My First Year with a Publisher

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since I signed my publishing contract with Aria Fiction at Head of Zeus. A lot has happened in that time and the year seems to have flown by. So, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to what is in store in the future.

Progress so Far

At the time of writing Born Bad is currently ranked 82 on Amazon UK out of over 5 million books, and for the last couple of weeks it has hovered around the 100 mark. The highest rank it has achieved so far was 58 on two occasions. It has also received some excellent reviews. Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled as it has exceeded all my expectations.  

I am gaining a growing fan base which is wonderful to see. People are going on to read my other books as well as signing up to my mailing list and following me on social media.

At the moment I am polishing up book two so that I can send it to my publishers in a few weeks’ time, and it will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon.

What I’ve Learned

Working with a publisher means that there are lots of tight deadlines to meet. However, this is good for me as I am usually a massive procrastinator and it has made me become more self-disciplined with my writing routine.

It is wonderful to have the knowledge and support of a professional publisher which has been brilliant in terms of editing, marketing and promotion. Marketing encompasses a whole spectrum of activity from cover design to the book blurb and everything after that. At every stage it is specifically tailored to reach the target readership.

In terms of promotion, I have found that ads on large reader websites do work provided they are targeted, and this is one aspect in which my publishers have a wealth of knowledge and experience. A good publisher can also reach areas that I couldn’t have reached as an independent author e.g. the Amazon Summer Sale, which features only a few hundred books out of the millions available on Amazon UK.

Support

No matter what questions I have, my publishers are always on hand with help and advice. I am also connecting with other Aria authors who are a friendly, supportive bunch and I am discovering some great books that have been written by them. I still also keep in touch with some of my Indie author friends who have been very supportive over the years. 

Future Plans

The second book in the trilogy will be published at the end of this year/beginning of next although it will be available for pre-order on Amazon long before that. The third and final book in the trilogy will be published next summer.

After that, I would love to work with Aria again provided we can agree terms. I have a lot of ideas for other crime novels which I am looking forward to writing in the future.

———————– 

 

Advertisements

Are Big Publishers Compromising their Authors?

I read a book recently by one of my favourite thriller writers but was disappointed because it wasn’t up to his usual standard. The book extended to 500 pages in print but I felt that it should have been no longer than 250 – 300 pages. At 250 – 300 pages it would have been a good book but for me there were too many forced twists that were unconvincing.

To illustrate my point, here is a brief synopsis:

The protagonist worked for a protection agency in the US and he was assigned to protect a family from someone who wanted to obtain information bypolice-man-standing-smiling-12425-svg violent means. At first it was suspected that the father would have the requisite information as he was a law enforcement officer but it transpired that it wasn’t him. It may have been a convincing twist if played only once but that twist was carried out repeatedly. The author worked his way through each member of the family, four of them altogether, until eventually the person holding the information turned out to be the 16 year old daughter. Without all these unnecessary additional twists it could still have been a very good plot, which leads me to believe that the fault doesn’t lie with the author.

It isn’t the first time I have noticed this; the same thing has happened with other good authors. When I checked out the reviews of this particular book they reiterated what I was thinking and cited examples of other popular and talented authors where this sort of thing had happened. I’m not convinced that it’s because the author has run out of ideas. Take the above example; it would still have been a good book if it had been much shorter. No, I think the problem may lie with the publishers and here’s why:

When I studied for my writing course many years ago we learnt the way in which the major publishing houses operate. Once an author has signed up with them they will require the author to produce a set number of books over a certain time period and will also specify the required minimum word count per book. Therefore, on occasion authors may be forced to stretch a plot beyond the bounds of credibility.Clipartsalbum_16620 Books

At that time (about 15 years ago) I was informed by my tutor that publishers wouldn’t consider any novel of less than 80,000 words. In fact, the trend was for novels in excess of 100,000 words. I don’t know what the current requirements are but, in view of the above, I wonder whether these are still the same.

While I would be I liar if I said that I wouldn’t consider going with a traditional publisher if I was to be given the opportunity, the above is one of the factors that I would have to think long and hard about. Here are some other factors that are worth considering should you decide to follow the traditional publishing route:

  • How do the royalties compare to the rate you receive as an independent author?
  • Would any increase in sales compensate for the fact that this rate would be substantially less than the rate of 70% (in most cases and after VAT) currently enjoyed by authors independently published through Amazon?
  • How much promotion would your publishers undertake on your behalf?
  • Would your book be stocked by major book store chains?
  • Would you have any say in the choice of book cover design and the book’s title?
  • How much advance would you receive?
  • How long would you have to wait for your royalty payments?
  • What would the time lapse be between completion of the book and publication date?
  • Would you be expected to make public appearances etc.?

What ifFor anybody who is offered a contract with a major publishing house it is easy to become so carried away with the excitement that you lose objectivity and don’t think about all the implications. As independent authors we have autonomy and are used to making all the decisions ourselves. I therefore think it is important not to lose sight of this and I wonder how it would feel to have all of these decisions taken out of our hands.

On the one hand it would perhaps free up more time to focus on writing because you might get more help with editing, proofreading, formatting and promotion. However, on the other hand, how would it feel to be told, for example, that you couldn’t use your own title for your own book?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this one.

My Favourite Rejection Letter

When I returned to my debut novel so that I could polish it up and prepare it for publication I realised that I hadn’t transferred my character list onto the computer. It was in fact still in a handwritten file. Whilst I was rummaging through the file trying to find the list I stumbled on something that I had almost forgotten about – my favourite rejection letter.Stop Sign

Is there such a thing?

Well for me, yes.

You see, I think it’s generally accepted amongst the Independent author community that for an unknown author the odds on being published through the traditional channels are extremely slim. Nevertheless, that is no reflection on the quality of the work. Just think of all the blockbuster movies that started out as manuscripts that were rejected numerous times by agents and publishers (a topic in itself which I will probably explore in a future blog post).

What a lot of authors find difficult to deal with though is that agents and publishers often don’t even bother to reply. This is usually down to the fact that they receive so many submissions. If they do reply the letter is usually a standard mass-produced one which doesn’t give any indication as to why the author’s work was considered unsuitable.

LettersWhen I went through the submission – rejection routine several years ago, it left me feeling downhearted. Although I fundamentally believe in my work, it helps to get some words of encouragement from someone in the industry who has probably sifted through thousands of manuscripts over the years. I did have a couple of near misses with my submissions but the best letter I received I have kept on file.

Thinking back now, that letter helped me to keep persevering. Although I eventually stopped sending submissions to agents and publishers and decided to concentrate on my writing business instead, I always knew that I would return to my novel one day. Thankfully, it’s now easy to publish as an Independent so my novel will get published this year, and when I do finally publish, I intend to celebrate, big time. I’ve copied a few of the sentences from that letter below:

“I have been right through the material you sent and had one of my trusted readers look at the manuscript extracts as well. We have come to the same conclusion, that you write well and have put a lot of thought, care and effort into your novel …There was a time when a manuscript of this quality would undoubtedly have been in with a very strong chance of getting into print. The market is much tougher now and to stand a chance you have to find an agent who will back you without reservation. Why a book can work for one reader and not for another I don’t know. Wish I did! … I am sorry I unable to help, particularly after you went to the trouble of supplying such an excellent submission (it could be a model for all aspiring authors). I do wish you the best of luck in finding representation.”

I pursued the matter with him to find out exactly why he felt he couldn’t represent me and basically it came down to personal taste. My book is aimed at a predominantly female readership so I think the fact that the agent was male probably put me at a distinct disadvantage in that instance. Nevertheless, it was very good of him to take the trouble to respond to me and give me some words of encouragement. He added that as my chances of getting published were favourable, I should keep on trying. But I’d already had my fill of rejection letters by then. If my novel (and the subsequent ones that I have planned) ever go on to be a great success I shall write to that agent and personally thank him for his kind words.

Thank You

I’d love to hear about other authors’ motivations for self-publishing, and their experiences. Have you ever tried the traditional route and been knocked back? How did it feel? Please feel free to share your story in the comments box below.