Saturday, 11 January 2014

Once again on self-publishing

From time to time I've crossed swords with self-publishers. Just to repeat - my general view is that the editorial, marketing and structural support offered by proper publishers helps. But I would say that, wouldn't I? Five Leaves - as a publisher does not feel threatened by the rise of self-publishing. Let 1000 flowers bloom and all that. But it is - generally - much harder to get self-published books reviewed, stocked in libraries and stocked in bookshops. Of course, that does not stop the occasional self-published writer selling squillions of their books outside the booktrade. Fine. Nor does that mean the Five Leaves Bookshop will never take self-published books, ones that look like proper books, are printed like proper books, are proof-read, edited, designed and written like proper books. I could even give a list of self-published books I think are as good, if not better than mainstream titles.
Unfortunately that rules out a lot of self-published work. Two small examples... a self-published book by someone I know to be a good writer... but he's kinda old fashioned, in that after every full stop he puts in an extra space. Typists used to do that on their typewriters. But not for the last three decades (I used to be a secretary, though not a good one). So my good writer friend self-publishes the book and that extra space, when the text is justified, throws out a lot of bad breaks and words like May, after a full stop, wandering about at the end of a line like it wants to escape. Shame, but any publisher would have picked that up and it makes the book look amateur.
The second is a rather nice woman who came to the bookshop with a rather nice book about a teddy going to Buckingham Palace. Leaving aside that the Bookshop is not likely to stock a book with a front cover of a teddy waving a Union Flag (as opposed to a more acceptable union flag...) we got into discussion about children's books. A short discussion as the woman had never heard of Maurice Sendak or Michael Morpurgo. Now lots of people have never heard of these two, but lots of people are not trying to write or sell children's books.
I was reminded of those who want to write poetry but never read poetry. The equivalent of wanting to be a brain surgeon while skipping doing any medical training.
Until the revolution, our landlord wants to be paid, and our workers would be pleased to get their wages most months (that's a joke, guys) so down at the Bookshop we have to make business decisions. If I think a book won't sell I might stock it, what the hell, but that is a choice. I might like the writer's work or just think the book is so important that SOMEBODY out there might pick it up. But I can't fill the shop with books I don't think will sell or are inappropriate, however much they mean to the self-published author.
Cruel, eh?

1 comment:

Margaret Penfold said...

Swings and Roundabouts. Ross,re spacing after full stops. 20 years ago a young teacher informed me that I was old fashioned to be using single spaces after full stops and that now I had a word processor there was no excuse for me not to be using double spaces. I followed his advice diligently with the result I had to edit out all the second spaces after having my novel accpted by a publisher. I had to replace my double speechmarks for single ones to. I suppose it all saves paper so has to be a good thing.