It’s always nice to have visitors (when else would the house be cleaned and the fine china dusted off?) and today my visitor is Tania McCartney.

Welcome Tania!

Tania’s journey to publication took a different path to mine, and is a fascinating story. Today she talks about that process and contrasts it with the publication of her newest book, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat.

Whenever I tell people I’m an author, they invariably ask me how I got published. Of course, asking that question is like asking the length of that proverbial piece of string, but suffice to say, after many years of wallpapering my house with rejection slips, I was first published (You Name It, Hodder Headline 1995) thanks to hard work, tenacity and patience.

I have to say, however, that patience is not my strongest point – and this was one of the main reasons I ended up falling into self-publishing. It was never planned – it just sort of happened that way.

After Jill-of-All-Trade-ing my way through my 20s and 30s, it wasn’t until my late 30s that I finally found myself in the glorious position to be able to write full time. We were on post in Beijing when I began sketching out the idea for my first children’s picture book. When Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A journey around Beijing was finished, I considered submitting it to publishers in Australia, but a unique set of circumstances instead pushed me to explore self-publishing.

The first circumstance was the aforementioned impatience. The second was my strong desire to explore the world of publishing. The third was the fact that printing books in China was exceedingly inexpensive. The fourth was that I was a Kids Editor, Features Writer and Columnist for three English language expat magazines, and therefore had media support and market saturation at my disposal.

These elements all came together to form a beautiful, ripe, self-publishing cherry, which I plucked at just the right time. The way in which Sleeping Dragon came together was truly fortuitous and so began a Self-Publishing journey that has completely changed my life.

Although my SP journey fell easily into place, self-publishing is far from easy. The actual process is simple enough – but it’s the full time and endless dedication and professionalism required for this process that really sorts the wheat from the chaff.

I do NOT stop. Marketing my four self-published books has been an all-encompassing task that demands my time night and day, seven days a week. I am only one woman, and have a family to run, a house to maintain and hair-washing to perform on the odd occasion… and even then, these parts of my life are often neglected (especially the hair).

So then… if it’s all so intense, why self-publish? And what benefits does self-publishing have over trade publishing?

The first hurdle to Self-Publishing is the stigma. Self-published books have traditionally been seen as substandard and unprofessional, and this is mostly thanks to the Vanity Self-Publishing companies who will publish anything and everything (yes, even unedited or substandard books) if an author is willing to pay them the money to do so.

Thankfully, as more and more authors turn to Outsourcing Self-Publishing (where, like myself, the creators do everything – bar printing and binding – themselves) and make use of the professional-standard software and printing capabilities available to virtually anyone, the quality of books on the Self-Publishing scene is rapidly improving.

In a technical sense, creating a publishing-house standard book is now relatively easily… if you are willing to research the processes and operate to the highest standards across all areas of the book-creation process. Teachers and industry professionals who have seen my Riley the Little Aviator books have told me they had no idea they were ‘self-published’ – but I had to work incredibly hard to ensure these books were of the highest standard, and I wore many hats, from typesetter to market researcher to book distributor.

This is one of the many downsides of self-publishing. You need to wear so many hats and need to be skilled in or spend a lot of time learning, in many areas. The hours required are relentlessly long and don’t stop once the book hits the shelves – in fact, that’s when the work just begins. Writing, editing, printing, publishing are all good and well – but marketing, promoting, distributing and selling are the most vital parts of the publishing puzzle… and these things continue to challenge me. Remember, I am only one woman. And I have hair to occasionally wash.

Going through a publishing house means an author has a team of professionals behind them. They have a system that has been in place for many years that runs like a well-oiled machine, with existing structures, contacts and resources in place. When self-publishing, you only have yourself. Filling all these myriad roles is overwhelming and worst of all – has little capacity for market saturation.

Publishing houses know all about market saturation. Not only do new books need to reach maximum potential buyers, they need to be physically distributed across the country (and around the world). One wife and mother with a neglected kitchen floor has little chance of getting 10,000 book copies onto shelves around the country. This issue is, absolutely, the biggest hurdle for any self-publisher – and securing a book distribution company for self-published books is vital.

And unless you’re extremely and freakishly lucky, no, you will not sell 25,000 copies by selling exclusively from your website. In fact, you’ve got more chance of being accepted by a major publisher than doing this.

Then there’s the upfront cost of self-publishing. Whilst printing in Australia has become much more affordable, a decent print run costs a considerable whack of money. You do, however, make between 30 and 80 per cent of the retail price on all books sold, which makes recouping that outlay relatively fast (if you are an active seller).

Through a traditional publisher, the author generally stands to earn between just 5 and 10 per cent of RRP, but there is no upfront cost, a lovely advance payment on royalties is usually received, and the author has the backing of a team of professionals, not to mention major market-saturation and distribution.

They also have ‘credibility’, which self-publishers often lack.

So, if it’s all so hard, why self-publish at all? For me, a set of unusual circumstances made it an affordable, lucrative, very do-able option. It’s been much harder with my two last self-published books (being that I published them when we returned to Australia) but I have persisted and I do feel it has been more than worth it. My self-published books have been so well-received, I have no doubt they’ve helped me enormously with my writing career.

But just because I self-published four books, doesn’t mean I’ll do so forever. I only have a limited amount of hours in my day! Since returning to Australian in 2009, I’ve continued to avidly pursue trade publishers and have secured three new publishing deals – so I’m by no means ‘anti’ trade publishing. What I am about is exploration and following the desire to learn and grow as an author – to seize the moment and believe in your work. And if that means giving the Self-Publishing route a go, then by all means do it.

Self-publishing has been an intense journey but it’s also been the greatest professional achievement of my life, and I’ve loved every minute of it. For those of you tossing up the idea of self-publishing, consider the following pros and cons before making that decision. Whichever route you choose, my most important piece of advice is simply this: do everything with Excellence.

Trade Publishing Cons

·         having to wait many months, even years to have manuscript submissions looked at

·         being able to wallpaper your house in rejection slips

·         having your work altered or edited; releasing creative control

·         waiting for lengthy periods before publication

·         publishers have other books to market; you’ll still need to commit to promoting your work wherever possible

·         no guarantees for success

Trade Publishing Pros

·         gaining credibility and status

·         having your work looked at more readily by other publishers

·         gaining invaluable publishing industry connections and relationships

·         market saturation

·         potential to earn good money

·         prestige

Self-Publishing Cons

·         stigma associated with SP (rapidly improving)

·         the extensive research, outsourcing and learning required

·         heavy, non-stop workload

·         up-front costs

·         can take a while to recoup outlays

·         distribution costs (around 70% of RRP)

·         distribution saturation issues

·         market saturation issues

·         you cannot rely on self-published work to secure a trade publisher

·         having few people to rely on for help

·         having to wear so many hats

·         no guarantees for success

Self-Publishing Pros

·         having full control of the look and feel of your work; creative fulfilment

·         being able to publish at whim; when it suits you

·         if you do it well, your books could attract the attention of trade publishers

·         being able to sell book copies directly and earn a large percentage on RRP

·         gaining invaluable publishing industry connections and relationships

·         learning an invaluable part of the publishing industry

·         potential to earn good money if you work extremely hard

·         it’s great fun

See for more on Tania’s work.

 Tania is going to need Riley’s plane and all of his gadgets if she is to achieve all the stops on this blog tour! Go here for details. Good luck and here are your goggles Tania. Thanks for visiting.