book promotions, Guest Posts, Promoting/Marketing, World War history, Writing

To or not to self-publish?

10353184_10204372130369223_1878311095685583151_n (2)Today, I have the marvellous Mary Wood on my blog today. She will be talking about self-publishing and traditional publishing. Over to you, Mary!

Hello Malika, nice to be here, thank you for asking me.

To introduce myself, I am Mary Wood. I am a published saga author of Pan Macmillan Publishing House. I began my career as an Indie author and I hope my blog about my different experiences is interesting to you.

Let me explain the terms of the title: An Indie author is a term given to an independent author who publishes themselves, mostly on ebook outlets. A traditionally published author is one who is published by a publishing house and their books are in paperback and hardback in the shops as well as on ebook outlets.

  • Of course there are some things that are the same for authors in both fields: Firstly, however we are published we are all authors.
  • Secondly, we all have to work extremely hard to become successful.
  • Thirdly, we all have a readership, something that amazes us and pleases us all.

As an indie author: I was on my own. I wrote my books on what subject I wanted to. I wrote them in my own time. I had my own style, length and chose location. I paid to have my books edited. I designed, or when I could afford it, paid to have a cover designed for me, and promoted myself and my books with limited outlets and no help (I’m not talking about the wonderful support other authors, family, friends, or indeed my amazing readers were, but about practical and financial help.) And, lastly, financially; I did really well as an indie author, and my royalties came in every month, which was very nice. All of this can be summed up in one word, freedom – freedom to make all my own decisions. Freedom to determine my own success.

As a traditionally published author, I find every process that I have mentioned above very different. It took me a while to get used to some of them, but I can say that though I loved being solely an Indie author, I wouldn’t want to go back despite losing the freedoms above. For me I have swapped freedom for verification. I had this from my readers, but now I have it from the most respected professionals in the publishing industry as well. I still pinch myself every time I wake up. It is a dream come true. All of this I say with fingers crossed as not being in charge of my own fate, I rely on being offered a new contract every time one comes to an end and that isn’t guaranteed. When authors were dropped by publishing houses in the past, that was it. Now I have the security of knowing I can go back to being a full time Indie author.

The differences outlined: I will list each process that I have mentioned above and explain how each is different in the trad pub world to the Indie pub world.

  • Being on my own: As a traditionally published author, I am not on my own. I have an agent, who does so much for me and is in my corner. It is sometimes like having my own union rep as all of my interests are taken care of. Financial matters are in her hands. The correctness of contract. The fighting for new contracts and making them as flexible as she can to fit me. Also as lucrative as she can. She is concerned for my welfare and often telephones me if something is going to change to make sure I am alright. When I have to go to London she will meet me at the station and make sure I don’t get lost. She advises on plot if she thinks I am not on the right track. She checks that my statements are correct. And, she is a friend. She is paid 15% of all I earn but is well worth it. Besides her, I have a whole team of people in the publishing house, my own Editor, who works closely with me. She commissions my work – or could reject it – not happened so far, thank goodness. She guides and advises me and also supports me in any way needed. And is also a friend. I also have a dedicated publicist and both she and my editor have a team who are there to support help and advise me as well as to do all they can to further my career.
  • Subject: There is quite a leeway with this, but within a framework. For instance, at the moment, my novels are set in wartime and I have two world ones to choose from. This gives me a massive scope as I have chosen to write about women’s roles in the war and the family and personal toll on those who stayed behind and those who went to fight, or took up war work.
  • Timeframe: I have a stipulated deadline now and have to meet it. Mine is in November for a book that will be published the following November.
  • Style: Every publishing house will have their own style. Mine uses the ‘z’ spelling as in realize etc… Chapters are presented in a certain way and layout is special to the house too.
  • Length: For a saga, such as I write, there is a stipulation of minimum of 100.000 words. And this is a figure they would really like you to keep as near to as possible. Most of my indie books, which are gradually being published traditionally, are at least 20.000 words longer than that and I often find myself writing an epilogue in my new books to tie all the ends rather than give everything wordage. It is a process that I rather like as all my sub stories are drawn into it and it gives a lovely rounding off to the novel.
  • Location: I have been given a main setting for my books. This is because we authors cannot be all writing about the same things and the same area. We need an identity. Our readers need to know that Mary Wood books will be set in London and the North, and may take you to other countries. Whereas, Diane Allen books will be set in the Yorkshire Dales, and Annie Murray books in Birmingham etc: I found this particularly difficult to adapt to as I knew very little about London and had thus far had set all but one of my indie books around Leeds. It was the one that I didn’t, venturing out from the North to London and back, that won me the publishing contract and set the seal on my location. However, my subject helps with this as people travelled all over during the wars. Londoners went north, west, and east to become Land Girls, Special Agents went to France. Factory girls went to cities, so I can still have London based characters, but can mix them with Northerners.
  • Editing: This is a very difficult discipline for authors in traditional publishing as your editor and her/his team strive to give your work its very best face and to keep the pride of the publishing house standard too. A book can have several edits before it is ready to go. A structural edit is the first and the most painful. A first chapter may have to be moved to 4th (all authors will know what disruption this could cause!) Scenes can be cut, or elaborated on. Detail is scrutinised – in the sense of giving a grounding to where the characters are, what time of day it is, are they sitting or standing, and all has to be subtly written in so it doesn’t appear that you are stage managing your characters. Next will come a line edit, when punctuation is looked at and correct use of words etc… Next will be an edit that picks up on research, and if names are spelt the same throughout, and situations that couldn’t happen, or that deny something that has already happened. And finally there is the proofread edit. This is the last chance to put anything right that is wrong, and usually done by an independent reader followed by the author giving it a last sweep. A long process that often has you thinking that you cannot possibly read your words through again! But a very worthwhile one that makes your work sing off the page.
  • Cover: The author does have some input, but not the final say on the design of the cover. Portfolio pictures of models who might fit the bill are sent to me and I choose the one I think looks most like my imagined main character. Next there is a photo shoot in whatever costume has been decided upon. I am sent the photos and I get to pick the one I like best. The background, font and colour are the editor’s choice. Though there was one of them that I thought too light and said so, and this was changed. So, all in all very much a partnership choice.
  • Promotion: This is where I have felt an amazing change. Yes, there is still social media for me, but beyond that, I have been featured in a national magazine twice (People’s Friend). For each book I have an expenses paid book launch party and book tour. There are opportunities to have your name on other author’s books in the form of a comment about the book. I am featured on Margaret Dickinson’s next release The Buffer Girls. My books are visual as physical copies in supermarkets and leading bookshops. Local papers want to feature me. Papers from other areas review my book. I am suggested to bloggers as someone to feature.  I co-authored a book of Christmas short stories with four other very famous authors. And I’m featured in and often write a piece for Pan Macmillan’s own publication Tales from the Heart, an annual publication which gives news from Pan MacMillan saga authors, and showcases their next publications. Most of this is exposure I could not get as an Indie author.
  • Finance: I think this is where the biggest difference is between the two modes of publishing. I loved knowing exactly how many books I had sold and being able to see my royalties growing on an hourly basis. I also loved having a good payday every month. And with the kindle books I still have published, I do get this, only on a much smaller scale than I used to earn as the number of books that I own the publishing rights to gets less and less. Also they have been up for a long time and their popularity is diminishing. In traditional publishing finances work in a very different way and I have to wait six months before I receive a statement of sales and any money due to me.

I welcome your comments, and if there are any authors reading this who would like further information on any of the aspects I have talked about above, please ask the questions, I don’t mind sharing with you more about the finance for instance as that was always a mystery to me.

Well, that’s it in a nutshell, but just before I go a quick note on ‘Tales from the Heart’ magazine. Besides the features I have mention above, there are also competitions to enter and special offers on books. If you would like to receive this free magazine write to: Pan Macmillan, Saga Newsletter, 20 New Wharf Rd, London N1 9RR give your name and address and tell them you read about it in a guest blog written by Mary Wood, on Malika Gandhi’s Inspiration blog.

Thank you so much for reading my blog. I have very much enjoyed exploring this subject with you. Much love to all, Mary x

Thank you, Mary, for a brilliant in-depth explanation of the ins and outs of traditional and self-publishing. It surely is an eye-opener, and I am sure, it will be very beneficial to my readers.