I have been fortunate over the last six weeks to work with Lionel Shriver, work-shopping my writing and receiving 1:1 tutorials. In my final tutorial I quizzed her about self-publishing. She has some serious worries about piracy in a digital age and authors having their work stolen. However, she also acknowledged that it is now a viable route to becoming a published and selling author, with none of the past stigmatism of ‘vanity publishing’. I asked her if she would have considered the indie-publishing route. Her answer was that she has been too long in the traditional publishing world to be certain, but she did concede that she would probably have been tempted. She then talked with feeling about the self-validation she had gained successfully selling her work to an agent and a publisher – and the pride of seeing work she had taken so much care over in print and on the shelves. This resonated strongly with the comments about traditional publishing made to me a few weeks earlier by Hugh Howey. As a new convert to the world of indie-publishing, who had been bowled over by the lure of a route getting my work to readers without have to pass through the traditional gatekeepers; I was now starting to modify my view. Self-validation does matter to me.
We live in a publishing world dramatically changed from five years ago. Conclusions about the validity of indie-publishing made even five months ago are probably out of date. Successful indie-authors such as Hugh Howey, Bella Andre, and Barbara Freethy from the USA, and UK indie-authors such as Mel Sherratt and Tim Ellis and starting-out authors such as Steven A. McKay show what can be achieved through indie-publishing. At the LBF I talked to all of these authors about their indie-publishing experiences.
However, that feeling of validation, of ‘making the grade’ with publishing professionals is a strong pull. Is my writing good enough? Will readers want to follow my characters through the fictive dream I have created? Will my book be on Waterstones’ shelves?
My conclusion, having talked to indie-publishing authors and publishers, agents, booksellers and authors in trad-publishing, is that a hybrid approach is best. Indie-publishing allows me to get my work out there. With dedicated marketing and a good product I can achieve success. The trad-publishing world is populated by businesses out to make profit from my product. That’s okay, but I’m a business too. I will seek that self-validation I crave. But it’s business first – all the way.