I put this question to my Writers Facebook group on Monday 7thMay 2018 after attending the Sydney Writers’ Festival last week. Well, to say it rattled the Writers’ cage is an understatement. There was an uprising amongst us Subbers overnight. We climbed into our Avenger armour, assembled, and have taken to the streets, figuratively speaking, through our fingers, as only writers can.
Self-publishing for the last few years has been mentioned briefly at prestigious Australian writers’ festivals. Perhaps a one-off panel, or pushed to locations three hours out of city centres, like in the Blue Mountains. While this is a move in the right direction, I believe festivals are missing an opportunity to engage with self-published authors in the major cities and find new sponsors.
I found very few panels at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival where a self-published author sat alongside traditionally published authors discussing their books. And I would put money on it, that there wasn’t an exclusively self-published author invited to the signing spaces in the main foyers in either the Sydney Carriageworks or Parramatta locations.
When I think of how self-publishing has democratised the publishing landscape, it seems crazy we don’t have a full day dedicated to it in festival programs around the country. It’s been the future of publishing for the past ten years. It’s not going away. It’s only getting a bigger chunk of the publishing pie. With so much content to cover, festivals could easily dedicate a day. This would create opportunities for IngramSpark, Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Kobo, professional editors, book designers, authors and many others to reach their audience.
Writers’ festivals aren’t just about readers; a large portion of the attendees are writers. These writers need the publishing process to be demystified. Jesse Andrews (Me, Earl and the Dying Girl) asked the audience at the YA Books and Films panel who was a writer? 70% put up their hands. I would guess most were under thirty and will probably try self-publishing as their first option, not their last. The festivals are losing these potential patrons of the future.
London, Edinburgh and New York are becoming more inclusive - running all day events for self-published authors to huge success or finding self-published gems and giving them a platform. The London Book Fair even stated on its website that it wanted self-published authors to feel at home. It created a dedicated space for networking, talks, agent meetings and pitch slams.
Most Australian writers’ festivals have some form of government funding. As such, using taxpayers’ money they have duty to be more inclusive and find new frontiers. I guess when we discover our Australian Beatrix Potter or Mark Dawson, the industry will really sit up and take notice. I hope that happens sooner than later, so they shine a light on the passionate, talented Australian storytellers of the future. Australians love an underdog story and self-published authors are the current underdog of a billion-dollar industry, who in the near future could be the top dog. Let me leave you with this thought…our Matt Reilly started his career as a self- published author. He is now one of the country’s most loved authors. For the second year he has been voted Australia’s favourite author by a Booktopia poll.
More people than ever before believe they have a ‘book in them’. So why aren’t the Australian Writers’ Festivals creating more opportunities to find the next Aussie rock star self-published author? They could feel proud about the part they played in elevating the next generation of writers.
If you read this and feel you can add to the conversation, please write your own blog and link to us. Let’s shine a light on the self-published storytellers, they are the superheroes of the future. #SelfPubIsHere