Friday, 22 April 2016

Self Publishing Myths – Busted!

By JJ Marsh with Jane Davis

More misconceptions abound around self-publishing than ever before. Not surprising.
  • Indie-publishing (see below for definition) is constantly changing and finding its place on the literary scene/book marketplace.
  • As with any burgeoning industry, there are less-than-scrupulous companies happy to perpetrate such misconceptions to encourage people to part with large amounts of cash.
  • Information is sometimes contradictory, only outliers hit the headlines and the media still keep fanning the us v. them flames.

So let's take a look at common myths and hear some facts from indie publishers.

MYTH: Self-publishing means doing it all on your own.
Busted by JJ Marsh

Few respectable indie authors do everything themselves. This is why we eschew the term 'self-publishing'. Indie-publishing is about being the creative controller of your book. You write the content, find an editor, do the rewrite(s), source a proofreader, seek a cover designer/formatter, hire a web designer and perhaps even hire a marketing agency.

At Triskele Books, we believe in mutual support and using experts to make our books as professional as possible. Organisations such as Reedsy, Whitefox and Bookgarage curate lists of vetted professional services, and Alliance of Independent Authors members have access to ALLi's own recommended freelancers.

MYTH: No self-respecting author who is serious about their career would self-publish.
Busted by Jane Davis

I was going to be the next Joanne Harris. My debut won the Daily Mail First Novel Award, a competition advertised as the X-Factor of the book world.

But then Transworld exercised their first right of refusal of my second novel. It was beautifully written, but it wasn’t women’s fiction and they had put a lot of time and effort into promoting me as a writer of women’s fiction. Without my knowledge, I had been pigeon-holed.

In November 2012, I decided to investigate the facts for myself. I discovered that, far from being amateurish, self-published authors are a diverse group: authors who have walked away from six-figure deals, established authors who have been dropped by their publishers after their latest book didn’t sell quite so well, innovative authors whose work doesn’t fit the market, cross-genre authors who market themselves as a brand, best-selling authors who have never tried the traditional route, who were there at the right place, at the right time. It was a publishing revolution.

MYTH: You spend all your time marketing.
Busted by Fenella Miller
I do little marketing and I earn more than I did as a teacher.

My books continue to sell years after being published.

MYTH: Indie authors will never get an agent.
Busted by Alison Morton

I’ve signed with Blake Friedmann Literary Agency who will be representing me for translation, audio and other ancillary rights. Carole Blake read INCEPTIO and was bitten by the whole Roma Nova idea!

With all the other things I have to do, like writing books(!), I don’t have the time (or energy) to pursue these areas. Carole and her team have exactly the experience, expertise and contacts to exploit these rights properly for me.

MYTH: Indies can’t enter competitions.
 Busted by Elizabeth Ducie

There are a number of prestigious competitions specifically for indies: for example, The Self-Published Book of the Year Awards organised by Writing Magazine in UK and sponsored by the David St John Thomas Foundation. My debut novel Gorgito’s Ice Rink was runner up in 2015.

Many competitions are equally open to unpublished, traditionally published and self-published novels: for example the Society of Authors runs the Betty Trask (for authors under 35) and the McKitterick (for authors over 40) prizes.

Back in July 2014, author James Minter published on the ALLi blog a list of 50 awards and competitions for which self-published books are eligible. Some are specifically for indies, but many are open to traditionally published and indie books alike:

MYTH: You'll never get into bookshops.
Busted by Karen Power

In Nov 2014 - I launched Butterfly Barn, a contemporary women's fiction novel in my local bookshop - it sold over 300 print copies on the night of the launch. When Ireland's two wholesalers heard of its success they requested stock which helped distribution across Ireland. The book has sold over 3,000 print copies and sells online (This part is still a mystery to me). Also the Library Service took on the book and it's proving popular with book clubs.

Its success enabled me to continue to self-publish and in Dec 2015 On Butterfly Wings hit no.5 in original fiction on the Irish Bestsellers List.

MYTH: Traditional marketing methods don’t work.
Busted by Alex Klaushofer

The book I’ve self-published is a travelogue exploring emerging forms of spirituality in contemporary Britain - so a serious book in an area in which there’s plenty of eccentricity, in a genre that hasn’t proven itself in self-publishing (yet).

A key thing I needed to get it taken seriously was credibility so, once I realised I could use traditional means, I approached names I thought likely to be sympathetic for endorsements. Rowan Williams came good, with an endorsement that has often drawn comment, along with writers and editors in religious publishing.

MYTH: You'll only sell a few to friends and family.
Busted by Joanna Penn

I’m a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author, as well as writing non-fiction for authors. I’ve sold over 450,000 books in 74 countries and 5 languages and I’m an independent (indie) author.

While not every author will reach such impressive figures as Joanna's, many indies are making a steady income from their books and related writing activity such as journalism and speaking appearances.

MYTH: Indies are denied access to mainstream media.
Busted by Alison Ripley Cubitt

Alison Ripley Cubitt in The Telegraph

MYTH: You're better off with a trad-pub company.
Busted by Nicola Solomons, Chief Executive, Society of Authors.

Traditional publishers’ terms are no longer fair or sustainable. Almost all publishers ask for rights for the whole lifetime of copyright with very limited possibilities of getting your rights back, even if sales are woeful. Authors need to look very carefully at the terms publishers offer, take proper advice and consider: is it worth it, or are you better off doing it yourself?
MYTH: A book only gets one chance
Busted by Chrissie Parker

I would disagree.

My book Among the Olive Groves is set in Greece and since being published a few years ago sales have increased each summer.

The start of each season feels like a new release date, and the buzz begins all over again, which makes for a busy and exciting summer every year.

MYTH: ???

What myths have you encountered? And can you bust them?


  1. Brilliant myth busters! I think I've heard of all of them in my time as if people think they are 'warning' me of what's to come.

  2. We could have done twice as many, Louise. Thanks for your comment!

  3. With a title like "Dancing with Rejection" I would hardly have tolerated "rejection" letters from would-be I naturally decided to self-publish. This is a powerful and ultimately very useful article which, in the end, served to fortify my decision to go "indie". Thanks from

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.