This week, I thought I’d bring you a report from the Self Publishing Day organised by the Irish Writers’ Centre. The Centre has a long tradition of holding publishing days, which give budding authors the chance to hear from experts in the publishing industry and get tips on sending in their manuscripts. This time, the Centre decided to embrace the brave new world of self publishing and the day featured five leaders from the world of self publishing.
The day began with a guide to the Dos and Don’ts of Self Publishing and the presenter was Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin of writing.ie. Vanessa has a wealth of knowledge at her fingertips, and she managed to cram most of it into her 90-minute talk. The real value of her talk lay in the fact that she is a self published author with a strong background in traditional publishing, so she was able to give insights from both side of the fence. The kernel of her message was that you should make sure that your self-published book looks as much like a traditional book as possible.
Editor Robert Doran then took us through the different types of editing and what you should expect from your editor. His talk clarified the differences between editing and proofreading and within editing itself, which can often be confusing. He also discussed the value of getting a sample from an editor – it turns out that opinions are divided on this topic.
The afternoon was devoted to marketing and sales for self published authors. Anne Marie Scully of Orchard Wall Publishing, a digital publishing company, spoke about how to make use of online advertising tools. She previously worked at Google, so she had a particular insight into Google Adwords. Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin was back again for the last session, in conversation with Robert Doran and two self published authors who had made it.
Emily Evans has sold 84,000 copies of her young adult romance novels and Catherine Ryan Howard has turned her self-publishing experience in a career, offering advice to other authors through her conferences and her book, Self Printed. They had plenty of nuggets of information to share about how to run successful book marketing campaigns, and were particularly enthusiastic about WordPress websites.
People were free to ask questions while the speakers were talking, and there was lots of lively discussion, about topics like libel, the correct spelling of manana and the use of pen names, as well as more nitty gritty questions about how much you can expect to spend on self publishing.
Successful self published authors have a strong understanding of social media and the digital world and the conference put a lot of emphasis on the digital world. For example, there was a hashtag that people could use for Twitter, so that when they tweeted about the event, it would be easy for other people to find out about it. But I believe that there is still a schizophrenic attitude towards the online world in Ireland. The people who are immersed in it can’t imagine why other people aren’t. Meanwhile, there is still a fairly vast swathe of people who have either chosen not to go online or are a little frightened of it.
Therefore, I think it would have been better if the presenters had pitched their talk on the basis that people knew nothing about social media or the digital world, as the audience seemed a little confused by the material at times. I also believe that traditional marketing methods still work, and it would have been good to see those covered in the talks as well.
Overall, I commend the Irish Writers’ Centre for organising this day, and for opening up a mine of valuable information to help people realise their dream of becoming self published authors. It’s interesting to reflect that when I went to my first publishing day at the centre, self publishing was dismissed as a footnote. Now it gets a day of its own.