About Me

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I read, write, craft and home educate. My debut novel Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase was published in 2014. My second novel, A Life Between Us, was published in 2017. My third, The Road to California, will be out in 2018. I live in Northamptonshire. My website can be found at louisewaltersbooks.co.uk

Monday, 15 February 2016

Why self-publish?

Last week I told the world (my small bookish corner of it anyway) that I was intending to self-publish my second novel.

But why self-publish? I've had to think about this at length. Goodness knows I thought about taking the plunge for an awful long time... several weeks stretching into months of "Shall I?" "Should I?" "Won't it be cheating?" "Will I lose all credibility?" "Do I have any credibility to lose?" These and other equally ponderous and uncomfortable questions kept me awake at night.

The simple truth is, I'm going to self-publish A Life Between Us because I want to. Now that I've committed to the project I can stop worrying about what other people think and just get on with the job in hand, which is writing, editing and marketing A Life Between Us to the best of my ability.

Writing is a kind of magic, and getting a book deal is too. When Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase got its deal it was incredible. I enjoyed every moment of the process - getting the news, meeting the team at Hodder, working through all the edits, seeing the cover for the first time, receiving my proof copies, then the beautiful finished copies, spotting my book in shops... it was a rapturous, crazy time that I will never forget. But of course, being the slightly megalomaniac person I am (all writers have to be?) I want to do it all over again. And again... and again.

But my second novel, submitted in 2014, wasn't picked up by Hodder. It was a blow, but after a few weeks I gathered myself and I worked hard on editing. I changed much of the plot, I changed character names, I changed the title. I still believed in it. My agent sent it out again...

All right, "Because I want to" isn't really an answer, so here are some of the reasons I want to. Warning: I'm going to be honest.

A Life Between Us didn't get a traditional book deal. I would have taken a trad deal and in fact I came tantalisingly close in 2015 to getting one. I was invited to a meeting with an independent publisher. They told me how much they enjoyed my novel and how interested they were in publishing it: all very positive and exciting. A week later they changed their mind. As you can imagine, that was crushing. And the reason? I think it's because my novels or ideas for novels are all so different, it would be hard to "market" me as an author. I don't know. Perhaps there were other reasons. My husband wasn't best pleased. He took a day of annual leave so I could go to London for that meeting. I spent £34 on a train ticket. I'm still considering sending the publisher an invoice for my expenses.

I believe a good book is a good book. Possibly I'm hopelessly naive and romantic (and a little bit conceited) but honestly, you don't get asked to drag yourself down to London by a publisher to discuss your book if that book is not publishable. No publisher is going to waste their time if the story is no good (and by "good" I simply mean publishable). They just aren't. So, funnily enough, the disappointment of that strangely inexplicable experience has given me more belief in this novel. I'm indebted to the publisher for that - if nothing else. OK, decision made: I won't send them an invoice.


I've worked out, rather painfully, that the publishing industry (in very general terms of course and not including agents) is...(whispers) not quite as loyal as it could be to its authors - without whom there would be no industry. I probably don't need to say anything further, but I'm going to.

It seems that in order to be feted or encouraged or even appreciated by the publishing industry you must be a very well established author (and that is well and good and as it should be), or a debut author. Which strikes me as a real shame, because who, seriously, produces their best work at their first, or second, or even third attempt?

Can I be really honest? If I hear the words "sparkling debut" or "stunning debut" one more time, I'm going to vomit. What's wrong with "sparkling third novel"? Many writers are not given the time and support to prove themselves as the writers they are capable of being. They are brushed aside too readily, to make way for yet another "stunning debut", which, most of the time, is anything but - Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase included. I know that's not my best work. Nor is A Life Between Us. But they are both, I hope, readable, publishable, and perfectly serviceable and necessary stepping stones on the way to my best work.

It's great to publish and showcase debut authors, of course it is. We all are debut authors. But only ONCE. After that we have to build on that first novel, and write the second novel, perhaps not getting it quite right at our first attempt. Ideally we do this with support and guidance from a trusted editor who knows our potential. For too many of us, that just doesn't happen. If writers are dumped too readily, I believe readers miss out, and in the long run the publisher misses out too. Writing is a long haul. Publishers, as well as authors, need vision.

I don't hate the publishing industry, I really don't. Where on earth would we be without it? But I am frustrated and disillusioned, which in turn has led to my decision to commit to myself, to be loyal to myself, to be my own caretaker and gatekeeper to my own career, at least for now.

More next week. I'm going to address the thorny, muddled issue of vanity...














12 comments:

  1. This is a lovely reversal and a good point: "So, funnily enough, the disappointment of that strangely inexplicable experience has given me more belief in this novel."

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    1. Thanks Laurel. It's always good to turn negatives into positives and I try to do that where my writing is concerned. Self-belief easily slips away if we allow it to.

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  2. Thank you for being so honest, in spite of the disappointment you must still feel. Personally, I think the industry is missing out on a lot of good work because they are looking for fast bucks rather than long-term investment.

    Kudos to you for having the self-belief to go it alone.

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    1. Thanks Katherine, good to hear from you again. I'm really looking forward to self publishing. It's going to be a steep learning curve I'm sure.

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  3. Well done Louise for taking what is a difficult decision which comes about due to a tricky traditional publishing enviromnent. I self-published a slightly offbeat first book but I also ideally would love a traditional deal but you outline the current situation very well. It seems that you have to wow and sell hugely from the off to be kept on. Best of luck with your new book!

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    1. Hi Alison, thank you for commenting. Trad deals are wonderful and really are the best way to go most of the time. But it's good to know self publishing is there too isn't it?

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  4. Oh Louise this resonates with me on so many levels. In the past I've been asked for full MS's to be sent and then not even received the courtesy of a rejection. My work disappears into a black hole of indifference and rudeness. I don't care how important or busy the publishing world is, basic politeness costs nothing except five seconds. And after all we are the ones providing the work that keeps them going.
    I recently had to defriend a well known agent on FB because I was sick of hearing about her 3 to 4 hour lunches with (name drop) authors. And then her complaints about how late she had to work. She would also regularly put up on FB, letters from prospective writers so that everyone could have a good laugh at them.It made me wonder how many people in the publishing industry hold prospective clients in complete contempt?
    I've been thinking about self publishing for a while and it seems the way to go, despite a young and very smug agent at the York Festival of Writing 2015 expressing the opinion to a packed lecture theatre that 'all proper authors have agents'.
    I wish you every possible success with your second book

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    1. Sorry to hear about your rough ride, Moira. I have to say I had good experiences when I was looking for an agent and a publisher for Mrs Sinclair. I don't agree that "proper" writers have agents... most trad published authors have agents but not all. And what exactly is a "proper" writer...?

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  5. This resonated with me. I wanted to go the traditional route. However, agents who were open to my genre were few and I swiftly exhausted the list. Tired of receiving 'not what we are currently looking for' responses, I went direct to an independent publisher who loved my first novel. It's been hard to be a writer as well as promote and market myself, but it's rewarding too. I wish you the very best with your second novel Louise.

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    1. Thank you Elaine. I am beginning to understand the level of work involved in writing, publishing and marketing your own book! I'm up for the challenge though.

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  6. You seem so generous about publishers -afraid I don't.Briefly, I wrote my autobiog. And had it published in 2011.Sadly original publisher (Indepen Press) and next one (Author Essentials) went bust and any royalties were handed over to pay creditors! At moment a 3rd publisher (New Generation) has the MSS –I still own copyright on “Music All the Way”, but apparently my book doesn’t exist anymore barring a few copies in Waterstones, Smiths.etc. It is down as ‘out of Print’ It seems the second one wasn’t straight and many authors lost a lot of money –all to do with POD and “limited run”. I have very little faith in the publishing industry but I do want to try to get it republished to give copies to friends, etc. I will never make any profit on it. Many that bought it commented that they could’nt put it down, which was quite a compliment.Determined to get it back into print -your blog was very helpful,and recommended by Sarah Perry.

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