Sarah Taylor, marketing manager of Matador Books, the self-publishing imprint of Troubadour Publishing in the UK, delivered the keynote address at the Indie Book Fair on Saturday entitled: “Broadening horizons: The expanding opportunities and freedom of self-publishing”.
Independent publishers, authors and book enthusiasts gathered at the Sunnyside Park Hotel in Johannesburg last weekend to brainstorm ways to improve the publishing landscape in South Africa and Porcupine Press launched their new imprint, African Narratives.
Taylor explained how the self-publishing industry has been revolutionised in recent years, starting from a fledgling attempt at badly edited ebooks to becoming a booming, vibrant business. “Self-publishing is no longer a dirty word,” she said.
Taylor highlighted the perks of self-publishing: The author has control over the story and marketing of the book, they can stick to their own timeline, they receive higher royalties and they are passionate and enthusiastic about their own projects. Taylor cites three famous authors who rewrote the rules of publishing and reached great success through self- or hybrid publishing: Harry Bingham, Hugh Houghy and Margaret Atwood.
Taylor said that self-publishing is not a one-size-fits-all industry – success comes in many guises: “Self-publishing empowers you to find your success whatever that may be.”
Taylor shed light on diversity in the UK and the US and said that the industry is still dominated by white middle class men. She told an anecdote of the English author Polly Courtney whose work was falsely labelled as “chick lit” because of the need to classify across genres lines. She also spoke about the Let Books be Books campaign which encouraged Ladybird Books, a Penguin children’s imprint, to drop the label “for girls” from their books.
Taylor stressed the importance of doing research when deciding to publish your own books. Self-publishing doesn’t have to cost the earth, she said, but investing in a good editor is crucial. Taylor said that all the tools are in the hands of the writer and she was delighted to see that the people who attended the Indie Book Fair were eager to engage with one another and share their expertise.
Taylor concluded her speech: “Self-publishing is not only a vehicle for freedom but a vehicle for change.”
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