The Getting Published panel at Mumsnet Blogfest. I’m clearly there. I know it looks like I’m asleep or TWEETING FURIOUSLY but that is actually my Listening Face. Photo: Mumsnet Bloggers Network/Anna Gordon.
It hardly feels like a week has passed since I did my bit at the Mumsnet Blogfest event and I thought that I’d give the dust a bit of time to settle before expanding a bit on the points I was trying to make on the Getting Published panel and also trying to answer some of the questions people have been asking me since.
Anyway, here goes.
1. I really love self publishing because I enjoy having control over my work and think it’s fun to make covers and blurbs and do all the work myself. If you don’t think this sounds like fun then it may well not be for you – however, you can pay someone to do all the ‘boring’ bits for you.
2. I’d stress, however, that self published books should really NOT be treated as some sort of unofficial slush pile with readers picking out the ones that should rise to the top. You owe it to your readers to make your book as perfect as it possibly can be, not treat them like unpaid editors.
3. I bang on about this all the time but I honestly and sincerely believe that it’s possible to over promote, especially on Twitter. I used to say that I never promote my books but actually this whole blog is a form of promotion – I may never mention my books on Twitter, Facebook or very often on here but I have links to them on the sidebar and I still hope that people will click out of morbid curiosity at least. For me, that is enough promotion, however I work hard on this blog so I can’t really say that I don’t do any. I also used to say that I ‘write my books to get people to read my blog’ but I think that’s changed over the last twelve months.
4. I thought long and hard about the pricing of my books and still tweak it every now and again if I think they could be better priced. The main problem that I have with paperback self publishing is that the books are necessarily REALLY expensive and I just can’t ask anyone, even close friends, to pay that much for my work. Therefore I stick to Kindle because I can charge much less although some might say that the £2 that I charge for my work is FAR too low.
5. Although I am happy with self publishing and feel like I’m one of the Cool Kids doing this, I have been wondering if perhaps I should give trade publishing a whirl for my next finished book (which will be a novel about Charles II’s youngest sister, Henrietta Anne). This isn’t because I think that having a trade published book delivers special kudos (I really don’t any more) or because I have this fantasy of seeing my work on the shelves at Waterstones (I really REALLY don’t but more on that in a bit) or because I want lots of money (I know how much advances are these days and frankly it’s a pittance compared to how much I expect to make from self publishing this book). No, it’s actually because I get emails, tweets, comments and messages pretty much every single day asking why they can’t buy my books in shops and I feel like I owe my readers and followers something in return for their interest. The truth is that although self publishing is great, it doesn’t have the same wide level of distribution as trade publishing and that’s something I should probably look into.
6. Back to Waterstones. I’ve seen a blogs claiming that I said that I was considering trade publishing because I really wanted to see my books on their shelves. This isn’t true. I ACTUALLY said that I have never been all that into seeing my books in Waterstones and all that jazz because I don’t actually write for GLORY or with any thought of the final physical product – I write because I can’t help it. I LOVE writing and for me it’s like a terrible compulsion. If I didn’t have this laptop or paper and pen then I would write on cereal boxes, or walls, or on the ground or even on myself. I write because I BLOODY LOVE IT not because I have some ephemeral fantasy about seeing my books in the shops. That’s just not what it is about for me.
7. Someone in the audience asked how I’ve managed to get such a large blog following (around 4,000 page views a day and coming up to my TWO MILLIONTH page view, crikey!) and to be honest I don’t know. All I can say is that I try to be as interesting as possible and like to maintain and develop a certain bohemian and extravagant persona complete with ‘in jokes’ about gin, eels, Victorians, posh doom and so on that my readers can also share in and enjoy. I don’t fixate on selling books to people – really, I just want to chat.
8. Someone else (the lovely Liz Fraser in fact) in the audience asked why we should even bother with trade publishing and to my surprise this one was also passed to me, even though really I am not in a position to answer and would have thought the agent on stage would have been the best person to answer this. However, personally, for me I would say that distribution is the ONLY reason I would go to trade publishing, otherwise I don’t see the point.
9. Another audience member asked a question which I think basically came down to ‘Can you get a book deal if your writing is crap but you have a big following?’ ‘That’s what editors are for’ seemed to be the response to that one but personally I think it depends on the agent as one might think that 2,000 Twitter followers is a BIG DEAL but to another, my almost 4,500 is small fry indeed and of no interest and let’s not even get started on my sales figures. The point is that there doesn’t seem to be any bench mark figure that will provoke interest and respect in publishing circles so I’d just concentrate on making sure your writing speaks for itself.
10. The final point that I tried to make is that there is no war going on between self and trade publishing and people are being very naïve to suggest that there is. It’s perfectly possible to have a foot in both camps, to self publish and also have a trade publishing contract (as I do with my upcoming book about 1950s housewives) or to mostly trade publish but maybe publish your own out of print backlist. Yes, of course you get the odd silly writers on both camps suggesting that the other is WRONG and shouldn’t be allowed but just ignore them as they are generally bringing their own issues into the imaginary fray. For me, I think anything that involves people reading books, whether that be Kindle, self publishing, book shops, independent small publishers, the big behemoths, fanzines, fanfic or whatever, is good for ALL OF US and should be encouraged so let’s not ruin things by squabbling.
It’s been a weird week all things considered actually – I’ve been trying not to worry too much about what people might have had to say about me but to my amusement in the two blog write ups that I have seen of our panel, one completely misquotes me and gives an opposite impression of what I actually believe and said and the other lists all the other panellists but totally omits me as if I wasn’t there on the stage with them. I feel like I have ARRIVED.*
If anyone has any more questions for me then I reckon this is the time and place to ask them. I’m currently tucked up in bed with a flu bug, Marple DVDs and Vita Sackville-West’s superb biography of the Grande Mademoiselle so I’m clearly not going anywhere for a while…
*This was originally the second paragraph but I took Caitlin Moran’s advice and moved it to the end and do you know what, she was right, it works!