Self-publishing vs traditional publication

The experience of working with a publisher, versus self-publishing a book, is very interesting. I might even say it’s relaxing by comparison.

Word art about traditional publishing versus self-publishing

Last week I was reminded of how much work is involved in self-publishing, and how stressful it can be, when I spent a whole day re-formatting the manuscript for the paperback version of my first book, Susan.

I originally published the book on Amazon KDP in 2017. Last year I corrected a few typos and added a couple of sentences to the text. They were such minor changes that I didn’t think it necessary to order a printed copy to check it, after I’d uploaded it to Amazon. That was naive of me.

It was only when I bought a copy to give to someone else that I discovered the “corrected” version was full of unexpected and unexplained formatting errors. It was still readable, but certainly not presentable. In the end I had to strip all the formatting and start from scratch to get it right. Then I had to remember how to upload it again. Now I’m waiting for a printed copy to make sure it has stayed properly formatted this time.

Many authors have moved into self-publishing because it gives them more control over their work, and the royalties are better. I decided to self-publish Susan because I didn’t think it was the type of book that would appeal to traditional publishers. I was also curious to know what self-publishing a book involved, from woe-to-go. It was worth doing, and I don’t regret the decision.

But although self-publishing probably becomes easier the more you do it, I’ve found it has a steep learning curve. Every stage – editing, formatting, publishing, publicising – involves acquiring new skills, both technical and personal. Getting it half-right is relatively easy. Getting a professional-looking product into the hands of readers is more difficult. Writing the book was definitely the easiest part! (I suspect getting it right would be easier with fiction than a non-fiction work with references, like Susan.)

At first, working with a traditional publisher on my second book seemed a very long, slow journey. But I’ve come to appreciate having someone else to work with at each stage of the publishing process. I still have some say in the editing, formatting and art work, but I’m not responsible for the technical side of setting up and distributing the book. I feel confident that every aspect of The Edward Street Baby Farm will be well-polished when it’s finished.

Western Australia rejects prohibition – four times

The Rechabite, William Street, Perth. Image from ABC News website.

Perth’s Rechabite Hall, which recently re-opened as an entertainment venue after extensive restoration work, now includes four bars. The irony of this has not been lost on the media. In the 1920s, when the hall was built, the Independent Order of Rechabites were staunch supporters of the temperance movement. Members took a vow of abstinence from alcohol. The Rechabites’ buildings around the state were regularly used for public meetings in support of prohibition.

In fact, I discovered recently that Western Australia has had four referendums on alcohol regulation and prohibition. That means the state has had as many referendums on alcohol licensing as on daylight saving. Who would have guessed?

The first two plebiscites were not simple “yes or no” affairs. The Local Option Vote in 1911 asked voters in each electoral district to answer three questions :

  • 1: Should the number of licenses existing in the district be increased?
  • 2: Do you vote that all new Publicans’ General Licenses be held by the State?
  • 3: Are you in favour of State Management throughout the District?

The poll coincided with two national referendums on trade and the nationalisation of monopolies. Voter turnout was small. Most districts rejected any increase in local liquor licenses but voted in favour of state control.

Cartoon from Western Mail, Friday 28 November 1913, page 28.
The caption reads “The Modern Canute and the Rising Tide”

Another attempt to introduce greater regulation of the sale of alcohol was made in 1921, with the Local Option Referendum. This time voters in each electoral district had to decide whether the number of liquor licenses in their area should increase, stay the same, be reduced, or be removed altogether.

The poll produced some anomalous results. Communities such as Perth and Fremantle, with “an execresence” of licensed premises and a perceived problem with drunkenness. voted not to change the number of licenses. The same was true of the mining towns. Other communities, such as Claremont and Subiaco, with fewer licenses to begin with, voted to reduce the number even further.

A poll every five years

In 1922 State Parliament passed a law that would have seen the prohibition question re-addressed every five years. Section 60 of the Licensing Act Amendment Act stated that “in 1925, and in every fifth year thereafter… there shall be taken a poll of the electors in every electoral district on the proposal that prohibition shall come into force in Western Australia”.

The first such poll was duly carried out in 1925. This time the question was simple: Do you favour Prohibition coming into force in Western Australia? The answer was ‘No!’ But after that, despite the legislation, there were no further polls until 1950. Again the state’s voters rejected prohibition. The government repealed the relevant section of the act in 1959.

I should add that all these referendums were only of relevance to the State’s settler population. Aboriginal residents had been barred from purchasing alcohol since 1843. Legislation introduced in 1880 further restricted the sale of alcohol to Aboriginal people and banned them from “loitering” on licensed premises. They did not have a vote and no-one asked what they thought of prohibition.