Tag Archives: Self-publishing

Why we don’t even try

Let’s be clear about this. Some of the best books I’ve read have been self-published.


You couldn’t put it better than Ron Charles in the Washington Post; ‘No, I don’t want to read your self-published book.’ He in turn based his article on Roger Sutton’s post for The Horn Book. They both know what it’s like to be inundated with top quality books they have no time for.

So do I, but not to the same degree as them. And I do not exist merely to review new books. I am here to read and enjoy myself, and then tell people about it, even if the book is positively ancient.

I want to be kind, and open-minded. Just not to the extent I become unwell, and the self-published label is a good place to begin the pruning of my incoming post.

Just the other day I had an offer I found reasonably easy to refuse:

‘We’d love to offer you the opportunity to serialise the novel each day during the eponymous month [of November]. Or if you prefer we can provide an extract, a review copy (as a PDF/Kindle only) or an interview with the author. The book is in the literary fiction genre and is aimed at grown-ups. It includes some swearing, and drug taking, and lots of attempted suicide – so although it is a very funny book, it’s not really suitable for children.’

Yeah, Bookwitch would be the ideal place for it, wouldn’t it?

At the other end of the spectrum, I was offered an interview with a celebrity, who’s written their first children’s book. But the celebrity is too busy to actually meet for an interview, because a celebrity status comes with a lot of work. I can understand that. We should be grateful there was enough time for the book to be written. Which may be excellent. I just don’t intend to find out.

Little orphaned Ondine

I must be careful. Very careful. If I’m not, you’ll find Ebony McKenna has taken over as chief Bookwitch. Which would at least mean you’d be well entertained. As you may have noticed in yesterday’s review of her third Ondine book, it is an ebook. Below is her background story as to why.

‘I hate orphans. Not actual orphans (poor loves) but the trope of orphans in fiction.

They started in fairytales and never went away, did they? The loner who has to face the world – alone – with no parental figures to offer sanctuary; the plucky victim of circumstance who wins the prize based on their sheer goodness/magical abilities/discovery of the elixir. Orphans may have reflected the times they were originally from – mothers who died in childbirth, parents who died in battle or from the pox – but they’re an anachronism today.

Which is why I made sure Ondine wasn’t an orphan. When her story first crashed into my brain she was an orphan. Because I picked that low-hanging fruit. But as her character became flesh and blood she grew a family. Two older sisters and parents who treated her like a baby, plus a batty great auntie slash mentor. Love and conflict all rolled up together. Plus, she worked in a pub, surrounded by people. Family, magic mayhem and a talking ferret. I’d captured lightning in a bottle.

Ondine and her sequel found generous parents at Egmont in the UK, who doted on her, educated her and gave her the prettiest clothes. They sent her off to the ball bookshop, in hope of finding true love with readers.

Many readers did love Ondine. Laika films showed interest in adapting the story for animation. Alas there were more books that were prettier, had wealthier suitors, were more glittering . . . and I’m clubbing this fairytale analogy to death.

Ondine had two big adventures in the bookstores in the UK and Commonwealth, but all the love and care in the world wasn’t enough to guarantee a third outing (let alone a planned fourth). Around this time, bookstores were closing and the GFC was kneecapping everything. Times were bad, especially for authors.

My anti-orphan series became an orphan.

If my life were a book, this would be ‘the black moment’, where all is lost and love is not enough.

After gobbling chocolate through a funnel, it was time to look at options. The first step was to take advantage of ‘the rest of the world’ rights I’d retained, so I could self-publish the first two Ondine novels as ebooks into the USA, Russia, China, Japan and Moldova (which has eerie similarities with Brugel, where Ondine is set. For starters, neither has won Eurovision).

Ebony McKenna, The Winter of Magic

The thing about self-publishing is you have to do it all yourself. Which means hiring everyone to do the things an author can’t do.

Fate had not completely given me the middle finger; I found an editor who used to work with Egmont, who was now living in my home country, Australia. Naturally I hired her to edit the next two novels in the series. I hired a cover designer to give the series a stunning new look. I hired a formatting company to crunch the pixels into shape so the novels would be available everywhere good downloads were sold. All the while I kept writing, because that’s what had gotten me into this fix in the first place, and it would be what got me out of it.

Now the Ondine ‘trequel’ is available worldwide. The Winter of Magic has me brimming with tears of joy. Relief is in there too. Terror gets a mention – it’s always scary putting a book out there into the world, however it’s published.

There is also pride. Not a boastful pride, but a quiet, satisfied sense of a job well done; a wellspring of hope as my orphaned Ondine gets to dance at the ball once again.’

Thank you, Ebony! And don’t worry too much about Eurovision. One day Brugel will win. (Also, please keep writing.)