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Self-publishing is not a new phenomenon. It has been around for centuries, and indeed, some of the world’s most celebrated authors—Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Virginia Woolfe to name but a few—have chosen this option at some point in their careers. More recent examples include Hugh Howey’s critically acclaimed Wool, and who can forget the commercial juggernaut that is E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey? Closer to home, Australian success stories include bestselling author Matthew Reilly (Contest*) and Euan Mitchell (Feral Tracks).
When Australia’s inaugural Nobel Prize winning writer, Patrick White was a teenager in the 1920s, his mum funded the publication of Thirteen Poems. However, many years later White tried to track down and destroy all known copies, along with his other book of poetry The Ploughman and other poems. In 2002, another young aspiring writer, US teen Christopher Paolini had the help of his family’s printing press to publish his book Eragon, which has since gone on to sell millions of copies, and has been turned into a feature movie. Hopefully, unlike White, Paolini is never so embarrassed by his early creation that he tries to eradicate it!
For many self-publishing authors, the true reward of publishing a book lies not in fame and fortune, (which is found by relatively few) but in sharing ideas, experiences and stories with the world through the written word.
Our collection aims to provide a true reflection of Australians and Australian culture. With improvements in digital publishing and printing technologies, self-published books make up a large portion of the nation’s published output, so we are keen to ensure they are held in the collection.
Here are the top 4 questions our Legal Deposit team receives from self-publishers:
1. I’ve self published a book—would you like a copy?
Yes! Legal deposit applies to material that is made available to the public for sale or for free and is either published in Australia or published by Australian authors or organisations.
2. My book is printed overseas—do you still want it?
Yes! If you are an Australian self-published author and your book is printed overseas, legal deposit applies to you.
3. Who is responsible for sending you my book, me or my self-publishing service?
You are, unless your self-publishing service has undertaken to deposit a copy of your book on your behalf. Check our catalogue to see if we have already received your book, and check your agreement with the self-publishing service.
4. My book is available as an eBook—can I deposit the electronic version?
Yes! From February 2016, legal deposit provisions at the National Library were extended to include electronic materials, which you can send to us using our fancy new edeposit service. If you publish in both print and electronic format, you only need to deposit one copy in one format, so let us know which option you prefer.
If you have any questions about depositing your work with us, our friendly Legal Deposit team will be happy to have a chat with you.
Self-published books are an important part of the national collection, offering diverse views of Australia and the world. They have significance, whether from an academic or entertainment or family history perspective. If I was a descendent of the Coles family, then Kenneth G. Coles’ book Branching out would be indispensable. If I was a scholar researching the representation of biblical figures in novels, then I would certainly want to know of the existence of a novel about a time-travelling Jesus.
A huge benefit of depositing your publications with us is that you don’t need to worry about your work becoming inaccessible as the years go by. It’s our job to ensure the content is available for future generations, whether you deposit your print book or ebook. Hardcopy books are well looked-after in climate controlled stacks, and electronic material is preserved and monitored so that content can be migrated as file formats change over time.
So, a call-out to all self-published authors—we want you! (or rather, your books)
*The Library does not yet hold a copy of the self-published edition of Matthew Reilly’s Contest. If you have one that you would like to donate, we will love you forever!