Self-publishing comes of age – could you be the next E L James?

Self-publishing comes of age – could you be the next E L James?

The success of EL James and her Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy did much to overturn the stereotype of a self-published author. Gone is the image of eccentrics writing away in their sheds as it is revealed that it is middle-aged and well-educated women who dominate the growing e-publishing market.

Amazon has said that sales of its Kindle ebooks are now outstripping their sales of printed books.

For every 100 hardback and paperback books it sells on its UK site, 114 ebooks are downloaded in a renewed enthusiasm for reading.

Underlining the speed of change in the publishing industry, Amazon said that two years after introducing the Kindle, customers are now buying more ebooks than all hardcovers and paperbacks combined.

Their company figures also showed that British Kindle users were buying four times as many books as they were prior to owning a Kindle, a trend it described as a ‘renaissance of reading’.

So whether we like to read electronically or not, the consumption of books has quadrupled!

As an avid reader and book reviewer this is excellent news in that I have easy access to new publications on my Kindle and also many more books to review.

Another knock on effect of this literary revolution is the self-publishing industry. This has now become big business and moved on dramatically from the old days of vanity publishing, but while some writers have managed to break into the big time the majority still has to spend vast sums of money trying to get their ‘magnum opus’ out there.

“Sorry – no self-published books accepted.” How many authors have been confronted with those words? I certainly have. It’s a prime example of what has been dubbed the self-publishing stigma. But as the sector grows, shrugging aside suspicion and hostility, will this negative image fall away? Has it already begun to do so?

Says Ben Galley, founder of the company Shelf Help, author, and publishing consultant:

“ It was in these early stages that the first few success stories began to emerge: self-publishers such as Amanda Hocking and John Locke became founder members of what is affectionately called the Kindle Million Club – writers who have shifted seven-figure quantities of ebooks.

“Self-publishing was spotlighted as something not only viable but lucrative. These stories, among others, spurred thousands of authors to join the publishing fray. “No publishers needed!” might as well have been the battle cry.

“Just as self-publishing was trying to shrug off the mantle of vanity publishing, it earned itself a new reputation – for low quality. Lo and behold, the self-publishing stigma was born.”

I can understand this and have taken a similar stance myself. The self-publishing boom has produced a plethora of low-quality literature, but there are some treasures to be found and this can be a way to squeeze yourself into a mainstream publishers stable.

Many independent authors, who spend time, effort, and money crafting professional products, can reap rewards, and the availability of advice has played a key role in this change.

Whole new support industries have sprung up, offering everything from design to editing and marketing support. These authors have begun to share tips and tricks, while the Alliance of Independent Authors has pushed their cause with a campaign.

The DIY sector of the books market is currently booming, both in terms of numbers of books created, and numbers bought. In 2013, Nielsen Book found that 18m self-published books were purchased by UK readers, up 79% on 2012.

I know from our postbag that many older and retired people with time on their hands and inspiration in their hearts spend, months, even years writing a book with little hope of being taken up by a mainstream publisher. But there is great satisfaction in actually writing the book, finishing it and seeing your efforts published even if you have to pay for the privilege.

I would never disregard the time and exertion any writer puts into their work and I admire those who dedicate themselves in this way. Just because I do not have the space or time to review every book I am sent, I still have huge regard for anyone who writes a book.

So keep on writing and who knows you may become another E L James. But even you only reach a small audience be proud that you got to the end – thousands have given up along the way.

By Tina Foster, Mature Times book reviewer