. Blurb, much like Lulu.com is a self-publishing engine but is even more suited to photographers looking to compile their pictures into an anthology of visual bliss. The book explores the area, its art hubs and its people, in a range of multifaceted snippets with pictures to put a face to a statement. The whole book is a serenade to the area proving truth in the words “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” One would never know it was a self-published work of art, and it loses no clout because it is. Natalie Clarke is the author of the whole book on Blurb.co.uk and is a prime example of people harnessing the machineries that be, to create a work of art without a traditional publisher. Natalie and her team have a whole series of books, are available online. This poetic acclamation of Bethnal Green is a testament to self-publishing, a clear sign that it is bridging the gap between works of art and the people who adore them rather than rending the rift ever wider.
“A Faithful Look At Bethnal Green” is available on this link.