Review of BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine on Self-Publishing

Last week BBC Radio 2’s midday programme, presented by Jeremy Vine, discussed self-publishing in the UK. The programme featured Kim Cross, MD of Grosvenor House Publishing (POD Index – 244.16), a UK author solutions service, and Simon Crump, a mainstream published author, as well as a host of phone callers.
Crump was one of the few lone voices not in support of self-publishing, believing that the process of mainstream publishing produced better books and better authors, and admitted he had not considered self-publishing as part of his writing career. Crump’s input to the programme came at the very beginning of what was approximately just under a thirty minute segment of Vine’s two-hour slot from midday till 2pm. Much of what Crump had to say, I can’t disagree with, and he pointed out that ‘vanity publishers’ engaged in raised expectations for an author’s book.
Kim Cross had much of the speaking floor, buoyed by several authors who phoned in to the programme to share their experiences of having their books published, but for me, never seemed to convincing sell the self-publishing argument. If anything, his radio host, Jeremy Vine, did a far better job. We were never told that Graham P Taylor, affiliated to Grosvenor House Publishing and a marketing mascot for them, self-published his book Shadowmancer by owning his ISBN, imprint and printed the books by normal offset means, and not POD. In fact, it would have made a great deal more sense if Grosvenor House Publishing had actually sent Taylor in to do the interview segment instead. Cross explained that ‘no, we don’t read the manuscripts’ and ‘no advice is given’, we ‘publish a book for an author’. Cross seemed to have a narrower definition for what is meant by ‘publishing’ than Simon Crump had earlier in the programme.
While we did hear from self-published authors who phoned in and some of them spoke about selling thousands of books, the programme made no mention of William P. Young, Jeremy Robinson or the more recent success of J.A. Konrath. Where Cross really exposed his lack of knowledge on other author solutions services and literary agents was when he incorrectly stated that Lulu had all their books printed in the USA. More glaringly, was his claim that 50 to 60% of manuscripts were not read by literary agents – citing his own experience. Broadly, Cross viewed the publishing landscape as bleak for new authors, believing the chances of landing a mainstream publisher or literary agent as almost ‘impossible’. Clearly Cross does not look through the pages of The Bookseller or Publishers Marketplace, week to week.
This should have been an ideal platform for a light to be shone upon self-publishing and its merits, as well as the challenges facing authors who follow this tricky path. Instead, it became another trapdoor for naive authors. It was an equal pity for Grosvenor House Publishing, one of the better and more established author solutions services in the UK – but by no means the best. This programme potentially through its lack of real discussion and delivery of misleading information, simply provided more author cannon fodder for unscrupulous vanity publishers.          
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