I’m so excited to welcome my first guest author of 2014 – Jackie Mallon. As part of a series that will give a ‘behind the scenes’ look at how authors find their own path to publishing, Jackie talks about her experience with the Amazon White Glove Program and the challenge of getting her writing ‘out there’.
After months of trying to get a traditional publisher to consider my debut novel, Silk for the Feed Dogs, and many lovely rejection notes expressing their fear at taking a chance on an unknown writer, my agent was approached by Amazon. They had just launched a new publishing venture, Amazon White Glove Programme. Its aim, my agent explained, was to raise the level of self-published material out there by focusing only on writers who had already won over an agent with their work. Out there. How many times have we been told we must put ourselves out there? Those two words have also come to represent the vast dark depths of the internet, mystery-filled. There is so much we still don’t know. Well, I am here at base camp to describe my experience out there, even though I confess there is still so much I don’t know.
Self-publishing scared the holy bejaysus out of me. After hiding away for five years to write the damned thing, I didn’t believe I possessed the ability to do an about turn, truss myself up in glittery ribbon and neon bulbs and shout about my new novel from the rooftops. I discovered I had no other option. My agent, having just returned from the London Book Fair, had observed that the industry was in grim shape. More than any other year, she said, the publishing industry was on its knees. Traditional publishing routes were growing narrower and more problematic. We both knew apparently successful writers now extremely disillusioned–even ones on the fourth book of a five book series–who despite being published by the big houses, suffered nothing but anxiety at the unanswered calls or emails, demand for gratuitous sex and violence to be added to their completed manuscripts, sales of translation rights never materializing, and the ever-hovering threat that they would be dropped. The grass isn’t so green on that side of the fence anymore yet most of us hopeful first-timers still carry the torch that a real publisher will sign us and legitimize our dreams of a writing life.
A new contract was drawn up between me and my agent.
Now to the terms. My agent devised a profit sharing contract whereby Amazon gets their required 30% (non-negotiable and the same as regular self published authors hand over, I believe) and she and I split the rest. As the programme is so new there are no standard contract figures to work from. Each agent and author needs to hash that messy bit out for themselves. So, compared to other independently self-published authors, I don’t pocket as much from the sale of my books as they do. That might be the sticking point for some.
But there were advantages to Amazon’s offer. As I write this, Amazon UK is running a week-long Valentine’s Day promotional offer and, as my novel has steadily gained good reviews, I was eligible. Emails are sent out featuring my title to book buyers who have shopped in my genre category before. My Kindle sales in the UK have been very strong this week as a result. After my launch they also promoted the novel for an entire month, however that promotion was less successful. I, the author of the work who therefore knew what she was looking for, couldn’t even find my title when I went to the site. It was buried among so many others involved in the same promotion. Maybe it was because Silk for the Feed Dogs, starry eyed and freshly arrived at this glittering debutante’s ball, had not yet gained any traction. Who knows?
Having an agent–perhaps another outdated tradition, soon to be extinct in this new world order–has certainly helped me get myself out there. She actively pursues opportunities for me to share my writing, seeks out translation sales, represents my book at book fairs, and allows me access to social media consultants and other professionals who can help. Her European contacts got Silk for the Feed Dogs into the hands of a French TV company who are currently writing a treatment. The bottom line is, if she wins, I win. I feel like I am part of a team. But I still do everything that a regular self-published author does: I blog twice a week, pursue all avenues to let people know about my novel, write articles for free, contact book editors, organise my own readings, and generally behave like a small business owner whose livelihood is at stake every day. Publishing a novel without the support of a HarperCollins or Random House is like opening a corner shop down the street from Whole Foods. You have your pretty green and white awning and shiny shelves well-stocked with tasty goodies but you still need to entice each and every customers through the door.
Amazon has the exclusive Kindle sale of Silk for the Feed Dogs for one year. I receive quarterly sales figures through my agent as she is the one in direct contact with them, not me. I make more money from each Kindle sale than Print on Demand but so far, despite the reports that books are dying, the majority of readers are buying an actual copy. The one-year deal with Amazon White Glove is only for this novel. When my second is ready, I will have to decide if I want to go it alone or stay with my agent, pursue a traditional publishing route, or participate anew in White Glove. I’m only four months in so it’s too early to tell.
Every day reveals something new and that is as much as I know.
You can follow Jackie’s blog here.
Get your copy of Silk For The Feed Dogs here.