One Born Every 5 Minutes



Idiots?  No, books on Amazon.  Apparently there’s an idiot born every minute, which unfortunately seems about right, but this blog is about publishing.  So with a mountain of new books being published by both Indie authors and traditional publishers every few minutes, how can you get your book noticed?

There’s nothing like typing the words ‘The End’ to get you all hot and bothered about publishers, bestsellers and writing acceptance speeches (*gushes* I really wasn’t expecting this!)  As a committed self-publishing author-entrepreneur, I do sometimes fantasize about life with a traditional publishing deal.  Would I be better off?  Or is it a case of ‘Is glas iad na cnoic, i bhfad uainn’ an old Irish saying meaning  ‘faraway hills are green’.

A recent article by Dougal Shaw for BBC News explores the current state of self-publishing and finds that, while it is a hard road, it can be just as successful for the author (if not more so) than getting that holy grail of a traditional publishing deal.  It’s true that Indie Authors have to be a lot more creative with their marketing strategy and their use of social media when it comes to peddling their wares, but the fact is that even if you’ve signed up with a publisher, the marketing will largely be left up to you.  Publishers tend to budget their marketing spend in such a way that sees them putting their money behind one or two ‘sure things’, gambling that the profit made on those books will pay for the other 99%.  At the end of the day, the best person to sell your book is you.  You have a much greater vested interest in its success and getting it in front of as many readers as possible.  A good example of how author platforms can work for self-publishers is Andy Weir’s book The Martian, which has since been made into an Oscar nominated movie.  The story was originally published chapter by chapter on his blog for free.  Now that’s a gamble, but a gamble that paid off.

How about earnings?  Traditionally published authors can expect to earn an average of 10% royalties on their books.  Self-published authors can earn up to 70% royalties, which sounds much more interesting, but there are several factors to take into account.  Indie Authors generally charge less for their books, as low as 99p for eBooks.  The flip side to this is that people are more willing to take a chance on a cheap eBook, thereby boosting sales.  However, you have to consider the cost to the author in producing the book, which brings me onto my next point.

The old belief that traditionally published books are better because they’ve been professionally vetted no longer rings true.  Indie authors are hiring professional designers and editors, so really, they are on a level par.  The only difference is that self-published authors bear the cost of all this outsourcing, so while traditionally published authors are totting up how much they’ll make on their advance, Indie authors have to make a lot of sales just to break even.  Then again, the beauty of self-publishing means you are always in control of your sale price and distribution, so you can run a Kindle Countdown sale for your book to boost sales or even make it available for free for limited periods (which I don’t agree with, but that’s a whole other conversation!)  The point is, you have far more control, so even a year or two after the book has been released, you can still drive sales with promotions and giveaways.

So, will I self-publish or start the long and frustrating process of sending out manuscripts?  Well, therein lies my next point.  Once my book has been edited, a cover designed and a marketing campaign put in place, I am ready to rock if I decide to self-publish.  With a traditional publishing deal, I first have to go through the submissions process, which can leave you waiting for anything up to six months for a response.  All of that time, your book is sitting on your computer, going nowhere.  If it does get accepted, it could be another year before the publisher decides to release it.  Now, you could say I should use that time to write my fourth novel (gulp), but it is a long time to wait for your baby to be born into the literary world.  I suppose I’ve become quite spoilt in terms of making all of the decisions about my book.  Self-publishing is a control freak’s paradise!

Regardless of all these pros and cons, there is still that sense of validation for an author who gets signed by a traditional publishing house.  It would be hypocritical of me to say otherwise, but when you get down to the nuts and bolts of getting your book ‘out there’, both options have their merits.  For so long the underdog and oftentimes dismissed as vanity publishing, self-publishing is now an equally viable choice when it comes to getting your book to market.  And if validation is the cherry on top, consider the validation of readers who decided to pick up your book, regardless of who published it, and leave wonderful reviews on Goodreads or Amazon.  Whichever path you choose (or whichever path chooses you!) you’ve got to be willing to learn the business and find a happy compromise between writing and promotion.

Why Readers Should Go Indie

small__5599873685   I recently read a piece by Richard Lea in The Guardian Books Blog about how self-publishing may well be a revolution for writers, but that the same might not be true for readers.  It wasn’t so much the article itself, as the comments that inspired me to make the following points:-

Readers, please don’t make the erroneous assumption that just because a book has been traditionally published, it is somehow ‘better’ than a self-published book.  

Phew, glad that’s out there.  Now I have to be honest and admit that I’ve also been under the same illusion – if it’s published, it’s a safer bet.  But how true is that?  The whole self-published -vs- traditionally published argument has been flogged to death at this point, but it doesn’t always consider the readers point of view.  As a reader myself, I’ve read many ‘lemons’ in my time and wondered  how the hell they ever got published.  But to know that, you would have to understand the inner processes of a publishing house, which I don’t pretend to know, but suffice it to say, it all comes down to sales.  ‘Will they sell?’ is the question at the heart of every publication decision and that’s only natural.  At least, that’s the only reason I can see why The Random House Group have published no less than five novels by Katie Price.  Five.  NOVELS.

There are lots of reasons why really good authors get rejected by traditional publishers, everything ranging from (a) the length of the novel (b) they might already have a similar book on their lists (c) they might already have a similar author on their lists (d) they don’t have money to invest in new writing.  Of course we all know the story of how JK Rowling was rejected by no less than 12 publishing houses, despite having the representation of a good agent.  Imagine if she had just given up?  Or decided to self-publish Harry Potter?  Would people still be looking down their noses?  The gatekeepers, as they are known, therefore control what the public reads.  They decide whether or not this year’s craze will be vampires or wizards.  But readers have had the most recent laugh, because with the revolution of self-publishing, readers can pick and choose what they want to read, not what the publishers have decided they should.  A recent example of self-publishing success is Mel Sherratt, who had her novels rejected for reasons varying from not fitting into a genre to being too generic!  No such rejection from Kindle readers however, who sent her debut novel onto the bestsellers list.

Sometimes authors actually choose to self-publish.

Imagine that!  Readers might not be aware, but a lot of  authors actually choose to self-publish rather than sign a contract with a publisher.  Polly Courtney is the perfect  example – she ditched her publishers HarperCollins because they insisted on creating ‘chick lit’ style covers for her novels, despite the fact that her novels did not fit that genre.  And frankly, I don’t think the move has done her any harm either.  There are lots of examples of authors feeling pressured by publishers to ‘fit in’ and compromise on their creative output.  Equally, there’s the time it takes to get your book out there that can make self-publishing more appealing.  For a newbie such as myself, if I sent a submission to a publisher, it could take the best part of six months before receiving a response.  Only then do you send the entire manuscript, give that another few months.  Then there is the whole acquisitions process, give or take another few months.  Only then will the actual production begin, editing, layout, cover design etc.  It would take at least a year or more to see your book on the shelves.  Then there are the royalties.  I think the standard rate for new authors is 10% of net.  Yikes!

Where’s the risk?

People have commented that they don’t want to take the risk on an Indie Author that they don’t know, but I ask you, where’s the risk?  On both Amazon and Smashwords, you can read a free sample of the book before you buy.  If you’re still not sure, most of us Indies have websites and blogs, so you can get a good sense of our writing style.  And if you’re still unsure, check out the reviews on Goodreads and other sites.  That’s about as much information (if not more) as you will get in a bookstore about a traditionally published book, only eBooks are cheaper so you’ve risked even less!  Not to mention all the promotions and giveaways that self-published authors run on a continual basis, you’re bound to get a bargain.

Are there a lot of crap self-published books out there?  Of course there are, just as there are a lot of crap traditionally published books.  Writers who are serious about producing good quality books will do their best to create a great book.  Those of us who are in this for the long haul want to build a readership that can trust our ‘brand’, so we are not going to release anything that would fall below our own self-imposed standards.  Self-published authors now  have easy access to book designers and editors, creating a new and exciting space for other freelance experts to create outside of the traditional constraints.

Being self-published is challenging and don’t get me wrong, I would welcome the support and backing of a publishing house to help get my books out there.  It’s hard being a one-woman show and I know that when I launch my second novel next month, I will be doing the equivalent of standing on the Cliffs Of Moher and trying to shout across to America!  It would be fantastic to have the marketing and promotional services that a publisher can offer.  So I don’t want this to be a publisher-bashing exercise.  In my opinion, I think the industry is adapting to what readers are demanding and we now have ‘digital imprints’ and ‘digital first’ arms to many of the traditional houses, which is great to see .  My point is that self-publishing can be (and is) a revolution for readers too and I think we are reaching a stage where the reader doesn’t care who published the book – as long as it’s good.

Indie Author Spotlight (Part Three)

As part of my series featuring inspiring Indie Authors, I’m delighted to welcome the very talented Michelle Muckley to my blog.  She has proven, after self-publishing three novels with another one on the way, how authors can build their own writing career from scratch – with no small amount of commitment, passion and downright perseverance!  Here she is to discuss her writing journey and a few things she learned about self-publishing and herself along the way.



When I first started writing I’m not sure I ever had the intention to publish a book. Perhaps there was a little bit of hope that one day it might happen, but I didn’t start with the intention of being the next J.K. (Rowling, not the dude from Jamiroquai with the dodgy hats). But the more I wrote, and the more that my work started to resemble a book, the more my goals started to shift. They changed from a desire to try to write a book, to the idea that I could finish it. And if I could finish it, then why couldn’t I publish it? So once I reached the stage that I had a ‘finished’ book, I packaged up my three chapter samples and made them look as fancy and as writerly as I could. I then wrote to a small army of agents, each of which wrote back to me rejecting my work. I was disappointed, and reluctant to acknowledge that my work wasn’t up to scratch. So instead I tucked it away in a cupboard and forgot about it for eight months. In the meantime I moved to Cyprus, got made redundant, and started to remember there was at one point, something more that I wanted from life.

So I got the manuscript back out, recoiled at the mistakes, and realised that I takes a lot more than writing ‘The End’ to call a piece of work finished. So I knuckled down and worked hard until it really was finished. I now had a manuscript, polished and gleaming, and absolutely no clue what to do with it. Start querying agents again? From Cyprus? I was convinced that not only would that be hard, but most likely impossible. But then I came across an article singing the praises of self publishing. Not vanity press, it reassured me. Something else, where you keep all the control of your work and publish to Kindle yourself. Now for a control freak like me, there was an obvious appeal. Reading that article
was day one. From there I set out to self publish, and in July 2012 released my first book, The Loss of Deference. Since then I have released two more, have another full length novel at the editors, and a five book series of novellas set to be released by the end of the year.

So you might think I have learnt something in the last two years, and I guess in some ways I have, about both the publishing world, and myself. With regards to myself, I am impatient, a workaholic, classic Type-A personality who suffers from a tendency to procrastinate. About the traditional publishing world? It’s a tough place to break into, expects a lot back from you, and doesn’t always deliver on its promises. But what did I learn about self publishing?

One of the best aspects of the indie author community, in my eyes at least, is the willingness to be open and helpful. Very few indie authors are secretive about their successes and failings, and anything they can do to help out a fellow indie, they do it. They are supportive and you always feel like you have somebody on your side. This helps so much when you are learning. I made a friend on Kindleboards who offered me so much advice at the start of my journey. I was, and still am, so grateful for all that she showed me.

I have also learnt that professionalism is everything. If you cover is crap and your work is littered with mistakes and grammatical errors, your readers will soon let you know. Did you spot the mistake I left there on purpose? If not, you are probably like me and can’t spot them easily. Some people were born with the eyes of a hawk. Let them find your mistakes for you. I released my second book too soon because I was impatient, and it was full of mistakes that I didn’t find. But you just have to learn from something like this. I found a better editor and released the book again with an updated file. So yes, professionalism is everything, but so is knowing where you come up short and where to enlist help. I cannot edit my books if the future of the world depended on it. I need help, so I get it. Same with my covers.

Be nice. If a reader gives you a bad review, ignore it. Do not complain or contest it because they will just think of you as a whiny author. I have only ever replied to a review on one occasion, and that was when I commented that the book had since been reedited. But I also thanked the reviewer for highlighting the need for improvement and moved on. Nobody wants the reputation of a whiner, right?
Learning to self publish was a bit like learning Greek before I moved to Cyprus. I got here thinking I had to know everything, or had to have learned it within the first few months. That mistakes were a sign of failure. But I was wrong. Mistakes are a sign of willingness. Willingness to put yourself forward and try where others wouldn’t. Applying this principle to learning Greek means that I often sound ridiculous.

Once, I was trying to describe a snowball fight to my future in-laws. The Greek word for snowball fight can easily be mispronounced, and let’s just say by making that mistake you end up describing a very different game, one best not discussed with your potential mother and father in-law. But people make mistakes. You will make mistakes, just like I did, and just like the next writer after us. Be prepared to learn as you go.

But most importantly of all, what I have learned is that a reader doesn’t care how hard it was for you to write your book, how many cover designs you tried, or how many times you cried during the edit. All they want to read is a well finished book with a good story. Give them that, and eventually the readers and good reviews will follow.


You can follow Michelle here:


Make Art!

I remember watching Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova pick up the Oscar for Best Original Song for the movie ‘Once’, and the thing that struck me most about his acceptance speech was his parting comment; Make art.
Over the past few months, I’ve been reading a lot about the rise of self-publishing in relation to market share, sales and the huge royalties to be gained by authors.  The truth of the matter is, most indie authors earn an average of about $1,000 per year (according to a recent survey in The Guardian). So why do we do it?  Because writing novels is an easy, breezy past-time that turns you into an A-list celeb overnight?  No??  Well if it’s not for the money, or the fame, what is it that makes us write?  For me, it’s because I want to make something.  I want to make something beautiful and magical and special.  But in order to make something beautiful and magical and special, your motivation needs to come from somewhere deep and honest, your desire to create.
If your main motivation is to become famous or wealthy, I’m afraid that writing (and the arts for that matter), is not the right path for you.  Don’t get me wrong – I hope that with time, dedication and hard work, I will be able to make a living out of writing.  This will mean I will have reached a wider readership and built up something of a back catalogue.  But my ultimate wish is that I will produce beautiful stories that will touch and entertain people and hopefully, take on a life of their own.

Similarly, I paint to create something of myself.  I don’t make much money out of that either (yet!) but I can’t imagine my life without art.  It’s about something more – it’s self-expression and the importance of having that outlet.  I stick at it because I want to keep growing, keep honing my skills and with any luck, find an audience who are willing to invest in what I have to say.

There are so many self-published authors out there today and I think it’s fantastic that we have all these platforms at our fingertips, so we can realise our dreams without having to impress the gatekeepers.  But lets not lose sight of why we’re doing this when the number-crunchers start boiling everything down to pounds and pence.  As Glen Hansard said, first and foremost, make art!


And here’s that beautiful song, Falling Slowly, to brighten up your day 🙂

Indie Author Spotlight (Part Two)

As part of my ‘behind the scenes’ look at self-published authors, I’m delighted to welcome Jamie Baywood – author of ‘Getting Rooted in New Zealand’.  Jamie chats about how her own life experience provided the inspiration for her novel and the learning curve that is self-publishing.  A Californian girl who went to New Zealand to meet her Scottish husband?  I’ll let her explain 🙂

Image    It was always my dream to live abroad when I was growing up in California.  I had bad dating experiences in California and read in a New Zealand tour book that the country’s population at 100,000 fewer men than women.  I wanted to have some me time and an adventure. New Zealand seemed like a good place to do so. Although I intended to have a solo adventure I ended up meeting my husband, a Scottish man, in New Zealand.

 I consider myself an accidental author. I didn’t go to New Zealand with the intentions of writing a book about my experiences there. I had funny experiences that I had trouble believing were true. I wrote the stories down to stay sane. I wrote situations down that were happening around me and shared them with friends. The stories made people laugh so I decided to organize the stories into a book and publish in the hopes to make others laugh too.

One of the first people I meet was Colin Mathura-Jeffree from New Zealand’s Next Top Model. I had no idea who he was or that he was on TV when I meet him. He is friends with my former flatmate. We had a steep staircase that I kept falling down. Colin taught me to walk like a model so I wouldn’t fall down the stairs.

In New Zealand, I had a lot of culture shock.  One of the most memorable moments was learning the meaning of the Kiwi slang word “rooted.” One night I was brushing my teeth with my flatmate and I said, ‘I’m really excited to live in this house because I have been travelling a lot and I just need to settle down, stop traveling and get rooted’. He was choking on his toothbrush and asked me if I knew what that meant because it had a completely different meaning New Zealand than it does in the States.

I had the opportunity to write and perform for Thomas Sainsbury the most prolific playwright in New Zealand. I performed a monologue about my jobs in the Basement Theatre in Auckland.  The funny thing about that experience was Tom kept me separated from the other performers until it was time to perform. I was under the impression that all the performers were foreigners giving their experiences in New Zealand.  All of the other performers were professional actors telling stories that weren’t their own. At first I was mortified, but the audience seemed to enjoy my “performance,” laughing their way through my monologue. After the shows we would go out and mingle with the audience. People would ask me how long I had been acting. I would tell them, “I wasn’t acting; I have to go to work tomorrow and sit next to the girl wearing her dead dog’s collar around her neck.”

Last year I completed an MA in Design. Designing, publishing and marketing my book was my dissertation project. Self-publishing is one person taking on all of the responsibilities typically held by teams of people in traditional publishing companies. It has been a steep learning curve.  Publishing my book was my way of transforming poison into medicine. I hope that it can help people that have had bad dating experiences or bad work experiences – make them laugh and not give up hope.

Most of the book was written as the events happened; it just took me a few years to work up the nerve to publish. To write my book Getting Rooted In New Zealand, I relied upon my personal journals, e-mails, and memories. In February 2013, I organized my stories into a cohesive narrative. It went through several rounds of editing and then I published in April 2013.

I constantly make myself notes. Last summer in Wales, I was scribbling stories on the backs of maps and Google directions as a passenger in the car. I also send myself text messages or emails riding in trains or buses. It might not look like I’m writing a book if one was to observe me, but I am constantly watching, listening and thinking about writing.

I designed my book cover myself. The girl with the suitcase is a drawing of me. The striped dress and red hat was my first outfit I bought when I moved to New Zealand. The birds are New Zealand native birds like the kiwi and fan tail. The city is Auckland and the tower is New Zealand’s Skytower. The sky in the back ground and the water are pieces of a watercolor painting I did of the New Zealand coastline.

I love making people laugh more than anything else. I feel very grateful when readers understand my sense of humor. I plan to divide my books by the countries I’ve lived in. My next book will be about attempting to settle in Scotland.

You can check out Jamie’s novel ‘Getting Rooted in New Zealand‘ on Amazon

Jamie Baywood can be followed on the following sites:   Image