17 / 04 / 2014

Hot news in the world of self-publishing last week was The Guardian newspaper's announcement that they are co-sponsoring a monthly competition to find good self-published novels. While this is an admirable venture, their message unfortunately comes across as slightly patronising and out of date.

Alison Flood's article kicks off with a first-paragraph description of likely offerings as "DIY" novels. The best of the independently-publishing authors might feel that their books are far from DIY, because many have had input from book trade professionals before their creators ultimately decided, for whatever reason, that self-publication is the best route.

To describe all self-published novels as DIY (no doubt with the best of intentions in this case) brings to mind an image of authors endlessly scratching away in their spare room, isolated from the outside world. Of course, that could not be further from the truth nowadays, and by making this slip, the Guardian reporter shows a slight detachment from the changing front line of self-publication.

Only two months ago, self-publishing author Brenna Aubrey declined a $120,000 advance because she preferred to retain copyright control rather than be locked in by the mainstream publishers' clauses, which blew a hole in their theory that all such phenomena will inevitably end up in one of their pockets. This is only the start; we will see more and more higher-end earners taking their chances without the middleman, and it is likely that before long the news headlines will feature A-list authors going this route as well. So will their books be seen as "DIY", when they choose to employ editors directly and find their own marketing channels?

The Guardian's Claire Armitstead is quoted as saying that "the phenomenon of self-publishing over the last couple of years has become too big for any of us to ignore," and she is absolutely right in making sure her newspaper takes it seriously. The only remaining hurdle is to get over the last remnants of stigma and establish effective quality control mechanisms.

As Armitstead says: "there's gold in them thar hills"; all you have to know is where to find it.

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