As those who have the misfortune to have spoken or otherwise been in contact with me in the last twenty-four hours may be aware, I have published a book. It’s called The Fernal Files and you can get it here.
While this is all very gratifying, it is essentially a self-published book and as anyone knows who paddles in the puddles of the literary life will know, self-published authors are the lowest form of life there is. Several commentators on The Guardian website book section hold us in the deepest contempt. And they have their reasons. As I have said before, there is an also lot of rubbish fiction on the internet, I know, I’ve read some of and, God forgive me, written some as well. Some self-publishers try to avoid this censure by calling themselves 'independent publishers' and fooling nobody. Independent publisher is a mealy mouthed phrase like graphic novel in the comics world, used by people trying to hold onto the respect of their peers. It rarely works.
The unhappy aura of vanity publishing hangs over the self-publishing world as well*. My worst ever reading experience (and I’ve read DH Lawrence) occurred when I was asked to look over a couple of vanity published books. One was just dull, while the other, a sprawling fantasy, had trundled along its weary way for about fifty pages before the author suddenly announced that the preceding section actually belonged in a later novel, yet to be written, and then started again. I did not join him. Another reason is that, filled with unwarranted confidence in their skills, many self-publishers eschew such things as proof-reading and independent editing, which can make for a memorable, if not enjoyable, reading experience. I have endeavoured to avoid such traps and got others to proof-read and edit my meretricious effort before inflicting it onto the public.
*The difference is subtle. Basically, self-publishing is when the author does it him/herself, vanity publishing is when you pay a company to print it for you.
Amazon claim that you can be published in five minutes. Far be it for me to doubt their tax avoiding word, but I cannot say that I found this to be the case. It took about three to four hours. Admittedly this included a trip to the bank to obtain a couple of highly obscure account numbers amazon required in order to pay me any royalties from the USA, as if, and the previewing does take a while to do, especially as you can’t jump around in the text so you have to go through the whole thing page by page. Luckily my little effort is a novella.
So why do I open myself up to the sneers of the Guardianistas and the glum realisation that no-one really wants to read the bloody thing? Sheer bloody arrogance plays a part. The fact that the book is a novella told in the epistolatory form which I suspect would be a hard sell to any grown-up publisher is another factor. But mainly it was because I have plans to grow this into a publishing operation and, like the scientist in a ‘50s horror film, I though it best to experiment first on myself. Next year we shall be publishing a novel not written by me and so, in one leap, move up a tiny step of respectability from self-publisher to small publisher, maybe even to sunny uplands of small press. And once you get there you can point to such luminaries as JL Carr and William Blake.
Anyway, must be away as there’s an angel in the garden wants a word.