The Blagger's Guide To...Self-Publishing

Woolf, Blake, Lawrence, Joyce, were all at it...
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The Independent Culture

*Amanda Hocking, a 26-year-old science fiction author from Minnesota, made publishing history and reversed a publishing trend last week, when she secured a seven-book deal with the publisher Pan Macmillan, after selling a million books in just over a year.

Hocking, who worked in care homes for people with disabilities, had not sold a single book before April 2010, when she started self-publishing her Trylle trilogy (Switched, Torn and Ascend) in ebook form for the Amazon Kindle. By February of this year, the nine novels were averaging 12,000 sales a day. Pan Macmillan's sci-fi imprint Tor will publish them in ebook and – get this – paperback format in spring 2012 with a new novel, Watersong, due in autumn next year.

*Hocking's books were sold in a heated auction, according to the business news service crainsnewyork.com, where traditional publishers competed, unusually, with the online retailer Amazon. An insider told Crains that Amazon's bid was rejected because it had insisted on an exclusive sales deal for the ebook version. Sometimes, the old ways are still the goodies.

*Similarly, the British novelist Melanie Comley, who lives in France, has just signed a contract with the New York literary agent Richard Curtis. Comley sold more than 10,000 copies of her Impending Justice series of crime novels in a matter of months through her blog. Will she now go old school and have her books printed on paper and sold in shops?

*Self-publishing is not an entirely new phenomenon. Virginia and Leonard Woolf's Hogarth Press, launched in 1917, published many of Woolf's works, along with the first UK edition of TS Eliot's The Waste Land in 1924, and In A Province (1934), the first book by Laurens van der Post. It was run by Leonard Woolf until 1936, when it became part of Chatto & Windus. In April this year, Chatto's parent company, Random House, announced plans to relaunch and revive Hogarth in the UK and the US. Other famous self-publishers include William Blake (who also drew the pictures), D H Lawrence (who self-published in Italy, where the publisher did not speak English), James Joyce (whose friend Sylvia Beach published Ulysses) and Howard Fast (whose novel Spartacus was inspired by his imprisonment for Communism, and self-published during the McCarthy era in 1951).

*Modern self-publishing services include Amazon's Createspace, which offers free or paid-for publishing services, and lulu.com, which will not only print your guaranteed bestseller but also market it, distribute it, and provide it with its own unique ISBN (International Standard Book Number).

*From early Roman illuminated manuscripts (earliest surviving examples, AD400), to the brand new, swishy Espresso Book Machine, self-publishing becomes ever faster. The EBM has just teamed up with Xerox to enable it to print 100 pages per minute, meaning that a 300-page book can be printed from scratch, bound and trimmed into a library-quality paperback in less than four minutes, before being marketed using Facebook and other social networking sites. There are 21 Espresso Book Machines in the world, with one in Blackwell's bookshop in London's Charing Cross Road. The EBM is also capable of printing existing books, even out-of-print editions, from the store's stock or an online catalogue of 400,000 books. Handy for any customers who are not the next Virginia Woolf.

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