Writing and publishing a book is easy! How wrong could I be? As a novice author there are so many pitfalls to consider.
My first step was to google publishing houses. The world of Facebook then began bringing up all manner of adverts related to finding a publisher as if by magic… how did they know? I made contact with a few companies that came up in my google search and was pretty flattered when one of them came back to me showing a real interest in my work, so much so they wanted to offer me a contract. Wahoo, I’d made it… or so I thought.
Small print. Always check the small print. When the paperwork came through I was so excited. Someone wanted to publish my work. I just happened to share this information with another children’s author who I had got talking to. She advised that I check any paperwork carefully. She also suggested I considered self-publishing. Until that point, I hadn’t even really heard of self-publishing, let alone know what to do and how to go about it.
It was a good job I did check the small print of the first offer that came through. The offer was a “contributory contract.” As an unpublished author, the company understandably didn’t want to take any risks and while they liked the sample that I had sent them, they made me an offer whereby I had to pay a proportion of the costs of getting the book to print; to the tune of just under a couple of thousand pounds. The paper work went on to give lots of detail about what I would get for my money. This would include covering the editing process, paying in-house illustrators, distribution and promotional costs etc. On the face of it, it sounded quite reasonable. In return I would get a percentage of the sales for any books. I contacted the company to say I had found an illustrator I wanted to work with but they were insistent they had “in-house” illustrators they worked with. This was a major downside for me; not only would I lose creative control over what the book looked like, I would also give up any rights to the story. I stalled for some time at this point. Feeling my dream unravelling.
It was at this point I saw a documentary about Charlotte Brontë and realised this classic author had indeed self-published some of her work. This gave me the impetus to go back and look again at this route. I had a lot of help from successful author (and parent of a child in my school), Gemma Denham. I was talked through the process and given a few hints and tips as to how to get my book out there.
Again there are a number of companies out there who are willing to help authors self-publish. I settled to work with CreateSpace. Although they are an American company (and as such, all the books are printed on-demand in the US), my book could be marketed on Amazon and turned into an e-book, giving it world-wide availability. Most importantly, I could work with the illustrator I wanted to work with and therefore retain creative control.
So, having read so far, you may think I am a complete advocate of self-publishing and wouldn’t consider going down the route of using a publishing house. You may be forgiven however for making this mistake. As I began to learn along my year-long journey to becoming that published author I wanted to be, it wasn’t as simple as that. Yes, in this case it helped me to retain creative control and work with who I wanted to work for my first book. As I was to find out however, this route also has its limitations.
In my next blog find out more about these limitations, how I discovered more about the publishing and distribution process and how some great professionals helped me with some hand hints and advice.