The rise of self-publishing

We are coming to the end of the decade, and one thing that has changed over the past ten years is the process of publishing written work. Authors are becoming more comfortable, and more likely, to self-publish their work rather than follow traditional publishing routes, as online resources make this easier to do. However, I think that it is more interesting to look outside of the usual novel and consider how the rise of the internet and self-publishing has impacted the publication of more niche and personal projects.

I chatted to Martha Griffiths, fourth year American and English Literature student, and President of the Egg Box publishing society, who focus on a number of small projects throughout the year. I asked her to tell me a bit about Egg Box and what sort of things the society likes to publish. “Egg Box makes up one of the three publishing houses here at UEA and the only student led one. This means our focus is wholly on our members and any artwork – be it poetry, prose, drawing, etc… – that they wish to publish. We have two major recurring published works each year, plus any other smaller projects that students may commission or ask for our help with. Our current focus is our Autumn semester zine, this is a small collection of works by UEA students to a theme; this term we explored the idea of rebellion and the zine is truly a testament to the amazing talent at UEA.”

Zines are a great and increasingly popular way to present a personal project. Whether you are interested in written or visual art, they allow work to be self-selected rather than regulated by an outside editor. Ms Griffiths commented that, “Zines are a great way for people to connect through a common love. Because of their small print run and more robust look, they are often just to be circulated between friends and like-minded people and have therefore been rather radical in previous years. They allow for a narrow scope and unusual art to take shape without the pressure of sales and marketing. In even simpler ways, they are a great way to just have fun making something!”

The rise of self-publishing has also been impacted by the rise of the web. Platforms, for example blogs, are easy to set up and personalise with providers such as WordPress and are often the product of one person’s work. Blogs are often places of niche creativity, allowing creative’s to cultivate unique audiences. I asked Ms Griffiths how, as a publisher, she felt about self-regulated platforms and their benefits. “I think it is great we live in a time where it is much easier to get your artwork out into the public sphere. It means that the work can be far more personal without having to conform or be recognisable to a greater paying audience. It also means the public have a little more say in what they are reading as the larger book sellers are not completely dictating what is popular. Personally, I think this freedom can go both ways however as it also means what is written is unregulated and may not be fact checked. It also potentially means wading through a lot more content before finding what you are looking for.”

Self-publishing work, which involves fewer individuals than a large scale publishing project, allow consumers to support work which they believe in rather than being restricted to reading what larger publishers decide the public want. This mentality can even be extended to social media. For example, Twitter allows users to immediately publish content, whether this is art- related, or opinion based, and gather a following who values what they have to say. I have a hopeful outlook on the rise of self-publishing. I am excited about the concept, and love having niche creators to turn to who cater to my specific interests. Websites such as Patreon provide the opportunity for smaller creators to be financially supported by their audiences, rather than relying on contracts from bigger companies. This is an exciting development for budding creative’s. While I think self-publishing can run the risk of providing an inconsistent income, the benefits of having complete creative control over your work are more enticing than the downsides.

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Ellie Robson

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October 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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