eBooks and Self-publishing @ the Henley Literary Festival

Now, I almost didn’t go to this talk; the travel wasn’t a problem, it was the timing: ten-thirty on a Sunday morning. I haven’t seen ten-thirty on a Sunday morning in years.
Still, I managed to roll out of bed, into the shower, into yesterday’s clothes, into the car and into Henley – on time.

The talk was a chat and a question/answer session with three authors:

Angela Levin – journalist and author of the eBook Diana’s Baby – Kate, William, and the Repair of a Broken Family
Clive Limpkin – an award-winning Fleet Street photographer who has just published his memoirs, Lost in the Reptile House
and Emma Clare Lam, author of A Sister for Margot

It was a very entertaining and very informative chat, during which each author skillfully matched their own experience and perspective against each question. It was light on technical detail, which was fine by me; I’m equally blessed and cursed with a background in IT,  so I probably know a lot more about the nerdy bits anyway.


What I was interested in was the difficulties and stigma they encountered in self-publishing. Clive pointed out that the term ‘vanity publishing’ had been coined in the 1940’s, and literary endeavour had been set back ever since. I wasn’t sure I was convinced until he pointed out that both Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain were self-published authors. I did not know that.

Emma went into considerable depth on her writing process, and talked about how difficult it was to find time to write her second book because of the effort needed to market her first one. This I can relate to; I should blog more and tweet more, but it gets in the way of the writing, which always seems a little self-defeating to me. Angela came up with a possible solution: eBook publishing houses. In return for a percentage of the sales, they’ll handle the formatting, the cover design and the marketing for you. It did sound a lot like vanity publishing to me, but since there’s no upfront fee to produce the book, then maybe not. Worth a look anyway.

The real takeway for me that morning was the realisation that there are a lot of people in the same boat as me: no agent, no publisher, but still keen to get their work out to an audience beyond friends and family. That does take hard work, dedication, effort and unfortunately means taking time out of your writing to put your name (or pseudonym) about.

So then the question is, what do you really want?

A while back, I got discouraged after a couple of ‘near-misses’ with finding an agent and the collapse of a television pilot project , and so I decided to put the writing on the backburner and get out of the study for a couple of months. The cats were pleased; they like the study, but don’t like sharing it with me. And I was pleased because I’d forgotten what ‘outside’ looks like. I came back to writing a few months later with a different attitude, and it was only after listening to Clive Limpkin speak that I realised what the change was.
Clive just wanted to write. He wasn’t too fussed about setting the autobiographical world alight or getting a guest spot on Chatty Man. Clive spent forty years writing his life story and just wanted to see it ‘out there’, and I think a lot of people moving into eBooks and self-publishing feel the same way.

I like stringing words together, and seeing if I can invoke an emotion while I’m doing it.
That’s it. That’s what I do. That’s why I wrote stories when I was a kid, and that’s why I write them now (though hopefully, I’m a lot better).

Beyond that? Well, what else is there?


Anyway, it was a great session, and I’m glad I got out of bed to see it. If you see a talk by any of them at your local Lit. Fest then it’s well worth an hour of your time to go along.
If not, buy their books (I’m especially looking forward to reading Emma’s).

A Sister for Margot by Emma Clark Lam

Diana’s Baby by Angela Levin

Lost in the Reptile House by Clive Limpkin (also available on the Kindle).