The NO FLY ZONE over northern Europe and UK affected far more than holiday-makers.

Kenyan farm workers were laid off, German car production was suspended due to a lack of spare parts, British fencers were stranded in Beijing – and for anyone involved in publishing, the 2010 London Book Fair, forecast to be the best ever – was a disaster.

One publisher told me that 70% of his meetings had been cancelled. American and Spanish agents were conspicuously absent but also unable to make it, the South African contingent held a ‘Not the London Book Fair’ in Cape Town. Good for them!

If anything the LBF was awash with aspiring authors. Writers are always lurking among the exhibition stands, but this year with the rising interest in self published works, they were out like a swarm of bees.

I listened to an excellent talk on the merits of DIY by Siobhan Curham, a successful young self published author who provided useful advice to any writer considering this route.

The strongest argument for self-publishing is that as publishing houses expect authors to do most of the marketing, why not go ahead and publish your book yourself.

All very well, but like any business, self publishing requires investment and not just the cost of paying a printer, or one of the many companies who specialise in this field. You must employ a competent editor and while family can be helpfully picky in pointing out typos, it is essential to pay a professional proof reader.

Ditto advice for the cover design. Don’t ask your best friend who is a dab hand at art. There are people specialising in book design and irrespective of the old adage – don’t judge a book by it’s cover -people do, and if the cover is less than exciting – it will likely inhibit sales.

So just as digital cameras have revolutionised photography, self publishing is coming into its own but it must be total commitment.

Writing is only part of it – marketing and distribution follow on – so unless you’ve got the time, the will and the means to invest in your project – don’t touch it. Otherwise go for it, best of luck and see you at next year’s London Book Fair.

Recommended reading: Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book ISBN 9 781568601427. Siobhan Curham

About Travels with My Hat

Australian photojournalist and author. Used London as a base for nearly forty years while freelancing in the Middle East, Arabian peninsular, Africa and South Asia. Have written and illustrated more than a dozen books and travel guides. Operates a well regarded religious images stock photo library: Live in Leura in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney.
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  1. Instead of waiting around, wringing my hands, waiting for a reply from an agent, I self-published my first novel and I'm so glad I did. There was a huge learning curve, but having total control was well worth it. I'm luckily to have an in with a great designer and a marketing background, so it was a natural fit for me, but there are so many companies specializing in self-publishing now that it's easy to get started. The internet really has made publishing accessible to everyone and, as you said, in situations like no-fly rules having that total control is a very good thing. Great post!

    • Thanks for your comment. MY reply is very late as I changed websites and am only now reading it in 2014! I have now self published and am very happy with the results. Travels with My Hat sold well as a first edition paperback and is now up as a POD and still selling. Thank you.

  2. C.O. says:

    Thanks for dropping by. I think anyone reading yr comment will be encouraged to take this route. The only point I may make is that I did see a lot of self-published books at the LBF which were pretty rough looking. They looked `amateur` as it were and as I see you`re in Florida, I should mention that I spoke to a US distribution agent at the fair who said, very arrogantly, no US company will touch a self published book – for this reason. This is why it is essential for SP authors to invest in their product to achieve a professional standard.

  3. Daisy says:

    Encouraged by this very comprehensive article. particularly on merits of DIY by Siobhan Curham and Duolit Consulting. I am going to go ahead myself – hoping for the best !

  4. Jules says:

    Your post has all the right advice about DIY. Lots to say about my own experience with self-publishing my novel Falling Glass … My problem was that I was in a hurry to get my book out, end of 2002, as it had a political background (1991 Gulf War) and the next war was looming. I was happy with how I produced my book, but my life fell into disarray… I sold my home and bought another right on book launch time, and this coupled with moving house consumed all my energy. I had stories published about me and my book in several newspapers, it was reviewed In Short (Spectrum, Sydney Morning Herald), Austn Book Review and Southerly (lit journals) but I ran out of steam… my point is… if you're going to do it, that's all you do… just the book.

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