The website of the historical fiction writer.

Self-Publishing in the Digital Age

This week I went to a talk at the University of Portsmouth all about self-publishing. Tom Sykes, travel writer and lecturer at the University, led the session which consisted of a panel of writers and entrepreneurs, all of whom have published work themselves in a variety of ways. Independent publishing has risen by sixty percent over the last few years (according to Publishers’ Weekly) and this seismic shift is largely due to the increasing professionalism of the writers.

Mike Manson of Past and Present Press, a Bristol-based publisher, decided to publish his work himself in the 1990s. He gave advice based on his own experiences including: 1) Get the book edited and proofread properly. 2) Choose a decent font that is readable (Garamond has been around for two hundred years). 3) Consider paper, layout and size (will the book fit on the shelves of most shops? White or cream paper? What images, if any?) 4) Sort out barcodes and ISBNS (depending on how you publish).

Mike also discussed how to sell the book. There are very few bookshops around now apart from chains and a few independent ones. Depending on what you are writing you can look at other places such as gift shops. There is also the internet and this is also useful with selling the book and finding an audience for the book.

Next up was Tessa Ditner, a local writer and editor of the spellbinding Portsmouth Fairy Tales (available at all good bookshops). Her experiences with self-publishing meant she was in complete control of all areas of how her books were produced, while being published the traditional way would have meant losing much of that. Tessa was able to have a say in the design of the cover, the size of the book and how and where it was sold. Self-publishing is also a much faster process than traditional publishing, particularly if you know artists, photographers and booksellers who can help you.

Tessa also talked about the collaboration element of publishing a book yourself. The Portsmouth Fairy Tales (that is still available at all good bookshops, and no, I am not being paid to say this) involved many different writers, graphic designers, a photographer and people to make the trailer. There were also events at two festivals, which gave the book free exposure, and there was the chance to write articles for magazines and work with venues to host events (theatres, libraries, etc).

The final speaker was Alex Sebley, who founded the publishing company 137 Albion Road using a crowdfunding site called Kickstarter. He discussed how he published the work of a local writer, Gareth Rees, by setting up this company. He also mention the Independent Publishers Network and the need for editors.

All in all this was a very interesting event and it was also good to see there are many writers who are hoping to get their work out despite rejections and that their is a growing entrepreneurial spirit among artists in Portsmouth.

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2 responses

  1. Nice summary of a talk I had a ticket for, but couldn’t make 🙂 Cheers Mr Bicheno

    22/11/2014 at 2:24 pm

    • No worries, mate! Shame you couldn’t make it but glad it was helpful!

      22/11/2014 at 4:55 pm

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