Please welcome my latest guest to the Showcase.
Working with independent presses
Thank you for inviting me to your site, Richard. I’ve been writing seriously since 2009 and as for all authors, there have been many ups and downs during the journey. I preface this post by saying I have much admiration for those who are able to self-publish effectively. I won a competition with the Winchester Writers Festival in 2012 and my prize was to have a ‘slim volume, short edition’ printed by CPI Anthony Rowe. What I didn’t realise when I entered the competition, was that I had to submit a print-ready pdf for this to happen. While I did call upon the support of a cover designer, and a copy editor/proofreader, I found the whole process demanding, frustrating and ultimately too challenging for me to ever consider doing it again. Therefore, I looked to working with a publisher.
I am the author of three books: The String Games a debut novel published by Victorina Press in May 2019, adversaries/comrades a debut poetry pamphlet published by Wordsmith_HQ in April 2019 and Paisley Shirt a collection of flash fiction published by Chapeltown Books in February 2018. As I now have experience of working with three different independent publishers, I would like to use this post to share the experience of taking this route to reach an audience.
Thank goodness for the open submission windows offered by many independent publishers. Without these, writers need literary representation or the skills and confidence to self-publish in order to launch their writing into the world. At one point I was signed by an agent but following three rounds of edits she decided to leave the industry before pitching my novel. By this time, I had invested five years of hard work into the project and didn’t want to go through the lengthy process of securing another agent. Instead, I focused on finding an independent publisher who would turn my book around quickly. It took Victorina Press nine months to bring my novel to print. In the intervening time, I entered a poetry competition and as one of the joint winners, had a poetry pamphlet published. It was challenging having two different projects come to print in consecutive months but I’m not complaining. I thoroughly enjoyed working closely with both publishers and see this as an advantage.
Lack of representation
The downside to not having an agent is negotiating the publishing contract. I joined the Society of Authors and made use of their free contract vetting service. The reports I’ve received are very comprehensive and I’ve had to prioritise the issues that are important to me rather than addressing every concern raised. As a result, with one of my contracts, I negotiated to keep the North American and translation rights, I received an improved offer on digital royalties, and I am not obliged to give first refusal on my future work.
I was closely involved with the cover design for all three publications and feel that by working collaboratively (and where possible, drawing on the professional skills of cover designers) the quality of the product is enhanced. I also had input on the typesetting and am very pleased with the results. Through my networks, I secured favourable endorsements and was able to have the blurb on each publication just as I wanted it.
Community of writers
Small publishers encourage collaborative support between authors and I’ve certainly appreciated the advice and help from fellow authors in terms of reviews, attendance at book launches and opportunities for co-promotion.
My publishers are all quick to answer email queries and telephone calls. They’re approachable and I’ve found everyone to be very accommodating and supportive when the last-minute pressures of publication kick in.
I have arranged book launches for each of my publications. Where possible, publishers have attended the launch and helped with venues and refreshments.
Marketing and competitions
Although I take the initiative in promoting and marketing my books, my publishers are always supportive and assist by sharing posts on social media and promote talks and workshops I offer. My publishers also support with nominations for competitions and awards. For example, Paisley Shirt was longlisted in the Saboteur Awards 2018. The String Games is currently longlisted in the fiction category of The People’s Book Prize. This is a national award that finds and promotes new and undiscovered work. The organisation also supports the complete eradication of illiteracy. This is something very important to me as, following years of working with parents and children to build their literacy skills, there is still a need in communities for further work. In this longlisting, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect match: an opportunity to gain a wider readership for The String Games and support a cause close to my heart. Winners of the competition are decided by a public vote so if you have a moment, do go over the website. All you have to do to vote for The String Games is click this link, scroll down to complete your details then hit ‘submit’. I very much appreciate every vote.
Although my experience of small presses has been positive, there is one area to be aware of if you’re interested in taking this route. I have found the editing process (often in-house) to be a light touch. For my next project, I would love to work closely with an editor to avoid the circuitous drafting and redrafting processes when working independently.
As with all publishers, including the big five (and for self-published writers), the author has the final sign-off for the manuscript and must identify any typos for correction as well as other errors relating to line spacing, indents and correct use of italics etc. With independent presses, don’t forget to give the pages you haven’t written a final check over, too. Remember to read through the copyright page, any advertisements for other publications and give the cover a final check over as well.
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