Sunday, 20 April 2014

In Praise of Self-Publishing

Green Wizard, my publishing company, is two years old tomorrow.


Shameless (but harmless) self plug
Type in Green Wizard Publishing into Google and I have a Google page all to myself, which I find highly amusing and a bit weird, actually.

I am registered with the tax office as self employed. I do this as a substantial part time job from which I hope to make an income sometime in the next couple of years. I would love to do it full time, but then, so would any number of authors and publishers so I am not holding my breath.

Old, new and draft Green Wizard covers

I have written ten novels of which five are available for sale now, plus a brilliant little anthology featuring authors I have interviewed on the Wizard's Cauldron.

Wizard's Cauldron Dedicated Author Interview Blog

One sold loads (in the context of Indie/Small Press publishing). One received seriously good reviews, including several people who cite it as one of their favourite ever books. One has gained a cult following, excellent reviews, but (strangely) limited sales. Performance of my latest, The Night Porter, is too early to call, so I won't. 

Of those I withdrew, one was a mediocre attempt at YA (a genre I am not particularly interested in, which proved a salutary lesson about me as a writer), one was far too long for Indie and another, an attempt at combining social comment with erotica, was so dirty it got banned in the UK and caused the loss of friends. 

My father inadvertently loaned it to a friend of his, in his sixties. They no longer speak. Oops.

(Like Monty Python's Funniest Joke Ever, the book is so dangerous it could be used as a weapon of mass destruction and it is now buried deep in those secret chalk caves near Wayne Rooney's gaff in Cheshire)

I made a profit last year. Not a huge one - I had to do some juggling and I live like a monk - but a profit is a profit.

We Are Under Attack, Admiral!
Lately, I have been seeing some pretty veiled attacks on what I do. Not me in particular - I tend to get a pretty fair shake of the stick - but on self publishing authors as a group.

Though I have a company, I am a self-published author. I don't submit work to anyone and I have no intention of doing so. 

Quite a lot of traditionally published fiction is not for me. Fundamentally, much of it is genre work chosen by sales and marketing people rather than creatives. 

Why would I be interested? Why would you be interested? 

I do however read colossal amounts of the greats. Barnes, Amis, Faulks, Auster, Naipaul, Jensen etc. But their output is in a minority now, in a world where a moderately talented hack like James Patterson publishes an "assisted" book each month, and Val McDermid, not content with living a life of opulence in a vast converted church, diversifies into other genres while still fundamentally publishing  the same uninteresting story.

Amazon allowed me to publish and like many of you, I took the opportunity with both hands. 

I will never submit a piece of work to an agent or a publisher - I have heard too many stories of the evils of the slush pile, including the One Sentence Bucket Game - to submit my work into that lottery. 

Frankly, I don't want my work judged by some twenty two year old intern from Cambridge University. 

I never did. I never will*

But as a self publisher, as well as the difficulty in gaining exposure for your work, and the tendency readers have to place you at the bottom of a reading pile, I have noticed that you run the risk of ridicule. 

And you certainly encounter bias, discrimination, prejudice and, yes, hatred from some quarters.  

I have read several supposedly objective blogs which under the guise of objectivity, subtly slaughter self-publishers. 

It seems to be a trend. I'll try and collect a few for a later blog post. The criticisms seem to be from traditionally published authors, self-published authors who wish they weren't, and those who are published by a small press who believe they are traditionally published authors. 

They, in particular, always amuse me, especially when they start hammering self publishers.

I would contest that this criticism is unfair. And ignorant of the evidence.

I'd like to show them something - not that they would ever read anything written by a self published author - but they might look at a picture.

Every single one of these books is self and/or small press published.

Every single one of them is spellchecked, formatted, proofed, discussed and lovingly prepared. Every single one of them has a paid-for cover created by a cover designer. 

My books are designed by Dark Dawn Creations. Mary Ann Bernal's are designed and created by Steven Novak (Concordia top tabled in a competition recently). Ngaire Elder's books are illustrated by an ex Daily Mail artist. 

Cecilia Spark - written by Ngaire Elder and drawn by Peter Maddocks

Every single one of them has beta readers and critics.

I have a critic whose carefully worded venom was so toxic, I withdrew one of my books. Another book I wrote in 2011, about a group of unemployed men in Newark had to be shelved after my editor said it was so average, it would damage my reputation. 

I don't agree, but why take the chance? 130,000 words too, dammit.

We don't publish everything we write.
We think about our work. 
We love our work, as much as any trad published author.

Yes, a reader may not like the stories we write - that is the nature of the business and trad published authors are subject to some terrible reviews - but the above finished products are at least as good as any traditionally published book. 

These books - and others from authors I do not read or collect, but which are equally as good - do NOT deserve the criticism some people throw at the group.

Spot the self published books in the next photo.

You can't -  with the possible exception of one, which is a proof with which I am not happy, (and probably won't go further with for the time being), and included in the photo to make a point.

So why snipe and make veiled comments in the blogosphere? Why not be positive? Why not share the love?

Quality Street
"Oh, but Marky, you have to consider quality too. Self publishers just aren't as good as, like, real writers you see in the shops and stuff, y'know, are they!?"

Quality. Okay.

Well, Miss Doubtful, I am going to enter TNP in Amazon's breathrough Novel contest next year. I believe it could win, or at least reach the heights. A bold prediction? Have a read and find out. I take bets.

Concordia, by Mary Ann Bernal, is so good, it should be on every historical romance fancier's shelf. Seriously. I cannot be doing with historical fiction as a rule and I could not put this down.

And check this little beauty out from brilliant poet Sue Lobo. (If you don't follow her daily poems on Facebook, you are missing a treat. And for those of you who don't know, this is Mr Chuckles, my forty one year old bear who reads more than I do).

Do you wish to know about formal English and how to write it? Forget the 101 blogs, buy this book. I have never read a more correct book in my entire life. 

If ever I want to check how a sentence is supposed to be constructed, I reach for Lollipops. 

This is easily worth a Big Eight berth (it is a small press offering), but Sue is an anarchist, a dreamer, a sprite, a free spirit and someone who doesn't care a fig about all that ego thing - she loves writing and chooses the Self Pub/Freepub option, as anyone who follows her Facebook page knows.

But if the sly bloggers who carp, snipe, chuckle and detest, had their way, none of the above would be allowed any room. 

Only traditionally published authors would be allowed to have their say.
None of us would ever be read. 
None of the beautiful books I have shown here would ever have been created.

Yes, there are bad books. 
Yes, there are many, many, many books that shouldn't be published, or which need further work. 

Yes, I guess there should be a second level of self-publishing, with a gatekeeper to keep an eye on quality, though I would passionately argue that authors have learned and evolved, and the formatting issues of 2011 and 2012 are getting better and better all the time.

But overall, we should celebrate the richness, the beauty, the wit, the diversity and the sheer passion of self publishing. 

Shouldn't we?

Otherwise we'd be left with Dean Koontz, Andy McNab, the afore mentioned James Patterson and Val McDermid, all of whom aren't worth the throwaway pound the supermarkets charge you for their uninspired and formulaic drivel.

And we wouldn't want that would we.

Love you all (he says, Ozzy style).


Six very good books for your shelves.


The Small Print
However, I probably wouldn't have bothered had I read this ruthless piece of writing from successful self publisher Terry Tyler, who demonstrates just how tough this caper is, (it really is frightening, and I suspect she didn't intend it to be). 

My Freebie Had 4000 downloads - Now, Where Are My Reviews!?

The Asterisk Bit
*That is not to say that I would not listen to offers from a trad publisher. I would be foolish not to and I have bills to pay. And no, that's not hypocrisy; its the manuscript selection process - deeply, deeply flawed as it is - which I wish to avoid, not the publishing companies themselves.

The Green Wizard Pinterest Site

Collage from the front cover of the original Independent Paperback Gift Shop
Christmas Catalogue 2012. Self pubbed and small press all.


  1. A powerful speech, Wiz, and sadly true. So much self-pubbed talent out there it gets lost in the mire! Thank you for Cecilia Spark's mention and that Peter Maddocks' illustration is one of my favourite. Happy Birthday Green Wizard Publishing. n x

    1. Thank you, Ngaire. Can't let an anniversary pass without a post, now, can I! :-)

  2. Congratulations on two years in the business. I wish you the best for your success.

    1. Two years is a couple less than you, MAB! I hope I have the tenacity to carry on - as you will attest, it is tough out there! :-)

  3. Yes, congratulations indeed, and thank you for sharing my scary post!!!! As usual, I just thought I was being helpful and realistic....!!!

    1. Oh, Terry, I shivered when I read that breakdown. Is it really that harsh? Your post is essential reading imo as are your other commentaries..:-)

    2. I don't see it as harsh. I just wanted to explain, especially to self-published writers who are under the impression that everyone who downloads/buys their book will read it straight away, and like it. Don't forget those hundred odd people who will read the book and like it, that you never hear about/from. They're the people who buy your other books, and tell their friends about them too - it's where your sales come from! Another way in which we are similar to trad pub is this - not everyone likes what we do, and we need to be aware of this. This is a terrifically inspiring post; I read it properly this morning when I wasn't tired! As for those who are published by a small press and think they're traditionally published and therefore 'better' than those who self-pub -yes, GRRRRRRR! All you have to do to be published by many small presses is simply submit your book! (Not the larger ones like Crooked Cat, Wild Rose and Choc Lit, I hasten to add)

    3. I have had some experience of this just lately, with TNP, Terry. I guess us writers are impatient and want everyone to stop what they are doing, right now, right NOW, and read our books. It's like some suppressed narcissism. Daunting is a better word than harsh. that breakdown is pretty clinical. As if you would ever be harsh! Thanks for the nice things you wrote about the post. :-) It's tough out there as you know and I figured a few people I know could use a boost. I've got an interesting one coming up this weekend. Well, relatively interesting hehehehehe.