Who’s afraid of the self-published?

Two weeks ago, the 29-year-old self-publishing sensation, Amanda Hocking, made history by signing a seven-book deal with Pan Macmillan in the UK to publish her Gothic romance series. This was after signing a similar deal with St. Martin's Press in the US early last month. Hocking, a first-time writer and hospice worker, had never sold a book before 2010, when she sold over a million copies of her first three e-books online.

Despite the brouhaha, Hocking's signing hardly marks a new trend for the industry. Publishers normally seek out their new talent via recommendations from other talents or through unsolicited submissions, and they have always held a door open for self-published works.

Many famous writers, including Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence and William Blake, self-published their works and in Africa, many of our best-known writers were originally self-published. For instance, Helon Habila's Waiting For An Angel began its life as a self-published collection of stories called The Prison Notes. Sade Adeniran's Imagine This, which later won the Commonwealth prize and has been selling tremedously well here in Nigeria, also began as a self-published work. In fact, following the collapse of the publishing industry in the 1980s, Flora Nwapa started her own publishing company to produce her books.

In the digital age, more writers are finding it easier to turn to self-publishing. But while some traditional publishers fear this will mean a market flooded with cheap, poorly-written books, Cassava Republic Press publisher Bibi Bakare-Yusuf is not worried.

In an interview with ThisDay newspaper, she notes:

There’s a tendency to disparage self-publishers the self-publishing route. I think this is wrong. That one author is self-published and another is not is no reflection on the talent and potential of the author. What it means is that one has been lucky to catch the interest of a publisher and the other has not. Self-publishing is an integral part of the publishing industry. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

The only thing that should worry publishers, she said, is that self-published books often lack thorough editorial reviews, resulting in poorer products. And they do not reflect the true costs of publishing a book – but that is a subject for another day.


  • If you keep the end in mind (i.e. getting the public to read and appreciate literary talent), then self-publishing should be encouraged. As with anything else, it has its own challenges, but that should not deter its use as a viable means of publishing. There are ways around these challenges. In a perfect world, every author or poet would get published via a publishing house, but we don’t live in a perfect world. So, self-publishing should be explored and encouraged with a view to improving the quality of books published.

    Posted by The Relentless Builder on June 20, 2011
  • i think it is a matter of choice,self publishing open another avenue,an untapped means of getting books published.It needs to guided or abuse will become envitable.

    Posted by wachukwu fortune on June 30, 2011
  • “Self-publishing is an integral part of the publishing industry. Let a thousand flowers bloom. "

    I love those lines. It is even almost inevitable in this part of the world where traditional publishing is almost inexistent :(

    Posted by Temitayo on June 06, 2011

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