Peter Dean: Everyone’s an Author Nowadays

Article published on January 21, 2018.

Self-publishing is all the rage nowadays. I have self-published four books so far, over six years: two poetry, one short stories and a short memoir. Publishing companies are reluctant to take on new authors who write poetry or short stories, so self-publishing was really my only option to get my books into print.

Websites like www.lulu.com can produce a good quality book in a few minutes without the author seeking the services of an agent or a traditional publishing house. All the writer needs is a polished manuscript typed up on a computer. This is inputted in an acceptable form into the lulu software following step-by-step guidelines. The website guides you through print-ready files, book covers, blurbs and pricing. It even gives your book an ISBN.

Lulu is a print-on-demand publisher. This means that you can buy whatever number of books you wish through the site. This seems okay, but the postage costs can be high when added to the wholesale book cost.

For an additional cost you can get help with marketing your book at trade fairs in the UK and abroad. There is also a chance of producing an ebook that should be available online in large bookstores.

Once you have a polished manuscript you could also be a part of the Amazon Kindle ebook and paperback list. I have done this too, with several of my books available there. Instructions on publishing are available on the site.

Selling my work is the main problem. I have only sold a few books on the internet book sites, but I have had success at local independent bookshops. It is always worthwhile checking with local independent booksellers to see if they are prepared to take a few copies of your books on a ‘sale or return’ basis. As you are local to the area, often the answer is ‘Yes!’. And local author books do sell.

Of course, if you can get an agent and a traditional publishing house to publish your book then marketing your book will be part of your book deal. But whatever form of publishing you undertake, the author must go and sell their product. This may take the form of reading passages from your book to the public at bookshops, schools, or even Woman’s Institute meetings. You may even be lucky enough to get a slot on a local, or national, radio programme. The aim is to get your book known, since no-one is going to buy it if they don’t know it exists.

The book cover is itself a selling point, so it is worth taking time, and maybe spending money, to produce an eye-catching cover. Self-publishing websites do offer artwork for covers, but they tend to be general or clichéd pictures that may not appeal to readers. A one-off cover design by a professional artist is much more preferable. It could give your book the initial selling point, before the reader delves into your prose.

For a lot of self-published authors, me included, selling their book is not a priority. I just want to get in print and have something to share with family and friends. I write because I like writing. That said, if a big (or small) publisher wanted to take on my work I’d jump at the chance to reach a wider audience. But getting noticed in the overcrowded book-sellers’ marketplace is very difficult. Suggestions to authors include buying copies of your own book to bump up your visibility on a specific site, having a blog, or going on social media to promote your book. You have the traditional media too to try and create a ‘buzz’ about your product.

I don’t write for a living although it is nice to get paid every once in a while for writing. I currently write a gardening page and short fiction for a quarterly magazine, Cambridgeshire County Life Magazine. Marketing yourself is the key to getting work. This can take as much time as the writing itself. I have read the annual Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, and I subscribe to Writers’ Forum magazine, which features monthly competitions for flash fiction, short fiction and poetry. I have had four poems commended in their poetry contest.

Research shows that writing is good for your brain, and seeing your work polished and in book form is very pleasing. It takes a lot of effort to complete a book and you may not get much recognition for your efforts. But, I think it is worth it. We have all heard clichés like “Write what you know” and “There is a book in all of us”. Well, now it has never been easier for anyone to publish a book.

By self-publishing I may never become a household name, but I can give my family and friends something I have lovingly produced, that is a part of me, and that will last –  and that’s a priceless gift, isn’t it?

Peter Dean
January 2018

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