With publication of Death & Dominion drawing closer (October 12th), I have been asked once again by several people why I decided to go with a commercial publisher as opposed to self-publishing, as I did previously with Jigsaw Pieces. It has been pointed out that I am on a % rate, and if I returned to self publishing, I'd make a lot more money.
Two reasons why I originally made the decision, and am, for now, sticking with it: Firstly, it is all too easy nowadays to write a book, cobble together a cover and upload the finished product to Amazon (actually, it damn well isn't .. as you can read here:). Advances in technology have opened up enormous opportunities for self-publishing that were never there when I started writing books, and that is a good thing.
However, inevitably there is a lot of dross out there and it lets the side down. Poorly written and produced books with typos, badly designed covers, sold at rock bottom prices is not the way I want to go. Despite the many ''Hey, I produced a book for virtually nothing'' blogs, the writers of the best self-published books have usually used beta readers, then paid out for professional editing, proofreading and cover designing. Hats off to them. It is hard work and not easy and having done it once, and not being as young as I was then, I'm not keen to do it again.
Secondly, to be accepted by a commercial publisher is a sign that my work is of a certain standard. Very few writers are now being taken on by the ''big'' mainstream houses. You have to be young, connected to somebody who works in the industry, the possessor of a fabulously interesting/made up back story, or a celeb. It is also harder to find an agent - and agents take upwards of 10% of all royalties earned anyway.
Small independents like Crooked Cat (my publisher) are now the first port of call for those writers who find the big publishing doors slammed shut. The market is changing once more, as evidenced when Crooked Cat recently opened its doors for submissions and was totally taken aback by the inundation of manuscripts. They are in the business of making money, as are all independent publishers and they only take on a small percentage of the writers who apply. I am one of the lucky few.
Even though I am not self-published, I still have a lot of autonomy. I can do whatever I like, publicity-wise, and if you follow me on Twitter (@carolJhedges) you will know that I do. I had very little autonomy with Usborne and OUP and I gather that some big publishing houses like to keep a close eye on their writers so they don't run amok on social media, which could rebound back on them.
I also chose the covers of my books, which remind me of contemporary newspaper headings, or theatrical posters. They are designed by a local graphic artist, who is also a friend. I have been told they are reminiscent of very early Penguin covers. They are certainly quirky and different ... just like the stories .. and, dare I say it, like the author of the stories herself!
So what's your publishing experience? And as a reader ...do you ''prefer'' a book that has a 'proper publisher' behind it? Do share ....
As a writer ... we all make the choices that are right for us. I was told (by a mentor - long story) that Over the Hill would have found a publisher 10 years ago but now, as I'm not a celebrity and hadn't crossed the Sahara on a skateboard, it wouldn't, so I should do it myself. So I did. And have done pretty well with it. It was followed by little ebook and a print book - all self-pubbed and I'm fine with that as I've had fab feedback.ReplyDelete
But I so agree that there is so much dross in the self-published field, and especially in fiction - where there seems to be an explosion of unedited dross. So when I'm buying fiction I either buy something traditionally published or go with recommendations from friends. (Life is too short to plough through dross when there's so much wonderful stuff to read!)
Exactly Jo! I do wonder why some people publish.apart form the ''glory' of having a book out (which we ALL have inside us, I am told). I think people re getting more selective..good thing too!Delete
As a voracious reader of both traditionally published work and self-published I can honestly say I have had more poor experiences from the traditional route than the self-published, and many of these by so called celebrity authors. I think there is a lot to be said for getting a traditional publisher to take on your work providing that that publisher isn't expect you, the author, to do ALL the marketing for the grand sum of 5p per hard copy sold (personal experience and no names will be mentioned). I write because I enjoy it, not because I want to make an unscrupulous publishing house money whilst I break my back trying to sell as well as trying to write the next as well as holding down a full time job. Being able to control the price of my work is something that attracted me back to self-publishing. Personally, I think 99p for a download and $6-£7 per hard copy is more than enough to pay for an unknown author and most readers will pay that. As for the comments on the initial post by Carol about editing / typos, I can say with complete honesty that the worst book I ever had out for typos was my first traditionally published book. I made the mistake of assuming that as it had had two professional edits, it should be okay. Not the case. Having been told by my readership that it was still littered with errors I then made sure I checked book 2 in the series more closely. If I hadn't done that then there would have been great swathes of the book missing as they had 'accidentally' deleted several paragraphs during the second edit. Hardly a firm endorsement for taking the traditional route. In the end it is down to the individual author to see what suits them best. For me, it's more important to know people are reading my work, than buying it. - Great talking point though Carol.Delete
Yes, I have just had a similar experience re editing - I think it behoves us as writers NOT to surrender our hard written work up without checking it ourselves. Though if you employ a freelance, you may have the same probs! Hmmm....Delete
As you know, Carol, I am also published by an independent: Accent Press. As far as I can see, I get about as much, or more, support from Accent as I would if I were a new writer with, say, Penguin. In many ways, they are better. They design gorgeous covers for me and (after some initial problems) they listen to what I ask for on covers and now understand exactly what the books are about. There's no way I could better their latest efforts. Last week I was at a meeting with authors published by large publishers and their stories about cover design were a nightmare. And covers really matter to historical authors.ReplyDelete
I like the fact that my publisher concentrates on the commercial side, which they clearly understand, and leave me to get on with the writing.
Where's the down-side? Well, it would be nice to be available in bookshops more easily. I've had friends try to order my books through Waterstones to be told they're not available. This is nonsense: Accent have national distribution and you can order their books anywhere, but Waterstones apparently don't like dealing with independents. It's annoying, but it says more about the still-antediluvian attitudes of the book trade than it does about Accent.
The other problem is that there are a growing number of 'independent publishers' who are just self-published authors who have set up their own imprint. Some are very good, but generally we're back to the whole 'gatekeeper' issue. When I say I'm published by Accent, no one knows if that means I've been properly evaluated and edited and am presented nicely in a properly typeset book or whether I've just paid someone to put covers on my typescript. Perhaps 'proper' publishers, like Crooked Cat and Accent, need to set up and publicise a trade body so that the public know what imprints to look out for.
I've done a blog about Waterstones!!! They and small ndependent bookshops (and WHSmug) are the bane of my life! Your publisher and mine will have a supplier (Bertrams or Gardiner) with whom they will have a trade agreement. It's 40% discount on the original price, ...meaning the bookshop makes a nice profit. There is NO REASON why these places can't order in our stuff! Indeed they should have a MORAL OBLIGATION to support local writers! Their refusal to do so smacks more of the way big publishers deal with them...especially the way they ''fund'' the placing of their books in window displays or on tables ...you did know all this was paid for? Waterstones stocks me in St Albans..but mainly coz they take my Usborne books and because I am a ''known'' individual round here. I tried to get them into Hampstead Waterstones...much of the books take place in that area...no joy. No wonder Amazon etc corners most of the market...they do not discriminate between writers --and no, I do not endorse Amazon..necessary evil in my opinion.Delete
Waterstones claim to have a policy of "Look After The Locals" - yet I've never had any success with my local branch 😕Delete
Tom, I agree that Accent are great. And this is an interesting post, Carol. I rarely buy self-pubbed book and only if they come hightly recommended by people I trust. There are so many wonderful books published that one has to filter in some way. Regarding a trade guild there's the IPG, of which Accent is a member (I can't speak for CC). Regarding book shops and stock - there should be no reason why a shop shouldn't order a book if a customer requests it, that's plain silly. However, they cannot stock POD titles because the business model is commonly sale or return, and unit costs of POD titles are so high compared to books printed in bulk by the more traditional litho print method. And of course, the more you print the cheaper the unit cost which is why, generally, best sellers are decided upon way before the public get their mitts on cheap books in supermarkets. You have to print zillions to offer the rock bottom prices to the supermarkets ... I guess what I'm saying is that Waterstones and othe book shops are not really the bad guys ...Delete
No publishing experience and no plans to.. just wanted to say well done and good luck to you xReplyDelete
Thank you. I have to say, whatever route one goes down, the same writing problems are germane to all.Delete
I agree with every word, and I have to say I've given up "supporting" self published friends (FB or Twitter) after reading a hell of a lot of rubbish. There are, of course, the exceptions, like the many incarnations of Jane Holland, but in the main, if the cover has just a whiff of SP about it - no thanks. As for Waterstones, I find I'm stocked in the oddest branches. Manchester, where my son used to live - but they didn't know that - one Canterbury branch and not the other - very weird. I think it must depend on the manager. And I agree about Accent. Well, of course I would, I was there at the beginning, but I now sit back and let them get on with it while I just write the books.ReplyDelete
I do agree overall but I also think it's a mistake to dismiss ALL self-published authors as churning out rubbish in much the same way as relying on a traditionally published book to be perfect. I've read some self-pubbed books with mediocre covers to discover, quite honestly, some of the best fiction I've come across. Self Publishing evolved because a mountain of books were being held back by old fashioned gate-keepers.ReplyDelete
However, it's a constantly changing industry and having experienced both - and I include a couple of well known agents in the grand scheme of things, spanning some 20 years - it suits me now to be with a small publisher. Visibility has become a problem for a lot of indies and I moved from being self-published to Accent Press for a number of reasons. I do think genre has become very powerful and if you write for a young, American market you will do incredibly well by your own hand.
I've been lucky with my self pubbed work as it has been welcomed by local shops and libraries across North Wales, but I've heard nightmares elsewhere. It seems counties vary tremendously in their approach.
Now for the ranty bit: My grouse is with the volume of 'erotica,' which is being produced in vast quantities. I don't have a problem with well-penned erotic novels but I'm talking well, it's porn isn't it? Open up any of the samples and have a read and you'll see what I mean. The nauseating aspect is that it sells very well. So, this brings me back to the power of genre and whether you write to a set formula knowing it will sell or do you write what is in your heart and pour your soul into it for maybe 12 months, and THEN try to sell it?
Ah..yes...I know several ''writers''' out there who claim they write erotica when a closer (umm,, not that close) examination proves that it is porn. I had a go at some err...erotic writing in Death & Dominion and am awaiting reader comments with some interest. Sadly, jumping on the 50 Shades bandwagon and thinking you can make money by writing a cod version is stupid. Re your last point..I think the best stuff comes from writing the book you want to read - I was told by my ex-agent that Diamonds&Dust was so 'off'' as a historical novel that it would never get placed with a publisher. 4 books later...I think she has been proved wrong. I wrote what I found fun, what I enjoyed, and I 'broke the rules'. So?Delete
Yes I had a similar experience with my first novel 20 years ago but times have changed! I was told by Pan Macmillan no less that they liked it very much but were nervous that it was told from a male view point - they really wouldn't take the smallest of risks. I thought it made me original but they didn't want that!Delete
It's signed to Accent now including the sequel and they're happy for a third...
Debut was published by a small independent in the USA, and they took on some of the graft, although I was still left to promote myself. Rights are reverting back to me, for various reasons, but I will look for another independent rather than go down the self-publishing route. Willing to pay for an editor but like the community feel of someone like Crooked Cat.ReplyDelete
As a reader, I feel there are rushed books out there, but although the self-publishers are responsible for some, I've read commercial releases where the proof reading was bad.
Like Tom I am published by Accent. I am very happy for all the reasons he gives. My books sell well. I agree with you about distribution and actually books can get lost in Waterstones unless you are a big name. There are many smaller bookshops doing very well these days too.ReplyDelete
I'm a first time author having a really good experience with a new small publisher, Yolk. They listen and they get the book and they have a marketing campaign fleshed out. I'm hopeful - the team there has a strong publishing background and they're hungry. I think a lot comes down to fit. To be honest I would never have self-published, I wanted the validation of a traditional publisher and being with them has opened up doors SP would have kept closed. I am worried about some of the drec published as historical fiction but what can you do? I'm guilty of the 99p download, read 2 pages and give up but I don't do nasty reviews so how does that author ever know?ReplyDelete
well done and MANY congratulations! Bear in mind that the best marketer for your books is YOU...!!! I have STRONG VIEWS on the 99p/free download stuff...as some on here know well. Suffice to say that it downgrades one's product and I would never do it. But that's another blogpost!Delete
Thought-provoking and well-argued as ever Carol. And I agree with many of the above comments. I'm self-published, via my own imprint; I paid for a final proof-read and a cover design; I'm proud that it's the best product I could have produced; and I've had some brilliant feedback from the people who've read it, plus I was runner-up in the Self-Published Book of the Year awards. So, although I agree there's some real dross out there, I'm fairly sure that comment doesn't apply to me - but, then I would say that, wouldn't I? The marketing and visibility issues are the toughest part of the whole thing and although I see this previous experience as a positive choice, rather than the choice of last resort, as some people have assumed it to be, I will probably look to a more traditional approach next time. I thought self-publishing would be a financially better route, but I suspect that unless your initials are JKR or ELJ, the money is a small part of the consideration whichever way you do it. And it would have been nice to have someone else to think about translations, overseas sales, big print and audio versions; just some of the things that I should be thinking about if I wasn't trying to get the next novel written. Maybe the question is not whether one needs a publisher so much as whether one needs an agent; I believe I'm right in saying that for Crooked Cat, Accent and other smaller publishers, an agent is not a prerequisite?Delete
No, they don't..which makes it a far more level playing field.Delete
The concept that self publishing produces inferior quality work, or 'dross' as you call it, (Hatchette call it 'dreck') is a false generalization and just plain bigotry. In the federal court in America in 2013, 5 major publishers including Hachette were found GUILTY of illegal collusion in the use of their 'agency model'.) At least authors have an option today and don't have to put up with the 'agency model" monopoly anymore. I have been published multiple times by both traditional publishing houses and the modern electronic/print on demand publishers and prefer the latter for many many reasons including superior quality editing, superior covers, superior service, quicker response, more respect & communication for & with authors, wider distribution, higher royalties, royalties that are actually paid monthly instead of bi annually, annually or never. The traditional publishing industry is expected to be non existent in the next 10-15 years.ReplyDelete
The best argument for self publishing? You have a choice and book sales are now market driven not publisher driven as they were in the past.
Although many authors do both, some of the best writers in history began, continue/d or reverted to self publishing. e.g. Mark Dawson (Amazon platform indie multi -millionaire, previously with a traditional publisher who failed to sell his books), 50 shades of grey, Remembrance of things Past, by Marcel Proust, Ulysses, by James Joyce, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter, The Wealthy Barber, by David Chilton,The Bridges of Madison County, What Color is Your Parachute, Search of Excellence by Tom Peters, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and his student E. B. White's Charlottes web and Stuart little, The Joy of Cooking,When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple, Life’s Little Instruction Book, Robert’s Rules of Order, Deepak Chopra, Gertrude Stein, Zane Grey, Upton Sinclair, Katherine Mansfield, Colette, Carl Sandburg, Ezra Pound, Mark Twain, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Stephen Crane, Bernard Shaw, Anais Nin, Thomas Paine, Virginia Wolff, e.e. Cummings, Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Henry David Thoreau, Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Alexandre Dumas, William E.B. DuBois, Beatrix Potter, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe
The following books would never have seen the light of day had traditional publishers had their way: Their traditional no. of rejections are listed: Kathryn Sockett - The Help - 60 times, Pearl S. Buck - The Good Earth - 14 times, Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead - 12 times, Patrick Dennis- Auntie Mame - 15 times, George Orwell - Animal Farm-15 times, Richard Bach - Jonathan Livingston Seagull - 20 times, Joseph Heller - Catch-22 - 22 times (!)
Mary Higgins Clark - first short story - 40 times, Alex Haley - before Roots - 200 rejections, Robert Persig - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - 121 times, H.M Ward, Amanda Hocking, , Dr. Seuss - 24 times, Louis L'Amour!! - 200 rejections (American congress award for writing!), Jack London - 600 before his first story, John Creasy - 774 rejections before selling his first story. He went on to write 564 books, using fourteen names, Jerzy Kosinski - 13 agents and 14 publishers rejected his best-selling novel when he submitted it under a different name, including Random House, which had originally published it: Diary of Anne Frank.
what a fascinating response, and thank you for taking the time and effort to comment. I think, in my own defence, I said THERE WAS A LOT..of dross..I would never suggest all self-published books were dross...as you read in the post, I have self published, and may well do so again. I think the big mainstream publishers have been completely taken aback by both the amount of self published books, and the popularity of some of the writers. Thus the denigrating response from some. I look forward to the day when self-published, or small independent published books are reviewed in the mainstream press ...at the moment, they are not considered ''worthy''!Delete
My first book was / is published by a small Scottish imprint - Capercaillie Books. For reasons beyond my control I was a year late in delivering a sequel, with the reselt that my small publisher, who is now becoming bigger having bought over another publishing house in the interim, didn't have space to consider my ms until the end of 2015 for possible publication towards end of 2016, or later. They had an option, but not a fixed contract for it. Because of the long time delay, which I felt was too long for a sequel, though had it been a stand alone I would have waited, I decided after a lot of heart-searching and hard thinking to bring the sequel out myself. I have organised professional copy editing, formatting and proof-reading and it will be printed by the same printers as the first one, distributed by the same distributors and the cover design is in process with the same designer, as my aim is to make it as near as possible indistinguishable from a trade published book and an obvious match to the first. It is a lot of hard work - I now appreciate just how much Capercaillie did first time round, (and appreciate all they did for me - I don't think I would have managed to negotiate the deals with printers etc if I'd been coming at them cold) and it's not going to be cheap, but I believe I owe it to myself and to the book to do it well. It will be launched in Blackwells Bookshop In Edinburgh on October 15th (They had wanted my first launch but the publisher chose Waterstones - probably shrewdly, as it meant it was generally stocked in Scottish W.branches at least.) I have no idea how it will do, and I may well look for a publishing deal next time round when I finish a new book unconnected to the first two, but for now I'm hoping that the positive response to the first book will mitigate any negative feelings about this one as self-published - I am 'guilty' of registering as a publisher with Neilsen, and setting myself up as an imprint as I did not want to go down the POD route. A year from now I shall probably know whether this was the right decision, for now I just have to work as hard as I can at it - another round of editing will follow early in July when I have the ms back from two beta readers.ReplyDelete
Everybody (self published) who has commented has done their homework, paid for editing, and will bring out a fab product. It IS hard work, as you testify. But it can also be too easy .....which is the pitfall some writers fall into. I've seen some amazingly hyped books on social media that, when I check them out on Amazon, are clearly not of the written quality as those writers who've left comments above. And they sell for nothiing, in an effort to generate sales..thus the reading public MAY think that all self-pubs are of this quality and cheapness. THAT's what I object to!Delete
I've read a few self-published books which had the makings of an excellent book, but which were under-edited and which just felt rushed, if you know what I mean. If the writer had just held back and learned their craft for five years or so (i.e if they'd learned to self-critique their own work...), then the product would have been infinitely better. It's a shame, really.Delete
I often feel close to giving it all up as a waste of my time, effort, and hope, so all the talk above of not bothering with self-published work is extremely depressing. My first two books were published by a very small publisher, but once they were published nothing happened, including sales. Any marketing was apparently down to me, and what did I know? The one good thing was that the books were in libraries and I would amuse myself checking how often they were loaned out, but as for in bookshops, hardly, and Amazon sales numbered about two a year. Even when they came out in Kindle versions I'd be getting excited about six sales in a year.ReplyDelete
So for my third book I went self-published, and a few months ago I got back the rights to the other two and reissued them as self-published. Since then I have actually started earning money. Even so, I'm still on the fence re trad versus self-published. I'm glad to have had the experience of being trad published, and I might try it again, but having control of the whole project has been a good experience and it's been overwhelmingly better financially. It's just that I'm well aware that my books are unlikely to make it to any bookshops or libraries and as stated above, many people don't even look at self-published work.
Jill, thanks for sharing. This is interesting ..my self pub ebook Jigsaw Pieces was the result iif getting my rights back from OUP who had stopped republishing. I am earning a small amount regularly now it is an ebook..but OUP have put loads of caveats and legal threats against me issuing it as a paperback book. It seems we ALL have to do our own marketing nowadays..sadly...publishers seem to think it is part of the deal...Delete
I think the 'proper publisher' thing means less these days, because there are, indeed, so many indie publishers that will publish anything as long as it's reasonably well presented, regardless of whether or it's actually any good. I'm talking about the indie publishers who follow me on Twitter and have about 3 authors in their 'stable', you understand, not ones like Crooked Cat. People think that putting something in the publisher's name makes their book look more professional, and, indeed, it probably will impress some readers, who don't know the difference between Random House and Crap Indie Press Ltd - all they know is that a book has 'been published'.ReplyDelete
The two best books I have read so far this year have both been self-published, one I read yesterday/today, and filled me with such awe I've been unable to write today, because I feel so hopeless in comparision!!! It's got a nice cover, but it looks self-published. I enjoyed it much more than The Goldfish, or whatever that Pulitzer winner is called!!!
Alas, as we know, the easiness of self-publishing means that anyone can publish any old crap. Julia used to have a client who decided to publish her second one without using her services. It had mistakes in every paragraph, almost in every sentence and reads as though she scrawled it out while she was watching Corrie. I am never put off by self published books per se, not now I know that there is some seriously good stuff out there. Neither do I think, 'oh, it's trad pub so it must be good', as so many are published according to contacts and what's in fashion.... and back we go to a previous post of yours!!! You ought to do Rosie's #FridayFiveChallenge, or certainly look at some of the posts. In it, we analyse what makes someone buy a book. Oddly, whether or not it's self-pubbed has never come up.
were these books or ebooks...this is where I founder..if it was just a question of uploading an ebook..I'd do it...but if you also want books, and books that a bookshop might stock, you have to have some sort of publisher behind you...for distribution/VAT purposes if nothing else. Yep, Createspace is pretty good...but it still ties you to Amazon.Delete
Yes; even independent bookshops won't take those published via Createspace! Sorry, I misunderstood, I didn't realise you were only talking hard copy. I'm a bit Kindle only, these days, even for trad pubbed books, so only buy from Amazon anyway. Ignore everything I said!Delete
I would never dare! It is a prob. for me anyway .... having a reputation built on 13 BOOKS as opposed to ebooks, I can get my stuff into shops/libraries on the back of it.Delete
Fascinating post Carol and I agree with everything you say. Mainstream publishing is in the most terrible state and yet, as you say, it is still difficult for self-published authors to establish their credentials as professional authors to be taken seriously. The small independents (which seem to be on the increase) is a good compromise and I'm glad it's working for you.ReplyDelete
Hello Carol yes really interesting. I originally self published after failing to get any luck with an agent, and I'd read a blog post where a novice writer asked a publisher how to get a start and was told 'just get it out there, give it free, anything to get you noticed. That's the way to attract a publisher.'ReplyDelete
So I did that, had lots of (free) d loads quite a few sales, and am hoping at some stage to be conventionally published. Thanks for suggesting this 'third' option, of a smaller conventional publisher, who are maybe not quite so hard to get taken by, although maybe if they're as good as yours obviously is, I bet they;re very picky. Terry has told me about these options too, and all you say concurs with her.