Diane Hall, developmental editor and provider of 'shelf help' self-publishing services
Diane Hall

Why there's never been a better time to be a DIY author...

Despite a lingering sense of elitism in the publishing world, a very hard slog to be noticed by the right readers for your book, and the fact that it’s now as common to write a book as it is to holiday in Spain, the time to be a self-publishing author has never been better.

You’re no longer constrained by traditional publishers’ slushpiles, and the commissiong editor working for those houses. They have no say on whether your book can, or should, be available.

You’re also not governed by the local (or national) book store owner, who, with limited shelving, has to be savvy about the books he/she takes on. To imitate Gandelf, “Your book shall pass…”

You’re also not obliged to chase the tails of successful and mid-list authors. There’s enough room for all. The internet has never-ending shelves, and the whole world as consumers, tuning in day after day. The possibilities to have them see, digest and love your book are endless.

There’s no limit to how your book looks, how many words it carries, nor is it anyone else’s final decision how it’s written. Though sensible authors would do well to involve editors, designers and typesetters in the production of their book, if only to produce a top-notch product (why turn people off with a half-arsed version?), there are people out there who will work to your budget. It’s just shelf help.

Producing your own book is no more vanity publishing than someone cooking their own tea instead of relying on a Michelin-starred chef. They can – and do – use all the same ingredients – and who knows what talent lies with the DIYer? The truth of whether it’s as good as the professionals’, can only be confirmed by those devouring.

If you took all the niche book sales in the world (or books that sell a few hundred copies), and added them together, they would far outweigh sales of the ‘hits’. Think of the numbers JK Rowling and EL James have sold between them. ‘Little sellers’ are still the more profitable market, and all of them can be displayed somewhere on the internet.

Don’t worry that your sales are not those of Stephen King. And don’t even let it concern you that there are already many, many books out there. Concentrate instead on maximising your little pool of buyers. Nurture them, keep producing books for them, take an interest in who they are. Eventually, you will reach a tipping point, and through volume and consistency your platform will grow.

So, go forth and write, my little literary soldiers. The Long Tail of books sales is yours to manipulate.

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