Self-published authors print their own destinies

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair: The UAE-based authors Jody J Ballard, Seuman Gallacher and Alexander McNabb discuss what it takes to carve out your own slice of literary success.

The crime novelist Seumas Gallacher says the Kindle helped turn self-publishing into more than a vanity-press exercise. Sammy Dallal / The National
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Three leading lights of the local self-publishing scene - Jody J Ballard, Seumas Gallacher and Alexander McNabb - will be in the ADIBF Tent on Thursday to discuss their experiences. Ballard has recently published her debut novel, The Smell of Mud, while Gallacher's crime thrillers, The Violin Man's Legacy and Vengeance Wears Black, have racked up more than 60,000 digital downloads. McNabb, meanwhile, has sold around 1,000 copies of his two novels, Beirut and Olives

What can the audience expect to see and hear at the session?

Jody Ballard: Since I'll be bookended by two UK authors who write "man" thrillers, it may prove interesting to see how a Montana psychologist specialising in relationships fits into the fray. Should be fun. The common threads are those of writing, self-publishing and gutsy humour.

Seumas Gallacher: I would expect the audience to learn that the world of publishing has undergone a sea change in the past five years. Before the Kindle, self-publishing was considered more of a vanity-press exercise. That's changed now.

Alexander McNabb: Hopefully some interesting debate, information on the state of publishing and probably me making trouble.

What prompted you to write your first novel?

JB: Writing this book reconnected me to my heritage and forced me to learn or relearn many of the fascinating facts of the early settlers in the US North-west.

I began to question and have certain curiosities about how women ended up in prostitution and what allowed them to survive this crisis. One question built on the next and I was propelled forward.

SG: A desire to write the novel we all supposedly have inside us. For me, it was just time to get it done.

AM: Giving up smoking. I'd written millions of words as a journalist, editor and communications guy, so I thought I'd take out my frustrations and write a book. It was a thoroughly enjoyable process, so I did it again. I can't stop now. It's a very nasty habit indeed.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

JB: I am impatient and wanted immediate feedback. Seumas had tutored me in the process and I researched this growing trend. I am convinced self-publishing can serve as a path that can lead to the more formal publishing houses.

SG: There are hundreds of thousands of wannabe successful authors on the planet. Before the internet phenomenon, much of the traditional publishing house process was in the "too hard" basket. That's different now.

AM: I got bored of rejection from publishers looking for the conventional and mainstream, and lost faith in an industry that is obviously wrestling with the issues of cataclysmic and transformational - even existential - challenges of change being wrought by the internet.

How hard is it to juggle the multiple roles of author, editor, publisher and publicist?

JB: For me juggling these requirements is a daunting task. If I could only write, I would be thrilled. I have no sense of time and as an artist I feel more comfortable lulling around in my right brain. I am much more competent in the creative endeavour. Business holds little interest to me.

SG: It takes up a lot of time. It's called "building the platform". A regular presence on the social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and LinkedIn as well as having your own blog are essentials in my opinion.

AM: It's a doddle. Promotion can get exhausting.

What are you working on now?

JB: I have three books in the hopper and need to decide the best sequencing. I am doing the research on all three and love this process.

One novel will tell the story of an Emirati grandfather who is dying and considering his legacy. The second focuses on fidelity in marriage and if a relationship can survive after an affair. The third is a true story of a corpse passed down with ownership of a funeral home until one director seeks out his identity and lays him to rest.

SG: My third novel, Savage Payback, is a work in progress, and is another crime thriller.

AM: I've just finished writing my third serious novel, Shemlan - A Deadly Tragedy, so it's with my agent while beta readers go through it and tell me what "worked" for them and what didn't before a last edit. It'll publish in September.

Self-Publishing: A Success Story is at 4.30pm on Thursday, April 25 in the ADIBF Tent.

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