Thursday, 4 December 2014

Writers & Artists - Self Publishing in the Digital Age - Report

By Gillian Hamer

I can honestly say this was the first time I have come away from a conference with a profanity in the forefront of my mind. But so it was that 'Don't Write Shit!' became the motto of the day.

On Saturday 29th November, Writers' & Artists' put together a collection of experienced names to discuss and advise on various aspects of publishing that face writers considering the self-publishing route. With over one hundred delegates in attendance, it's clear self-publishing continues to gain popularity. I was there as part of the Triskele Books collective, live tweeting (#selfpubtips) throughout the day and on hand to answer questions at the Triskele-sponsored drinks reception.

Chaired by Dr Alison Baverstock, the morning session concentrated attention as a 'How-to-Guide' with presentations from a cross-section of service providers - from editors or cover designers to publishers. Whilst the afternoon focused more on author experiences and discussed their different routes to publication.

Alison Baverstock opened the event with an introduction to self-publishing, and key findings of her research into the boom of indie authors. For example, would it surprise you to learn that self-published authors are a 65/35% split of female/male or that 60% of self-published authors fall into the 41-60 age range?

Roz Morris (photo by Henry Hyde)
Next we moved onto the vital role of editorial services. Roz Morris discussed the differences between development edits, copy edits and proof reading and mistakes often made by novice writers. Roz suggested a checklist for self-editing, before passing onto beta readers, and then calling in the services of professionals.

Next came our very own designer, JD Smith, who captivated the audience with a selection of slides that took us through the journey from author conception to finished book cover. We also had a giggle at some less than professional covers on the market today and discussed the price implications of illustrators and designers.

Next to take the stand was Jon Fine from Amazon KDP - he of the legendary 'Don't Write Shit!' advice. And despite the profanity, it's spot-on advice. If you want your readership to grow and stick by you, then as Jon said, it is vital to entertain your readers. He went on to detail the relative ease and wide range of options now available via Amazon to publish your book.

Final speaker before lunch was Jeremy Thompson of Troubador Publishing who offer a self-publishing service through Matador. Jeremy discussed alternatives to Amazon, what services they are able to offer as a small independent UK publisher, and how publishers can assist with the issues of marketing and exposure.

After lunch, bestselling author Mark Edwards took the stand. Mark is almost a cult figure in indie publishing. He now has a deal with a major publisher, and is on the brink of selling half a million books, but his journey through self-publishing with co-writer Louise Voss is legendary and gives inspiration to all. His advice in terms of promoting your book was to concentrate on three vital elements - hook, cover and description. He explained the benefits of building a strong author platform and importance of retaining your readership.

Interviews with authors Nick Spalding and Talli Roland followed similar themes. Long process, hard work, gaining loyal readers, developing author platforms and maintaining presence online and at literary events. And that writing the book was probably the easiest part!

Last to take the stage was JJ Marsh of Triskele Books to discuss the benefits of collaboration and how and why to make an author collective successful. There was a lot of interest and Q&As from the audience about how to share finances, editorial input, and how the lonely journey of a writer could be improved by the backing of a collective.

JJ Marsh
Following a summary of everything we had learned on the day from Alison Baverstock - including the favourite quote - everyone moved onto a drinks reception sponsored by Triskele Books and KDP, where books were on sale, free Prosecco was consumed, and delegates got the chance to talk to speakers and representatives from Amazon, Writers' & Artists' and Triskele.

From discussion with various authors, it's clear the day was a huge success. Everyone felt they had benefited from the advice on offer, both from experts and authors who had faced the same problems as every other writer in the room. What I discovered from the event is just how committed indie authors are, how determined they are to see their work published, and how they absorb information like a sponge. Questions throughout the day were intelligent and informed, and despite having already published four novels, I found myself jotting down notes and ideas.

From discussions with the staff at Writers' & Artists', I know they are already planning similar events throughout 2015, with plans to regionalise the meetings. So, if you get the chance to attend, I would more than recommend the experience as I am sure you would come away buzzing with ideas and motivation.

JJ Marsh, JD Smith, Gillian Hamer of Triskele Books


  1. I'm very flattered to be described as 'almost a cult figure'! Glad you enjoyed my presentation. I just wish I'd had more time to answer questions.

    1. Nice to meet you on the day, Mark (and to learn you're local to me!) Looking forward to reading The Magpies.

  2. Superb day. Really enjoyed it and, for my part, I think a collective might be the way forward. Already in discussions with two people, one an author who has already published and another who has been knocking on agents doors like me, only to have them slammed in his face. Any future tips most grateful received Jill. You've got the women's collective, it's time the boys took a turn!

  3. sorry *Gill*. Getting my Jill and Gill's mixed up, having spoken to JJ on the day!

  4. No problem, Nick. We're all on the same team. Wishing you every success with the collective- keep us posted! JJ

  5. Further, the large submission volumes journals deal with has led to them becoming increasingly stringent with manuscript screening and selection. Thus, only the best manuscripts that are well presented and do not have any errors of data, language, or structure make it to peer review and eventual publication. research paper editing