On the same day that Leicester celebrated its Premier League win, the city also hosted Matador’s annual self-publishing conference.
A tenuous connection? Perhaps. But there are similarities between the trials of the football team and the tribulations of the self-publisher.
Both stories have a David-and-Goliath quality. A few years ago, success in either case both would have been unthinkable.
Just six years ago, when I attended the London Book Fair, self-publishing was still synonymous with ‘vanity’ publishing. The disdain shown by agents, booksellers and traditional publishers was tangible.
The fact that Matador’s annual conference is only in its 4th year is testament both to the growing importance of self-publishing and the willingness of the industry to take it seriously.
Self-publishers are now giving the industry a serious run for its money, challenging preconceptions and business models. Unlike their counterparts in the behemoths of the publishing industry, they are all-rounders; IT literate, technically-skilled and both business and media savvy.
So what does a self-publishing conference offer?
- It can provide novices with a clear plan of action. The problem today is not that there is too little information on this subject, but too much. It can be daunting for the beginner.
- It can help those with more experience to identify gaps in their skills and keep them up to date with changes in the market. For example, choosing the right book-cover is a tricky exercise. A few years ago, a glossy cover was acceptable. Today, it is not.
- Writers also benefit from attending self-publishing conferences. They will get an idea of what services are available, who can provide them and how much they can do themselves within a restricted budget. Crucially, they will also get advice on PR – either doing it all themselves or buying in help from an expert.
While writers tend to be a retiring by nature, there has never been a greater need for them to promote their own work. This is true, not just of self-published authors, but also of those who are traditionally-published. Unless you are one of the big names (e.g. a celebrity or blogger with a huge following), it is unlikely that publishers will provide any money for your marketing – if at all.
This was borne out a few years ago when I attended a joint book promotion with a number of other authors. One was a debut author with a traditional publisher who had not been instructed to arrange her own publicity or organise her campaign in advance. She sat forlornly at her stall without completing a single signing while her desperate parents canvassed us for advice. What should she do?
I did not have the heart to tell them that it was too late, that her book would probably be remaindered within a matter of weeks because, without pre-publicity, it could never achieve the sales required by a traditional bookseller during its limited shelf-life (about 12 weeks).
These days, no writer is an island. Whether famous or not, they must all take an active part in publicity and the planning of their pre-launch campaign.
In this respect, self-published authors have an advantage over those who are traditionally-published. They are free to continue promoting their books and selling them through whichever media best suits them. Slow-burning, long-tail sales may be frustrating but they eventually bring rewards and extend the life of a book.
As a self-published author, you have more control over your work. If you are traditionally-published and the book does not sell, you are spared tedious negotiations with the publisher to re-acquire the rights to your material.
And what will you do with your manuscript once it has been reclaimed?
Why, self-publish, of course!
Next: 7 ways to get the most from a conference
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