Self-Publishing with Pride (and Passion)

(as featured on my weekly Huffington Post blog)

What to do if you're not JK Rowling, you don't have a big publishing house to promote you but you're determined to make your book a success?

You've written your book. You've had it edited and proofread*. You've received a respectable amount of rejection letters from publishers, and now you want to get it out into the world. Where do you start? 

Six months ago, self-publishing was a dirty word in my book. It was for old people who write dusty memoirs and nutters who ramble for 800 pages about giant lizards taking over the world.

But after a ten year apprenticeship of three and a half novels and a road littered with a big agent, several near misses with publishers and my own fair share of rejection letters, I eventually had to change my mind.

At first I found the world of self-publishing pretty scary. One end consists of hundreds of companies offering packages costing thousands of pounds and promising to make my book a success. Yeh! The other end was the cheap-seats Load-it-up-on Amazon yourself and hope for the best.  

Being so technophobic, I can barely plug in a toaster, the latter was too traumatising, but I certainly wasn't about to part with £5,000 (that's what the top end self-publishing houses can charge just to get your book out there, without even any PR and marketing).

About a month into my research, I read about a one day Guardian Masterclass called the Secrets of successful self-publishing.

Initially I hesitated at the £150 price tag, but it turned out to be worth its weight in gold. Presented by Joanna Penn, in eight hours I learnt more about self-publishing (pitfalls and all) than the previous four weeks of brain-fry. It gave me the bare-bone mechanics of getting my book out there, warned me off some (but not all) of the self-publishing companies, told me how to promote the book in a crowded market place and above all, instilled a feeling of 'I can actually do it - and it's not such a shameful secret.' What I also loved was her message that 'We're all in this together - it's about co-operation not competition.'

I emerged with a completely new attitude - I would self-publish with pride (and passion). That was six months ago and since then, I've been lucky enough to meet with, amongst others; the former head of digital marketing at Harper Collins, the director of a traditional publishing house, a highly experienced online editor, a book blogging expert, an Amazon algorithm whizz and a seasoned Twitter aficionado. All of who were able to give me advice that I couldn't find anywhere else. So in this new spirit of cooperation, I am going to pass it on.

To lighten the tone, I'm also going to include some of the happy coincidences which happened along the way, together with some of the grub I ate whilst criss-crossing London to learn about self-publishing. Nothing fancy - just a cheese and pickle sarnie here, an orange flavoured flapjack there, - but definitely worth noting, in my book.

Next week: When is the best time to publish?

What I ate : a very nice moussaka at the Masterclass.

Nb But this delicious Moussaka was made by the Grain Shop in Portobello Road, because I felt too naff taking pictures of food in the Guardian's canteen.