The Colour of Grass

So on Tuesday I went to the talk “Self-Publishing: Author’s in Control?”

Guess I shouldn’t have been surprised really – it was a Society of Authors event and to be a member of SoA you need to have been published, so EVEN THOUGH the talk was on self-publishing, as far as I could tell, pretty much everyone there was an already published author.


The event was chaired by the fabulous Nicola Morgan – known to many of us as the author of “How to Write a Synopsis” (I never go anywhere near a synopsis without it). There was a panel of three speakers:

Neil Baber – co-founder of Inky Sprat, a newly set up e-picture-book publisher that also has Babette Cole as a co-founder. The idea behind Inky Sprat is to develop e-picture books that parents will want to share with their children – or that children can enjoy on their own as they have a video feature with the author reading the story. Neil anticipates that tablet use will grow and hopes to be there when it happens. Personally, I’m a stick-in-the-mud traditionalist when it comes to picture (and all?) books, but Neil showed us the e-book of ‘The Trouble with Dad’ and I was impressed enough to change my view on e-picture books: I’m now all about ‘why not?’ – it’s a story, beautifully illustrated, what’s the difference? [though it’s gotta be alongside ‘real’ books, of course … !!]

Martin West – Founder of “authorization!” set up to group indie-publishers together in order to get the best services for sales and distribution. The company also offers sales and editorial support. Something to look at if you want to self-publish but with a helping hand.

Diana Kimpton – successful author of traditionally published “Pony Mad Princess” series and now semi-finalist of the Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book.

Most relevant to me was Diana’s publishing experiences. Both traditional and indie.  Initially, Diana started self-publishing as a way to keep her backlist alive. She found it FUN and EMPOWERING. Topped with disappointments over not having enough editorial/book cover control, Diana decided to go it alone with her latest title. She set herself a budget of £2,000, an amount she was comfortable losing then spent less than £500 producing “There Must be Horses”– and things seem to be going well: semi-finalist of the Kindle Book Review for Best Indie Book, is pretty impressive.

Diana brought along two versions of “There Must be Horses”: one that was produced by Print On Demand through createspace (see last week’s blog ‘The Science Bit’ for more on this) and another printed digitally through a small printers called Matador (highly recommended by Diana). The quality difference between the two books was small, which was reassuring. But I did find myself lingering over the paper of the book printed by Matador – much better quality, the soft, velvety kind of paper that makes you want to eat a book with a spoon (well, ok, maybe that’s just me). Diana said that she went for offset printing rather than sticking to only createspace’s Print on Demand because of UK distribution issues … and because the per-book return is higher for offset printed books. And frankly, that thought (and the soft, velvety, eat with a spoon paper) have thrown a spanner into my works. It may be time to sit down, be sensible, and do some number crunching … has it really come to this? Well, guess that’s something for next week …

In the meantime … why would already-published authors (on a beautifully sunny evening no less) go to an event on self-publishing?

Well, languishing (or even out of print) backlists seems to be part of the answer. And not getting the desired support from publishers the other.

As the experiences of one author I chatted to after the talk showed me: What do you do if you’re two books into a series and sales are good, but not good enough for your publisher to be convinced about printing the next book in the series? Consider going it alone, that’s what.

So getting a publishing contract isn’t enough to keep authors “safe” from the self-publishing route … it seems that maybe the grass on the traditional-publishing side isn’t, after all, that much greener …

Larisa x

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