This week, the world of publishing is buzzing about the launch of Canadian comedy writer Kelly Oxford's first book,Everything is Perfect When You're A Liar. The buzz surrounding Oxford mainly stems from the fact that she is another self-publishing, internet sensation. A former stay at home mom, her acerbic Tweets on every topic from the meaning of life to being an anti-mom have garnered her more than 460,000 followers, which include many celebrity comedy writers and actors.
Take a scroll through her Twitter page and you will get a taste of why she is so popular. Like all good comedians there is no subject that is off limits for Oxford. Tweets like ' How do you get a red wine stain off a baby?' and one of my personal favourites 'I'm no scientist but I'm pretty sure head rushes are ghosts finishing sex inside of you' were retweeted so many times that they caught the attention of the mainstream entertainment and publishing industry.
Although she is an internet sensation, Oxford is quick to point out she is not an overnight sensation and worked hard at developing her craft for many years. Scribbling since she could hold a pen, Everything is Perfect When You're A Liar is a testament to her efforts and documents her experiments with writing from a young age, including holding auditions with neighbourhood kids for a Star Wars stage adaption she wrote.
Tweeting and blogging were the formats Oxford used to express her voice and connect to her readers but when she got eventually got the call from a top Hollywood TV network, like all hard working writers, she had the material they were looking for ready to go. In addition to the book, she has also written a couple of TV pilots and a film script which is apparently underway at Warner Brothers.
The story behind Oxford's story is becoming a more and more familiar one these days and she joins ranks with other self-published authors like EL James who first made it big through self-publishing in a digital format.
If tweeting or blogging on fan fiction sites isn't your thing and you prefer the traditional medium of a book, you no longer need to wait for a contract from a traditional publisher to get your work out there thanks to ebook retailers like Amazon and Kobo who offer self-publishing platforms.
According to publishing industry analysts Bowker in a report published last October:
'the number of self-published books produced annually in the U.S. has nearly tripled, growing 287% since 2006'.Many of these authors have succeeded in reaching the top slots on the ebook bestseller lists and at least four have made it into the 'Kindle Million Club'.
While these authors have enjoyed financial success , the critics have not always been kind to them. One of the biggest criticisms they face, and the biggest misconception around self-publishing is that internet sensation equals overnight sensation.
Given the number of self published authors that are out there making a decent living, I feel now is the time to challenge some of the myths that surround self publishing.
In my experience, there are a couple of things that all self published authors have in common, they work hard, they know how to connect with their readers and they write what they want to write, not what they think might make them the next sensation. In response to her critics on this subject Kelly Oxford said:
'I chose to self-publish with no hopes of ever having a career, out of the sheer need to be creative (or lose my mind), and from that I inadvertently earned a career'.
As most people know by now, the Fifty Shades of Grey novels started off as blogs on a Twilight fan-fiction site, a format James was drawn to as a self professed Twi-hard. But just because she enjoyed writing them, doesn't mean she hadn't put in the hours. When the demand came from her fans for more stories about Ana and Christian, James delivered the goods, long before there was even a sniff of a publishing contract. When it was announced last month that James was to publish a writing guide, many people scoffed but I'll bet it will be another best seller as other authors try to steal her secret sauce.
The other myth to dispel about self published authors is that they are only 'discovered' when they finally get the call from a mainstream publisher or TV network offering them a contract. In fact, they are usually discovered long before that by the most important people of all, their readers. Readers who will have validated their writing by commenting on it and reviewing it, and who will have helped market it through reblogging and retweeting it. Indeed, many of the recent comments on Kelly Oxford's blog are from loyal fans, who have enjoyed her humour for years, acknowledging that they already knew she had talent and are only surprised that it is taking the rest of the world so long to realise it.
The final perception about self-publishing is that it is just for the young, or the very internet savvy. On the contrary, self published authors come in all shapes and sizes as I found out when I met Peter Wilben, a sixty something writer with a 30 year writing career behind him who has independently released a series of thriller books for ebook only. Wilben, proves that self-publishing is for everyone or at least everyone, who is willing to put in the work, I should say.
Disclosure: Peter Wilben is an author currently working with Orchard Wall Publishing.