The Peaks and Pitfalls of Self-Publishing: Writer’s Block on Saint FM with Sarah Banham

This evening I guested on Sarah Banham’s Writer’s Block radio show on Saint FM, an hour-long programme dedicated to all things writing and creative industry within the county of Essex (England, UK). The show aims to support local writers and creative people within the region, as well as to promote their work and to support the industry in general. The host, Sarah Banham, is an author herself with seven published titles to her name. She also runs a creative writing consultancy business (Love of Books), offering mentoring and other creative services.

Following my recent (and ongoing) issues with Amazon and CreateSpace, she invited me to the show to speak about this experience and self-publishing in general.

The interview began with Sarah asking me why I had decided, for my book Rhythmythical, on self-publishing. And our conversation progressed to cover the recent issues I have encountered, as well as more positive experiences with self-publishing. I thought it would be nice to post a short summary of the interview here to recap:

Why choose self-publishing?

  • It was something that I hadn’t yet experienced, and I wanted to learn about and explore self-/independent publishing. I saw it as a learning curve, a way of finding out about the area and ‘testing the waters’ as to the various strengths and disadvantages. Ahead of completing my novel, and with a small collection of poems waiting for publication, it seemed like a natural next step.
  • I liked the idea of greater control over my work. Whilst this also allows for more responsibilities and roles that I would personally need to attend to (compared with traditional publishing), that I would have complete say and authority over my work was appealing. And the additional work was not something that worried me, quite the opposite. I could work at my own pace.
  • It would perhaps aid in the future with publication of my novel. If I could build up enough interest through self-published projects, perhaps this would bode well in my favour for any potential traditional publishers I would one day approach. Alternatively, perhaps my experience would make it clear that self-publishing was the way I should go with any future projects as well.

What are the recent pitfalls you have experienced?

  • I recently ordered a small bulk order of my books, but when they arrived the quality was very, very poor. I arranged for these books to be replaced, but the replacements also arrived in the same condition. Since this time, I have been in discussion with Amazon who are investigating the issue – and am currently waiting for an update, and satisfactory resolution. Sadly, the level of customer service so far has been very disappointing and the situation is ongoing.
  • This experience has made me very aware that there are areas over which I do not have any control whatsoever. Previously, allowing the printing to all be done by a print-on-demand company seemed like an ideal, and logical way to operate. However, the quality of the books that I received is amazing. They are so much worse than I could ever have imagined. Out of 72 different copies, I was unable to find even one book that I was prepared to keep. This makes me very worried about the quality of any of my books that have been sold and sent out to customers. I also feel that this impacts quite negatively on me, and further works to negatively taint my other work. It’s really not a nice feeling, and the more I think about it – the worse it gets. There are so many things affected.
  • All of the things I had hoped to do, planned for, contacted ahead of receipt of the books is now either on hold, or has been postponed or cancelled indefinitely (until this situation is resolved). Again, it makes me feel as though I am the one at fault – though it’s not something I had any control or say over. I certainly would never have allowed books in such a condition to be sent to anybody, had I been involved in the printing and delivery process.
  • Because of this, I’ve removed my books from CreateSpace completely and closed my account. I’m waiting for an update on the removal of my books from the Amazon website, and so am currently in the position of not being able to move forward until I hear back from them. I currently can’t order any copies of my book, nor can I initiate an alternative publication process.

Has anything positive come from your experience of self-publishing?

  • I have learned a lot about the process, and have identified several areas (such as printing) where the level of say/control you, as the author, have varies depending on the methods and companies you choose and work with. I was not as keenly aware of this before this experience, so this is something quite useful.
  • I have also learned a lot about online marketing, promotion, and bookselling as an independently published author. I have learned about the self-publishing industry in general, and the various ways that ebook success is measured.
  • I set out to explore self-publishing as a new experience and learning curve, and I definitely got what I was looking for.

We also talked a little bit about NaNoEssex and National Novel Writing Month – a global writing challenge that takes place every November, and that we are both involved with.

I’d like to thank Sarah and Saint FM for inviting me to their show tonight, and for allowing me to share this experience with their listeners.

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