Some months ago, ALLi worked with Dr Alison Baverstock on her most recent investigations into self-publishing, the findings from which will be published soon. Here she gives us a sneak peek at what the research revealed about indie authors.
What I found [in my research] was in direct contrast to previously widely held assumptions about self-publishing authors. Our findings revealed that that their motivations were more often connected to completion and future discoverability than money; that they enjoyed the process; that they would do so again and recommend it to others.
And that self-publishing brings happiness.
Publishers have long assumed that only if nearing professional standards could a self-published product bring any satisfaction. My research has revealed the opposite. Self-publishers a) approach the process confidently, b) are well-informed, and aware of how much the process will cost and how long it is likely to take and c) emerge both keen to do it again and likely to recommend it to others.
I emerged from the process with many reasons for admiring self-publishers, but I will confine myself here to just five:
1.Self-Publishers Finish & Ship
If it’s true that a significant proportion of the population feel they have a book in them, or that getting a book published is the second most common New Year’s resolution, then it’s odd how few people seem to prioritize the writing bit.
2. Self-Publishers Take Responsibility
My definition of self-publishing is the taking of personal responsibility for the management and production of work. It doesn’t have to be for wider circulation, or even to make money, but the taking responsibility is crucial. This is brave. It’s also personally risky. Work made available is not always received in the same spirit as which it is shared.
3. Self-Publishers Are Resourceful
59% of my research cohort had used an editor and 21% had taken legal advice. Support has been variously obtained: from friends and colleagues; paid for support; some via the internet. Many of those dubbed self-publishers are in fact operating in small teams, buying in services as needed.
4. Self-Publishers Identify New Readerships
Self-publishers have drawn attention to previously overlooked demand (memoirs, fantasy and soft porn being particularly good examples). But a new market does not have to be vast, or public, to matter. Many self-publishers have taken care of content they valued, and ensured it will be discoverable by their families and friends in the future, should they want to know. Worth doing, I say.
5. Self-Publishers Are Mutually Supportive
The motivations of self-publishers are various, and range from those who identify instinctively with the freedom (principally the lack of mediation) self-publishing allows, decide to proceed in this way because they feel bruised by continual rejection from the traditional industry – or have never tried to find an external publisher.
Whatever their starting point, they seem to be a remarkably supportive bunch. The personality of the writer has been investigated, and we are apparently notorious for jealousy; one person’s success necessarily being viewed as diminishing the opportunities of others – or as Gore Vidal so memorably put it: ‘Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.’
But attend a meeting of self-published authors and you will experience something quite different – the atmosphere of mutual encouragement is palpable. Self-publishers will share information on the process, freely offer the names of suppliers they trust, and seem genuinely pleased for each others’ success.
What do you think? Agree with this analysis? What research question would you like answered?