Publishing and distribution headaches #SelfPublishing


I’ve been following a highly contentious thread on LinkedIn for the past few days. One which posed the question; “Is self publishing such an evil?” If you were to read the views on some of the contributors, the answer was a simple no. The alternative views were being expressed in a manner so poisonous and ill informed that I had to stop reading. Broad brushstroke comments condemning all self published works as poorly spelt and formatted for example. Which I thought was unfair. Publishers used to send out lists of ‘errata’ after first editions had been printed, highlighting errors which would be corrected in later editions. Nowadays they get sent to the ‘remaindered’ book store or pulped. So the Nyer ner ne nyer ner type comments to the effect that “You self publish, therefore everything you say and do is crap”. don’t really stand up to close examination. Those are the kind of comments written by people who ‘correct’ library books. Small minded and cheap. We all make mistakes and it should be the story not counts. Not minor spelling and grammatical errors from which mainstream publishers are not immune. Build yourself a bridge and get over it for crying out loud.

Although I’m told that a traditional publishing deal is no longer (and perhaps never was) the easy route. It means you still have to market your own books. The funding mainstream publishing companies used to pay to market an authors work, and the access to the big book distributors is often no longer so readily available to the first timer. From observation I’d go so far as to say the age of the big publishers advance is mostly (Except for a few key instances) history. When all’s said and done this is no surprise; publishers take a financial risk every time they put a book out in the marketplace, and if it all falls over massively they’re history. Their game, their rules. Although I’m moved to observe that since they are not immune from the laws of cockup, slagging off self publishers is not a wonderful business strategy. A lot of writers are avid readers too.

The big self publishing problem is not, as some would contend merely in the spelling or grammar of a particular work, it’s actually in the distribution; getting a book, or more easily an eBook listed. Even then the market is fragmented, and while Smashwords and Lulu.com can get you listed across most distribution platforms, there are some quite large marketplaces, like the growing Kobo eReader which require independents and small scale publishers to go through Kobo’s ‘writinglife’ process. Which, if you’ve already got an edition you’ve spent time getting listed on Amazon, iBookstore and Barnes and Noble, feels like having to do the same job twice. It’s enough to give you migraines. Never mind the promotion, marketing and all the other things a writer has to do to get their work out and noticed in a crowded marketplace.

There is still, at the moment of writing, no single low cost route which will transmit from keyboard to bookshelf over the broadest range of popular platforms. Lulu, Smashwords and Kobo are all good, but none of these provides a single, end to end process for an author to get their work out into the broadest of public domains. Never mind the holy grail of going from those points of publishing entry into the big book distributors lists. This issue is proving a major headache, but one that is not incurable. It’s had me contemplating creating my own on line publishing and distribution company, just to see if I can fix it.

Still scratching along with ‘A falling of Angels’. A sentence here, a word there. Progress is slow, but sure. I’d get a life, but what with the job and publishing issues, on top of looking at boats, new cameras, and the odd bit of extra technology Angie wants installed, trying to squeeze a third one in might prove one too many.

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Martyn K Jones

A writer who first trained as an Electrical Engineer, then fulfilled various roles within the computing industry. First published in 'SuperBike' magazine, 1978 under the pseudonym Harry Matthews. Since then has written and had published a wide variety of work; from PR copy in trade magazines to supernatural short stories and the occasional satirical article. Emigrated to Canada in 2007. Became a Canadian Citizen December 2014. Now branching out as a serious science fiction novelist.

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3 thoughts on “Publishing and distribution headaches #SelfPublishing”

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