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Holding your published novel in your hands for the very first time is supposed to be a thrilling moment for an author. But the thrill is shot through with a brimming dose of alarm.

Some authors may be immune from the quaking fear that their book is, after all, a muddled affair, full of mistakes and should never have got itself printed. Learning that Mary Stewart, that brilliant writer of romantic thrillers, burst into tears when her first novel was published (see September’s post ‘Her publishers refused to pulp it’) is a great comfort. She can’t have worried about mistakes or the quality of her writing – her novels were published by Hodder & Stoughton – but even the validation of a traditional publisher wasn’t enough to overcome her dread of being exposed.

With self-publishing, the unnerving sensation of ‘putting oneself out there’ is inevitably more intense. However much valuable feedback is offered by a helpful and talented writing group, this is not the same as the confidence-giving validation of an agent and traditional publishing house. Thoughts that belong to two o’clock in the morning creep into the mind: might sympathetic, friendly groups become deluded, thinking members’ work is better than it is?

But I am still glad I have taken the plunge to self-publish my second novel Of Human Telling. I hope that it is at least good in parts, like the curate’s egg, and brings pleasure to its readers. It certainly looks and feels as nice as All Desires Known. People might even like to buy it for the cover alone, with its beautiful painting by London artist Anne-Marie Butlin.

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