Writers Conference 2014: truth and lies in self-publishing

“Writing the book is easy. The difficult part is selling it.”
What I learnt about self-publishing at the Writer’s Conference 2014.

gorilla beating chest I guess when it comes to self-publishing, the greatest proponents are going to be those who have done it successfully. The failures slink back into the shadows.

With this in mind, I went along to the panel entitled “The Truths and Lies About Self-Publishing” with some degree of cynicism.

The discussion was chaired by Alex Davis and it was interesting to hear why the panelists, all very different authors and very different people, had decided to self-publish their books.

  • Cathy Bramley: used self-publishing as a stepping-stone to traditional publishing. Her self-published first novel, Conditional Love, led to her finding a publisher for her second novel. With a background in business and marketing, Cathy could cope with the major problem facing self-published authors: how to sell your book.
  • Alan Dance: self-published his first book, a non-fiction title, The Chilwell Ghost, which generated plenty of local interest but no publishing offer. Since then he has self-published three historical novels, all based around Nottingham.
  • Georgia Twynham: writes for the YA audience and has self-published many novels. It gave her total control of the whole process and cut out the middle-man.
  • Wilf Morgan: writes books for adults and younger readers. He turned to self-publishing when he was unable to get his first novel published.

The panel discussion was very interesting and here are some of the things I learnt:

advantages to self publishing

Advantages of self publishing:

  1. Speed: from writing to publication within a few weeks.
  2. Platform: leading on to other things.
  3. Control: over everything, from quality of paper to choice of cover.
  4. Learning new skills: from editing to marketing.
  5. Financial: cut out the middle-man and retain greater % of sale price.


Disadvantages of self publishing:

  1. Sales: have to work hard to sell beyond family and friends.
  2. Loneliness: no team behind you.
  3. Snootiness: people look down on self-published authors.
  4. Quality control: to prevent that ‘amateur’ look.
  5. Recognition: or lack of it!

The last disadvantage point resonated with me. Part of my desire for traditional publication is the affirmation that comes when someone else reads my work and thinks it is worthy of publication.

Tips for self-publishing:

Spend money on self-publishing, Ruth LivingstoneMake sure it is a really, really good book. Spend money on getting it right, especially the first one.

  • send it off for a full critique
  • get a proper copy-edit (don’t rely on family or friends)
  • if going for POD, check the quality of paper, the binding, the cover, etc.

But every author came back to the main question:
How do you sell your book?

“Writing the book is easy, the difficulty is selling it.”

Advice included seeking reviews, blogging and blog-tours, actively targeting your intended audience and seeking endorsements from established authors. Another route was through local self-promotion, using local bookshops, giving talks to local societies, seeking out the local press and radio.

It struck me that writing books around a specific interest, as Alan Dance did with his Nottingham-based books, allows you to target your marketing energies on your intended customers.
Back to thinking about niches again.

And a final piece of advice:

Join the Association/Alliance of Independent Authors

Although, sadly I didn’t catch whether the speaker meant the Alliance or ALLi (UK-based) or the Association or AiA (international but with a distinct USA flavour).

Author: Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.

6 thoughts on “Writers Conference 2014: truth and lies in self-publishing”

  1. Hi Ruth, thanks for such a great summarising piece! This was the only panel of the day that I didn’t make notes on, seeing I was part of it..! It’s great to be able to go back and remind myself of the things that were said. I think it’s good that my ultimate feelings were reflected by the others(i.e. that self-publishing is always worth a go, if only to improve your writing / self-promotional skills for when you do approach an agent – plus, it’s great fun!).

    BTW, just to mention, my stuff is mainly aimed at non-children (don’t really want to say ‘adult’!) but I do have a few titles in there for younger readers, too.

    I see you’ve posted about the other panels you visited – and one of them was a panel I wanted to go to but missed! Excellent stuff, I’m off to read about it..!

    I hope your day at the conference was as useful and informative as mine was. Perhaps I’ll see you there next year! All the best, Wilf.


    1. oops, I mistyped my website address on my previous comment so the link on my name doesn’t go anywhere! This one is correct, though. (It’s too early in the morning – need to call the AA to jump-start my brain…)


      1. Hi Wilf, so glad you dropped by and left a comment. Have corrected the text above to take into account that you write for both adults and children. Wish I could have heard more about your experiences during the panel discussion. It was a lively debate and too short, as always.


  2. Hmm… I’d never considered joining those alliances/groups before. I don’t know exactly what they do/what they’re for, but that’s all the more reason to look into it, right?

    Thanks for another great write up!


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