Good News For Self-Publishers – #bookgirlnz talks to industry expert Geoff Walker

Christine Borra

Self-publishing has become a legitimate form of publishing in today’s market.

Your Books Consultant, Christine Anne Borra #bookgirlnz talks to Geoff Walker, one of New Zealand’s leading editors, about the markets change in attitude towards self-publishers.

“…self-published authors are increasingly becoming a publishing presence.” – Geoff Walker

Geoff Walker is a former publishing director of Penguin New Zealand, now working as a freelance editor, writer and publishing consultant.

Christine Anne Borra: What are the biggest attitude changes you have seen, in the last few years, towards self-published books as a viable publishing route to market?

Geoff Walker: Once it was known as ‘vanity’ publishing and was generally scorned. But now it’s called ‘self-publishing’ – and sometimes ‘indie’ publishing – and it’s the publication method of choice of many New Zealand writers. I’m fascinated by the way self-published authors have so quickly become part of the publishing landscape, both here and overseas. Suddenly, it seems, self-publishing has become respectable.

In fact I know a number of writers who have decided not to put themselves through the time-consuming and ultimately heart-breaking process leading to inevitable rejection by larger publishing houses and have decided right from the beginning to self-publish.

Christine Anne Borra: What advice would you give to budding self-publishers?

Geoff Walker: I was much taken with an item on the website of Booksellers New Zealand aimed specifically at self-published authors. Entitled A guide to promoting your self-published book, it includes all sorts of information that self-publishing authors should know if they want to sell their book through local booksellers.

It includes information such as making sure the book has its free ISBN (available from the National Library), it also has a one-page information sheet, that is registered free with Nielsen BookData Online (which means any bookseller can look it up for a customer on their in-store computer), how the bookseller discount system works, and so on. And it offers information on how to utilise Booksellers NZ’s considerable online services. I mention this Booksellers New Zealand initiative not only because I think it is an excellent service to self-publishing authors but because it’s further evidence that self-published authors are increasingly becoming a publishing presence. I hope indie authors take advantage of this initiative.

Christine Anne Borra: What are the largest obstacles you see for self-publishers?

Geoff Walker: Getting your book distributed, marketed and sold remains the biggest obstacle to self-publishing success. If your book is aimed at a narrow target audience and you think you can reach them through specialist channels, then good on you, you’re one of the fortunate few.  But if you’re depending on booksellers for your sales, then going about it the right way is critical.

Christine Anne Borra: Booksellers must get a lot of books to consider. What can self-publishers do to make sure their book gets to the front of the queue?

Geoff Walker: Also critical, of course, is the professional quality of the book itself. We’ve come a long way since self-publishing meant poorly edited, poorly designed, cheaply printed books that were the delight only of the writer. These days many – but not all – of the indie-published books look more professional, with some very good small design/production companies playing an important role.

That’s what the indie-published author should be aiming for: a self-published book must be professionally edited, designed, proofread, and printed to a good standard. Ideally, it should receive an expert manuscript assessment beforehand as well.

Christine Anne Borra: Is there an industry standard layout for book design?

Geoff Walker: In editorial terms a self-published book must have proper, formal ‘prelim’ pages with plenty of space, an imprint page and a contents page. If it is non-fiction it may need acknowledgment and reference sections at the back and an index if that’s appropriate (it usually is). There’ll need to be an author biography (which should be short rather than long). And of course that ISBN.

Christine Anne Borra: What services do you offer? And how can authors get in touch with you Geoff?

Geoff Walker: I work with many self-publishing authors as an editor and consultant and can be contacted at geoffwbooks@gmail.com or 09-3788875.

© Geoff Walker