Trying to publish a book used to be straightforward. You came up with an idea, spent months, if not years, writing it, then sent it off to an agent or publisher who rejected it by return. Life was simpler back then. We all knew where we were.
Rejection wasn’t necessarily based on the quality of the work. Literature is a subjective business. Lord of the Flies earned William Golding 20 rejections. James Joyce, Jack Kerouac and Joseph Heller suffered similar fates. Marcel Proust was rejected so many times that he decided to pay for publication himself. The much-repeated industry statistic is between 1 and 2 per cent of manuscripts are published. Those aren’t great odds.
What do you do? I’ll tell you exactly what: publish it yourself. In fact, even if a publisher will take your manuscript, these days you are probably better off becoming your own publisher.
‘Self-publishing’ is the common term, but it’s more accurately known as ‘independent publishing’. In the same way that independent music labels exist, so do independent publishers. Frank Sinatra and the Beatles set up their own labels, as did Madonna, who was told that she was engaging in ‘an indulgent folly’. She then made millions more than if she’d worked with a mainstream label.
I also self-publish. I have two series of books and I’ve published 16 novels in total, all under the pen name Bernice Bloom. I have nothing against traditional publishing. I published many books through the big publishing companies and enjoyed it immensely. But the immediacy of independent publishing is a real joy. The more successful of my series is about a woman called Mary Brown.