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Sunday 21 September 2014

A case of self-publish or be damned?

There is room for both traditional and self-publishing in today's ever-changing market, says author Michelle Jackson

Published 17/08/2014 | 00:00

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Michelle Jackson

As the paperback edition of my traditionally published novel Six Postcards Home hits the shelves I am monitoring the ebook version which I self-published on Amazon.

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I suppose you could say I am one of a new breed, a hybrid author; someone who is traditionally published yet has self-published ebook editions and titles.

The term can be given to authors who publish in a variety of combinations, for example, authors who self-publish first then a traditional publisher prints hard copies after the book has proven successful. Some very talented authors have been picked up this way who received rejection before.

Self-publishing is a liberating process and stands for one-fifth of all ebook sales in the UK. While publishers and Amazon work out their differences in the courts the facts for the self-publishedwriter are simple. Authors earn a 70pc share of sales for self-published ebooks priced over £1.49 and can reach a global audience in the process.

Compare this to the standard percentage of 6pc - 10pc of a traditionally published book bought off the shelf - a hard copy book must include the booksellers and the publisher's costs - therein lies the attraction of self-publishing for the author. For the reader they have a larger pool of books to choose from and usually at a much lower price.

All of my novels have been published by Poolbeg and my non-fiction book came from the Hachette imprint and I'm more than happy first in line to applaud the hard working publishers and editors in the book industry. I've also had the pleasure of seeing translations carefully crafted by publishers in Portugal, Holland and Germany among others. For those readers who love the smell and feel of a book it is imperative that books are still published in hard copy. The launch of the ipod has not stopped music from being produced on CDs, but it has changed the music industry and the book industry is undergoing the same transformation - it will happen regardless.

After the publication of my last novel, I decided to take a break from writing a new novel this year and I wanted to travel to find new inspiration. However, when I received a lot of lovely emails from readers, asking when my next book would be appearing, over coffee one day with fellow authors Niamh Greene and Marisa Mackle, we decided to produce a book of short stories in between our other writing commitments and Irish Girls on Holiday was born.

It seemed to be the perfect way for us to connect with our readers, offering a summer book that would otherwise not have been published. It is also a way for us to introduce each other's readers to two new authors. We wrote seven stories each and commissioned a cover design. A major benefit of self-publishing was having control of the entire process - setting the publication date, deciding on the cover. And we had a lot of fun in the process.

Self-publishing is a not an option that suits all authors - some prefer to write their books and hand them straight over to the publisher to do the rest of the work. I enjoy marketing my books - I recently put my third novel, One Kiss in Havana from my backlist on special offer of 99p and this generated new readers who went on to buy others at a higher price.

Publishers still have an important part to play in the process but times are changing. Ebooks are here to stay and it is up to authors and publishers to use this technology wisely so that it functions to everyone's advantage, author, publisher and reader.

Michelle Jackson's novel 'Six Postcards Home' (Poolbeg €9.99.) 'Irish Girls on Holiday' (Amazon.co.uk @£1.99)

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