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Self Publishing: A Good Idea?

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Writing comes with a Catch-22… no, not the book, though it is well recommended. As you may be aware there are lots of writers in this world (look in the library, lots of books, lots of writers wrote those books). Now, once you’ve written your book or script or story or whatever, you think ‘right, I’ll just send this to (insert random publisher here)’. You think they will go ‘Perfect, get David on the phone we have a cheque for him.’


You’d be lying if you say you hadn’t thought this way. Everyone has. But writing, as with everything, is a struggle and the biggest struggle we have to deal with is that fact there are simply too many writers. Publishers themselves receive thousands of manuscripts a week and if they haven’t asked for them they will either bin without looking at them or take a glance and then send the heartbreaking ‘does not meet our criteria’ letter. How do you break through? It’s simple, you get yourself an agent.

However, here lies the Catch-22:

‘To get an agent you must be published, to be published you must have an agent.’

Ok, I’ll let your brain stop swelling for a moment at that conundrum before I continue.

Yes, Agents also receive hundreds and thousands manuscripts a week and can only take on maybe one or two new clients a year. So you’re sitting there with potentially the next Harry Potter and after bumping into obstacle after obstacle it looks destined to become just another few MB on your computer or a few hundred printed pages under the bed.

Not anymore!

Disclaimer from Matt: Other self-publishing services are available. Comment if you recommend any ;-)

Disclaimer from Matt: Other self-publishing services are available. Comment if you recommend any ;-)

You can now self publish without the worries that a lot of self publishing has come with before thanks to the website www.lulu.com. Whereas before, if you wanted to self publish, you would have to pay for printing and manufacturing costs and purchase a number of books with the hope that you will recoup the money by selling the books, this is no longer the case. Lulu allows you to place your book on their site and depending on how much profit revenue you would like to receive for each book sold you can price them as you want and not spend a penny. When someone purchases a book it is simply printed on demand and sent to them direct.

How does this work? First up you must have a completed book. For those with just an idea, or halfway through, click Back and return in another few months when you’re done. Your book will not be proofread or edited by Lulu and so all spelling mistakes, grammatical errors need to be looked at by yourself before you put it on the site. If you have thought this far ahead in terms of what you want the book to look like you can upload pictures for the cover, however they do stress that these are original works and not copyrighted images. If you don’t, you can simply design the colour and font of the type of the book and then go.

Just Like Starting Over, by David Simpson on Lulu.

A few clicks and then there! Done!

This is where you really need to think about the ‘Why’ of all this, as in:

‘Why did you write this book?’

If you wrote it to make you a multi-millionaire then self publishing could be a great first step, or a bad one. Unless you have a cult fan base already, the amount of books you sell will be minimal, less than one hundred if you are lucky and though this is still a great amount, if all you are receiving is £2 profit from each book, the potential £200 isn’t exactly enough to give up your day job. (Remember most writers in the real world exist on their advance, the profit they get from the book can sometimes be less than 15%) Setting a price is a complicated issue, but personally depending on whether you actually want to make a profit I’d suggest the lower the better as obviously the more copies that exist in the world, the more exposure your book gets. Even if you were just to buy a number of your books to send to local newspapers, editorial columns or even agents, the price will be lower for you too.


Getting your book available on Amazon is certainly an attractive proposition.

Personally I think the whole idea of self-publishing could also be used as the greatest confidence boost to writers ever. How many of us have dreamt of having a book published and done? Some people will never see this and yet with this site, this seemingly impossible task is possible. You can send a copy to your Mum and Gran and have them place it on their bookshelves between Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker. Once you have that book in your hands, bound, the flow of confidence is amazing and then all those rejection letters, all those letters that said they ‘couldn’t see a market for it’ soon melt away. Granted, you still won’t find the book in Waterstones or your local library; however with this simple act you can be on Amazon and be accessed by millions of people who are just browsing through that site.

With sites like Facebook, Myspace and others also helping to promote what you place on Lulu you could find that this is the ticket to a million pound book deal.

Is it cheating? Not really. This is more like showing the writers what can be done if they were given the chance and rather than just letting all that hard work go to waste, doing something about it. It’s a blow to all those people who said it would never be a book and potentially the first step to real publication.