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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best creativity magazine in the UK“, Maddy Glenn from Softwood Self Publishing shares the exciting opportunities available for self-publishing authors in 2023.
Written by Maddy Glenn
The rapid emergence of OpenAI’s chatbot, coupled with concerns over Amazon’s practices and the rising cost of paper, has fuelled the flames of discussion amongst authors as to how the future is looking for independent publishing.
At Softwood, we’re feeling very positive about the future, so let’s examine why.
In January, just over one month after the explosion of OpenAI’s ChatGPT launch to the public, we hosted a discussion with emerging Tech company, West View IT, about the pros and cons of artificial intelligence being entrusted to write seemingly highly intelligent articles for marketing content – and even fiction. We asked it to write a murder mystery novel with a main character named Geoff. It did. Was it unique? Well, yes. Was it imaginative and exciting? No. Will ChatGPT learn with every request it receives? Yes.
Without doubt, we are still in the early days of artificial intelligence writing ‘instead of’ a real human, but it’s important to note it’s not yet the tool its developers want it to be (Google’s launch in February of their own version managed to wipe billions of dollars from their share value after providing an inaccurate answer to a question).
So, can it be utilised as a tool for authors? Yes, without a doubt, and it could prove highly beneficial to anyone suffering from writers’ block who wants help in writing a paragraph with a particular message. Ask ChatGPT to write it for you and it will provide you with a paragraph that you can then manipulate using your human imagination. It just becomes another very useful writing tool – just like predictive text or spell-check.
Another rapidly emerging development is that of AI for audiobooks. Audiobook narrators need not be worried about loosing their roles just yet, but it’s an exciting development for independent authors on a smaller budget who want to cash in on the ever-expanding audiobook market.
For many authors, Amazon is the most straightforward route to printing and distribution, but already in 2023, the platform has come under scrutiny and criticism from those whose novels have been pirated, seemingly without consequence. Many are also falling foul of Amazon’s Expanded Distribution terms and conditions. So what other print-on-demand options are there?
Where does Softwood fit into this world of self-publishing?
Softwood Self-Publishing helps authors through the publishing process, while enabling them to keep financial and creative control. Founded in 2017, we aim to educate authors on the various routes available to them and the pitfalls to avoid. We also offer advice and support, alongside free publishing consultations and promotion.
Our main services include editing, interior formatting and cover design, printing, and book marketing, the latter perhaps being our most requested service.
Who is Softwood?
From a young age, Maddy Glenn wanted to write and publish her own book, but through publishing her first two novels, she found she had a greater passion for helping other authors achieve their writing and publishing goals. Based in Stowmarket in Suffolk, Maddy and her team now support authors on every continent with their publishing services.
Unlike many similar companies, Softwood do not offer packages for editing, design, or marketing. Instead, they like to provide exactly the services an author may require and design them to match the specific aims and budget of each individual author.
Softwood have won the Prestige Award for Self-Publishing Specialists of the Year in London and the South-East for two consecutive years (2022 & 2023), and Maddy is currently a finalist for the FSB Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2023.
So how can an author stay in control?
‘Control’ is our favourite word (other than ‘doughnuts’), and we always begin our free publishing consultations by explaining this to a prospective client. Control begins at the very start of the process when an author begins their relationship with an editor. Unlike an edit provided through a traditional publishing deal, where an author may have certain editorial decisions removed from them, including sometimes the title of their book, they must know that when self-publishing, they have the ability to accept – or decline – the professional suggestions made to them by the editor.
From a budget perspective, there are a variety of editing services they can choose from (though recommendations are made as to the most appropriate one for their manuscript), and if the budget dictates, an editing process can be stretched over a longer period of time to make it more affordable.
The design process, in our opinion, should be a collaborative process between author and designer, where the author gets to present ideas and have final say over the finished design, interior and exterior.
A much-misunderstood process is the purchase of ISBNs (from Nielsen if in the UK). We always recommend the author buys these themselves, independently of a third party, so that the ISBNs are bought in their own name. This makes the registration process with Nielsen Title Editor more straightforward and ensures that the manuscript is registered in their own author name and not under that of a publisher.
Amazon and IngramSpark are not the only services for authors to explore in terms of printing and distribution. There are other print-on-demand options out there which have direct links to wholesalers and distributors, particularly if they are aiming to be stocked by physical bookstores, whether they be independent or Waterstones. It is our job to ensure an author is aware of these options before choosing the path that is right for them and their book. What is right for one book is not necessarily right for another.
How can an author build an audience for their writing?
This aspect of publishing is one that tests the resolve of even the most experienced author. How can you build an audience, particularly if you are new to publishing?
Our stock answer is: social media. Yes, it can be time consuming, and yes, every platform has its strengths and weaknesses, but you cannot ignore the fact that through social media, you have the ability to reach billions of fellow authors and readers across the world. Not that you will reach them all, however, and it’s important to have realistic expectations.
Unless you are a recognised name, you might not expect anymore than a handful of engagements per post, but even if you spend an hour or two per week on your chosen platform, you still have the ability to reach up to 25K impressions (post views) per month. The most important thing to remember when using social media is that it should be exactly that; social. Engage with others and they should engage with you.
Post repeatedly about your book and you will be passed over for more engaging posts by others. Give something to the online community around you, whether it be knowledge, experience, tips, advice, or humour and you will be rewarded with followers who will be more likely to engage with you and share your work.
We love designing bespoke social media marketing strategies for authors who are willing and/or able to put the time in to build a brand on their chosen platform (always start with Twitter!) but increasingly we find that authors are happy to share their account with a social media manager who can help guide them on a weekly/monthly basis.
Social media can open doors to interviews, blog and podcast appearances, even routes to traditional printed media and radio; you never know who you will meet who could advance your book’s journey through the big wide world.
Find more from Softwood Self-Publishing now:
If you would like more information on Softwood Self-Publishing, visit their website on www.swspublishing.com or find them @swspublishing on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and TikTok.
Maddy Glenn, Founder & Director of Softwood Self-Publishing
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