49. There is a snobbery barrier erected by traditional publishing industry

THERE is a lot of old rubbish out there – novels which should never have seen the light of day.

That’s certainly a view many take about self-publishing: that because the writer failed to interest an agent or one of the big publishing houses their work isn’t worth a cursory glance.

With the massive rise in self-publishing it shouldn’t be surprising that some of the fayre on offer is hard to stomach. But then again I’ve read plenty of bilge masquerading as literary genius churned out by traditional publishers, including novels by some of the industry’s biggest names.

On occasion I have taken the plunge and bought the next release from a best-selling author, only to consider it to be hugely disappointing, poorly written and badly researched.

I have even found myself questioning whether the author actually wrote the book, or whether a well-honed team of editors, plot developers, proof readers and researchers put together the new release by committee just to keep the cash rolling in.

Let’s be honest, it is hard enough to write one novel, let alone churn out one or two every year as some writers seem to do.

In my view, self-publishing at its finest is an antidote to this tunnel-vision way that the mainstream publishers view things. If you are looking for something bright, new and entirely original you are far more likely to find it if you wade through the lists of self-published authors out there. I grant you, though, finding the gems can be hard.

Someone has to break the mould some time, though, or we’ll be reading the same plot lines and ideas for time immemorial.

You could compare it to the indie music boom, when hard-working, original bands fought back and released their own records after being constantly ignored by the mainstream companies, who preferred talentless acts because they looked good and had a decent gimmick. To a certain extent the Indie labels won, and we have all reaped the benefits.

This week I attended a meeting of the admirable London Writers Cafe, a group organised by the dedicated Lisa Goll for people intent on seeing their work appear in print.

The guest was Louise Buckley, a former editor with one of the traditional publishing giants who has taken the leap to become a bigger fish in a smaller pond. In short, she is an agent with Zeno Agency and is keen to build her client list.



Louise’s main brief was to explain what she would look for in an author’s opening page, and there were some very useful hints and tips on covering letters, synopses and first chapters.

I did ask her whether she would consider taking on self-published authors, though, and her response was pretty emphatic. She said no traditional publisher would be interested in taking on a book which has already been published, so she would only consider a self-published author if they were offering up completely new material.

This surprised me seeing as the company she used to work for – Pan MacMillan – gave Kerry Wilkinson a nine-book deal on the back of his first three self-published novels and, no doubt, repackaged and promoted his original material, too.

Of course, Kerry was a No.1 Amazon bestseller so he is an exception to the rule, but surely an agent should be willing to take on a self-published author on the strength of what they have already achieved?

On that note, I see that Rachel Abbott – another self-publishing success story – does have an agent in the highly-regarded Lizzy Kremer.



Rachel has done wonders off her own bat, and the fact she still seems to bump into this “snobbery” given her fantastic number of readers and followers is hard to credit. Her Guardian article this week is a real eye-opener…

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