This place has a big heart and lots of chocolate biscuits. The experience here so far has just been fantastic. I’ve been able to address a lot of my weaknesses since starting here at the beginning of August. These include improving my limited editing, proofreading and copyediting skills, under the nurturing guidance of Blaise. I’ve also been doing some really fun, hands-on duties: reading submissions for their genre fiction anthology, [untitled], reading chapters from manuscripts, meeting authors and other interns, and giving general feedback on projects.
Another area I’ve been able to explore is illustration. Kev is also Busybird’s in-house illustrator. He took me under his wing and gave me helpful advice on things like storyboarding (something I’ve been looking at in class at school), and explaining his process of turning his wonderful hand drawn sketches into vibrant, eye-catching illustrations for Busybird’s children’s books.
One of the more important things that has stuck out for me is Busybird’s community spirit in the creative industry. As well as book publishing, Busybird run open mic nights once a month, welcoming emerging and established writers, musicians, poetry enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys the pleasure of hearing spoken word. The building the business runs from has a gallery element, with exhibitions running for roughly a month at a time for different artists. Then you have your writers retreats, workshops in writing and Photoshop (to name a couple), competitions, self-publishing opportunities for authors, manuscript assessments and more! *Leans against a wall and takes a breath*
In fact, I’m learning so much here, I’m already bugging Blaise and Les – Busybird’s Publications Manager – if I can stay on a bit longer when my course is finished. Les might think that’s because of the chocolate biscuits he constantly brings in, but I honestly feel like I’m just scratching the surface of what I can learn about this industry. The biscuits don’t hurt either.
I think it might be time for another coffee and a choc-chip biscuit. I better get back to editing too, I suppose.
Years ago, the only viable and credible alternative when it came to publishing was to submit to a commercial publisher and hope your book got accepted. Self-publishing (also known as vanity publishing) existed, but it was expensive, and there was no quality control. You could knock out an incomprehensible first draft and publish it. Self-publishing was also descried by the greater public.
Then partnership publishing came into vogue. There are some good people working in partnership publishing, but – unfortunately – there’s often little (if any) transparency from a lot of the partnership publisher themselves. Some partnership publishers will ‘invite’ authors to publish, as if those authors have passed a rigorous screening process. Nope. Many partnership publishers will invite you to publish that incomprehensible first draft, interested instead only in your money. You pay for a package of services (e.g. editing, layout, design), and then the partnership publisher collects a fee from that package, as well as (usually) half your royalties.
Think about that: unlike a commercial publisher, the partnership publisher invests none of their own capital in this venture. A commercial publisher carries all the financial risk of producing your book and working with you to get the best product possible. In return, you get only a small percentage of royalties (usually about 7–10%). Consequently, the commercial publisher profit or suffer depending on the fortunes of your book. With a partnership publisher, you pay for the services they provide, they pay subcontractors (usually at the lowest end of their pay-scale) to carry out those services, and then the partnership publisher collects from fees and half your royalties. If your book flops, that’s money out of your pocket, not theirs. The partnership publisher is bulletproof. You’ve paid them.
Most authors want to be accepted by a commercial publisher. There’s a branding in this acceptance, as if to say, You made it. You’re good enough to be accepted. And that’s fair enough. It’s like being accepted into an exclusive club. But whilst a stigma still exists when it comes to self-publishing, there’s also a growing acceptance – especially since the quality of the physical product can be comparable to a commercial product. More and more writers are pursuing this as a valid alternative. Matthew Reilley’s career began by self-publishing. There are any number of authors making a living out of self-publishing digitally through Amazon – and some are making fortunes. As technology progresses, it’s becoming easier and easier to do it ourselves, so why not?
If you’re tired of trying commercial publishers, and if you’re considering alternatives, you might want to control your own destiny. A partnership publisher provides services that you could easily solicit yourself – editing, layout, design, etc. Also, remember, a partnership publisher isn’t interested in quality control – most will tell you exactly what you want to hear, because once you start the process with them, they profit from fees.
Potentially, the hardest part of the whole rigmarole would seem distribution. However, you can actually approach distributors yourself. Promotion? Well, even commercial publishers are leaving that more and more in the hands of their authors; partnership publishers don’t provide anything in this regard. So you’re not any worse off alone. You can do all this yourself.
The reason for this blog isn’t to bash partnership publishers, although there are a number of unscrupulous ones out there – even operating as imprints of very credible and very, very rich publishing houses. Understand most will tell you exactly what you want to hear. But if you’re looking for a route other than hoping a commercial publisher accepts you, you can control every aspect of your book’s production, end up with a better product, and the profits will be entirely yours (outside of what bookstores, etc., might take). Or you could go straight to digital through Amazon, (which costs nothing to put a book up there).
But if you’re going to do it, make sure your book’s the best it’s going to be. Don’t just write something and publish, or redraft a handful of times or get your mum, your cousin, or your dog to edit it (unless they’re thoroughly qualified). These are contributing reasons to why self-publishing gained that stigma. If you’re going to do it, source the right people for your needs.
You get one chance to impress, so do it right.