by Alison Flood)
The University of Central Lancashire has announced the launch of what it describes as the world's first degree in self-publishing.
The MA will begin in September, and course leader Debbie Williams believes it will help "legitimise" self-publishing. "Things have definitely changed. In the last two years, self-publishing has stopped being a dirty word, and is a legitimate option for authors," she said. "Even the biggest authors are looking at it now."
Despite the negative light in which self-publishing is viewed by some – Jeffrey Archer recently said "it doesn't work, don't do it. The only person who reads it is the person who gets it published", while Sue Grafton has characterised DIY-ers as "too lazy to do the hard work" – the university pointed to research from the books data company Bowker, which found that around 390,000 titles were self-published in the US in 2012, up 59% on 2011 and a massive 422% on 2007. Digital self-publishing also continues to boom, accounting for 40% of self-published titles in the US in 2012, up from just 11% in 2007, according to Bowker.
"Self-publishing is becoming a global phenomenon," said Williams. "Everyone has a book in them – and many of us have a manuscript sitting in the drawer, unsure what to do with it. Think of all the literary treasures that have never had the chance to see the light of day because their authors were put off by the traditional publishing model. Our new MA will help guide these individuals through the process to help them realise the dream of seeing their book in print."
The idea of launching a self-publishing MA was sparked by demand, she said, and would-be students are already applying. The course will consist of a mix of lectures, seminars and workshops, featuring expert industry speakers, with modules to include production, marketing and the creation of ebooks. It is not a creative writing course, Williams stressed, although the university will help "with structural editing".
"We're the first self-publishing MA in the world. It's unbelievable we are, but we are," Williams said. She hopes students will go on to publish future bestsellers, she added, pointing to the university's former student Kerry Wilkinson, who self-published his Jessica Daniel crime series and hit Amazon's bestseller charts.
Hugh Howey, the bestselling science fiction author who self-published before landing a traditional deal, recently pointed out that Amazon's science fiction charts are currently an extraordinary mix of established names such as Orson Scott Card and George RR Martin and self-published writers including BV Larson and AG Riddle.
"I think it means that a sustained and profitable career as a science fiction author is more likely, these days, to have its origin in self-publishing," said Howey. "I don't think it should come as a shock that indies are killing it in these underserved genres. The supply simply can't keep up with reader demand."