When people ask why I self-published my first book, there’s a particular image that comes to mind: the box arriving from the printers, opening it up and scooping a copy from under the polystyrene packaging, like a kid who’d won a lucky dip prize at the fair.
I felt such excitement and an immense sense of satisfaction. Here was my first book, published – by me! So it had all been worth it. Those many months spent typing maniacally into the wee small hours. The painful editing process which never seems to end. Attempting to typeset and discovering how surprisingly long a supposedly small detail can take (a favourite example is an entire Friday night spent just finding and incorporating a fleuron. Yes, my social life was a hoot at the time). Mistakenly sending an out-of-date draft to a friend to proofread and other such wastes of time. The black type on white pages becoming nothing more than a blur, I’d looked at those same words so often. Technical glitches just as I was due to send the ready-to-print pdf. Setting a deadline to finish the book – the launch night! – and the actual arrival of the books being delayed, to the point where it was quite possible they wouldn’t arrive in time for the event.
[Goes to lie down in a darkened room while remembering these moments and many more].
But it was before all of this that I’d decided to self-publish Show Me Colour. Not long after I’d started writing it in fact. The theme played a major part in my decision: it’s a non-fiction book, about my personal experience of a sudden bereavement and grief. My journalism background coupled with my instinct told me my experience had the ingredients for a rich, emotional story and that it was ready to be told.
I didn’t want to wait for an agent at a random publishing house to decide this. And of course there was no guarantee that, even if I did send the manuscript, I’d ever hear anything back. Publishers I researched said to expect to hear back within six to eight months. A long time to wait! And If I did hear back would it involve changing large chunks of the book? I knew the style wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste – mind you, is any book to everyone’s taste? – but it was important to me that my story would be told my way.
I wanted to get it out there sooner rather than later. I wanted the shock and the rawness captured while I could still easily recall them. And I genuinely wanted to publish the book to help anyone else who found themselves in such a harrowing, dark place and who, like me, wondered if they were ever going to feel okay again.
Not every indie author has such a personal reason for choosing DIY publishing of course. And if you want to be the next Paula Hawkins and sell millions then a traditional publishing house is nearly always the way to go. But while my experience hasn’t brought me financial riches, it has been really satisfying in many other ways, from receiving that first print run, to getting creative with layout/design etc, to making good friends at a self-publishing Meetup group.
So much so I am going down the same route, and even using the same printers, for my (slightly) less personal second book, Build A Fire. And for anyone thinking about it I say go for it. Join the badass indie author clan! It’s so much more than the image-tarnished “vanity” publishing of long ago. It’s creative, fulfilling, potentially cost-effective, in your control, and it’s brave. All good things to have in life.
Show Me Colour is available from the shop section of this website.
Build A Fire – snapshots, in words and photos, of a trip from Maine to Miami – will be published in November 2017.
Details on how/where to buy will be posted here soon