A Saturated Market

OR Why I Won’t Self-Publish a Self-Help Book

About a week ago I decided to set up a new company – RW Literary Services – offering editing, proofreading, manuscript assessment, CV writing, and freelance article writing. (www.rwls.co.uk) I was asked by a couple of people why I think I have the experience to set that company up, after all I’m just an author and I have a team of people who do all of this for me. If I can’t do it for my own books, how can I do it for someone else?

Well, for a start, I wasn’t always an author. In fact I started out as a freelance writer, creating articles on pet care, beauty, and parenting. This developed into advertising and eventually a full-time job in editing and fact-checking. I was on good money. But it wasn’t where my heart was. I wanted to concentrate on fiction, so in 2013 jacked it all in and decided to throw myself into promoting Seven Dirty Words and Four Letter Words, and writing more novels. So I do have the experience and skills to set up the business, but it got me thinking – why was I asked that in the first place? If someone opened a restaurant, you wouldn’t say “oh I guess anyone who cooks can run a business like that”, would you?

It should be well-known by now that authors tend to have a real job as well as writing, but most of us want our novels to be full-time and paying the bills. So we look at ways to support our work. Some have written non-fiction books on how to write books, how to get published, or how to get an agent. Some (and it has to be said, mostly self-published) authors have set up publishing companies. Through a little bit of digging and research, my opinion is because setting up a house and then publishing under that name gives you a little bit more credibility when it come to marketing to readers. It also allows you to reach a wider market, getting your book listed with the likes of Gardners and Bertrams. After a few books have been self-published, a few of these authors decide to help others and publish their books as well, and voila! A new publishing house with multiple authors is born. Some of these have worked and gone on to become sought after houses, others have flunked and struggle to pay their debts.

Other authors, like myself and quite a few friends, have gone into editing, offering literary services to help develop unpublished works and get them polished and ready for submission. But it doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop using each other. Yes, I run a business that edits, proofreads, and gets your book to the best it can be. But I still email my editor with manuscripts and hand over my cash. Yes, I offer advice on marketing and PR. But I still email my publicist and say “What the hell am I doing wrong?” Does this mean I’m crap at my job? No. It means I’m not arrogant enough to think that I’m the best in the biz and don’t need help.

Recently I’ve been asked, if I can edit etc., if I have the experience in self-publishing, why don’t I write a self-help book for new authors? Why don’t I set up a publishing house? Why? Because the market is saturated with authors who have done exactly that, and all these self-help books say the same thing, which I can do for free:

  • Have a blog
  • Keep writing novels
  • Join social media and interact with your readers
  • Network with other authors, editors, publishers etc.
  • Invest in marketing tools and an author kit – business cards, Facebook banners, postcards, posters etc.
  • Go to events and organise book signings
  • Spend money and use companies like ENT, ReadCheaply, BookBub, and Fussy Librarian.
  • Talk about yourself
  • Have a street team who talks about you and hands out bookmarks
  • Give your book away every now and then – run a competition on Goodreads, Facebook or Twitter
  • Make sure your novel is professionally edited and proofread and has a professional jacket

Done. Did that take up 15,000 words or cost you a penny? Nope.

I won’t set up a publishing house because, while I did self-publish a novella back in 2010 (no longer in print for a very good reason), I’m not a publisher. I have never worked with a publishing house. It is not my area of expertise. I’m not saying I’ve never considered doing either of these things, because it did cross my mind that I could. I’m saying that I won’t add to an already over-flowing market, and I won’t risk losing the time to write books by concentrating on other ventures.

I started RW Literary Services because I want to run my own business, and editing and proofreading is something I’ve been doing for almost 10 years under a variety of websites and for other authors, so why not start charging an actual fee for it? I can do it in my own time, pick and choose work, and still find time to write my own books and look after my family.

So yes, please, look at my website and email me for a quote. But please, don’t for a second think that I’m over-priced or under experienced – you get what you pay for and quality costs money. And please don’t ask when I’m going to write that self-help book or set up a publishing house.

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