Good Reading : Febuary 2009
writers’ life yourself on the shelf Career-killer or get-rich-quick scheme? ALEXANDRA IRVING discovers the realities of self-publishing usually fall somewhere in between. manuscript of her first novel, ‘you’ll kill your writing career before it begins.’ Genova decided not to take his advice, and that’s a decision she’s extremely happy with. ‘He couldn’t have been more wrong,’ she writes in her blog about her self-published novel Still Alice, the story of a woman living with early onset Alzheimer’s. After being released for a year as a self-published book it was bought at auction by publishing house Simon & Schuster for a six-figure sum (see our story on Lisa in March gr). Self-publishing ‘D Margaret Atwood is not a new phenomenon. Even Margaret Atwood self-published her first book of poetry. However, the advent of print-on-demand technology, which allows authors to print as many or few books as they wish, has made self-publishing more accessible than ever. Self-publishing still may not be the easiest way to gain acclaim, but for a small number of authors it has been very rewarding. Brunonia Barry is one recent success story. Her book The Lace Reader was initially self-published before being bought by HarperCollins for a neat US$2 million. It is often said that the most successful self-published authors have a keen eye for business. They must don the various guises of a publishing house; being editor, designer, publisher and public relations rep, in order to see their work in print. This is precisely what Barry did. With a completed manuscript of her book, Barry and her husband, Gary 16 goodreading i FEBRUARY 2009 Christopher Paolini Several years earlier, 15-year-old Christopher Paolini wrote his first book. After his parents Kenneth and Talita finished reading Eragon, a fantasy novel for young adults, they decided it was destined to be a hit. With some experience publishing educational texts, they set out to self-publish. It took a year to edit and design the book, as well as prepare marketing materials. The book was released in 2001, and much like Barry and Ward, the Paolinis on’t self-publish,’ an agent told Lisa Genova after rejecting the Ward, used their software publishing business to launch The Lace Reader into the literary world. The secret to their success? A compelling novel, which Barry spent four years rewriting and editing, combined with a great deal of hard work. Barry and Ward conducted their marketing campaign at a grassroots level; attending bookseller conventions, giving advance copies to book bloggers and magazines and approaching independent booksellers. They also had a larger budget than most, spending $50 000 in total. Why, you might ask, didn’t Barry pitch her story to a publisher to begin with? Barry says it was primarily due to timing and control, which are two of the most common reasons people choose to self- publish. Barry is quoted as saying she didn’t want to ‘turn it over to someone and wait two years’. The Lace Reader was released in Australia last September. managed the public relations themselves. The family toured America to promote Eragon, giving talks at libraries, schools, booksellers and even grocery stores, often dressed in medieval costume. In 2002, after 10 000 copies of the novel were sold, journalist and novelist Carl Hiaasen read his stepson’s copy of Eragon and brought it to the attention of his publisher at Random House. Random bought the rights to the book, which was made into a film in 2006, screening in cinemas worldwide. Paolini has since released two more novels, Eldest and Brisingr, with enthusiastic fans awaiting the fourth book to complete the series. The desire to self-publish isn’t just confined to American soil. Recent Australian authors to enter the self- published canon include Penelope Ransby with her book Dream of Margaret River, and Lois Nicholls’s Aussie, Actually. The list of authors choosing to self- publish suggests that Lisa Genova isn’t the only one rebuffing outdated attitudes towards self-publishing, and while it may not make you a millionaire, the chances that it will kill your writing career also appear very slim. See page 18 for self-publishing tips and explanations.
December January 2009