Vanity Fair?

note: This is a guest post by Katie Lord Brown.

The high profile success stories of blog to book writers the Wife in the North and Petite Anglaise may have encouraged writers to believe blogs are a good way to get your work noticed, but is self-publishing your blog little better than vanity publishing?  The internet has been called the biggest slushpile in history.  Without the expertise of agents and editors to filter the good from the bad (and the downright ugly), who is the final judge of quality? Websites like Harper Collins’ innovative Authonomy give new writers the chance to reach potential readers – only the most popular submissions will be published.  However, print on demand services like Xlibris, Lulu and Blurb now mean that writers of blogs and traditional manuscripts can sidestep the route of agent/publisher and go it alone entirely.

The necessarily glacial pace of publishing is a familiar writer’s lament – compared to months languishing on slushpiles, the appeal of POD is obvious, particularly to anyone whose book has a limited market.  There is something almost magical about how fast it is to download the software, and upload your manuscript into a recognizable book format within minutes.  Self-publishing has a long history – at various points in their careers writers of the calibre of Margaret Atwood, Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King have self published.  It’s now easier than ever for any writer willing to take on their own marketing and distribution to produce their own books.

Personally, I differentiate my blog which started for fun from my ‘real’ work writing novels.  With that I have chosen the traditional agent/publisher route, and never considered self-publishing, (I’d rather write and leave the business to the professionals). Editing a year’s blog posts into book format has been an interesting insight into POD though.  Blogs are usually stream-of-consciousness – it’s funny how it feels every word matters more when it is going into book format, and designing the cover for ‘What Kate Did Next’ has taken equally as much thought as the editing.  WKDN is a blog for writers with daily prompts – like most small blogs it has grown by word of mouth, reaching a hundred countries and tens of thousands of readers in under a year.  Enough of the 150+ daily subscribers asked for it to be published in book format that I’ve produced a writer’s workbook based on the most popular posts for charity, (all profits will go to War Child). Since deciding to do this, I’ve been approached by an old (computer-phobic) writer friend to edit and publish her Beirut diaries from the 1960’s.  With small projects like this the advantages of POD are obvious.  Sales success is usually measured in the hundreds let alone the thousands.  But when it is this easy for writers to get their work straight to their audience through ‘one-click’ POD books and e-books what does the future hold?

‘What Kate Did Next’ is available from Blurb

Further details through a link at www.katelordbrown.com

This article first appeared in The Bookseller 2009

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