As of next week, guest slots will move to Mondays so that I can take part in a monthly blog hop that is hosted on a Wednesday. If you want to guest post on the blog, please feel free to drop me a message.
Today it is my pleasure to hand over the blog to Yasmin Selena Butt.
‘Don’t self-publish, that’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work’
By Yasmin Selena Butt
And that’s a quote from a best-selling novelist’s interview I read via a link on Twitter. I’m not even going to dignify the writer by naming her. It’s just disappointing reading bad advice and gross generalisations, from a respected author, who first entered publishing when we all bought our books from bookshops – and ‘Amazon’ was a word associated with a rainforest in South America.
I am self-publishing my debut novel, Gunshot Glitter, at the end of the week and as a writer I have never worked harder in my life. Self-publishing is NOT an easy option at all. But it is one I am grateful exists because it allows writers to have creative control of their work. And as an author that is extremely valuable to me. It is something that I feel, largely, no longer exists in orthodox publishing. And I’ve not pulled that belief out of thin air. I’ve witnessed evidence of it from people in the industry. In fact, that evidence has sent me running into the arms of self-publishing. This was an active choice on my part.
I would like to clarify right now, that I am not anti-orthodox publishing. If the right publishing deal was offered to me, I’d be happy to consider it. I would love to enjoy the perks of proper print distribution, Rights management and be eligible to enter the Costa book awards and get my novels sent off to Richard and Judy’s bookclub so they can read them in bed. That would be aces. But I am not going to spend endless years pursuing it, when I could be out there actually getting published, now, using the same sales portals by best-selling writers. There’s nothing to stop me pursuing the ‘orthodox’ avenue in the future. And I have pursued that route, but more on that later.
The simple fact is, is that I would like you and everyone out there to have the chance to read Gunshot Glitter now, rather than in a year to eighteen months’ time, which could be the timescale I’d looking at, if I got a book deal tomorrow. And even then, there is no guarantee that my book would be published and see light of day, even if I was a paid an advance. It is the publisher’s right to change their mind. As long as they have paid you for your work, they are in the clear.
The world of publishing I dreamed of may no longer exist. Maybe it never did? I’ve always seen publishing as being a business first and foremost, but one that involves a balanced relationship between the writer and publisher, helped along by an agent to oil the wheels. In that world, I saw the writer as having cover art control, final say in naming their novel, final say on the content of their novel – with the guarantee that their book would be published and well supported with a marketing campaign.
As a writer, I cannot imagine anything more heart-breaking than your hard work not materialising in print or it receiving lacklustre promotion. I’m just not a fan of the feeling of powerlessness. At least with self-publishing, I’ll know I really tried. Once my book is out there, at least it’s actually out there. It might be ignored, it might be adored, but it has a fighting chance. It got to see light of day.
I’ve always liked to weave an original, slightly unorthodox story. Something with an edge that pierces the soul and makes you think. With Gunshot Glitter I think I have done that. It’s a modern tale and if I were to tell you the premise in a nutshell, I would call it ‘the story of an incinerated boy who never quite goes away.’
But it is so much more, it’s a debate about monsters and victims, a love story, a tale of chickens coming home to roost, a vision of a family in pain and history repeating itself. It’s sexy, tender, and emotional and it made my proof-reader, Jill Blair, cry twice. It’s a story that turns the crime genre on its head.
A few years ago, before I’d written ‘The End’, my behemoth did the rounds with a few agents and a few publishers. One indie publisher told me it was the kind of book which could make people miss their tube stop. An agent at Curtis Brown sat on it for six months before reluctantly declining. An absolutely lovely publisher director from the Big Six read it on her holiday gave me wonderful feedback, but worried that the fact it did not sit easily in one genre would put the marketplace off. She suggested I consider rewriting it to just fit in the one. These assessments were commercial, risk-based decisions, I respected that. Me? I just wanted to write the best novel I could, but I didn’t want to sacrifice originality and the essence of my narrative to do that. So I ducked out and thought – it’s time to take charge of this and make it happen.
I completely appreciate that the publishing marketplace is a tough one. I really do. But to be honest, the more I talked to established writers the less compelled I felt to want a slice of the orthodox publishing pie. It actually frightened me that I felt that way, as it had been my dream for years, get a book deal, get published, make a living as a writer, but last year I had to ask myself, but at what price?
Via social media, I know two lovely writers, both best-sellers, between them they’ve sold millions, one has had two novels filmed for cinematic release. He hated the cover of one of his books. It shocked me he didn’t have the final say on it. I saw the cover, it sucked and it was uninspiring. I am also aware that some writers haven’t a clue about cover art and are happy to delegate the task to a designer. That’s fine. I just believe ultimately, either way, we deserve the choice, the final say. These are our books! I am not a book designer, but I worked with an artist to create the best cover I could envisage to represent my vision. It was a collaboration. That’s all I want in publishing, real collaboration.
Self-publishing has been a massive, time-consuming learning curve for me. I’ve had to learn about eBook formatting, video-editing, cover design requirement, US Tax laws, copyright law, marketing, social networking, distribution, eBook vendors, suppliers, procuring ISBNs, proofreading and the fine art of blogging. And yes, I am nervous. I’ve almost ducked out of this a dozen times.
You cannot tell me that any writer who undertakes all the above is a lazy writer. I’d argue the opposite and say there goes a writer who is prepared to work sixteen hour days to see their story authentically told – and probably needs their laptop confiscated and a period of enforced rest! All I am asking of an audience is that you do not generalise and you judge my novel purely on merit. Do not assume a self-published writer is one who ‘couldn’t make it’. You will get lazy writers out there who churn out dross, but you will also get ones who take their craft seriously.
Gunshot Glitter is my book told my way, it is my debut, it is the best book I was able to write in the circumstances, you might love it or hate it, that’s okay, but at least when I see it on sale come Friday (she says, touching wood) I will know, as Frank Sinatra once sang, that I did it my way…
‘Gunshot Glitter’ is available on Amazon
For more about Gunshot Glitter check out Yasmin’s blog
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