Self-publishing? Why do it?
There are many answers to that question and one was delivered to me on plate, as it were, by a guy I had lunch with. He’s a writer who has self-published one book and is working on his second.
‘It’s the arrogance of the publishing world, that gets me,’ he began. ‘They treat us writers as if we’re nothing, not even human beings unless we look like a money. If the publisher can’t hear the ‘Cha Ching, Cha Ching, Cha Ching’ of money falling into their laps you’re of no use to them. “Why be polite or treat writers with respect unless we can guarantee a huge financial return”, that’s their thinking. If I had 100,000 follows on Facebook or Instagram it would different. They’d snap me up then.’
When he finished his first book he followed the submission guidelines of a large publishing house and sent the first 50 pages to them. They needed a hard copy.
He had included some coloured illustrations of old posters, old tickets and programs to illustrate his words. He loved these and hoped the publisher would too. With considerable effort and some expense he had all this printed in glorious colour at Officeworks.
He was enthusiastic, ‘They did a great job. The colours were so good I even thought I could frame some of them.’
He packed it all up with a stamped address envelope and a letter asking them to return the pages if they didn’t want his book and delivered the package by hand to the publisher’s Melbourne office. The submission guidelines said that they would contact him within three months if they wanted to discuss his work. After the three months authors could assume they did not want to publish them.
My friend waited. The time dragged. He had another writing project but he couldn’t concentrate on it. He checked the mail box daily looking for his stamped address envelope. As the days passed and became weeks he got hopeful.
His thinking was that if they didn’t want it, they’d have turned it around quickly. The weeks rolled into a couple of months and his hope grew into a sort of damped down excitement.
Two weeks after the three month deadline. He rang the publisher.
He didn’t know who to talk to but the girl who answered the phone said she was the one and said,
“We don’t return manuscripts.’
He hardly listened. ‘I sent a stamped addressed envelope and ask you to send it back?’
‘Oh we don’t ever do that. We don’t send them back’ she repeated.
He could feel the heat of his anger rising in his chest, ‘Why not? It cost me to get it all printed. The envelope was there. Stamped and everything. All you had to do was shove the pages in and post it.’
He said he was beginning to shout and tried to lower his voice and asked,
‘What did you do with them?’
The receptionist was calm.
‘ Oh… if we don’t want to take it any further, we bin them.’
‘Bin them?’ He hardly got this out before she said something about good luck with your book and was gone.
When he’d finished telling me this he had to take a few deep breaths to calm down. The he said,
‘No apology! Nothing! The call was over and I was left hanging there. I tell you these publishers don’t think of us as people. And I can tell you another thing. When one of my books is successful and they’re begging to publish it I’ll have great delight in telling them where to get off.’ He stopped for a breath and as I didn’t know what to say I said nothing. Another breath and he was calmer. ‘I don’t believe they even looked at my stuff. How would any of us know what they do with it? They could just look at my name, Google it, say ‘No money there’ and without any further ado bin it. How would any of us know if that’s what happens?’
“Trust the process” I suggested.
“Trust.” He spat the word out ‘They wouldn’t know the meaning of the word if reared up and bit them.’
To be fair and I’m trying to be fair because I’ve had submissions disappear into the black-publishing-hole but this publishing house, as do others, make it clear in their guidelines that they won’t be returning material. We, the ever hopeful authors will hear from them if they are interested in our stuff. They are obviously true to their word and it is disheartening.
Which brings me to Affirm Press who didn’t want my stuff either but they sent me a quick email saying, ‘Thank you and we wish you success.’ I was overcome with gratitude. And I really minded that they didn’t want to work with me. What wonderful people to be associated with. I emailed back to thank them for their courtesy – so rare in the publishing world.
A recent publication of theirs ‘the bee and the orange tree‘ by Melissa Ashley has the most beautiful cover. Or do I think it is beautiful because I like green? Check it out.
If any of you are thinking of a publisher do me a favour and put Affirm at the top of your list. They are just as likely to be thinking ‘Cha Ching, Cha Ching, Cha Ching ’ but there is a hint of humanity and the lack of arrogance that so hurt and angered my lunch friend.
My flower of the moment – the rose!
Melbourne is packed full of roses at the moment. Every rose plant in the whole of the city is heavy with flowers. Even in properties I manage where the garden and the roses are ignored they fight that neglect and are weighed down with blossom. This simple white bloom is one of my favourites.