IN a recent interview on BBC Radio 2, award-winning English novelist Pat Barker was asked what she thought about self-publishing – and her response was a big surprise.
“Well, I’m all in favour of it, and I’ve been thinking about going down that road myself … oops, but don’t tell Penguin!” she said.
Barker, a Man Booker prize winner, has had all her 13 works released by mainstream publishers since 1982, such as Penguin, Virago Press, Viking Press and Hamish Hamilton. And they’ve all sold in their millions, including her latest novel, Noonday, released in August.
So it was a shock to learn that the 72-year-old author is even contemplating switching from a major publishing house to self-publishing.
Barker didn’t elaborate on her comment, but perhaps she’s tired of traditional publishing and just wants to ‘go it alone’ and have total control over her works, on both the creative and financial fronts.
And who could blame her? Even veteran horror writer Steven King, who has sold 350 million books worldwide, has taken to self-publishing, and sold one of his new releases for just $1 on his own website in 2000.
In her latest blog, titled ‘How to make a million from writing’, popular English author Carol Hedges said of mainstream publishing: “What a shabby trade it is!”
She added: “Forget all those ‘X signed a three-book contract and has been offered eight squillion in advances and a film contract with a top Hollywood director!’ I now see these in the same category as those ‘teaser’ rates offered by big banks.”
Carol, who has written fiction books for young adults and latterly a popular series of Victorian crime novels, said publishers will skim at least 60 per cent off your earnings (on top of your agent’s fee) and are unlikely to offer you more than 40 per cent of the purchase price – “and remember all media outlets like Amazon discount furiously, so you have to subtract that from the final amount too”.
Carol ended her piece on www.carolhedges.blogspot.com by asking: “So why bother?”
On the other hand, self-published authors can earn a whopping 70 per cent in royalties if they publish a Kindle version of their book on Amazon.
Carol’s blog sparked 30 comments, including one from Jo Beckford, who said: “I recently met a published author who is on two-book-a-year contracts and he can’t wait for the contracts to be up so he can write books he wants to write, instead of catering to the publisher’s demands.”
Marjory McGinn, author of two acclaimed Greek travel memoirs – Things Can Only Get Feta and Homer’s Where The Heart Is – also commented on Carol’s blog post about her “miserable experience” with a small London publisher, Bene Factum Publishing, which released her debut book.
Marjory wrote: “Things were promising to start with but after a year, and despite good sales and the fact the book was one of the most popular on the publisher’s list of releases, he let it go out of print. And for the second time in a year he failed to pay royalties in the mandatory period. I had to go through the Small Claims Court to try to get all my royalties … and the fight still goes on.”
She added: “For those starting out, even with a contract and a ‘reputable’ publisher it doesn’t mean you won’t get messed around as I was. I finally got the rights of my book back (Things Can Only Get Feta) and republished it myself on Amazon, and later the sequel. And happily, the book seems to be doing better now than it did the first time round. “For anyone starting out now and dreaming of an agent or mainstream publisher, I would say, go the indy route. I have found it a breeze compared to my former experience. You have total control and you get royalties, on time, and statements you can understand. Bliss!
“There is no prestige in having a publisher who doesn’t treat you properly. I believe the publishing industry needs a massive shake-up. I think the offers/treatment some writers receive would not be tolerated in any other industry. It is under-regulated and Dickensian in some respects.”
I have helped Marjory to self-publish her two travel memoirs on Amazon, through my www.ebooklover.co.uk operation, and I agree with her that the traditional publishing industry needs a major overhaul – before it consigns itself to the waste bin of publishing history.
If writers of international repute like Pat Barker are seriously contemplating the self-publishing route because of disenchantment with mainstream publishing, other writers should now feel more confident in following in her footsteps.
(PS: If you want to share your own publishing experience, please comment on this post).
FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.
My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard