The rise of self-publishing

The advent of epublishing platforms and the ability for authors to self-publish their work without going through traditional publishing avenues has opened up a whole realm of new possibilities. The success of authors such as Amanda Hocking make it clear that this route is one that has the potential to deliver substantial returns – even the hugely successful Fifty Shades of Grey started life as online fan fiction.

There are now hundreds of thousands of free ebooks available on Amazon’s Kindle store, and according to a recent survey by Bowker Market Research’s Book and Consumers UK survey, self-published books accounted for around 11% of all ebooks purchased by UK consumers in the first half of 2012. But with so many authors choosing to go down this route, what does it take for a book to stand out from the crowd? And how much difference does the lack of input from professional editors, readers and designers really make?

Paul PilkingtonTo see for myself, I recently read a book by Paul Pilkington, an independently published suspense mystery writer. Paul’s first novel, The One You Love, was made available on the Kindle store in July 2011 (see here). As of 30th January 2013, the book is number one on Amazon’s free download chart and has generated over 800 reviews on the site, many of them positive.

The One You Love revolves around Emma Holden, who comes with a troubled past and emotional baggage to boot. Two weeks before her wedding, her finance, Dan, has disappeared leaving a trail of suspicion and lies in his wake. Fast paced and action packed, this book raced along to a dramatic conclusion with plenty of twists and cliff-hangers along the way. It was interesting, well thought out and I didn’t have a clue who was behind the chain of increasingly mysterious events until the very end!

I do, however, have a few criticisms. There were a lot of central characters and I think one or two could have been cut back to minor parts without taking too much away from the story. While these characters were useful in illustrating potential avenues for the plot, the central thread of the story could have been more cohesive.

This book was all about the action, which I liked, but I would have preferred to have a bit more of a back story on the characters and their relationships with each other. In particular, Emma’s relationships with the men in the book were not examined in great detail and the reader is left to take things entirely at face value. There were also a couple of loose ends that I felt could have done with being tied up.

There’s no doubt that I enjoyed The One You Love – I read it in its entirety in just one sitting. However, the input of a publishing house would probably have helped to iron out the issues highlighted above and to turn a reasonably good book into a great one. Since it’s release, this book has been hovering steadily at the top of the download charts, but put it – in its current form – into the paid category at the same price point as books like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and I don’t think it would perform anywhere near as well.

Having said that, the success of ebooks like this just goes to show that if people have a story to tell, they should put themselves out there and tell it. Self-publishing has real potential to give authors an opportunity to break into the industry and I’ll definitely be looking to read more independently published ebooks in the future.

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6 thoughts on “The rise of self-publishing

  1. Sounds like a book I’ll be checking out – thanks! Since buying a Kindle I’ve been reading more self-published stories, and while mainly they’re great, I find similar issues. One big bugbear for me is that some of the books have a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes. I always find that detracts from the book for me – I’m a content editor and the rhythm of the story is disturbed by my brain stopping to think “you’re*”.

  2. I also have the book because I saw it when it was for free for a few days in amazon (in Spain too). I see you liked it, but you didn’t loved it and, well, this doesn’t discourage me to read it.
    I have read self-published books that I thought were fantastic, and also very bad ones… just like books published by a big edithor. It depends but, if it is good, it will have success, I’m sure!

    • I definitely agree with this. I can only imagine how hard it must be compete with traditional publishing houses in terms of marketing, but at the same time the quality of writing has got to be there in the first place.

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