To self-publish or not self-publish?

As I creep ever closer to the finish line of what has been a half-decade slog to finish Blood on the Motorway, I’ve been thinking and more and more about next steps. Well, thinking about them, hiding from them, being terrified of them. There’s still a good chunk of work to be done on the book, but I’m definitely in the end game now, so now it’s time to try and address some of those questions. Those terrifying, daunting questions. What do I want to do with it? Am I going down the self-published road, or trying for traditional publishers? Do I start a different novel straight away? Is that going to be a sequel, or a whole new thing? What can I learn from writing this book that I can do better the next time around? Jesus I feel dizzy just thinking about it.

I’d always thought of myself as going down the traditional route of publishing. I’ve always been slightly sniffy about going down the self-published route because quite frankly I’m a bit of a snob and I’ve never actually bought a self-published book in my life, despite having had a kindle for the best part of two years. Why would I use an avenue I don’t actually use myself? I’ve always had an image of the self-published author as the self-important know it all who either isn’t good enough to get a proper publisher, or too lazy to bother. I’ve always assumed that people who go down that route are the kind of people you run into at parties who will wax lyrical about their 400,000 word tome about wizards and goblins that’s going to completely revolutionise the way we look at fantasy literature, while you stare off at the distance trying to work out how you can get the hell away from them. See, told you I was a snob.

But increasingly I’m becoming aware that this isn’t reflective of the reality of modern publishing. Sure, there’s an awful lot of shit out there, but there’s probably some really great authors out there steadily building a readership and making decent money, on their own terms, without having to get past any of the traditional ‘gatekeepers’ of the literary world. Certainly there seems to be an audience out there. The bestseller charts are all full of self-published works (certainly on the likes of Amazon etc) while at the same time you hear endless stories of traditionally published works getting only a £1k advance and going on to sell only a handful of copies, even with the might of big publishers behind them.

On the flip side of the coin, as a writer, there’s still a kudos there in the traditional route. To be able to say you’ve got past the gatekeepers; that they’ve looked at your book and declared it to be worthy; have sunk their money into it as a matter of faith; and that they’ve worked with you to get your book to be the best it can be. There’s something hugely enticing about that. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that it’s colossally unlikely that it’ll happen to me, even if my book is a masterpiece. I don’t think it’s bad, but I don’t think it’s that, either, so the odds are not in my favour. I’m a lot like Katniss in that regard.

The other day I was reading a post by one of my favourite writing blogs, Do Some Damage, which was singing the praises of a podcast called The Self-Publishing Podcast. Now I love me a podcast, and I love me some free writing advice, so I had an investigate, and ended up consuming the first three hour-long episodes over the course of a single day (it helped that I was making a stew), kick-starting in the process a thousand ideas in my tiny writers brain. It's a good podcast too, funny, informative, and easy to follow.

I could completely bypass all the grief of being rejected, then use means at my disposal to make something I could be completely proud of. I know a proper copy editor, who I could get to really have a look at my book for not a huge amount of money. I could build myself a website to sell the damn thing. Additionally, I know an artist who I could commission to do a cover that would be astounding and different. I could do this, and be completely in control of the whole process, and live and die by my own efforts. It would be hard work, certainly, and require some investment at my end. But it’s do-able.

So now I have some decisions to make, not to mention 130+ episodes of a podcast to make my way through, which is almost as daunting as anything else.