Tuesday 2 January 2024

The Cemetery of Broken Dreams - To self-publish or not?

Welcome to the Cemetery of Broken Dreams, a place where unpublished books go to die. I often think about how many amazing stories have been buried because they weren't accepted by publishers. There can be many reasons for a manuscript not making the cut. Chief among these is that the work isn't good enough, and perhaps then, it deserves to go six feet under. But there are other reasons. Sometimes a manuscript doesn't fit in a publisher's catalogue or the content has been overdone or is out of fashion. for example, you could have written the greatest wizard school story or a brilliant vampire teenage romance, but what are your chances of getting them published?

So, what do you do if you have a piece of work that you think is good but it hasn't been given the stamp of approval by the gatekeepers of the publishing world? Do you bury it in the Cemetery of Broken dreams or do you self-publish?

I've been grappling with this question for some time. Self-publishing has been a viable option for some time but I haven't pursued it for a number of reasons.

1. It requires a lot of work. You basically have to do everything yourself - editing, design and marketing.

2. Many will disagree with me about this, but there is still a stigma to self-publishing. Is it an

admittance of failure - you couldn't get your book published in the traditional manner so now you're publishing it yourself. Will my reputation as an author be damaged by self-publishing a book?

3. Although there have been many hugely successful self-published books (famously, Sense and Sensibility, A Christmas Carol, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Martian by Andy Weir, and Wool by Hugh Howey), many often sell only a few copies.

4. It can be expensive. You basically have to pay people to do everything or do it yourself.

There are also many advantages to self-publishing.

1. You can bypass the publishing gatekeepers.

2. You have the freedom to publish your book entirely your own way - you control everything.

3. Royalties are significantly higher.

4. Traditionally published books, unless they are best sellers, eventually go out of print. Self-published eBooks and print-on-demand books do not.

So, the big question is, should you bury your unpublished books in the Cemetery of Broken Dreams or should you self-publish and let your manuscript run free, even if only a handful of people read it?

I have read some brilliant manuscripts (by some of my writer friends) that never got published, and I often think, how unfair it is that these books are gathering dust in desk drawers or on a PC when they could be making a reader very happy.

Like many writers, I have some manuscripts that haven't made it for one reason or another. Some of them frankly weren't good enough and deserve to remain unpublished. but some of them, I believe, are good enough.

One of them, THE ARRIVAL, had many near acceptances from publishers, with one stating that it was 'kind of amazing' but in the end, it was rejected. Part of the reason, I think, is that the subject matter isn't that fashionable. It's a story that's been in my head for decades. It was inspired by W.B. Yeats' poem, 'The Second Coming', which I discovered in college. When I considered pursuing a career in art, I did a series of paintings based on the poem, and from these, the genesis of THE ARRIVAL came.

One of the self-published books that made me see self-publishing in a completely new light was the brilliant Island by Nicky Singer, and the blog post she wrote about the book: https://www.notesfromtheslushpile.com/2015/05/slow-books.html

So, after toying with the idea for a long time, I've decided to self-publish my book, THE ARRIVAL. Even if only one reader loves it, isn't it better to put it out there than leaving it to rot in the ground?

I know nothing about self-publishing so it will be a steep learning curve but this blog post is the first step.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.


THE ARRIVAL is an atmospheric thriller for upper middle grade. It is about the arrival of an unusual child in a religious community in Ireland. is this child the Second Coming of God, an alien or something else? How did he get here and what does he want?

No comments:

Post a Comment