Sunday, February 14, 2010

Self-indulgent, or self-sufficient?

''I said to the distributor, 'I want to sell 10,000 books,' and it's fair to say he laughed until he was purple."

These are the words of self-published author Christopher Ride, who, if you read on in this article, you will see ended up selling 10,500 books. Crikey.

I've always been told to avoid self-publishing like the plague. Vanity press is for sloppy or self-indulgent writing, and these publishers prey on the egos of writers ground down by rejection letters yet buoyed by 'empty praise' from their mum/writing group (see these interesting blog posts on usefulness of praise by Nicola Morgan and KarenG).

But you do hear more stories like this. Matthew Reilly is the Australian poster boy for self-publishing - the story about how he convinced one bookseller to put a stand of his books in prime position in the shop, and how he used to sit on peak-hour buses facing all the commuters with his nose in a copy of his book, is a legend whispered about up the back of many a creative writing class. I suspect, however, that he is more an exception than the rule.

This Christopher Ride, who I'd never heard of before, invested $130,000 of his own money in his book, which, if your book is no good, is an expensive ego trip. He now has a three-book deal with a 'real' publisher however, so I guess it worked out for him.

Perhaps these days, with the e-book revolution on the horizon, self-publishing is becoming a viable option?


  1. After reading the article, I'd say "self-indulgent." Christopher Ride invested $130,000, sold over 10,000 copies and broke even??? Print costs on that many books are under $5, at least in our neck of the woods. That's $50,000 to print. He spent $80,000 on what else? Editing, design, typesetting, cover art, marketing help--who knows what all. All to gamble that he might get a publishing contract out of it with a *real* publisher?

    Then consider the couple who did the art book-- a lovely project but better add in a trip to Singapore for two in those production costs.

    I hope less-flush writers don't mortgage their homes on this kind of gamble. Point to remember--those who succeed at self-publishing are usually master marketers and promoters. Any introverted writer considering this path needs to understand that.

  2. Hi Karen, I think you're right - it's a gamble, and a very big one! And I was thinking the same thing about marketing. You might be a brilliant writer (despite being rejected by, say, 50 publishing houses) but it's asking a lot of yourself to write, design, publish, market and sell a book.

  3. HI

    I think it's always an option. Viable? If you have the time, MONEY, utter self-confidence, then why not?

    But I just think the "old fashioned" but extremely difficult way reaps far better long lasting ego boosting rewards for most who do make it this tried and tested way... or is that just the romantic in me? I hope not!

    Interesting link btw!

    Take care


  4. Hi Old Kitty - 'time, money, utter self-confidence'! I know I've got plenty of each of these! Or not. I wonder if with e-publishing we wouldn't need so much of the time and money part.
    But yes, doing it the old-fashioned way would be a lot more satisfying.