Last weekend, authors came out to share their stories about self-publishing at the first Toronto Public Library Indie Author Day celebration. Nearly 300 libraries across North America invited local writers to take part in the event. The day was celebrated at North York Central Library with an author panel, a self-publishing workshop and a book fair featuring the works of local authors.
The notion of creative freedom came up time and time again at the event, as authors described their experiences with self-publishing. Most talked about wanting to control all aspects of the publishing process -– from book cover creation to marketing.
Chris Grady, a member of the author panel, talked about his writing and how drawing web comics became a way of dealing with depression. Half a million Facebook followers later, Chris is the successful author of the web comic Lunarbaboon.
Tracy L. Ward, another author at the event, discussed treating her writing career like a business. Ward drew up a business plan that involved writing four books. It took three books before the series took off, but she is now an Amazon bestselling author of the Peter Ainsley Mystery series, books about a Victorian morgue doctor and his assistant who set out to solve crimes. In describing her books, Ward called them a mix of “CSI meets Sherlock Holmes, with a little Jack the Ripper thrown in”. Ward discussed choosing the self-publishing route because of her need to be true to the graphic nature of the morgue work, something she thought might be censored if she went with a traditional publisher.
Another common topic was the stigma of self-publishing. Authors discussed the difficulty of overcoming the resistance to unvetted works as the majority of readers are afraid to give something that hasn’t gone through a traditional publisher a try. For readers, the difficulty with self-publishing is how to distinguish quality writing from unedited messes. Quality writing can be found in self-published novels. Here are a few famous examples:
Once we were brothers – Not able to find a publisher, Ronald H. Balson created his own publishing company to self-publish his World War II legal drama about two brothers who ended up on the different sides of the war.
Still Alice - Lisa Genova, a neuroscientist, chose to self-publish after being rejected by several publishers. Her novel about a 50-year-old professor who develops Alzheimer’s disease went on to be made into a major Hollywood movie starring Julianne Moore.
The Martian – Andrew Weir used his science background to create the story of an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars. When Weir couldn’t find a publisher, he published his novel one chapter at a time on his website for free. When his fans begged him to release an eBook version, he began selling copies on Amazon for 99 cents.
The Best Laid Plans – Unable to find a publisher, Terri Fallis originally released his political satire in podcast format, a chapter at a time. Later he published the story in book form and it went on to win the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.