Recently I found the first book that I’ve binge-read in the longest time. Abberton House by Debbie Ioanna is the best written ghost horror I’ve come across in a long time. I literally couldn’t stop reading it and finished it in two days straight; no mean feat when you consider I had a small child to take care of while school was still out for summer. I discovered Ioanna through Amazon’s bestseller Top 100 list for ghost horror and after finishing her page-turning book, decided to look up her back catalogue. It turned out that Abberton House was Ioanna’s first horror, the rest of her back list being romance. Abberton House also happened to be her first book with a publisher, with Ioanna sharing on her Instagram page that the book had previously been self-published, now being re-released by Bloodhound Books. She didn’t mention whether the publisher had approached her with an offer of publication, or whether she had approached them on the basis of self-published sales or the number of ratings/reviews. What she did mention, however, was that being with a publisher had turned her book into an overnight best-seller and she wasn’t wrong: Abberton House stayed at #1 for many weeks.
I’ve also known other self-published authors who have, on the basis of sales or the number of reviews, been able to have books re-released with small to mid-scale publishers. It certainly does send a message of hope to other authors aspiring to have their work traditionally published. In my own case, the opposite currently holds true: my debut novel was published with a small press publisher, but I have chosen to self-publish subsequent novels through my own imprint, mainly to learn more about publishing and marketing myself. I’m happy with the results: my current novel, The Blue Man, stayed on Amazon’s Top 100 Hot New Releases for Ghost Horror for a month, reaching #10 at its peak. That’s not to say I wouldn’t consider submitting to a publisher again in the future; the right publisher could definitely propel my book further than my own marketing budget would allow for.
Self-publishing nowadays doesn’t have the same stigma as it did a decade ago, when it was seen as a pathway for authors who couldn’t get a publisher to touch their work. Today, it’s seen more as a preferable option for authors who want to skip the slushpile and often lengthy wait for a response – usually a rejection – from publishers who are taking less risks on new, unknown authors in the face of tough economic times. Of course, there are stories from decades ago of famous authors who self-published their own books even in a more profitable publishing climate, which you can read in this article about ten famous authors who self-published their books. The most surprising names for me on this list were Stephen King and Margaret Atwood, though knowing that any of these writers at one point self-published certainly gives a boost. Not only is self-publishing not a barrier to publication later with a publisher, but may even enhance a writer’s chances, if they can show how well their self-published book has been received and how much marketing they’re willing to do. After all, authors are expected to do much legwork to move books, and proving that you have a book that readers want is half the battle, even if the marketing budget doesn’t necessarily match.