Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Published authors self-publishing - all together now

Over recent weeks I've interviewed nine published UK children's authors who have also self-published. I asked them to give tips for any of you considering doing the same and they have come up with generous and wide-ranging advice.

The reason I wanted to focus on writers who have already been published in the traditional way is that this is a blog about getting a publishing deal with a high-quality selective publisher, not about self-publishing (which may also be high-quality but is not what I'm here to talk about.) I wanted to highlight the fact that published authors may have an extra understanding of the realities of being published in any form and that they are likely to bring this understanding to their own publishing. I also believe that all writers, whatever their aims and ambitions, would do well to listen to a wide range of views. There are few definitive answers and many grey areas, many things that will work for one writer/book and not for another. The more we know, listen and understand, the better we can curate our words.

As you know, I am a published author who also self-publishes. (See here for my forthcoming double ebook - and don't forget to enter the competition!) I have a great relationship with my main publishers, Walker Books, and have a book coming out with them next year, The Teenage Guide to Stress. Walker Books have done a brilliant job for me, with Blame My Brain in particular, and they have done things I couldn't possibly have done myself. People often say that publishers only focus on your book for the few weeks around publication. To an extent that is inevitably true; however, you should realise that publishers (good ones) behave like excellent business people (as self-publishing writers must, too) and will take opportunities to push books that have been around for much longer. Blame My Brain was first published in 2005, revised slightly in 2007 and revised again this year. And this year, Walker have really pushed the boat out for it, seven years after publication. Why? Simply because they see it doing well and see an opportunity to make it do better. That's sensible. They have chosen to put resources of time into it, which they can't do for every book. (And that's one of the advantages of self-publishing: you, the author, will continue to work hard for your book. But it's also one of the disadvantages: you have to continue to work hard for it to the extent that you will probably have less time to write your next book.)

Why was Blame My Brain doing well? Because Walker did a good job at the start, because I worked hard to keep promoting it and because the nature of the book meant that it became more and more popular, with more and more schools and parents seeing the need for it. So, partly me and partly the book, and partly the fact that the Walker publicity people took the right opportunities, being both reactive and proactive where there was a realistic benefit in being so. AND, crucially, luck. Publishers and authors often do a great job but luck is not with them and the book (most books) disappears, leaving a little tear-stained shape on an author's heart.

It's really important to keep your feet on the ground and be very realistic, hard-working and decent to work with. Attract the fairy dust.

For all the interviews with fellow published self-publishers, see:

Lynne Garner with Anansi the Trickster Spider

Katherine Roberts with I Am The Great Horse

Julia Jones with The Lion of Sole Bay

AT Boyle with The Typing Man

Diana Kimpton with There Must be Horses

Rhiannon Lassiter with Little Witches Bewitched

Miriam Halahmy with Secret Territory

Joan Lennon with Diary from the Rim

Daniel Blythe with Emerald Greene and the Witch Stones

All children's books, all ready to buy for your young readers. And advice for you, from all of us.

Work hard and keep the faith!

Don't forget that you can ask me a publishing or writing related question for me to answer on this blog. Contact me using the link at the top of the page.

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