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My first four books were traditionally published. Between them, they sold over 60,000 copies. It was a dream come true. So, why then give self-publishing a go? There were two reasons:
1. Overwhelmed by changes
The relationships we have with the people we work with influence the outcomes of our work. That’s why there’s so much guidance surrounding ensuring that when you’re looking for a literary agent, you do your homework to ensure you’re a good match. There was a lot of serendipity involved in how I found my first literary agent. She found me and approached me via email. After a few conversations, it was clear that not only was she excellent at her work but that we got along really well.
We worked together on the book proposal for (what would become) The Self-Care Project. I soaked up her guidance and constructive criticism; it was invaluable and completely changed how I would look at publishing. It is, after all, a business, and the book proposal is, in essence, a business proposal for your book.
This was a complete pinch-me moment, but three different publishing houses expressed interest. After chatting with one, and having a meeting postponed with another, I got to meet with the third and I knew very quickly that no matter what happened with the other two, this was the publishing house I wanted to work with. The editor was so warm, nurturing and full of ideas, that I left hoping they’d put in an offer. They did and I was ecstatic.
Working within this trio was so uplifting and magical that I can’t but smile when I think of that time. The Self-Care Project was published and sold well. Shortly after its release, we were talking about book two and book three, and I soon signed a two-book contract with the same team.
I’d just started writing book three when my agent phoned to say she was leaving to focus on writing her own books. I was introduced to another agent at the same literary agency who would represent me. It was roughly the same time my editor called to say she was also leaving for a role with a different publishing house. I was tied into a contract, but I would have if I could have followed her there. Needless to say, I was introduced to another editor.
There’s something, I think, in inheriting relationships in this way which doesn’t mesh quite the same. It righted itself for Kind Words for Unkind Days. However, when proposing Everything I Wish I’d Known About Stress, I was onto literary agent number four and editor number four, and it’d been disorientating. We’d had the Pandemic, too, so growing and nurturing those relationships hadn’t been easy. What grew apparent in the initial talks about this fifth book was that we could have been a better fit, and by this time, I was feeling overwhelmed by all of the changes.
Rather than take a break to take stock, I ploughed ahead with self-publishing because it gave me a sense of control over my writing career at a time when it felt like I didn’t have any. Of course, with hindsight, there were other options on the table; I couldn’t see them very clearly among lots of other personal stuff I was dealing with.The Two Reasons I Gave Self-Publishing A Go Click To Tweet
2. Creative Control
Speaking of control, creative control was another reason I felt drawn to self-publishing. This was not the driving factor in my decision to self-publish, but it was a contributing one. Funnily enough, it’s also the thing about self-publishing that I liked the least, but that’s another blog post for another day.
When you write a book and it’s published traditionally, there’s a huge team involved; editorial, PR, marketing, sales, finance and distribution. As an author, there are decisions you do get to make, and there are decisions you don’t always get a say in. What’s evident is that everyone involved wants to publish the best book they can. When it comes to the book’s cover, that’s where the push and pull can cause things to come apart. It also differs from author to author, publishing house to publishing house, and as times change. But you get less say and sway than authors would often like.
I’ve not always loved my book covers. There are two that I do not like. At all. I just don’t think there’s much cohesion between my backlist. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but everyone does. After all that work you put into writing a book, you want to feel proud of everything – including the cover. It makes a massive difference in how you feel about marketing your book and, essentially, how you feel about the finished product.
There you have it, the two reasons why I gave self-publishing a go. In a recent post, I explained how if you read your old writing and cringe, that cringe is a sign of growth. You’ve evolved and developed as a writer since then. The same can be said for some of the decisions we make in life. If I could have a re-run, I’d do it all differently again.
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