E-publish & be damned!


Posted by in October's Magazine

It was the moment I’d always dreamed of: seeing the title of my debut novel on a poster on Leith Walk – all bright, colourful and commercial. The moment when I finally gave birth to the idea I’d been gestating for longer than I care to remember. Trouble is, the poster wasn’t for my novel, which remained unpublished and unknown. Rather it was a poster for Weekender, a film about the late 90s rave scene that shared the same name as my novel. A film that I’ve been reliably informed is mince. Hmmmmm.

There was always the risk this would happen. I’d first started penning my masterpiece more than a decade ago and Weekender was a pretty cool title. Someone was bound to use it sooner or later. I wasn’t surprised, just pissed off. Then a friend suggested e-publishing and before I knew it Weekender was competing with the world’s bestsellers on the Amazon website.

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When I first started writing, self-publishing was merely a vanity project designed to give one the illusion of being published. The few dozen paperbacks the courier dropped at your door went no further than your parents’ coffee table or the local charity shop. Actually selling them to the public was practically impossible.

The web has changed all that. Now anybody with a PC can publish their work electronically, create a front cover and add tags to entice potential readers. And it can all be done remarkably quickly and easily too. Once e-published your work is ‘out there’ no matter how badly written or incomprehensible it is. And it will stay there pretty much for ever. This recent explosion of self-publishing is a remarkable phenomenon and one that has the publishing industry biting its nails – or at least giving them the occasional, nervous, file.

Oodles of cash
But, as any author knows, getting published is only the beginning. It’s marketing that delivers lasting success and this is the hardest thing to do on the web, where millions of products jostle for space. Without access to newspaper reviews, billboards and bookshop windows, letting people know your book is out there – and worth reading – is a major challenge. Add to that the fact that your novel is only available electronically for the kindle and iphone (and possibly some other ‘platforms’ I’m not aware of), and that thousands of other people are self-publishing on the same site as you every day, and suddenly your target market becomes small and very saturated. Making oodles of cash is pretty unlikely. And there’s very little chance that an established publisher will subsequently take on your work and create the beautiful paperback you’d always dreamed of. You’ve made your choice.

Self-publishing should therefore not be taken lightly. I rushed into it on a whim, as I tend to do with most things, bizarrely hoping that the release of a film of the same name might send some attention my way. But I also did so because I had exhausted the conventional route to getting my work published. Contacting agents is a thankless, lonely task. That I finished my novel at the height of the recession didn’t help either. Timing isn’t my strong point. Some agents got back to me, offered me encouragement, told me they enjoyed my book but couldn’t take it on at this time. Most never replied. It was in to this vacuum, seeking feedback and direction but getting precious little of either, that I had been staring for two years when the electronic route presented itself.

Writing for me was always about getting my work finished and out there. I conceived an idea that I believe is original, wonderful and, without being arrogant, genius too. As the writer you have to believe that. That idea stayed in my head for years, leaking slowly onto the page in frustrating bursts until it eventually formed a book. A book that, for me at least, perfectly encapsulates the contemporary Edinburgh I know and hate and love. A book that I know people will take great pleasure in, and which people who have read it enjoyed immensely.

What’s your market?
I didn’t write Weekender with a target audience in mind. I didn’t write it to corner a particular market (one of the first things an agent will ask is “what’s your market?”). And I certainly didn’t write it to make money. I wrote from the heart and now, thanks to the wonders of the web, my work is immortalised and enjoys its own wee, albeit obscure, corner of the literary world.

Roland Tye is from Edinburgh. Weekender – his first novel – is set in the capital’s recent past. It follows various residents over the course of a weekend and eleven very different tales, jumping from one character to the next as their paths cross. Along the way there’s sex, drugs, violence, alcohol, football, love, betrayal, redemption, more alcohol, more love and a man who believes that a bubble travels around his body under the surface of his skin…

Info: More information can be
found at www.discoverweekender.co.uk
Information on how to e-publish your work is at www.kdp.amazon.com

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