Organised by Matador, it was a well marshalled and slickly run event, but frustrating in that there were more sessions than we could attend between us, so we only got the benefit of half of what was on offer. Talking to other people over coffee, it became clear quite a few of them had been to previous conferences as well. Many people, like us, had travelled quite a distance to be there and from my personal point of view, a two-day conference giving more options to attend other sessions would have been welcomed. I went along to learn more about the business of self publishing not only as an author, but with a view to adding another string to my business bow. Over the course of the day I discovered that I was not the only one in the audience casting an eye over the potential market. Given that about 20% of the books published in the UK are now self published, it appears there are opportunities to be had.
For me the session on getting copyright clearance for using other people’s work was worth the conference fee alone. (an absolute godsend for anyone wanting to use quotes or extracts from other people’s work in their book). The talk by Alysoun Owen from Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook on how to avoid the pitfalls of vanity publishing was interesting too, if only as a foil for the information I had gathered from the Northern Lights Writer’s Conference, where the emphasis was very much on getting your work into mainstream publishing. She spoke with honesty and a good measure of authenticity in the two sessions which I attended. I have always had a fairly recent copy of their Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook kicking around my office as a resource and she certainly added represented her organisation well. Signing up to their website (for free) gives access to a variety of resources for writers.
From listening to both sides of the author publishing industry this last month or so, it has become evident that the mainstream publishers are swiftly adapting to providing services for those authors who can afford to self publish. Matador is just one example of a self publishing company operating under the banner of a mainstream publisher who are now almost always using agents as a filter for writers they will publish themselves. I have learnt that what is in demand is an author who can be relied on to produce more than a good debut novel. The potential for two, three or even more books is taken into consideration before the first one is accepted.
I have already self published my first book in a very modest way, using a local firm, Rossendale Books who did exactly what I wanted at a reasonable cost. I found them by word of mouth. During the conference I heard of £1000’s apparently paid out by disappointed audience members to other so-called ‘experts’ that did not deliver. As a writer wanting to get published, you need to be very careful where you spend your money.
Statistics from Nielson this last weekend showed that just 100,000 of the 1.5m books published in English worldwide accounted for almost 90% of the £1.6bn sales. Given that other media providers such as the BBC are dominating popular non-fiction book sales with their ‘celebrity authors’ and that the likes of J K Rowling dominate fiction sales figures, I did sit and wonder about my chances of success as a first time novelist, but I know the first thing to do is to finish the damned book!
*This was the response of Wellington in 1824 to John Stockdale who threatened to publish anecdotes of Wellington and his mistress Harriette Wilson