Emerging editor Kate Lomas Glendenning confronts the stigma of self-publishing in her article about this year’s Business of Being a Writer

As I eagerly listened to panels of authors speak at Fremantle Press’s Business of Being a Writer seminar, I wondered if I had become a literary snob.

These thoughts were triggered by a panel on what to know before creating, distributing and marketing a self-published title. Hosted by Fremantle Press Children’s Publisher Cate Sutherland, the panel included fiction writer Annabel Smith, Ingram Lightning Source’s Debbie Lee and children’s book writer and illustrator Wendy Binks. They commenced the seminar by addressing the misconceptions surrounding self-publishing and the perception of how easy it is to self-publish.

Wendy concisely acknowledged the prejudice surrounding self-publishing when she stated that a book was only deemed credible when published with a traditional publishing house.  What stood out to me was how deflating negative opinions on self-publishing can be to authors. The euphoria an author must experience when announcing the publication of their book can be quickly dampened by sneers when they reveal that the book was self-published. As I sat listening to each panellist discuss their own experience of self-publishing, I noticed a stillness in the audience, and I wondered if other listeners also snubbed the self-published or knew the pain behind the experience.

The notion that self-publishing is easy was quickly shattered. To self-publish, you must be not only the creator, but also the publicist, the retailer, the public speaker, the accountant and more. The list of roles and skills required to self-publish was long and confronting. Wendy summarised the experience as lonely, risky and a massive amount of work, but also something that could potentially deliver a great reward.

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Despite the panellists’ initial characterisation of the process as a lonely experience, each acknowledged that self-publishing allows the creator the freedom to work with whomever they desire. Annabel strongly advocated hiring an experienced editor, but before doing this she suggested sitting down with them and discussing both of your expectations. Annabel compared the relationship between a writer and an editor during the feedback process as a ‘lovers’ tiff’: a love when one says something the other might disagree with, but in which both still admire the other.

Debbie reminded attendees that, as the creator, ‘Your work is to be the writer. You decide who you want to work with’. The creator has the power not only to decide who to work with, but also when the work commences. As I listened to the panellists, one of the most striking positives about self-publishing seemed to be the freedom it allows creators; in comparison to traditional publishing houses, self-publishing is not subjected to conventional publishing timelines and protocols.

The panellists concluded the seminar by discussing marketing or ‘the big push’. Marketing is about a creator extending their reach and finding the niche for their market. When questioned on how to get a book on bookshelves, each panellist quickly pointed out there are other avenues apart from bookshops. From the various social media platforms to online groups, and to book clubs and libraries, authors have plenty of opportunities for promotion. When pressed to answer how to get a self-published book in a bookshop, Annabel said, ‘If you want booksellers to support your books, you need to support them.’

As the panel concluded to thunderous applause, I could not help but wonder who among the audience had tried self-publishing, and who after the seminar would consider it.

About the author

Kate Lomas Glendenning

Kate Lomas Glendenning completed her Bachelor of Arts in 2019 with a double major in English and writing, and a minor in editing and publishing. Kate is currently undertaking her Honours; her research project focuses on the function of grammar in fictional texts and explores how meaning is derived through incorrect grammar. Since 2015, Kate has been an editor and writer at Underground Writers, and in 2019, she completed an editorial internship at Fremantle Press. Kate is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and is a peer mentor at her university. When she is not reading or browsing bookstores, Kate likes to take her two cheeky Labradors to the park.

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