For decades, perhaps even centuries aspiring authors gazed at the gleaming palaces of the big publishers in awe, wishing that the Kings and Queens of publishing would recognise their talent and decree that the sorcerers and wizards of the realm cast the spells that would transform dusty manuscripts into rows of slick hardcovers on the best seller shelf. The journey of authorship was one of disappointment. The publishing palaces were surrounded by deep and murky moats where the agents swum menacingly with their sharp fins making sure the literary hoi palloi was kept at bay. But, one day the publishing Gods decided to shine on the aspiring author – it was not a burning bush or a tablet of stone which was revealed, but rather Kindle Fire and Amazon.
For years I was one of the aspiring literary hoi palloi, consistently searching for the answer to, “What do publishers want?”
Of course in the current economic climate many mainstream publishers are dropping even mid-table authors and the responsibility for marketing is increasingly down to the author. Unless an author already has a public profile or proven journalistic track record, it is highly unlikely that an agent or publisher will give their submission a second thought. When I asked an agent what she was looking for, her answer was, “It has to be really exceptional.” Which made me wrack my brain in search of the last “really exceptional” book I had read. Maybe I read the wrong genres.
I spoke to five fiction writers currently self publishing about their experiences, ambitions, successes and advice. Their candid comments should be very useful for anyone embarking on the journey.
“S”elf Publishing now Plan A.
Paul H Landes (San Fransico) Pictured to right – “I had two mainstream publishers look at my first novel, Wings to Redemption, and each one was prepared to make me an offer. I didn’t pursue it any further, however, because neither one was going to provide me with any help in marketing my book.”
Clive Hindle (Newcastle UK) – “I have written many scripts over the years, two of which got past rejection slip stage but things did not work out. I published three books with self publishing companies Janus, Authorhouse and Matador, it was expensive and they retain copy-write. I self-publish because I’m not done with a book until I am done. So I ping it out to register it on eternity’s microscope slide. There it is, endless, immutable, a little unchanging piece of me at a snapshot in time.”
Rick Quinn (Alaska) – “Initially I was going to self-publish but instead elected to go with a new local (in Alaska) publisher. However, after firing my original publisher, I have self-published and am very happy. It is easy as Amazon, B&N and Create space give you step by step instructions on formatting and ultimately you have TOTAL control of your work and are able to reap 100% of the benefits – which allows you to keep prices lower in order to see a decent return on your efforts.”
Karen Andor (Northampton, UK) – “I read a lot about self-publishing. It seems that whether I sell one book or a million books, I will make more money self-publishing. I can write the type of book I want the way I feel it should be written. As I am not a celebrity or a known writer, I would not get an advance or much help with marketing. In fact, I learnt that I would have to do my own marketing either way. The only advantage I could see with going to a mainstream publisher was having a professional in the industry’s opinion of my work, which I would love to have and the ego-boost of having a book accepted by a big publishing house.”
Alan Annand (Toronto) Pictured below – “During the 80s I had four novels published in the traditional manner.
In the 80s it was relatively easy to get read by publishers, and equally easy to get an agent. But things began changing in the 90s, and changed hugely in the 21st century. The last time (2005) I sought an agent, I sent out about 75 queries, got three interested responses and in the end, one agreement to represent.
Nowadays, I think it is far harder to get an agent than it was to get published 20 years ago.”
On success and marketing tools:
Rick Quinn: “I believe I am moderately successful. I use social media and word of mouth along with some internet sites to get my work noticed and reviewed. Since it is your work, you care more and will do more to make it better and work harder to get it noticed. Don’t expect anyone else to care as you do.”
Paul Landes: “I sold over 9,000 copies my first book. As an independent publisher I need to work every angle I can find and there is no end to marketing sites and tools available today.”
Alan Annand: “Modest success, but then everything is relative to your expectations. I’ve always taken the long point of view, and believe that a writing career is not just one book but a body of work. I love to write, have to write, so there’s really nothing else to do but persevere. I gave away one of my books free for a year, which provided necessary exposure and lots of positive reviews, so hopefully there’ll be a trickle-down effect to my other books.
Clive Hindle: “Authors should write. Life takes care of the rest. If you build it they will come. If you doubt that let it go. Be content with your creation as a fulfilment in itself.”
Karen is starting the journey with the release of her thriller, ‘Shadow Jumper’ in December, 2013.
Karen, Rick, Clive, Alan and Paul gave me such meaty answers that I feel a follow up article on publicity and editing your self published book is in order. Keep checking Newswire.