To self publish or not self publish?

MANY YEARS ago the late lamented publisher Steve McDonagh stated that it was something of a lottery to have a book publisher in Ireland and that too many good books never saw the light of day while too many bad ones did.

With the present day commercial exigencies and the increasing cautiousness of most established publishers the difficulties new and upcoming writers – especially authors of fiction – are experiencing in having their work published have become more pronounced. The adage “publish and be damned” has become something of an anachronism.

Out of sheer frustration many writers are having recourse to publishing their own work, a path that promises much, thanks to the great technical advances in the printing industry. In fact, it is a path fraught with many difficulties and instead of finding their book at the top of the Bestsellers List – or themselves on the Late Late Show - the author ends up with countless boxes of unread copies cluttering his/her living room.

Most of these publications slip into literary oblivion and the author returns to the day job wiser but poorer. Occasionally, the trend is bucked and a self published title reaches the shelves gaining for its author a modicum of success. One such publication, The Delegation, written by Limerick man Mick Moloney even enjoyed a brief spell on the Bestsellers list.

By way of answer to the question as to what made these books different, the story behind Anne McCabe’s Under The Avalanche, is revealing and informative.

The manuscript, along with several others, lay, as McCabe herself puts it, buried under the bed and seemed fated to remain there forever. Her participation in a book club, however, as well as her experience as a television producer and director, encouraged her to pass the manuscript around to the other members of her club.

Their positive reaction further encouraged her to go a step further. She had a number produced in mock book format and passed these around her friends including – as she said – the acid test, her own family. Once again, the response was positive.

McCabe then consulted with the local booksellers and discovered that her chances of having the novel published in the current climate were extremely slight. She also found out that there were a number of ‘print on demand’ publishers in Ireland, one of which, the Dublin based The Author’s Friend, had Galway connections. She called them, cut a deal and, within three weeks, to her intense delight, had 500 copies of Under The Avalanche to hand.

Generally, the story ends there but not in McCabe’s case. Realising that unless she did something about it, the books would end up in her living room, she organised readings in Galway and Wicklow (where the story of the book is based ), worked hard to have it in all the shops, used her contacts to engender local publicity, and ran a successful launch in Galway.

More importantly, however, she sees this as a test case. McCabe realises that although she has worked and reworked the text several times, the book is in need of a professional edit. As against this, if the positive reactions continue and the 500 copies sell (this, I believe, has already been achieved ) then she would have created a platform from which to go national with this one, as well as a track record which will greatly help her to find an established publisher for the other manuscripts still under the bed.

Having read and enjoyed Under the Avalanche in its present state, I feel there is a strong chance that these manuscripts will see the light of day before long.

 

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