? More ways to get those budding literary masterpieces aired

In his article in Issue 2 Why the Publishing Industry is Failing Writers, James Essinger argues that the traditional publishing industry is no longer interested in publishing books by unknown authors. Chris Grayling adds to the options available to budding authors.

In other words, the route trodden in previous years by writers is now, more or less, no longer open. The reason is obvious – publishers want to make money and the best way of doing that is by only backing books written by people who are already famous.

Essinger’s other gripe is that mainstream publishers won’t admit to using this methodology. Instead they resort to ridiculous subterfuges in order to reject submitted work. Why don’t publishers, he wonders, just admit that they just aren’t interested? But fear not, Essinger has a two-fold solution to the bind facing today’s budding Agatha Christies and Ernest Hemingways.

Firstly, he believes existing publishers should get out of the way. Then a new breed can take on the mantle of promoting new talent that is often deserving of recognition. I agree – if would-be-writers are saved a lot of time and energy fruitlessly submitting their work to people who really aren’t interested, then his argument has a lot going for it.

Secondly, however, he advocates that new writers consider ‘subsidy publishing’ as a means of getting published. In this scenario, the author makes a ‘modest contribution’ to the costs of publishing their novel.

At this point, the whole thrust of the article becomes clear – he’s actually pitching for the custom of new writers. If orthodox publishing is a closed shop, try ‘subsidy’ publishing of which The Conrad Press (TCP), owned by Essinger, is an example. In this scenario, an author who wants to publish a book employs a subsidy publisher and makes a contribution up front towards the cost of the enterprise.

However, be warned. In the literary world, subsidy publishers are sometimes known as vanity publishers. I am sure Essinger would refute any such charge that TCP is a vanity publisher and maintain that TCP primarily exists to help budding writers get to print: that it is an honourable organisation.

But this is what I think a new writer should do. Firstly, get a couple of people who know about writing to read your manuscript.  If they say it’s rubbish, either rewrite it or give up. One of the two. If they like it, by all means try to get an agent and be published. By all means – but this is what I think you should do in the likelihood that you fail.

You have, in my opinion, two options. Either self-publish on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or use someone like APS Books, run by my old school mate, Andrew Sparke. He will charge you nothing up front and do all the donkey work in exchange for half the first three years’ royalties.

“Amazon” by ActuaLitté 

I did this once on the basis that half of a lot is a lot and, more likely, half of not very much is not very much. Sparke will edit, proofread and publish it on Amazon for you. The cover design is £20, but it’s worth it.

Otherwise do it all yourself on KDP. It’ll take you a few hours to upload the book and format it right but once that and the cover are done it’s plain sailing. They do things like providing an ISBN and making it available for sale on their omnipresent website, while you essentially remain in control of stuff such as determining the price. For free. They make Kindle and Print-on-Demand versions available and you can take down your book for revision any time you like. The last thing that I want to do is be an apologist for KDP, but in my experience it really is a gift from heaven for budding authors.

  • I’m looking forward to further debate and lots of correspondence on this. It is good to know that budding authors have plenty of opportunities to investigate. Whichever way you choose to go, I hope you are successful. I’m off to finish my next book… I also need to meet Andrew Sparke, who clearly has a passion for rock music, especially the Dutch flavour, like myself! AP