A dirty word? – 07/03/2014


In the last few weeks I’ve talked to a lot of people from all walks of life about my book and there is one tricky area I come to each time – when do I first mention the dirty word? Mention it too early and some people lose interest; leave it too late and it’s like you’re hiding it; don’t mention it at all and you’re a fraud. So – when do you first say it? When do you first say “self-published”?

I’ll be honest, I still feel a bit awkward about self-publishing. Why? Well, I spent the best part of a decade trying to get Saturday Night Jack published and I failed. I guess that’s part of the reason. Nobody likes failure and I’m particularly bad at it. Also, let’s be honest, most people assume if something is self-published then it’s not good enough to be taken on by a publisher. Right? Maybe I’m reading too much in to it, but when I mention SNJ is self-published I feel some people are already judging it and judging me.

Happily, the demons in my head have had very little bearing on reality, so far at least. Most people I speak to about SNJ think that finishing it in the first place was a great achievement, full stop. I’ve also had a lot of supportive emails and tweets from people praising me for going it alone and ditching the traditional publishing deal. Critically for my self-esteem, the sheer number of positive reviews I’ve had about the book has justified my decision to self-publish. It’s incredibly gratifying to think it has given a lot of people a lot of pleasure.

There’s no doubt about it, thanks to this early success I am getting better about using the dirty word. It’s just a description. In fact, it’s the reality of modern publishing for so many first time writers. And do you know what, I’m growing to be more and more proud of it as each day passes. What I’ve achieved, I’ve achieved on my own.

A year ago, I had never spoken to anyone who had published their own book and through the wonderful world of social media, I’ve had fantastic advice, notably from Louise Voss, Polly Courtney and particularly Mel Sherratt whose success has been a model of inspiration. Coming from the cutthroat world of news journalism, I had no idea that writers were such a friendly bunch to newcomers. A year ago I knew nothing about designing a cover, writing blogs, getting hard copies made, what to wear to a launch party… so far it has all been tremendous fun – fun I am completely in control of.

Yes, self-publishing is very liberating and fulfilling… etc etc… you’ve probably read all about it from people with far more experience than me. But the fact of the matter is that anything that is published and wants to be taken seriously has to be of the highest possible quality. While I didn’t get a publishing deal, SNJ is infinitely better as a result of two major rewrites under the guidance of agents who showed an interest. While they didn’t take it on, I will forever appreciate their guidance on plot, structure and character development. SNJ has also been edited and proof read. It’s essential to get this kind of help.

I spend a lot less time now thinking about the past and what could have been. Ultimately I wanted to get SNJ off my computer’s hard drive and out there for people to read. Frankly, I am delighted with what’s happened so far and I’m already enjoying making plans for a second book. Self-publishing has allowed me to do all this. A dirty word? I don’t think so. Not any more. Not to me.