I have an image of an agent, deep in the bowels of a building, mug of coffee in hand. She sighs, looking at the pile of paperwork on her desk and wondering what possesses so many people to send her their drivel. She picks up the next manuscript and, having read just one sentence, sits bolt upright, spilling her coffee as she grabs the papers with both hands. Totally absorbed, she finishes the given pages within a few minutes and searches the envelope for more. She pauses, a smile spreading across her face, and then she jumps up, skips around the office and whoops with delight. She knows she’s found the perfect book to publish.
A dream? Probably. (But it is taking me a long time to write the first sentence of Book 2!)
The problem with my dream is that I know that there are good books that are published like this – the long-established route, where an agent takes on a writer and then promotes their stories to a publisher, and then there is a print run and marketing support and a successful writing career follows. Traditionally, this has been where the story ends. Good books are published by publishing houses; bad books are self-published by writers desperate to get their story in print.
The advent of print on demand and (even more so) ebooks has transformed the publishing world. Now, self-publishing is easier than ever before. And cheaper! Whereas I’m sure there are a lot of attics filled with unsold copies of over-enthusastic self-publishers from the past, the ability of companies to print only what is required, rather than a fixed *insert large number or high price here* run, has reduced the self-publishing threat to rainforest destruction.
Self-publishing is getting a good name. Self-publishing is offering up excellent books – books that have slipped through the agents’ fingers, or even not reached them at all. Good writing and good books are more easily available than ever before.
Of course there is still a lot of dross. I have a particular bug-bear with poorly proofed books. In this day and age, with computers putting wiggly green and red lines under the writing, spelling and grammar ought to be nigh-on perfect. I like my books to look good, and to read easily. That is why I put so much care into the presentation of In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree.
But self-published books needn’t be dismissed as second best any more. Some are of superior quality to traditionally published books and, with some shrewd thinking, they can make money. Most of us have to contain our rush to retire to the Bahamas (another dream I have!) but it is good to earn enough to cover costs and fund the next book.
That’s my plan, anyway. I just need to get beyond that first sentence…
Have you (knowingly!) read any self-published books that you’d recommend to others? Let me know via the comments box.