Thursday, 30 October 2014

Should You Self Publish?

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When I embarked upon creating three anthologies of poetry and personal essays, I started off with a vision of the first book and had no real sense of how I would get it published. Nevertheless, that didn't stop me from starting the ball rolling, which included advertising in the Voice Newspaper seeking submissions. Meanwhile, I wrote to two mainstream publishers - the Women's Press (no longer in existence) and Virago. After many months, I received their rejection letters, so I decided to take the self-publishing route, using the brand name of Shangwe*.  

We're in an age where self-published books have a better chance than ever of making it big. Print-On-Demand services and free eBook distribution are abound. One in three ebooks sold on Amazon are self-published.  You don't even need to be in a bookstore to be successful.  People don't care how a book is published, as long as the book is good.  If it's going to explode, it'll explode, whether or not it's traditionally published.

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The advantages of self publishing, first and foremost, are that control is retained over the book at all stages of the production process - what text style to use, the cover design, the cover price, the book's size, the number of copies printed...this includes having the final say on everything.

In addition, by publishing your own work, you are able to retain the copyright to that work, which is important if you want to try and sell the book on to a commercial publisher at a future date, for instance.  Self publishing is also a more appropriate means of publication for the genre of poetry, memoir and autobiography.

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I learned so much working on the first anthology - Brown Eyes - the most significant development was becoming an editor.  With any new project, you will encounter challenges. The most vivid was the delay by my publishers, who were extremely late delivering the books; I received them at 12.30pm on the day of my book launch!!  I learned that publishers are like builders in that they can only really guesstimate when you will actually receive your books. Needless to say, I made sure not to organise any more book launches until I had received the books well in advance!

In terms of cost, two of my anthologies - Brown Eyes and Hair Power Skin Revolution - were funded by the Arts Council England's Grants for the Arts Award. (I financed the second one - Sexual Attraction Revealed). I would strongly recommend that if your book idea is poetry and/or fiction, that you pursue a grant as then you are not only supported financially, but working on your application will force you to consider all the requirements of producing your book before you start.  If you have a track record in the field of creative writing, then this will go some way to your application being taken seriously.  


Author Nick Spalding's top 10 self-publishing tips

How to Successfully Self-Publish a Kindle eBook

Is your book a self-published masterpiece?

Should You Self Publish? 15 Questions

* Shangwe is an Eastern African female name; it means 'celebration.'


  1. Your journey has been amazing and I am so pleased you were the first person to publish my work. Can't wait for your forthcoming book!

  2. Hey Daniella, thanks, yes it has been quite an experience. It has been a pleasure publishing your work and to see your writing career glow!
    Thanks also for the envouragement re: my book, will keep you posted!