SELF-PUBLISHING AVENGERS ASSEMBLE! It is time to be seen. #SelfPubIsHere
I think self-publishing needs greater recognition from Australian Festivals and Awards. I think self-publishing deserves its very own day at one of the larger Australian writer festivals, or even it’s very own self-publishing festival. We have kids days and YA days at major festivals (check out the one at Sydney Writers’ Festival, it is AMAZING), why not a self-publishing day? It is absolutely booming at the moment with more and more people not only buying self-published books, but wanting to become self-published authors.
Publisher Weekly has reported that self-published ebooks represent 31% of ebooks on Amazon and this trend is increasing. Not only do they account for around a third of ebooks, they are also dominating sales. Self-published authors are surpassing traditionally published authors on Amazon in crime, speculative fiction and romance. They also have a big share of the market in all other genres. The big five traditional publishers only account for around 16% of ebooks on the Amazon bestseller list, all the rest are self or indi. And let’s face it, ebooks are big business now and are here to stay.
Many readers have no idea if the books they are reading are self-published or not. As publishing houses laid off inhouse editors and designers in favour of a freelance system, self-published authors were able to snap them up. As such, the self-publishing route is becoming increasingly popular and destigmatised not only amongst up and coming writers, but also those already traditionally published and seeking to take greater control of their work.
Despite this increase in popularity and quality many Australian literary festivals and awards have either ignored the self-publishing market or given it a one off panel. Often in Australia the panel discussion is merely about if self publishing is ruining the industry or not. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The interest in self-publishing however is growing and has moved far beyond festival goers wanting to hear a simple discussion on if self-publishing is good or evil. They want in. Publishing your own book can be hard work and getting it into people’s hands can be even harder. This is a process that the increasing number of readers wanting to turn into writers are curious about. And honestly, readers also want the opportunity to see these self-published authors in person to get their books signed.
A self-publishing festival or day would be unique from other festivals in that self-published authors have to have a hand in all areas of their book development. They need to be able to source or become their own publicist, designer, formatter, bookseller, etc. Literary festivals often focus on authors and publishing houses, a self-publishing event would highlight self-published authors along with editors, cover illustrators, designers, and publicists. It would bring the often hidden side of publishing to the forefront. The part that happens behind closed doors that writers and readers are increasingly curious about. The parts they are willing to pay to find out more about. And I don’t mean in just one genre, I mean across all of self-publishing rather than a genre specific festival. Romance has traditionally been quite accepting of self-publishing and has on many instances lead the way but it’s time for other organisations to step up.
Below I will outline some of the awesome feature a self-pub fest would provide readers and writers hungry for something new.
Self-published writers are essentially split into three groups, those that started self-published and get picked up by a traditional publisher, traditionally published authors who have turned to self-publishing (some vow never to return to the trad-pub model, others happily flit back and forth enjoying the hybrid life), and those that have started as self-published and never looked back. Each of these groups bring unique insights and appeal to the curiosity of readers and fellow writers. We would hope to attract presenters from each of the group, with examples of the types of authors listed below.
Self-published authors picked up by traditional publishers include authors such as Matthew Reilly, CS Pacat, Bruce McCabe, and Mitchell Hogan. People want to know how these guys made the conversion. It’s the dream for many starting out. Self publish, get picked up, and then have a movie trilogy made, I’m looking at you E. L. James.
Authors who started out as traditionally published and have then experimented with self-publishing include people such KERI ARTHUR (I’m putting this in capitals and bold because I somehow missed Keri’s name and am editing it in!), Lisa Heidke, John Birmingham, Ellie Marney, Maria Lewis, Ciara Ballantyne, Kim Kelly, and Alison Croggon. Everyone wants to know why they broke ranks. What is so fantastic about self-publishing that it attracted them? How did they do it? Is it more profitable? What are the benefits? Hybrid or abandonment?
Australia has an incredible array of self-published authors that have started that way and remained true to the form. Melissa Pouliot had a cold case reopened because of her debut book. Heidi Farelly was picked up as a regular guest on A Current Affair to speak on finances on the strength of the popularity of her self-published ‘How to…’ books. Lisa Fleetwood became an Amazon bestseller with her debut travel memoir. I myself have been picked up by bookstores for my memoir about postnatal depression and my book is even being used by some postnatal depression support networks. Lola Lowe was listed as a “Must Read” by Cosmopolitan Magazine for her debut novel. A.B. Patterson, a former detective Sergeant, has won three awards for his debut crime fiction novel, and been short listed for two others. Dionne Lister is a speculative fiction author who is an outspoken advocate of self-publishing and has been short listed for three awards. Elizabeth Cummings has been invited all around the world to talk about her picture books, in particular The Disappearing Sister – an important book that deals with speaking to and helping siblings of children with anorexia. There are many more self-publishing success stories amongst the Australian public eager to share their story and people want to know how they did it and how they can replicate it.
Of course along with writers it’s time to make the previously invisible members of book creation visible, the people that people interested in self-publishing want to find and hire but are largely ignored by Australian festivals:
Book Artists and Designers
Representatives from printers such as Ingram Sparks and Publicious.
Representatives from self-publishing consultancy services such as Critical Mass Consulting, Bookends Publishing, and The Author Whisperer.
We need a location or a festival to give us a venue for a day.
We need an organiser / convener that people respect.
We need a publicist, although, many self-published authors are their own publicist and do a damn fine job.
Volunteers, we need people pointing and smiling. Trust me, it helps a lot.
We need all the food.
We need a dynamic bookseller who loves us.
We need those guests that represent the full gamut of the self-publishing experience.
And, without question, we need all the wine and cheese.
And don’t just take my word for it, read Pauline Findlay’s thoughts here. She strongly advocates for more self-publishing recognition.
So, what do you think? Are you with me? Do we need this? Are we going to create the pressure to make this happen? (I did send a proposal to a friendly writers’ centre but 10 months later I still haven’t even heard crickets in response) Some big name literary festivals overseas are already making the space, can we make it happen here? I vote yes! Chat about making space for self-publishing on social media with Pauline Findlay and I using #SelfPubIsHere
Ellie Marney also thinks a #SelfPubIsHere Festival would be great, read about it here.
Find out what Lisa Fleetwood has to say about this here.
Find out what Rebecca Chaney thinks here.