TEN THINGS NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT BOOK PUBLISHING
In a recent survey carried out by YouGov and published in The Independent newspaper, 60% of UK adults declared that being a writer is their ‘dream job.’ 14,294 adults were interviewed for this survey. I can only assume – that they all assume – that being an author is both stress-free and lucrative.
In response to this article about the YouGov survey I stuck my tongue in my cheek and jotted down a few observations about the truth behind a publishing contract – especially with a small publishing house. This list of observations is gathered from my own experience and that of fellow authors. I have decided to share it with you below.
If you are ‘lucky’ enough to acquire a publishing deal with a small traditional publisher the following may happen…
1. You probably won’t be paid an advance and won’t see a penny in royalties until six months after the book is published.
2. In the meantime, you will be expected to do an awful lot of marketing to promote the book and this will cost money. A surprising amount of money. You will buy in lots of stock, organise expensive book launches which no one attends and travel up and down the country to poorly attended events where no-one buys your book.
3. You will annoy and pester your teenage children into designing webpages for you. And beg them to teach you about Facebook and Twitter.
4. You will rapidly lose friends – especially on Facebook and Twitter – as you harass everyone you know into buying your book.
5. Those family and friends who do read your book will make the most bizarre assumptions about upon whom the characters are based.
6. You will soon realise you are spending more time marketing your first novel, than you are writing the second one.
7. You will harbor a secret hope that despite having no publicist or marketing budget that somehow your novel will make it onto the best-seller list and be signed up for a film deal. You will dream of retiring from the day job, moving to the Mediterranean and spending the rest of your life sipping cocktails beside the pool, while tapping out another best-seller on the laptop.
8. Everyone else in the world will assume that you are coining in the cash, while you may have an uneasy suspicion that this is just turning out to be a VERY expensive hobby.
9. When your first royalty cheque arrives, you will be devastated and convinced that there should be another zero at the end of that figure. At this point, your long-suffering partner will lose all patience with you and refuse to support you or your writing anymore. If you are really unlucky, your publisher will fold and disappear off into the ether still owing you money.
10. Despite the fact that your spouse has filed for divorce and the bailiffs are on the doorstep, no-one will ever have any sympathy for you…because you are a writer ‘living the dream.’
Of course, this is the worst case scenario but even authors with the bigger publishing houses have problems. They write to strict deadlines which are often inflexible and can be exhausting. Midlist authors with the Big Five live in constant fear of being dropped by their publisher because of poor sales and as we all know, we are all only as good as our last novel.
Self-publishing authors work to their own timetable but have a massive learning curve to undergo in order to be successful. They need to source decent book cover designers, editors and proofreaders and have to learn how to format. They are entirely responsible for their own administration, marketing and success and it is not easy to get your novels noticed on Amazon when yours is just one novel among so many millions.
Having said all that – if it works out—being an author IS the best job in the world. Like many novelists, my experience of the publishing industry has thrown up some horrible lows as well as highs. There is hard work, heartache and disappointment behind every one of my books. But each morning as I climb out of bed with a spring in my step and a smile on my face, I remember the words of Édith Piaf:
"Non, je ne regrette rien.”
MY self-publishing ADVENTURE
Two weeks ago, I had an incredible experience.
I was head-hunted by Emilie Marneur, the Senior Acquisitions Editor, from Amazon Publishing. She wanted my Detective Lavender Series to publish under their Thomas & Mercer crime fiction imprint. She had read ‘The Heiress of Linn Hagh’ and loved it. She wanted to know if there was any chance we could work together on the series. After some discussion, she offered me a jaw-dropping deal in order to take over the books. I know that it was jaw-dropping because my mouth couldn’t formulate words properly when I phoned my sister immediately afterwards.
Needless to say, I am absolutely delighted. Stunned, surprised and shocked. But absolutely delighted.
I live a quiet life in a sleepy North East fishing village where nothing ever happens. As a rule, Senior Editors from major publishing companies don’t just materialise unbidden out of the autumn mist and offer Marske residents amazing publishing deals.
After we had discussed the deal and I agreed to sign up with Amazon Publishing, I asked Emilie how she had heard about me. Why had she picked out me from the hundreds of thousands of self-published authors on Amazon? She just laughed, kept her secrets and said she had ‘special antennae.’
‘It must be their website algorithms,’ my brother, the IT specialist, suggested later. ‘Their computer churns out the sales numbers. A piece of paper containing details of the sales of ‘The Heiress of Linn Hagh’ will have landed on someone’s desk and set a chain reaction in motion. ’ He is probably right. Emilie seemed to know all about me, my publishing history and my sales before she contacted me.
So what is my publishing and sales history? What is so special about ‘Heiress’ that it attracted such esteemed interest and I received this amazing offer?
As some of you may know, this time last year I was unhappily locked into a miserable contract with a small, traditional publisher of historical fiction. In the twelve months that Knox Robinson Publishing owned ‘The Heiress of Linn Hagh’ they priced the eBook at $12 and only sold 38 copies. I regained my publishing rights last Christmas and self-published ‘Heiress’ in February, priced at a more sensible $2.99. For the first two months, I made a handful of sales.
In April, the eBook sales in the USA suddenly started to take off. This happened while I was away on holiday in Turkey and I’m still not 100% sure what the catalyst was which kick-started my sales. However, I think it may be something to with a favourable review I received from Cathy Cole, one of Amazon’s Vine Reviewers. I had randomly contacted Cathy through her website when I first published the novel to ask for a review. I had no idea that she was a Vine Reviewer for Amazon at that point. In fact, I had never heard of the program and had to research it later. All I knew was that Cathy was kind lady, who liked my novel. I now realise that she must have a big group of followers in the States. I came back from Turkey to discover that Cathy’s review was up and that ‘Heiress’ was suddenly selling about ten eBooks a day in America on Amazon.com. And most importantly, it now had a low rank in the Amazon sub-category: Historical Mysteries.
I immediately put the price down to $0.99 in order to make it more attractive and to try and to keep the momentum going. I was desperate to keep the eBook visible in those rankings. I really do believe that being visible, and staying visible, in a popular Amazon sub-category is the key to success.
I only had eight reviews at that point so I scrabbled around to get a couple more reviews on Amazon.com (not easy when you’re a Brit and most of your family, friends and fans are on this side of the pond.) Once I had ten reviews, I entered ‘Heiress’ into an Ereader News Today (ENT) promotion. It worked. I sold 200 copies of the eBook in the States. Thanks to this promotion, the ranking stabilized – and rose further. To my delight, dozens of new and positive reviews also began to appear. It seemed that the Americans couldn’t get enough of my Regency mystery set in rural Northumberland. I was over the moon as the sales steadily rose. After such a slow, frustrating and disappointing start with my previous publisher, ‘Heiress’ was finally being read – and enjoyed. It wasn’t about the money at that point. I was simply elated that after all those years of hard work and frustration my precious novel had finally found an audience.
Gingerly, I edged the price back up to $2.99 but the book remained in the top thirty of .com Historical Mysteries throughout the summer – sometimes reaching the top twenty. On one hot, giddy day in August, I sold 130 eBooks. Or rather, on one hot, giddy NIGHT I sold 130 eBooks. Because of the time difference between the UK and the US, most of my sales are at night. I go to bed and when I check my sales first thing in the morning I’m often hundreds of dollars richer. It’s definitely the best way for a woman to earn money while lying on her back.
Conscious that my reviewers were asking for more stories, I turned my attention to my other novel and a short story I had lying around about Detective Lavender. I organized editing, proofreading and book covers and published them both in August. They also started to sell well in the States, in the wake of the success of ‘Heiress.’ I have now sold nearly 13,000 eBooks since April – 99.9% of these are in the US. Paperback sales have also taken off. Recently, my royalty payments have been higher than the salary I received when I was teaching English at a British Secondary School.
So yes, my brother is probably right. An Amazon computer must have highlighted the fact that a lot of royalties were being paid to a small, middle-aged, ex-teacher in the remote north of England for her historical whodunit. This set off a chain reaction in Amazon HQ which resulted in Emilie’s email and the offer from Amazon Publishing. I’m meeting her for lunch in London next week and will grill her again to try to get to the bottom of this. I may be small but I’m determined, and the mystery writer within me is desperate to confirm my suspicions.
Do I have any doubts about signing up with Amazon Publishing after my previous bad experience with a publisher? No, I don’t. I expect the two publishers to be poles apart. Even though I know that we will have to sell twice as many books in order to maintain my current level of income, I am confident that the Amazon marketing machine can do this. I look forward to ditching the administration, formatting and constant sales promotion which go with being a self-published author and becoming part of a team again. All Amazon want me to do is write a book a year. Bliss. I have a good friend who already works for the Thomas & Mercer imprint and he can’t praise the company highly enough. Apparently, they are brilliant to work with and involve their authors at every stage of publication, from book cover design through to the editing. I have complete confidence that with the Amazon marketing machine behind it, my Detective Lavender Mystery Series will sky-rocket and reach thousands of new readers that I can’t reach myself – especially in my home country where I have sold diddly squat.
And after all, that is why we have that compulsion to write, isn’t it? To tell our stories to as many other people as possible. I feel incredibly lucky that I have been able to realise my dream and I hope that this account of my experience helps somebody else to realise theirs.
‘The Heiress of Linn Hagh’ will be published by Thomas and Mercer in June 2015 and three months later in October, they will publish the second novel in the series: ‘The Sans Pareil Mystery.’
The View from Here online literary magazine has published my article on 'The Frustrations of Plotting Crime Fiction.'
If you are interested in writing crime fiction, or who just wants to know how I wrote The Missing Heiress then please feel free to check it out... oh, and please leave a comment on the page.
The View From Here Magazine
LIBRARY TALK and BOOK SIGNING
@ SKELTON LIBRARY
I will talking about my historical novels and my newly released genealogy book, 'Seeking Our Eagle',
at Skelton Library on:
Wednesday 10th October 2012
10 - 12 am
Phone: 01287 650487 to book (FREE)
A small charge will be made for refreshments.
FREE kindle download!
11th, August 2012.
For one day only, download the eBook of
'Seeking Our Eagle'
Simply click on the link below:
'Seeking Our Eagle' on kindle
But hurry, this offer starts and ends on Saturday, 11th August!
Spread the word!
Charity fund-raiser and Book Signing
I have two fabulous local events coming up in the next fortnight and would like to invite folks to join me.
Firstly, I will be the guest speaker at a fund-raising event at the Holistics Cancer Care Centre at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough on Friday 13th July 6.30 -8pm.
The Holistics Cancer Care Centre is a wonderful resource and treatment centre for the people of Teesside and deserves our support. Cancer sufferers and partners can access a range of treatments, ranging from acupuncture to aromatherapy massage to help relieve their stress and help them sleep.
At the event I will be explaining how genealogical research helped us uncover the story of our skeleton in the closet and then turn his sorry tale of Regency injustice into a novel, Catching the Eagle.
Please telephone 01642 854839 for tickets for what I hope will be an enjoyable evening. The cost is £10 and includes refreshments. All proceeds will go directly to the Holistics Cancer Care Centre.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The following day, I have been invited back to the lovely Guisborough Bookshop to do a book signing of the paperback edition of my novel, Catching the Eagle.
I am really looking forward to this event and hope that you can join me.
Book Signing @
The Guisborough Bookshop
4, Chaloner Street,
11am - 1 pm
'Paperback writer, paperback writer.
Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look? '
Guess which Beatles song keeps running around my head this morning?
Yes, it's happened. The paperback edition of Catching the Eagle is now available to buy on amazon and from The Book Depository, The Guisborough Bookshop and selected branches of Waterstones. Price £12.99.
The Daily Mail gave it the thumbs up back in January....why not take a look yourself?
YouTube video of 'Catching the Eagle'
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